Sunday, August 1, 2010

Open House August 21st

We have changed the time that Aaron and Jake will speak at the open house to 3:00 - 5:00 p.m. at Glenwood Forest Preserve in Batavia. The open house will be held from 1:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. All are invited to attend the open house, Aaron and Jake are looking forward to sharing their stories with everyone. Click on the link to the right for a map to Glenwood Forest Preserve.

Posted by Aaron's dad.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Thank you

The friends, family, and followers who supported us throughout our trip certainly motivated us until the end. As Jake said, there were times when moving on seemed impossible, but we thought about the followers at home to push on. This venture proved to us that there are still many decent people in this world that are willing to give, share, and motivate. It is amazing how many people donated to the cause in these economically harsh times. We are happy to be home and hope that everyone who is interested in the trip can make it to the open house on August 21st. It is hard to show our appreciation with words, but this trip wouldn't have happened without all of our supporters. Again, thank you to all of our friends, family, and organizations who cheered us on until the end.


Monday, July 26, 2010

Thank You

I cannot begin to explain the uplifting effect everyone’s following of our journey had on us. The support was so motivating, I am almost certain the trip would have been unbearable, if not impossible, had we not known everyone was cheering for us at home. There were times when we didn’t know what to think, didn’t know why we should push on, other than that there was no way we could let a few hundred diligent followers down.

At one point, the dreaded two week mark, it had been raining for a few days and we hadn’t seen the sun in six. We were soaked, even under our raingear, and beginning to get very sore and extremely uncomfortable. We were lucky enough to find a campground across the river from Redwing, Minnesota. First of all, this place had showers! Even better, we found friends. Jim, Jim, Sandy, and Linda were camped in the site next to us. Being in a campground that catered to the weekend camper-trailer type, we stuck out like sore thumbs. We quickly explained to our new neighbors where we had come from, what we were doing, and gave them a card. Within five minutes, we were looking over Jim’s shoulder at the blog, absolutely astounded by the posts, comments, and followers. We were also quickly showered with food, everything from chips and salsa, to cheese, to chocolates. We were in hog heaven, and our spirits couldn’t have been lifted higher that evening. We woke to a wonderful breakfast of bacon, eggs, and hash-browns (I’m sure everyone has seen the picture). Paddling away with a perfect send-off, we quickly crossed Lake Pepin and continued our journey, as if the emotional low a few days prior hadn’t occurred.

We found this boost throughout the journey, in Dubuque, Galena, Canton, Wickliffe, and New Orleans, hearing all the time that more and more people were following. The support was motivation through the difficult times, constant reinforcements for our psyche. Thanks to everyone at home and across the country, we never lost the feeling that we were doing something great. My appreciation for the posts, comments, messages, and donations really cannot be put to words. Without the resounding support of everyone that has heard of our cause, the entire journey would have been unfathomable. Thank you, so very much, for making such a wild dream of an adventure possible and successful.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A Father's Perspective

We are looking forward to the Open House/Celebration on August 21st.  Again, everyone and anyone is welcome to attend.  We may extend the time frame that Aaron and Jake will speak to the crowd ... stay tuned.

As we made the 15 hour drive home yesterday I had time to reflect on the last 50 some days.  My original intent was to update the map and post a short blog about the trip once a week.  This changed when I got Aaron and Jake's first text on May 29 that said, "Made 25 miles, camping at Stumphges Rapids."  I knew Aaron said they were hoping to go 15 miles the first day but he wasn't sure if they could make it that far.  I looked at the Minnesota maps to see where Stumphges Rapids were and read about that section of the river.  I felt this needed to be shared with everyone.  It was apparent that this was not going to be a leisure stroll down the river.  The feedback I got from friends and family was overwhelming so I decided to post everyday. 

The past few days have been very stressful and emotional for me as a parent.  I was well aware of just how difficult the last section of the river was.  On Saturday, my wife Carol and I drove over 200 miles on a reconnaissance mission to find a place to pick them up on the river so they could get a night's rest in a hotel for the final push to the Gulf.  Actually I had to convince both Aaron and Jake that they would benefit from a good meal, shower and bed, neither wanted to stop.  This section of the river is all industrial, it is also under the control of the New Orleans Port Authority.  This means 90% of the shoreline is not accessible because of fencing and guard stations.  After we spoke to a Port Authority security guard and after a visit to the 2nd ward Police station, we found a park on the water's edge at mile marker 101. I had spoken to Aaron earlier in the day and told him we could get them at the "steps" in downtown New Orleans which is mile 94.  Aaron said they were not making good time, it was very hot, the ship traffic was non stop and the current was slowing down. "I don't think we can make mile 94 Dad", said Aaron. The park at 101 would be perfect.  We drove to the park and tried to call Aaron to tell them where to stop, but there was no answer.  As I called I could see this little canoe on the opposite side of the river from the park!  Carol and I yelled and waved trying to get their attention.  This had no affect because the river is wide and the guys were focused on each stroke of the paddle as ocean going ships and huge barges passed them by.  Even if they did see us there was no way for them to cross the river at that point without being run over.  Helplessly watching them plod along filled me with every emotion imaginable.  I was so relieved to see them, I was so proud that I teared up, I was so mad that they couldn't see me, I was so scared for their safety, I was so concerned that they now would have another 7 miles to paddle and it was already close to 6:00 p.m.  We drove the seven miles through crowded streets to the "steps" and waited anxiously.  If they didn't see us at the steps there would not be another spot to pick them up for the next 50 miles.   Luckily I got a  hold of Jake on the phone and explained that the city of New Orleans was going to be on their port side "O.K. I better hang up then because we have a small window to cross the river right now", said Jake.  The rest of this story was explained on the post titled "Who Dat?"

Two days later I was in Venice, Louisiana once again trying to find a place to get Aaron and Jake.  As we drove to the end of any roads we were confronted with a "military type war zone".  Because of the BP oil leak this entire area was now under BP/government control.  I went to one of the two marinas in Venice and walked around with my canoe for the cure shirt on hoping to find a boat to pick Aaron and Jake up.  You see, mile 0 is 12 miles beyond Venice.  I spoke to a man that was obviously a local fishing guide.  He said, BP has every single boat under contract. "I would like to help ya but I can't, BP has everyone of us contracted 24/7".  The marina was filled with 100s of people walking around in Coast Guard uniforms, there was not a smile on any one's face.  The whole scene really was eerie. Finally we spoke to a police officer who told us there is not a chance of us getting a boat.  He also said "You better let them know that if they go to mile 0 there will be no rides back and they will have to paddle upstream to get back to Venice."  A few minutes later I drove up on the levee (illegally) and saw Aaron and Jake paddling down the river. I snapped a few shots as the Coast Guard gave Aaron and Jake the same information I learned from the police.  1/2 mile later I drove to an old boat ramp where Aaron and Jake's trip came to a quiet end. 

There was no fanfare, no fireworks, no bands playing.  Perhaps this is fitting,  both Aaron and Jake are very humble and they never did this with the intent to gain recognition.  Instead they did this for a cause.  I handed Aaron a cheap bottle of champagne they purchased Saturday night in New Orleans.  The trip was over.

Extreme pride and relief poured over me as I snapped over 100 photographs of the finish.

Aaron's dad's last post.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Trip Statistics and New Pictures

2239=total miles paddled
48=days paddled
52=total days including days off
46.6=Average miles paddled per day
35=pounds lost for both Aaron and Jake

The final set of pictures has been uploaded. Click the slideshow above to see them.

Monday, July 19, 2010


Aaron and Jake put in a marathon canoe session to end the trip.  They spent 26 continuous hours in the canoe cranking out 81 incredible miles since Sunday morning.  They paddled until 1:00 a..m., slept until 5:00 a.m. and canoed again until 9:30 a.m.  They were not able to reach mile 0 because the Coast Guard informed them that no boats would be able to bring them back to Venice.  They reached mile 13, some 2239 miles total.Below is a picture of the conversation with the Coast Guard.

Keep checking the blog for more posts and new pictures.

Posted by Aaron's dad

Game Face

Sunday morning I took Aaron and Jake to the International House of Pancakes for a send off breakfast prior to their last two days on the river. The night before the guys got some of the local flavor of New Orleans as they ate po boy sandwiches and crayfish e’touffee. Carol and I were treated to many stories about Aaron and Jake’s trip. They were bright eyed as they told each story with enthusiasm. It seemed one story would stimulate the memory of another story. It was like watching a tennis match listening to the stories shared by both guys. We took a quick stroll down only one block of Bourbon Street when both Aaron and Jake said they should get to bed.

I saw a different demeanor on Aaron and Jake’s faces as we walked the two blocks to IHOP. The banter at breakfast was much different than the night before. It was obvious they both had their game faces tightly secured. As a former head coach of 10+ years I have seen this look often. Both men were completely focused on the remaining task at hand. They knew these last two days would be an extreme challenge as the current fades and ocean going ship traffic increases. They ate a sensible breakfast loaded the canoe and were off to finish the trip.
Posted by Aaron's dad

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Re-Energized for the Last Push

Well they are off,  94 miles left to mile 0.  This picture was taken this morning just before they started the last leg of the trip. The current is really slowing down and the boat(ship) traffic is speeding up.  They should be done tomorrow afternoon or evening.  I am still working on procuring a boat to pick them up at mile 0.  All the Fishing guides are doing work for BP in the oil clean up effort.

This trip will soon come to an end but the blog will continue for a few more weeks.  Aaron and Jake will be posting some messeges in the next few weeks .  They will also update the pictures in the next week or so.

Don't forget August 21st is the open house/celebration for Aaron and Jake.  You can find a map to Glenwood Forest Preserve to the right of this post.  Anyone is welcome to attend.  Aaron and Jake will be speaking to the crowd from 4:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.

"Who Dat?"

Who Dat?
Not far from Jackson Square is a riverwalk along the Mississippi River. On this river walk there are stairs that lead right to the river’s edge, so close that one could dangle their toes in the river. At 6:45 p.m. Carol and I sat on these stairs looking upstream for the better part on an hour. Finally, in the distance we picked up the movement of a small boat silhouetted against the New Orleans’ skyline. I grabbed my camera and snapped a few shots. Over the next ½ hour I would snap more frequent shots and Carol and I would occasionally point or make a comment about the canoe which was inching its way closer. The other people around us started to take notice. 20 – 15 people in our adjacent vicinity started to slowly ask us questions. Each answer brought more questions, and the questions started to pick up in frequency as the little boat neared the stairs. “Who dat?, Where did they come from?, Where is Minnesota, isn’t that north somewhere?, Where do they sleep?, How they gonna paddle back? Didn’t I hear something about these guys on CNN?” By the time Aaron and Jake made it to the stairs the crowd grew to 30 or more. Some people had no clue what was going on “Is it legal to put a canoe on this river?” Some people were starting to grasp the enormity of the effort as Carol and I continued to answer questions “How many days has it taken them?” Some people simply sat there with tears in their eyes “I can’t believe they did this – my mom died of breast cancer last summer”. We helped unload the boat but the questions just increased. One overly inquisitive 5 year old latched on to Jake and fired question after question. Jake patiently answered every single question as he handed me gear from the boat. “Did you eat any alligators?, My uncle has a boat, do you know my uncle?, How many times did you tip over?, I got a fishing pole for my birthday, do you want to see it sometime?” After our entertaining of the crowd was over we got the guys a good meal, a shower and a good night’s rest.

Aaron and Jake paddled 52 miles to marker 94.

Leaving in 15 minutes to take Aaron and Jake to International House of Pancakes and then back in the river by 6:00a.m. for the final two days.

Posted by Aaron’s dad

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Over 2000 Miles Paddled!

As you look at the map to the right you probably would think that Aaron and Jake only have a little ways to go and it is all downhill from here. You would be correct from a mileage standpoint. However this part of the expedition may in fact be the hardest of the entire trip for Aaron and Jake. The last section of the river has really taken a toll on the guys both physically and mentally. The physical strains are obvious, aching arms, backs and hands. Unrelenting sun, day in and day out has turned their skin to leather. Constant battles with bugs require thick applications of bug spray, which at best just minimizes the little critter’s pestering. A week and a half of 90+ degree temperatures has depleted the guy’s electrolyte balance even when they are drinking sometimes 3 gallons each per day. The mental toll is less obvious, however I can sense from the nightly texts and the occasional phone call that they are both beaten down. They have a tunnel vision to reach mile 0 as soon as possible. It is hard for them to think past the next paddle stroke at this point.

Aaron and Jake struggled to paddle 61 miles to mile marker 146. The current has slowed down so miles are getting harder.

Posted by Aaron’s dad

Friday, July 16, 2010

One Hour

Thursday Carol and I drove to Memphis, Tennessee. We averaged 65-70 miles per hour. During one of those hours the following happened: We saw the corn fields of northern Illinois slowly transform to the Mississippi Delta. We ate ham and swiss on rye, chips, string cheese and peanut M & M’s washed down with and ice cold Coca-cola. We listened to music for a while and then listened to a book on tape. I adjusted the air conditioning so we could be nice and cool inside as the temperature outside rose to 97. All of this happened during one 65 mile stretch of our drive.

Thursday Aaron and Jake paddled to mile marker 207. They travelled 63 miles. During the day the following happened: They saw the same scenery they have seen for the last 4-5 days. They ate some oatmeal (again), snacked on some Nature Valley snack bars and washed it down with 97 degree water. They listened to the music of the water as their paddles dipped repeatedly in an out of the river. They endured once again a sultry day as the temperature outside rose to 97+. All of this happened during one 63 mile stretch of the Mississippi River.

I wonder how Aaron and Jake will adjust during the car ride home. Will the miles start to become insignificant to them as they whiz by every hour? We will travel the distance home in about 15 hours of driving in a car. This same distance took Aaron and Jake over 30 days to paddle. 30 painful, sunburned, poison ivy infested, dehydrating and mind numbing days. What happens in one hour in the car is soon forgotten. What Aaron and Jake will have accomplished in a few days will not be forgotten.

Posted by Aaron’s dad

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Melting Pot

Aaron and Jake paddled an incredible 75 miles Wednesday to mile marker 270.  They did this by getting on the water early and never got out of the canoe all day.  They "rested" in the mid-day heat by floating down the river.  They are 40 miles north of Baton Rouge and some 175 miles north of New Orleans.  Forecast for Thursday is 97 with isolated thunderstorms.

New Orleans – a True Melting Pot

New Orleans was originally founded by the French in 1718 but later ceded to the Spanish Empire in 1763. What we now refer to as Cajuns were actually French Canadian refugees who were banished from northeast Canada after the French and Indian War. In 1763 the Cajuns moved to Louisiana only to find out it was now under Spanish rule, the Cajuns were once again banished – this time to the swamps where they thrived. New Orleans was reverted back to French control in 1801. The architecture of the French Quarter comes from the Spanish period. Napoleon sold the territory to the United States in 1803 which opened the flood gates for French, German, Irish, African and Creole immigrants as New Orleans was one of the main entries into our country in addition to Ellis Island in New York. The Haitian Revolution of 1804 brought refugees from that island which added to the melting pot.

The cultural melting pot has resulted in a culinary melting pot that New Orleans is so well known for. Many of the dishes we enjoy today had a French, Spanish, Haitian or African beginning but use easily accessible local ingredients. Jambalaya for instance, is a spin off of the Spanish dish paella. Gumbo is based on the French dish bouillabaisse but uses the African plant okra to thicken the sauce. Beignet, straight from heaven, is a little fried dough pillow dusted with powdered sugar.

My wife Carol and I are going to arrive in New Orleans on Friday. This will give us a few days to test out this cuisine and make sure it is suitable for Aaron and Jake.

Posted by Aaron's dad

Mud Island River Walk

My wife Carol and I are heading south tomorrow to meet Aaron and Jake.  We are going to stay over night in Memphis, Tennessee at Aaron's suggestion.  He and Jake stopped in Memphis and stumbled on the Mud Island River Walk.  Aaron said this is a must see.  The Mud Island River Walk is an exact scale model of the Lower Mississippi River flowing from its confluence with the Ohio River at Cairo, Illinois 954 miles south to the Gulf of Mexico.  The River Walk is one of the most unique representations of the Mississippi River in the world.

"The "1,000" mile journey concludes at the Gulf of Mexico, a one-acre enclosure that holds 1.3 million gallons of water. There, visitors can enjoy a leisurely pedal boat ride around the Gulf area with the Memphis skyline in the background".

Click this link to check it out:

Posted by Aaron's dad

Brutal Day

"Brutal day. Strong head winds, waves, slow progress.  Made 65 miles in 13 1/2 hours.  Mile 345, 20 miles south of Natchez, Louisiana.  Hot, 96.  Aaron's phone died.  Ready for mile 0."

 This was the exact text I received at 8:03 p.m last night.  Forecast for today - 103.

Week 6 Statistics

1858=total miles paddled
345=miles left to Gulf of Mexico
42=days and nights on the river
44.2=average miles paddled per day
9=states passed through
4=days to New Orleans
6=days to the Gulf

Posted by Aaron's dad

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Seige of Vicksburg

On Monday Aaron and Jake traveled the least amount of miles since the 4th of July.  They paddled 50 miles to mile marker 410 some 27 miles south of Vicksburg, Mississippi.  They were faced with three obstacles that contributed to the "low" mileage.  First, they woke up to strong winds.  You would think if the wind is out of the west they could find protection on the west shoreline.  This isn't always the case because the Mississippi Valley acts as a wind tunnel so it seems like wind is always in their face.  The second obstacle was the oppressive heat which is starting to have a cumulative affect on  Aaron and Jake's mind and body.   The other obstacle Aaron and Jake faced was a buffet at the river boat casino in Vicksburg.  For the past week or so they have been eating oatmeal for breakfast, a few energy bars for lunch and a supper of cooked noodles or rice.  When they got in line at the buffet they were actually shaking with excitement with the prospect of unlimited and varied food choices.  This was no siege, it was a flat out no holds barred assault.  They ate until they couldn't eat anymore, they dragged their full bellies back to the canoe and struggled to paddle a painful 27 miles to mile marker 410.

Siege of Vicksburg (written by Aaron prior to departure)

The Siege of Vicksburg was the final major military action in the Vicksburg Campaign of the Civil War. Lt. Gen. John C. Pemberton and his confederate army were driven into the defensive lines surrounding the city of Vicksburg by the Union army and Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, in a series of maneuvers. Grant and his army relentlessly besieged the Confederate garrison until, with no re-enforcement, dwindling supplies, and after holding the fort for 40 days, they surrendered on July 4, 1863.

This victory, combined with the fall of Port Hudson on July 9, gave the Union forces control of the Mississippi River for the remainder of the war. The Siege of Vicksburg is often considered a crucial turning point in the war, along with Gen. Robert E. Lee’s defeat at Gettysburg the day before.

The City of Vicksburg would not celebrate Independence Day until World War II as a result of the loss; 80 years later.

Posted by Aaron's dad

Monday, July 12, 2010

State of Completion

Yesterday, with no fanfare, Aaron and Jake quietly crossed the border leaving Arkansas behind them.   This puts Mississippi on their left shoulder and Louisiana on their right.  I'm pretty sure there was no crying from Susanna and I am certain there was no banjo on anyone's knee. Louisiana is the final state out of 10 they have encountered in this expedition.  In another 2 days they will say goodbye to Mississippi and come face to face with the Louisiana bayous.

Through a natural process known as delta switching, the lower Mississippi River has shifted its final course to the mouth of the Gulf of Mexico every thousand years or so. This occurs because the deposits of silt and sediment begin to clog its channel, raising the river's level and causing it to eventually find a steeper, more direct route to the Gulf of Mexico. The abandoned distributaries diminish in volume and form what are known as bayous.

Posted by Aaron's dad

40 Days and 40 Nights

I spoke to Aaron yesterday afternoon.  He and Jake were enjoying an hour break as they do most afternoons.  Normally they try to find a town to check out or at least pull off the river to stretch their legs.  On this day however, they were just floating down the river because the area is so remote.  At 2:30 when I spoke to Aaron they had covered only 25 miles and he was concerned that they hadn't traveled further by that time of the day.  He said this part of the river is really getting to be a grind.  There are fewer new things to see every day.  The scenery looks the same day after day, the temperature is hot and humid day after day, the only excitement is the occasional rain which is welcome because it cools them off.  It has been 40 days now on the river (that is not counting the days off they took in Dubuque, St. Louis and Wickliffe).  That means 40 times the guys have had to set up a tent, tear down a tent, cook rice or dehydrated noodles for dinner. The only thing that keeps pushing them is that the end is in sight.

I got a text at 7:30 p.m. Aaron and Jake paddled another 38 miles for a total of 63 miles to mile marker 460.

Posted by Aaron's dad

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Adventurous Pursuits

Another hot, humid, insipid day of paddling rewarded Aaron and Jake with another 60 miles to mile marker 525. They were able to resupply their water and saw their first gator. They are just 26 miles from the Louisiana border.

The other day as I sat in the air conditioning on my comfortable couch sipping iced tea, I watched a stage of the Tour De France and was in awe of the physical and mental stamina it must take to bike such a race. The television reporter mentioned the distance of the race and I was surprised to hear that it is roughly the same distance as the Mississippi River. This got me thinking about a few adventurous pursuits that most people are at least casually familiar with. Below I have compared the canoeing the Mississippi River, hiking the Appalachian Trail, and biking the Tour De France.

Approximate total miles -
Mississippi River = 2320
Appalachian Trail = 2178
Tour De France = 2235

Number of people per year who finish the entire length 
Mississippi River = 20-30
Appalachian Trail = 500-600
Tour De France = 150-170

Average Miles per day
Mississippi River = 35-40
Appalachian Trail = 10-20
Tour De France = 10-150
Calories burned each day for a 200 lb person     
Mississippi River = 10,080 (12 hours)
Appalachian Trail = 7,632 (12 hours)
Tour De France = 4,000-5,000 (per stage)
Of course the competitors in the Tour De France have a team of nutrition experts, doctors, coaches and other people who make sure they are well taken care of. They get rubbed down each day, sleep in a comfortable bed and have well thought out meals prepared for them, not to mention the amount of money they earn on the tour. Even the hikers of the Appalachian Trail receive a “2000 Miler” award from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.

Most canoeists who complete the entire length of the Mississippi River receive nothing for their accomplishment. Aaron and Jake are the exception – they will receive the gratification that they have raised a substantial amount of money for people affected by breast cancer.

(Can you tell by my words that I am extremely proud of Aaron and Jake’s adventurous pursuit?)

Posted by Aaron’s dad

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Fire in the Hole

I got a text from Jake's phone number last night that said "Made 60 miles today.  Marker 585.  Cold front came through.  93 today.  Made Dakota fire hole to cook again.  Storms forecast, none so far. Near Rosedale, Mississippi."

There are several things I can "read" into this text. 1.  The text came from Jake so I am assuming Aaron's phone battery is dead  2.  The fact that they had to make a Dakota fire hole to cook again leads me to believe they are either out of cooking fuel or close to it and they are trying to ration what is left.  I also assume they were not able to cook last night.  I got a second text that said they had 9 gallons of water left and they will be in Greenville, Mississippi today where they can resupply.  All of this illustrates how rural and remote this section of the river is.  Luckily this next stretch of the river they will encounter towns of significant size every day or every other day at most.

Dakota Fire Hole - This is one of the most efficient types of fire that a person can make when trying to survive.  To make a Dakota Fire Hole, one digs a 10-12 inch diameter hole about 10-12 inches deep.  Then you dig a vent tunnel on the up wind side of the fire hole that will serve as a way to feed the fire with oxygen.  This fire hole takes a bit of energy to build but once complete it will burn very efficiently using little fire wood.

Posted by Aaron's dad

Friday, July 9, 2010

Party to celebrate Aaron and Jake's accomplishment!

Mark your calendars for Saturday August 21st. I will have more details soon but we wanted to let everbody know well in advance.  Everyone is welcome to attend.  This will be a chance to meet with Aaron and Jake, hear some stories, see more pictures and see the gear that they used to paddle the Mississippi River.

Rollin' Along

Ol' man river,
Dat ol' man river,
He mus'know sumpin'
But don't say nuthin'
He jes' keeps rollin'
He keeps on rollin' along.
                           Old Man River from the Musical Show Boat
                           Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II

Aaron and Jake Paddled 67 miles to "some random place" according to Aaron's text.  This puts them at mile marker 645 north of Rosedale, Mississippi.  Today's forecast calls for a little relief - high near 90.

Show Boat, written in the late 1920's was a fictionalized account of life on a river boat and focused on racial prejudice.  The area Aaron and Jake are paddling through now is the real life home to the Delta Blues.  The Delta Blues is one of the earliest styles of blues music which originated in the Mississippi Delta, a region of the United States that stretched from Memphis, Tennessee in the north to Vicksburg, Mississippi in the south.  The Mississippi Delta is an area know for its fertile soil and its poverty.  The Delta Blues lyrics range from introspective and soulful to passionate and fiery. This style of music had a large influence on modern music.  A few of the artists that acknowledged this influence include Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, Yardbirds, Rolling Stones, Cream, Allman Brothers, Led Zepplin,  Jimi Hendrix and many, many more.  Perhaps the greatest of all Delta Blues musicians to come from this area was Robert Johnson who allegedly "sold his soul to the devil" at the crossroads south of Rosedale, Mississippi.

Aaron and Jake will pass Rosedale at some point today although the town is a few miles from the river because of the flood plain.

Posted by Aaron's dad

Click  below to hear Cross Road Blues by Robert Johnson

Thursday, July 8, 2010

When does this trip end?

I spoke to Aaron last night after he and Jake paddled 63 miles to a sand bar at mile marker 712.  They stopped in Memphis, Tennessee to resupply their water.  They have a little over 15 gallons which needs to last them 3- 4 days because this stretch of river has few to no towns that are actually on the river.  He said this has been there favorite part of the trip as far as camping goes.  There are numerous sand bars in this part of the river that they can choose from to pitch a tent.  The river is a little wider than they expected and the current is swift.

The news yesterday reported that the BP oil leak has now impacted Lake Pontchartrain located just north of New Orleans.  We are not sure if Aaron and Jake will actually be able to reach mile 0 because of the far reaching affects of the oil leak.  New Orleans is actually about 100 miles from mile 0 and Venice, Louisiana is 10 miles from mile 0.  My wife and I are going to drive south to pick the guys up but we are not sure where the trip will end.  If Aaron and Jake continue to average 60 miles a day as they have the past few days, they will reach New Orleans on July 17th.  If they are able to reach mile 0 they have another 2-3 days of paddling.  In either case, We will be leaving a week from tomorrow to meet the guys in New Orleans.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Week 5 Statistics

35=days in a canoe
1431=Total Miles Paddled
774=Miles Left to the Gulf of Mexico
40.9=Average Miles Paddled Per Day
6=States Passed Through
29=Locks Passed Through
????=Gallons of oil lost in the Gulf

Here is a link to an article that appeared today in the Kane County Chronicle:

Making Good of a Bad Situation

South of St. Louis, Missouri there are no more locks, in order to reduce the effects of flooding this section of the river depends on levees. A levee is a natural or artificial slope/ wall parallel to the river which is meant to reduce the effects of rising water levels. This also means the towns are further from the river to accommodate for the flood plain.

Aaron and Jake paddled another 60 miles today. Staying hydrated is now the biggest concern. On Monday the only town they passed was Caruthersville, Missouri. Luckily they stopped to top off their water and a kind produce vendor gave them a watermelon and a couple of tomatoes. Tuesday they passed no towns but wisely rationed half of the watermelon from the day before. The next stop will be Memphis, Tennessee which is roughly 30 miles away. This means in the past 2 days they will have travelled over 100 miles in extremely hot and humid conditions with no chance to resupply their water.

Aaron and Jake will pass Memphis, Tennessee at some point today. Across the river from Memphis is the lesser known town of West Memphis, Arkansas. In addition to being the hometown of blues guitar legends Howlin’ Wolf and B.B. King, in the late 1980’s West Memphis found itself in a bad situation.

Making Good of a Bad Situation

“In 1988 a rare drought caused the Mississippi River to expose four and a half acres of forgotten shipwrecks near West Memphis, Arkansas. The State of Arkansas, the Arkansas Archeological Survey, and the Arkansas Archeological Society studied the area for two months, to get a rare glimpse into the age of wooden-hulled ships of the late 19th to early 20th centuries.” (Written by Aaron prior to departure)

Posted by Aaron’s dad

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Say Goodbye - Say Hello

Aaron and Jake broke 60 miles for the first time yesterday.  They paddled 60 miles to an island just 4 miles short of the Arkansas state line.  Today they will say goodbye to Missouri and with a really big day they could say goodbye to Tennessee as well.  This leaves only Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana left.

Forecast is hot, humid and chance of rain for the next 10 days.

Posted by Aaron's dad

Monday, July 5, 2010

57 Miles

At 7:30 a.m. I got a text from Aaron that said "57 Miles to just north of New Madrid, Missouri".

New Madrid

We did not get a text from Aaron or Jake last night. Most likely they are not getting cell service as predicted because they are on a more remote section of the river.  My guess is they probably traveled at least 50 miles because of no locks and an increase in the current. Of course it all depends on how strong the headwinds were and how hot it got.  The forecast for Monday is mid 90 degree temperatures and south winds.

If Aaron and Jake did make 50 miles, that would put them roughly at the junction of Kentucky, Tennessee and Missouri near New Madrid Missouri.  New Madrid is infamous for the New Madrid Seismic zone.  Over the years many well documented earthquakes have originated from this area; in fact Reverie, Tennessee was cut off from its Tennessee homeland when an earthquake changed the course of the river.  This earthquake created a new channel and left Reverie, Tennessee on the Arkansas side of the river.

I will not update the map or mileage until I know the exact distance they traveled.

Posted by Aaron's dad

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Rest before the final push - from Aaron and Jake

New Pictures are linked above: click the slideshow to see them all.

We are spending two nights in Wickliffe, KY with some of Jake's family before we continue the last 950 miles of our trip. We'll get on the river the morning of Independence Day.

The southern section of the Mississippi River will be very wild and remote.  We'll go at least 150 miles without seeing a single town.  The temperature each day will be pushing 100 degrees and we will be traveling through a region unknown to us.  We are excited for the last stretch and hopefully an approaching finish line will help drive us to the end. should have a story about our trip coming up within a few days.

Aaron and Jake

Friday, July 2, 2010

All Things Merge Into One

"Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it ..."
                                                        A River Runs Through It
                                                       Norman Maclean

Aaron and Jake are just 22 miles from the confluence of the Ohio River after paddling 58 miles yesterday.  They camped on a sand bar in the middle of the river that connects two islands.  Aaron called me and said they were watching several deer drinking from the river.

The Ohio River is the largest tributary that drains into the Mississippi River, its drainage basin encompasses 14 states.  The merging of these two great rivers connects the eastern part of our country to the middle and western parts of our country.

Aaron and Jake are going to stop in Wickliffe Kentucky to meet up with some of Jake's family.  They will take a day off as they gear up for the final push to the gulf.  The numbering system starts over at the Ohio River confluence.  From this point on the mileage will be a true measuremnet of how much further they need to travel, Wickliffe is at mile marker 951.

Posted by Aaron's dad

Thursday, July 1, 2010

"I'm strong to the finish, 'cause I eats me spinach"

Aaron and Jake got a ride to Chester, Illinois (home of Popeye) to continue their trip.  Nearly 100 miles of the river is shut down due to flooding and the guys didn't want to wait indefinitely for that section of the river to open back up.  With the help of a swift current, they covered 30 miles to Devil's Backbone Camp Ground just north of Grand Tower  after just 4 1/2 hours of paddling (that's over 6 1/2 miles per hour!).

The section of river the guys bypassed included Kaskaskia, Illinois.  Aaron wrote an interesting story about Kaskaskia prior to departure:

Kaskaskia, Illlinois

Kaskaskia, Illinois is a village located in Randolph County. The 2000 census shows that Kaskaskia is the smallest unincorporated community in Illinois, with a population of 9. It is one of the few areas of Illinois that lie on the west side of the Mississippi River.
This small, river village was the first capitol of the Illinois Territory until 1819, when the capitol moved to Vandalia. The peak population of the town was 7,000 people.
Kaskaskia and other agricultural villages within Illinois Country were essential for supplying New Orleans with wheat and corn during the years of French rule. In 1741, King Louis XV sent the “true” American liberty bell to Kaskaskia for its agriculture and shipping exploits. The “liberty bell” rang from its church when George Rogers Clark retook Kaskaskia in 1778 during the American Revolution. The bell is still housed near the Church of the Immaculate Conception, built in 1843.

In 1881 a terrible flood destroyed most of the original town of Kaskaskia, and shifted the Mississippi’s riverbed east to the Kaskaskia River. Because of this, the Kaskaskia’s original town is now located on an island, which sits primarily within the Missouri state lines. In 1893 the townspeople moved back to their town’s original location and rebuilt the Church of Immaculate Conception on Kaskaskia Island.

The entire town was submerged under nine feet of water during the Great Flood of 1993. For many residents, this was the last straw. By 2000, Kaskaskia had almost become a ghost town and a lost piece of Illinois History.

Posted by Aaron's dad

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

On hold - From Aaron & Jake

As we left from Alton, IL this morning we called the Coast Guard and found out the river is closed from marker 185 (St. Louis) to marker 109 (Chester, IL)  There isn't anything we can do besides get a ride to where we can get back on the river.  The Coast Guard has come to the decision that the flood waters have made the river unsafe for recreational craft... such as a canoe.  We will respect their decision.  We're staying in St. Louis at a friend's place for the night, as planned.

During our stay in Alton today we got a chance to see the sights and visit an interesting Native American painting.  Our friend Denise, who donated many meals and other equipment for our trip, grew up in Alton and remembers the Piasa Bird well. Piasa means "the bird that devours men" and is a mythical creature derived from the Cahokia region of Illinois.

Half Way to the Gulf

Aaron and Jake traveled 57 miles to mile marker 202 in Alton, Illinois. They decided to rent a slip in the Alton Marina for the night, because the land is so flooded there is nowhere to camp. Sunday night they slept in the canoe tied up to a dock but it was a nerve racking night because of the fast current rushing by them. Monday night’s sleep was better because the canoe was in a protected slip in the marina.
Today they have a short 20 mile paddle to St. Louis where a college friend of Aaron’s will pick them up for a night’s sleep in a bed and a hot shower. They will pass the half way point of their trip (1160 miles) just six miles downriver from where they slept. They will also go through the final two locks of the entire trip when they enter the Chain of Rocks Canal.

Just south of the confluence of the Missouri River and just north of St. Louis is a stretch of river known as the chain of rocks. The chain of rocks is exactly as it sounds, literally a chain of rocks that cross the Mississippi leaving a portion of the river which must be bypassed by the Chain of Rocks Canal.

Chain of rocks

Posted by Aaron’s dad

Monday, June 28, 2010

Free and Easy

"We said there warn't no home like a raft, after all. Other places do seem so cramped up and smothery, but a raft don't. You feel mighty free and easy and comfortable on a raft." - Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Aaron and Jake tipped their paddles to Tom and Huck as they departed yesterday morning from Hannibal, Missouri.  They paddled 50 miles to mile marker 259 near Hamburg, Illinois. 

The lock and dam system continues to bewilder me.  Yesterday Aaron and Jake passed through lock # 25.  I started looking closer at the locks as I compiled the statistics for the first four weeks.  It turns out lock #25 is actually the 27th lock they have passed through.  In Minneapolis there are two locks that are not numbered; there is a lock # 5 and #5A but there is no lock #23.  Maybe someone could post a comment as to why there is no lock #23 - did it just disappear?

Statistics after 4 weeks

1086 = total miles traveled
38.7 = average miles per day
28 = days of paddling
3 = states passed through (Minnesota, Wisconsin & Iowa)
27 = locks passed through
$4640 = money raised for breast cancer
171 = miles ahead of projected schedule
4,944 = hits on this blog site
Countless = lives they have touched

Posted by Aaron's dad

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Sorry for Partying

Even with a late start, over 3 hours of waiting at two locks, a T.V. interview and strong winds Aaron and Jake traveled 44 more miles on Saturday ending in Hannibal, Missouri at mile marker 309. 

Here is the link to the T.V. interview

You can check out many new pictures on Facebook - join the Canoe for the Cure group to access the photos.

Aaron and Jake passed through Quincy, Illinois during the day.  Across the river they also passed West Quincy, Missouri which is the home town of an infamous character.  The following story was written by Aaron prior to departure:

Sorry for Partying

Many of us remember the Great Flood of 1993. The flood was one of the most devastating in United States history, causing around $15 billion in damages. The water created an area of surface water larger and the Great Lakes, and flowed at a rate that would fill Busch Memorial Stadium within 69 seconds.

Unknown to many, it wasn’t just Mother Nature who wreaked havoc on these river towns.

James Robert Scott, of West Quincy, Missouri weakened a levee on the night of July 16 so the floodwater could bust through. That evening, the river flooded an area 14,000 acres, destroying several businesses, and taking out every bridge within 200 miles. In dramatic fashion, a barge was sucked through the levee into a gas station, resulting in a fiery eruption.

After only a few hours of deliberation, Scott was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison for intentionally causing a catastrophe.

Scott broke the levee to strand his wife on the other sideof the river so that he was free to “party, fish, and have an affair.”

Posted by Aaron's dad

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Itching to hit 1,000 MilesToday

I spoke to Aaron on the phone this morning.  They were picked up a few miles north of Canton Missouri at mile 353 after canoeing 33 miles through large waves on Friday.  They couldn't get picked up in Canton itself because the flood gates are up and the town is "shut off" from the river due to the flooding. Aaron and Jake's spirits are good but they are both suffering from poison ivy. They enjoyed a hot shower and a great home cooked  meal that included elk steaks, but most of all they enjoyed the good hospitality.

They will be interviewed by a T.V. station today when they get to Quincy, Illinois 25 miles down river from where they slept last night.  The lock traffic is way backed up because of the flooding, they must wait their turn to get into the lock.  Aaron said occasionally a lock master will let them cut in front of some barges.  Lock 20 in Canton has water running on the mainland side of the lock so they are going to try to navigate around the lock on what is usually land.

Forecast for Saturday - Isolated thunderstorms in the afternoon with temperatures in the mid 90's

Posted by Aaron's dad

Friday, June 25, 2010


A pleasant day on Thursday allowed Aaron and Jake to paddle 51 miles to mile marker 386 just North of Fort Madison Iowa.  They were able to stop in Keithsburg, Illinois for coffee and Burlington, Iowa for lunch.  Today the guys will meet the good people of Canton Missouri who are going to open their house to them.  Aaron and Jake will get to sleep in a bed, use indoor plumbing, get a nice meal and meet some new friends.

With all of the rain the midwest has gotten over the past few weeks the mighty Mississippi is starting to swell.  Since the Mississippi drains close to 1/2 of our country's water even rain that doesn't fall directly on the river will most likely end up in the river.  This swelling of the river will continue for several days and possibly weeks even if no more rain falls as the tributary creeks and rivers drain to the Mississippi.  In 1927 the river did much more than just swell ...

The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927

"Throughout the summer and fall of 1926 many places throughout the Midwest were inundated with consistent rainfall. On April 15, 1927, with many rivers already swollen to capacity, a storm lingered across the area that dumped 15 inches of water within 18 hours.

This rain caused the Mississippi River to burst through its’ levees in 145 places, and flooded over 27,000 square miles. The flood filled an area 50 miles wide and 100 miles long with water up to 30 feet deep. 246 people were killed throughout seven states. Of the ten states that were affected, Arkansas was the hardest hit with over 14% of it’s’ territory covered in flood water.

The Great Flood displaced over 700,000 people, including 330,000 African-Americans. Racial hostility had erupted during the six month displacement period. This resulted in tens of thousands of blacks moving to northern cities, and particularly Chicago. The flood was one of the main factors for the Great Migration of African-Americans to the north." (written by Aaron prior to departure)

Posted by Aaron's dad

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A Challenging Day

After dodging most of the storms on Tuesday, Aaron and Jake were not so lucky on Wednesday and faced one of their most challenging days of the entire trip.  They awoke at 4:00 am to a flooded camp site.  They got a few miles behind them in the morning when the skies opened up again.   Because of the heavy rains the locks were shut down which means the guys had to portage two of the locks (which is no easy task).  In Muscatine, Iowa Aaron and Jake stopped to get a bite to eat and stretch their legs.  While in Muscatine the tornado alarms went off at 4:00 pm.  Hail and 60+ mile an hour winds blew through the town.  Aaron said it was the worst storm he had ever seen.  They waited out the onslaught in a public bathroom.

Despite all of the obstacles they paddled 42 miles ending at mile marker 437 near New Boston, Illinois at lock # 17.

A friend of a friend of a great aunt has offered a bed and a shower at their house in Canton, Missouri.  Canton is 97 miles from where Aaron and Jake slept last night.  With two hard days of paddling, averaging just over 48 miles each day, they can reach their destination by Friday night.

Forecast for Thursday - Saturday no rain!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

American Paddlers

Aaron and Jake paddled 49 miles to mile marker 479 just past the Quad Cities.  They avoided the major storms that were in the forecast.  During the day they stopped in LeClaire Iowa for a lunch of smoked catfish.  While in LeClaire they stopped by Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz's place from "American Pickers" fame as seen on the History Channel.

More rain and storms are forecast for Wednesday.

Posted by Aaron's dad

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Wet and WILDlife

Aaron and Jake rebounded after a slow day Sunday.  They traveled 46 miles to mile marker 428 just south of Savanna Illinois.  The guys pulled off the river to a tiny island and weathered a storm that had 60 mile an hour winds, another stormy day is forecasted for Tuesday.

In addition to fatigue, sore backs, blisters on hands, etc..., Aaron and Jake have to deal with another obstacle.  All of this rain has helped the mosquito population boom.  If you look closely at the pictures below you can see dragon flies.  The guys were surrounded by hundreds of dragon flies while in Minnesota - why dragon flies?  What you can't see in the picture is the thousands of mosquitoes that the dragon flies were feeding on.

(Click on images to enlarge)
Posted by Aaron's dad

Monday, June 21, 2010

Back in the Groove?

We estimated Aaron and Jake burn over 3,000 calories a day while canoeing and camping.  Both Aaron and Jake did everything possible to put calories back in their bodies during their days off. After 2 1/2 days off and many many large meals the guys got a late start on Sunday due to stomach problems. Go Figure. They covered 18 miles Sunday and hopefully will get back in the groove today.

Posted by Aaron's dad

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Rest - From Aaron

Hello friends, family, and supporters.  Jake and I are enjoying a couple days of relaxation and catching up with stories and photos.  We thank everyone who has contributed to our cause and is following the blog, as it has given us much motivation during our journey.  My dad has been doing an awesome job updating the blog, and I have vowed to give him more details about each day. 

Our families have met us in Dubuque, IA and we have spent the weekend enjoying the comforts of indoor plumbing, furniture, and time spent with loved ones.  Also, we have been successful in filling the bottomless pits that were previously our stomachs.

Our trip down the Mississippi has been what we expected: A Great Adventure.  We have paddled our way from a meandering marshland, through deeply wooded pine forests, to a giant river, busy with the industrial necessities of the 21st century.  Seemingly overnight we were transformed from a tranquil world of bald eagles, black bears, loons, and dense forests, to the sometimes chaotic river we see today.  Barges, power plants, and locomotives now wake us up at night.  These man-made characteristics of the river are sometimes just as beautiful as their counterparts in the North.  I can assure you the heartland of America is hard at work 24 hours a day 7 days a week to make sure we get our daily doses of coal, wheat, iron, and other vital commodities.

Although we are far from home, I feel as though we've been securely wrapped in the arms the humble Midwest.  We've met wonderful people who have shared with us pizza, beer, breakfasts, and perhaps more importantly, their life experiences and where they come from. 

Our adventure is not without its' physical and mental challenges.  We've had poison ivy since Day 1.  Ticks, mosquitoes, sunburn, blisters and soreness pester us from time to time.  I would be exaggerating my (possibly imagined) tough, outdoorsmen image if I didn't admit that coffee and extra strength Tylenol help us through our last 15 miles on occasion. 

We will be leaving tomorrow morning with a full food bag, dry clothes, clean (well, cleaner) gear, and a renewed pursuit of adventure.  For about 550 miles we can enjoy the comforts of home over our left shoulder, as we paddle the long, storied border of Illinois to the confluence of the Ohio River.  Until then, we'll have more stories and will have made more friends along the way.

Wish us North winds and smooth paddling,


A Clean Break - From Jake

We finally took a much needed break. Although the experience is amazing, the views are awesome, the wildlife is spectacular, and the people are fascinating, it is totally exhausting. Putting in 35-60 miles a day takes a toll on our backs, skin, and bodies altogether. We were lucky enough to sit out the terrible t-storms last night in a nice solid house. The food has been amazing, but seeing the people we love and miss is even better.  We will be getting back on the water tomorrow (sunday) morning. The river is big, the current is stronger, and we are finally getting in really good shape. Aaron has lost 14 pounds and I've lost 8, but the slimming has not yet begun. Having such a huge following is great motivation and gives us a very good reason to keep pushing the miles past. The pictures are up for all to see, click on the thumbnails at the top. Keep checking the blog and we'll keep paddling! We'll see everyone in the end of July.


Thursday, June 17, 2010

R & R

As predicted Aaron and Jake had a huge day ending after 11:00 pm.  They traveled 57 miles to Guttenburg Iowa just below Lock 10.  I am going to pick them up in Dubuque today so they can have a much deserved rest.  We are going to launder all of their belongings and try to dry out the gear after a weeks worth of rain.  They will return to the river Sunday morning after a 2 1/2 day rest.  In the next few days we will try to upload some pictures.  Aaron and Jake will post their thoughts on the first 730 miles of the trip.
Posted by Aaron's dad

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Another wet day ends with 37 miles paddled to mile marker 672 in north eastern Iowa.   After canoeing through the rain all day Monday they slept (or tried to) through a severe storm Monday night, because of this they got a late start on Tuesday as they waited for the storm to abate.

Today Aaron and Jake will see the sun for the first time in over a week.  I would expect the guys to put a lot of miles behind them today as I'm sure the sun will "recharge their batteries".  At Prairie Du Chien they will meet where the Wisconsin River spills into the Mississippi River, this will be the second large river they will pass.  With each river merge the Mississippi will get larger and the current will pick up.  Within the next 2 weeks they will meet up with the Illinois, Missouri and Ohio Rivers. In fact, The Mississippi River drains 41% of the United States. 31 states and 2 Canadian provinces are included in the watershed.

Posted by Aaron's dad

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Wet and Miserable

Last night Aaron's text only said  "40 miles to marker 709 - wet and miserable".  Aaron and Jake will get a much needed and well deserved "day off" this Friday when I pick them up in Dubuque, IA.  In the mean time there are several milestones they should pass today.  1.  They will pass the half way point from the headwaters to Cairo, IL (the beginning of the numbering system for the Upper Mississippi River).  2.   They will pass Lake Onalaska near Lacrosse Wisconsin which is the widest free-flowing point in the Mississippi River at 4 miles wide.  3.  They will say good bye to Minnesota as they enter the Iowa/Wisconsin border.

If Aaron and Jake could understand how much they have inspired thousands of people it might give them some much needed motivation after such a wet and miserable day.

 Forecast for today - Chance of precipitation is 80%.

Posted by Aaron's dad

Monday, June 14, 2010

Placid Pepin

On the left is a picture of Jake as they take a short break in the middle of Lake Pepin.  This lake is 30 miles long, behind Jake you can see 1/2 of the lake that they had already crossed.  If you look real close I think you can see "Pepie" in the background.  With Pepie's blessings they safely navigated 40 miles through Lake Pepin to mile marker 749 just south of Alma Wisconsin.

Aaron texted "Lake Pepin is beautiful and surrounded by mountains.  Winds were light and from the north.  Our neighbors at the campground last night fed us bacon, eggs, hashbrowns and toast.  We got a shower and clean dishes."

Today they should pass Winona Minnesota and end somewhere north of LaCrosse Wisconsin.

Posted by Aaron's dad.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Week 2 Statistics

556 = Total Miles Traveled
37 = Average Miles Per Day
1755 = Miles Left to the Gulf of Mexico
24% = Trip Completed
115 = Ahead of Projected Schedule
206 = Miles to go before a day off

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Long Live Pepie

43 more miles today ending at mile marker 789 just north of lake Pepin. 

"Lake Pepin is a naturally occurring lake on the Mississippi River that is backed up by the sediment of the Chippewa River’s delta. The lake is 40 square miles, with an average depth of 18 feet, and is the largest body of water on the river. Pepin stretches from Bay City, Wisconsin, in the north, down south to Reed’s Landing, Minnesota.
In 1890 the Sea Wing ferry capsized in a bad storm, killing 98 people. To this day the Sea Wing disaster is still one of the worst maritime calamities to occur on the Mississippi River.

Perhaps the local lake monster, Pepie, had something to do with the ferry accident. Pepie was first spotted on April 27, 1871, and is still seen today on rare occasions (or after a few shots of tequila).

An American Invention: What would summertime in the U.S. be without baseball, hot dogs, the Fourth of July, and water skiing? On June 28, 1922, eighteen year old, Ralph Samuelson started experimenting with a thought that if you could ski on snow, you could ski on water. After attempting the new sport with barrel staves and snow skis, Samuelson shaped lumber, leather straps, and a window sash to make the first pair of water skis. On July 2, while being towed by his brother, Samuelson discovered that leaning backwards with the ski tips pointing up was the best strategy, and an American aquatic favorite was born on Lake Pepin." (written by Aaron prior to departure).

Tomorrow, being a Sunday, Aaron and Jake may run into numerous recreational boaters, jet skies and water skiers.  Who knows, maybe one of these waters skier will be a direct descendant of Ralph Samuelson.

posted by Aaron's dad

"Dam" Locks

Severe storms in the morning delayed Aaron and Jake's start. The day ended with 33 miles traveled to an island at mile marker 832 in south St. Paul which puts them at 513 miles traveled.  Aaron and Jake went through three locks, including the Saint Anthony's Upper and Lower Falls.  After these two locks the numbering system begins with lock 1(actually the 3rd lock) which they also passed through yesterday. Once again, I don't understand the numbering system.   It seems to me that the first lock should be named #1 and not the St. Anthony Upper Lock. Oh well, another mystery.

In 20 miles, the barge traffic will increase after they pass the confluence of the St. Croix River which is actually larger than the Mississippi River at this point.  The St. Croix River marks the border of Minnesota and Wisconsin.  Barge transport is an important means of shipping materiels in the United States.  In fact, in one gallon of fuel, 1 ton of cargo can be moved 60 miles by truck, 202 miles by rail, and 514 miles by barge.

Posted by Aaron's dad

Friday, June 11, 2010

Back to Civilization

Getting back into civilization has its advantages. Aaron and Jake were asked by a man standing on his dock where they were headed. It turns out this man had also canoed the entire Mississippi River. He invited them into his house as a severe storm crashed down. They enjoyed a dry shelter, pizza, beer and swapped stories with their new friend.

Aaron and Jake traveled 40 miles yesterday stopping at mile marker 865 just past the Coon Rapids Dam.  This was the last dam they will have to portage as they enter into the lock and dam system today. To achieve a 9-foot channel in the Upper Mississippi River, the construction of a system of navigation locks and dams was authorized in 1930. Dams are built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to hold back water and form deeper navigation "pools." Most pools in the United States are maintained at a constant minimum water depth of 9 feet for safe navigation. Dams allow river vessels to use a series of locks to "step" up or down the river from one water level to another.  The St. Paul District operates and maintains 13 locks and dams beginning at Upper St. Anthony Falls in downtown Minneapolis and ending at lock and dam 10 in Guttenberg, Iowa.

Today Aaron and Jake will go through downtown Minneapolis including the first few locks. 

The Minnesota DNR maps have all been navigated by Aaron and Jake, from this point forward I will link detailed maps provided by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Posted by Aaron's dad

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Beauty and the Beast

According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources this stretch of "the Mississippi River from St. Cloud to Anoka was designated as a Minnesota Wild and Scenic River in 1973 ..."  This designation helps protect this beautiful stretch of the river.  Today Aaron and Jake traveled 46 miles to Oak Island Camp midway between St. Cloud and Anoka right in the heart of this protected area.

Tomorrow they will spend most of the day continuing on this beautiful stretch only to end the day on a stretch of river that is ..."silty and in places, contaminated with sewage and industrial chemicals" according to the Minnesota DNR.  Thursday and Friday will bring urban sprawl and industry as they head into the state capital leaving the pristine serenity of the Headwaters behind.

Posted by Aaron's dad

Good News - Bad News

On Tuesday Aaron and Jake traveled 41 miles to the Seven Island Campsite (on an island) at mile marker 951.  The river drops 6 1/2 feet for every river mile between Little Falls and St. Cloud, because of this huge gradient drop there are several dams that all must be portaged.  Yesterday Aaron and Jake portaged the Little Falls Dam where they stopped in the little town for lunch. After lunch they portaged the Blanchard Dam.  On the DNR map it describes the Blanchard Dam as; "Portage left 300 yards - rugged trail traverses, two railroad grades ... This is the largest hydroelectric Dam on the Upper Mississippi".  Imagine making three trips longer than the length of a football field over rugged terrain carrying 400 pounds of gear and a canoe.  Needless to say Aaron texted that this portage was extremely difficult. 

The good news is they only have two more days of portaging dams because they will begin the lock system near Minneapolis.  The bad news is they have three more dams to portage before they hit the first lock at mile marker 853.

Posted by Aaron's dad

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Wall & The Log Jam

After a 51 mile day yesterday that ended at midnight the guys "hit a wall"  this afternoon and finished with 28 miles today.  They had to portage the canoe and gear in Brainerd which really took a lot out of them.  Even a small portage requires 3 trips, two for the 400 lbs. of gear and one for the canoe.  They are camping at Crow Wing State Park on the opposite bank from Camp Riley Military Reservation.

Question: What takes 150 lumberjacks, 5 teams of horses and one steam engine 6 months to break up?

Answer: The largest log jam in history. In 1894 a pile of logs a half-mile wide, 60 feet thick, and almost seven miles long was stuck in the Mississippi River near Little Falls, MN. The logs were being floated to the sawmills in Minneapolis and St. Paul to meet the demand of lumber for booming cities such as Chicago and New York. River divers were sent in to remove the key logs holding these jams together. These lumberjacks were some of the most highly skilled and the most respected in camp. It was not uncommon for as many as five or six loggers to die at once while trying to free the jams. Because of this specialized, dangerous job, the divers were among the most highly paid lumberjacks: seventy-five cents to a dollar a day wages. Some logs remained in place, gathering sediment and eventually becoming the islands that break the river’s path today.  (written by Aaron prior to departure)

Tomorrow Aaron and Jake will be passing through this area now referred to as the “Thousand Island” area of the river.

Posted by Aaron's dad

Sunday, June 6, 2010

You Betcha!

Aaron and Jake rolled out of their tents this morning just in time to see a black bear swim across the river and lumber up the bank no more than 30 yards from them.  After a quick change of underwear they were able to stop in the town of Aitkin for a warm lunch and then proceeded to put an amazing 51 more miles of river behind them. 

They are camping at Half Moon Campsite, mile marker 1020 a few miles upstream from Brainerd made famous in the movie Fargo "You betcha, and I suppose that is your accomplice in the wood chipper?".  Tomorrow they will pass Camp Riley Military Reservation which will  be on the west bank of the river for 16 miles.  The river  meanders much less from now on so the mileage they acheive on the river will be more similar to "real" miles.

Posted by Aaron's dad

38 more miles

I got a text at 9:42 pm last night and all it said was 38 miles.  I interpret this as "we got a late start today because we were enjoying the 5 star resort".  When I spoke to Aaron on Friday night he said both he and Jake are sore; backs, arms and hands are all hurting.  If you look at the detailed map you can see the campsites are further apart, Aaron did not include a campsite because according to my calculations they are at river mile 1071.  This puts them 10 miles upstream from the town of Aitkin.

Many people have been asking me what the numbers are on the detailed maps.  The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers developed a system to keep track of the miles on the Mississippi River.  Miles are counted upstream from the Mississippi's confluence with the Ohio River, the southern tip of Illinois.  This makes the headwaters at Lake Itasca mile marker 1347 because it is that far from the Ohio River.  Aaron and Jake slept last night at mile marker 1071, you should be able to find that on the detailed map.  South of the Ohio River the numbering system starts over again counting upstream from mile "0" at the Gulf of Mexico.  Why there isn't one continuous numbering system is a mystery to me.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

1 Shower

I spoke with Aaron on the phone last night after he and Jake traveled 44 miles to Sandy Lake Campsite.  Their goal was to get to the next campsite down river but being a Friday night the campsites were starting to fill up and they were running short on daylight.  Up to this point, the campsites they have been setting their tents on are river only access and usually only have a cleared area - the really nice ones might have a picnic table.  Last night at Sandy Lake they were treated with a campsite that not only included a shower but also a toilet!  I could feel the excitement in Aaron's voice as if they were staying at a 5 star resort. 

Aaron spoke of countless bald eagles, snapping turtles at every turn and a never ending meandering river.  In fact, he said that the river meanders so much that for them to travel 10 miles on the river they may actually be only traveling 5 miles "as the crow flies".

Week one statistics:

236 miles traveled (10% of the trip behind them)
2075 miles to the gulf
33.7 miles per day averaged
9 lakes traversed
300 feet in elevation descended
1/2 way to Minneapolis
$3450 Donated to breast cancer
200 hits on this website within the last 24 hours
1 shower for Aaron and Jake

Aaron and Jake will move from one map to the next sometime today so I have included both detailed maps to the right of this blog.

Posted by Aaron's dad

Friday, June 4, 2010

A drop of rain

On Tuesday, June 1st Aaron and Jake spent a 15 hour day on and off the water battling wind and rain as they crossed Lake Winnibigoshish.  It is said that a drop of rain takes approximately 90 days to travel the entire length of the Mississippi River.  Before this trip began Aaron and Jake estimated it would take 68 days to reach the Gulf of Mexico.  Now on June 3rd with just 6 days of paddling, including 45 miles today, they are 2 days ahead of the projected timeline which puts them at mile 0 on August 3rd.  Those drops of rain that tormented them on June 1st will dump into the gulf around September 1st and will meet their match when in turn they will be tormented by thousands of gallons of oil.

Aaron and Jake stopped at Swimming Bear Campsite last night.

Posted by Aaron's dad.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Smooth Sailing

Today Aaron and Jake put 34 miles of river behind them, stopping to camp at Leaning Willows campsite just outside Grand Rapids.  This section of river is a transition from the wetlands and forests of the headwaters to the lowland hardwood forest of Aitkin County.  Tomorrow they will need to portage around two manmade dams; one which controls the water level for Lake Pokegama and one that provides hydropower to the Blandin Paper Company.  Downstream from Grand Rapids the river shorelines become agricultural and then forested as it meanders through Aitkin County.

Posted by Aaron's dad

Rough Day

Aaron & Jake are a bit sore and tired after crossing Lake Winnibigoshish in rain and wind, finishing the day at 9:45p.m..  They only paddled 17 miles but wisely followed the shoreline and even stopped a few times to let the wind subside.  As a parent I am relieved and proud that they chose to respect the dangers of this large lake.  They spent the night at Lake Winnie Dam and should have a nice day ahead with a forecast of calm winds and temperatures in the high 60's.

Click on the detailed map to the right to see exactly where they are on the river.

Posted by aaron's dad

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

2 big lakes down - 1 to go

On Monday night Aaron and Jake camped at Meadowland Campground after crossing Lake Bemidji and Cass Lake covering a total of 37 miles.  Today they have to navigate Lake Winnibigoshish which is by far the largest lake they will encounter.  At this point most of the details are sketchy as cell phone signals are far and few between.  The limited texts we have received describe bald eagles, storms and high winds.

Posted by Aaron's dad

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Another big day

Day 2 of the expedition ends with 34 miles at Silver Springs Campsite just outside of Bemidji.  Aaron said he will try to call tomorrow if he gets cell coverage.  Aaron & Jake were hoping to average 30 miles a day for the trip, at this rate they will blow that average away.  The first few weeks of this trip should be the slowest yet they have averaged close to 30 miles between the first two days.

Tomorrow has thunderstorms forcasted and they have several large lakes to navigate.

Posted by Aaron's dad

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Day 1, 25 miles down 2286 to go

I got a text from Aaron tonight around 5:00 pm it read "Made 25 miles, camping at Stumphges Rapids".  They will have to pass through Lake Bemidji tomorrow, shortly after the lake they will pass the furthest north point on the Mississippi River ... it will all be south bound after that.

Posted by Aaron's dad

We're off!!!!!

Aaron’s dad will be updating this blog every week as they make their journey down the Mississippi River. You can follow their progress on the map to the right. Actually the first week of the journey they will be heading north. The Mississippi River headwaters begin at Lake Itasca and then travel north east through the Minnesota Northwoods. I was told by Aaron that the water is very low which means the first few days could be the hardest part of the entire journey.

An excerpt from the Minnesota DNR’s canoe map: Lake Itasca – Cass Lake

“At Lake Itasca 2,348 miles from the Gulf of Mexico, 560 miles from Minneapolis-St. Paul, the Mississippi River begins its course. In its first 90 miles, the river winds through ancient lake beds, and occasionally rushes through narrow valleys of spruce. At Bemidji, the river flows through the first of several lakes. This is the most scenic and most remote of the Mississippi’s Minnesota miles.The paddlers need some skills and patience in this section. There are rocky riffles, snags, and beaver dams to be maneuvered around. Campsites that are accessed from the river only, require wilderness skills.”

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Thank you

Before we shove off Saturday, May 29th, we would like to thank everyone who showed their generous support for our venture and its cause.  We can't begin to thank all of the friends, family, and organizations who have helped us with gear, financial provisions, and support.  Unfortunately, we weren't able to reach out to everyone individually to tell how much we appreciate their kindness.  There were many people who helped us out, including Denise, who just gave a whole load of food to help us through the northern section. 

The high quality gear and equipment that was donated by different outdoor companies and organizations will help us immensely on the trip.  Their websites are located on the blog, and we hope you will think about the generosity they showed us when looking for your next outdoor equipment purchase.

After much planning and anticipation, we hope that everyone will read our blog and follow along with us on our journey.  Now, we head North.

Thank you very much,

Aaron & Jake

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Gear to Grow

Gear to Grow, a non-profit organization out of Utah, is sending us a whole box of camping gear. They are an organization that collects gear donations from outdoor companies and send them to other charities, such as CityWild, Leave No Trace, and more. They have added Canoe for the Cure to the list. We couldn't thank Gear to Grow and JT Von Lunen enough for this donation.

Friday, April 16, 2010

In the News

The Daily Herald has just published an article about our trip! Check it out at: .

The Batavia Republican published an article about our trip on May 20:

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

US 99.5

US 99.5 - America's Country Station, has put our trip on their "Concerts and Events" page.  Here is the link:

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The date has been set

We have decided on a departure date: May 29, 2010. This is the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. Our friend, Mike, will be driving us to Lake Itasca Friday, the 28th, where we will camp and prepare our gear. As early as possible on the 29th we will launch on our journey down the mighty Mississippi. Of course, this all depends on weather, river levels, and the logistics of the eleven hour drive to the headwaters. As of now, D-Day is May 29th!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Canoecopia 2010

We just got back from Canoecopia last night. Its the biggest canoe/kayak show in the country and it was amazing. We were finally able to meet the wonderful people who have helped out our cause, including Molly from Duluth Pack and Joe from Holz Paddles.  They donated our giant pink Duluth Pack and two beautiful handmade Holz paddles. Canoecopia was a great opportunity to get the word out and connect to the people who've helped us out. A big thanks to Rutabaga for putting on the show, and of course to all those who have donated, offered discounts, and helped support our cause!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

More Gear!

A few companies have donated gear for our trip. Guyot Designs sent us two sets of squishy bowls, cups, and utensils. I've used them backpacking and they are awesome. GCI Outdoors sent us two canoe seats, which I tested and work very well. OtterBox sent us three of their largest boxes, waterproof to 100 feet and perfect for all our valuable stuff on the trip. Thanks for the donations! They'll be a huge help.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Canoe has Arrived!

The Old Town Canoe and Kayak Company has donated the largest canoe they make to us for the trip. We could not be more thankful for their incredible generosity. The canoe is the 20 foot Tripper XL, made specifically for long journeys. It can easily carry all of our gear, and will allow our trip to be far more safe and enjoyable then in our small old canoe. We are so grateful for such an awesome gift.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

We're getting ready

After spending months looking for jobs in this unwelcoming environment, we discussed productive ways to use our brains, work ethic, and thirst for adventure. That is how we developed the idea to canoe down the Mississippi River to raise money for breast cancer research.

We have dubbed this venture, “Canoe for the cure”, and are going to write journal entries in our blog so people can follow our progress down the river. We have contacted several local newspapers to help spread awareness for our cause.

While we don’t have personal funds, we do have time. We are contacting businesses and other organizations that support cancer research to contribute to the expenses we will have for travel, food, gear, and other provisions. Any sponsorships, financial donations, or equipment donations for our trip will help us immensely.