We portaged through DC to give Sig, our canoe, a tour. We have had many productive meetings and events and have many more scheduled today and tomorrow morning. It is really inspiring to be working with 40 other Minnesotans who flew to Washington DC and stand shoulder to shoulder with us as we work to protect the Boundary Waters from the sulfide ore mines that are being proposed on the edge of our nations most popular wilderness and celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness act and I sure that the Boundary Waters remains pristine for the next 50 years. Pleasesign the petition and join us in protecting this pristine Wilderness.
The sun was shining when we work up Thanksgiving morning, and we were so thankful to see a clear, blue sky. We spent several hours wheeling past farm fields and patches of forest. A flock of tundra swans flew overhead and geese searched for food in the fields.
Around noon we reached the Chester River, which we would paddle to the Chesapeake Bay. As we wheeled towards the river a woman came out to the road and explained that a friend had called her and told her we were walking towards the river. She offered to let us launch our canoe from the yard and shuttled us into her house to meet her family and drink steaming cups of coffee. Unfortunately, we couldn't stay long because strong winds were forecast for Friday so we needed to paddle as far as we could before the winds picked up and trapped us on shore.
The Chester River slowly grew wider as we approached the bay and the cattails marches were full of ducks and geese. As the sun set we continued paddled south, pushed by s gentle tailwind. A sliver of a moon provided just enough light to see the shoreline. At first we were anxious about paddled into the darkness because we didn’t know where we would stop and camp for the night, but after a while we became more relaxed and enjoyed watching the stars and talking about our favorite traditional Thanksgiving dishes.
Around 7 pm we realized if we paddled another 11 or 12 miles we could make it to a small town with a hotel. We have only stayed in a hotel twice on this journey, but the camping options didn’t look promising and it was Thanksgiving, so we decided it was the best option, so we called the hotel.
They were a little surprised when I explained we would arrive by canoe, but had plenty of rooms available, said we could lock our canoe in the parking lot and they would keep an eye on it with their security cameras.
It felt good to know we had a good place to sleep for the night. We could relax and enjoy our last 3 hours on the water. The wind and waves started to build as we approached our take out, but at 11:30 PM we wheeled Sig up to the Sleep Inn and checked into the hotel, flopped into bed.
It was certainly not a typical way to spend Thanksgiving, but it is certainly one that we will remember!
As we paddled away from Philadelphia's sky scrapers the Delaware River began to widen. Industry lined the river, and the chatter on the VHF radio kept us on the lookout for commercial traffic. The winds were calm and the temperature sky rocketed to 50 degrees! After a few hours of fighting the tidal currents the tide began to ebb and push us towards the ocean. We clipped along at 5.5 miles an hour and life was good.
We spotted a huge tanker heading north and moved a safe distance out of the channel. It was moving at a good clip and a minute or two after it passed we bobbed up in down in the 5 foot rollers created by its bow wake. Sig road them well and we didn't ship a drop. Everything calmed down for a minute and then the tanker's rear wake hit us just as the refracting waves from the bow wake that bounced off the shore hit us. Sig bucked and turned like a bull trying to fling a rider off its back. It only lasted a minute but it was a wild ride. Once again Sig didn't ship a drop and we paddle on as the sunset behind the steaming smoke stacks towering above the industrial landscape.
We paddled into the darkness for several hours before meeting up with Olivia and driving to our friends Jay and Lanie's house. Jay paddled with Amy and I on the Amazon River for 5 weeks back in 2008 and we had not seen him since that trip. It has been fun to reconnect with him and meet his wife Lanie. We have connected with so many wonderful people on this journey. It reaffirms the fact that 99.9 % of people are kind and generous. The media often focuses on the .1% and it can be easy to forget about all the good in the world. The million acts of kindness happening all the time that to often go uncelebrated.
The plastic sign posted to a tree in our campsite reads: "ALL FISH MUST BE RETURNED TO THE WATER IMMEDIATELY. FISH CONTAMINATED WITH PCBs DO NOT EAT." Paddling through a superfund site is not typically part of a canoe trip, but on day 73 and 74 of our journey from Ely, Minnesota to Washington D.C., that's where we find ourselves.
My wife Amy and I are about 1,500 miles into a 100-day, 2,000-mile expedition to protect the million-acre Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness from the threat of sulfide ore mining. We departed from the Voyageur Outward Bound School on the Kawishiwi River on August 24, 2014 where a flotilla of 20 canoes joined us on the water for the first mile. We paddled right past the proposed mine site of Twin Metals and followed the flow into the pristine Boundary Waters to begin our journey.
74 days later we feel like we are on another planet. Giant machines scoop up black gunk from the bottom of the Hudson River and load it into barges as we canoe past. We have paddled into a $2 billion superfund site that has plagued the Hudson River for the last 40 years.
It's ironic because the place we are paddling to protect is being threatened by a series of proposed sulfide ore mines, which the EPA calls the nation's most polluting industry. Will our home on the edge of the Boundary Waters look like this some day? In the Boundary Waters I just dip my cup into the middle of the lake as we paddle along when I am thirsty. Here on the upper Hudson, I don't even want to touch the water we're gliding across.
Experiences like this make us realize what a truly special place the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness really is. The pristine natural beauty of the Boundary Waters has inspired awe for generations. It is among the United States' most accessible Wilderness areas, and for 50 years has remained America's most visited Wilderness. It is also a crucial driver of the economy in Northeastern Minnesota where tourism supports 18,000 jobs and $800 million in sales annually.
If you are concerned about protecting fresh water and want to stop sulfide-ore mining on the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, please take a moment to sign the petition that Amy and I will be delivering to our federal government when we arrive in Washington, D.C. on December 3rd.
And if you are in the DC area, please join us at Patagonia Washington DC on Tuesday, December 2nd for a free slideshow and film screening. The event kicks off at 7pm. There will be refreshments and live music from Hollertown.
Minnesota guides and environmental educators Amy and Dave Freeman have traveled over 30,000 miles by canoe, kayak and dogsled, but they call Northeastern Minnesota home. Through their non-profit Wilderness Classroom, they connect, inspire and educate over 85,000 students around the globe using an interactive web platform. In 2014, they were named National Geographic Adventurers of the Year.
Nate Ptacek is an avid wilderness paddler, a former BWCA canoe outfitter and a member of the video team here at Patagonia. He directed, shot and edited the film featured in this post, a volunteer effort made possible through Patagonia's Environmental Internship Program for employees. This post was republished from Patagonia's The Cleanest Line blog. For more on this issue, check out Nate's previous post, "A Watershed Moment for the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness."
On November 13th we were up at 5 AM so we could be on the water by 6 AM. The last of the outgoing tide swept us down the East River past the southern tip of Manhattan. The Statue of Liberty stood before us and we paddle across New York Harbor towards her. It was a cold, clear morning with little wind, a perfect day to visit the Statue of Liberty by water. The biggest challenge was the wakes left by the ferries and other large commercial traffic. The ferries are really fast and we could never really tell exactly where they were headed. Luckily they saw us and we could hear the boat captains chattering away about the canoe that was crossing the harbor. It felt good to know that they saw us and were alerting the other boats. Floating below the Statue of Liberty felt really good. After 80 days we had reached a major milestone in our 2,000 mile journey from the Boundary Waters to DC.
The last week has been a bit of a whirlwind. I am sorry that we have not posted any blog posts in a while. We also post regularly to Instagram and Facebook, those can be a great way to stay updated as well. We have been off the water for the last 4 days, busy doing presentations at a range of venues, from the Explorers Club in the heart of Manhattan to a small school in Vermont, and we even did a short, impromptu pitch at a Wilderness First Responder recertification course that Amy and I took this weekend. Today we have three more presentations before hitting the water tomorrow morning. The canoe is getting covered in signatures and it feels great to be sharing the Boundary Waters with so many people, but it is getting cold and our arrival in DC is just around the corner, so we are anxious to get back on the water.
Recently named 2014 National Geographic Adventurers of the year, Minnesota wilderness guides Amy and Dave Freeman are canoeing and sailing 2,000 miles from Ely, Minnesota to Washington, D.C. on a quest to save the Boundary Waters from the threat of sulfide-ore mining. If built, these mines would leach sulfuric acid and heavy metals that would flow directly into our nation¹s most cherished and iconic wilderness area for centuries into the future.
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“By day 76 we have fallen into a routine to the point where loading the canoe is almost a reflex like shivering or breathing. Soon it will raise the temperature above freezing and our Goal Zero solar panel will be begin charging our battery pack. We are only a few days away from New York City and less than 25 days from Washington DC, paddling south towards the sun, new people, and new adventures. Here’s to the sun, nothing feels better than the first rays of sun hitting your face on a cold morning. The Hudson River has transitioned from a industrial, superfund site into a beautiful river valley with large tracts of open space and hiking trails. When we paddled past West Point yesterday there were stretches where the mountains shot straight out of the water. I never know the Hudson River contained such beautiful vistas, what a difference a few days, and 80 miles can make. We have even seen Eagles perched along the river and flying over head. Several locals have commented that the Bald Eagles have returned and the river is much cleaner than it used to be.”