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Through the Mountains to the City

Saturday, November 8, 2014
Posted by
Dave and Amy Freeman

It was still raining when the alarm went off at  so we went back to sleep. At  it was still raining, so we decided to get up and start packing. The rain stopped shortly after we started paddling and by blue sky appeared. The sun never felt so good. We have been pushing ourselves hard to get to New York City on time. Too many days in a row of waking before dawn and setting up camp in the dark have taken their toll. Last night we paddled into the night while being soaked by a cold rain. Setting up camp was a cold affair.

The outgoing tide carried us towards New York until 10:30 AM. From  we paddled against the incoming tide, hugging shore to stay out of the 2 knot current flowing up river. We hopped from eddy to eddy and slowly made our way South. We found a secluded park with picnic tables just in time for lunch. Nate Ptacek sent us a link to a draft of the video he has been working on about Paddle to DC. We decided to watch it during our lunch break and we both had tears streaming down our cheeks. Seeing the smiling faces of all the people who paddled the first mile with us on the Kawishiwi River, or came out to sign Sig and show their support for the Boundary Waters along the way was overwhelming. It reminded us that we are not alone on this journey, or in our quest to celebrate and protect the Boundary Waters, our nation’s most popular wilderness. We can't wait to show you Nate’s video, it is beautiful.

We paddled into the night again tonight and pulled to shore after paddling 40 miles in 12 hours. A huge moon lit up the sky and we were dry and warm, a stark contrast to last night. The alarm is set for so we can catch the outgoing tide. Only 100 miles to go to New York City. Please sign the petition and share with your friends.

Champlain, a lake with many moods

Thursday, October 30, 2014
Posted by
Dave and Amy Freeman

Lake Champlain was mirror smooth when we began loading Sig this morning, but conditions can change quickly on a vast body of water. Within two hours the wind had picked up and the waves were building. A half our later the larger sets were splashing over our spray deck, signaling that it was time for a new plan.

We found a protected beach and surfed into shore on smaller waves, doing out best to protect Sig from the rocky beach. We carried everything up to the country road, and wheeled our way through farm country, up and down a few hills which made for  slow, hard work on the way up and a rapid descent on the other side. It is a challenge keeping Sig under control on the down hills, he really want to fly! After about an hour and a half we reach a more shelter place where we could return to the water and paddle for the rest of the day. It was a pleasure paddling on Lake Champlain today., and even the walking wasn’t bad. We surprised a father and his two-year old daughter who had walked out to their mailbox to get their mail.  We hope that the winds will cooperate as we head South from Burlington. It offered a good chance to tell another person about the Boundary Waters and what a special place it is. We gave him a card before saying goodbye and were please to have an email waiting for us from him at the end of the day, encouraging us on our journey.

We are on the outskirts of Burlington and are looking forward to tomorrow’s events.

Sig has been gathering a lot of signatures, but there is still room for your! We hope you can join us for one of our many events between Burlington and Washington DC.

Canoeing back to the USA

Tuesday, October 28, 2014
Posted by
Dave and Amy Freeman

Around 5 pm we paddle out of Quebec and entered New York. We scanned the shore for a US flag, or some sign of a US border crossing station, but we couldn’t find anything so we pulled into a marina just past the border to ask. The marina opperator was a little surprised to see us, but called the border patrol for us and told us to wait by our boat. An hour past and it started to get dark. We munched on peanutbutter and honey sandwiches and did our best to stay warm. Around 6 PM two border patrol guards came and explained that the water crossing had closed several weeks ago because the railroad swing bridge and the locks just north of the border were all closed, so the waterway closed for the season.

We explained that we had crossed the border by water in Sault Saint Marie 5 weeks ago and that we were just trying to follow the law and check into customs the only way we knew how. Luckily they quickly warmed up to us when they realized that we didn’t have a car and couldn’t drive across the border. They worked through the process of checking us in and by 6:30 we were officially back in the USA and paddling south down Lake Champlain.

The lake was like glass, so we decided to paddle into the night to make some miles. In the morning a strong south wind was predicted and we wanted to make the best of the calm weather. The border guards explained that snow is expected on Friday, which caused us to quicken our pase. We passed a string of cormarants roosting on an delapidated railroad tressel as the last of the sun’s glow disappeared below the horizon.

We paddled on into the darkness, until a little after midnight having paddled an addtional 20 miles after dark. We quickly pitched our tent under a stand of cedar trees and fell asleep. With sound with of 15 to 25 miles an hour for today we decided to spend the day resting and catching up on emails. We have lots of events in the works over the next month, so we are busy making all of the final arrangements. We have about 20 more miles to go to get to Burlington, where people will welcome is into town around 4:30 PM and then we will present at UVM ay 6:00 PM.

It feels good to be back in the US!

Working Our Way From the Montreal to the Richelieu River

Friday, October 24, 2014
Posted by

Dave and Amy Freeman—2014 National Geographic Adventurers of the Year— are paddling from Ely, Minnesota to Washington, D.C. to protect the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

On Wednesday afternoon Amy and I took Sig off of our canoe cart, carried everything down a steep bank below a large cement bridge and headed down a narrow river lined with steep banks and large trees. It felt great to be on a small waterway again, but then we fit our first rock. The water was cloudy and we couldn’t see the rocks lurking just under the surface. We quickly realized this little river that looked so inviting on satellite images was way too shallow to navigate—especially in a canoe covered in signatures.

After about 20 minutes of slow progress with lots of rock dodging we saw a man by the edge of the river and decided to get some local intel. He didn’t speak much English, but was happy to try and help. We learned that the river would remain hard to navigate for about 5 miles. He said we were welcome to camp in his yard, so we set up our tent next to the river in his spacious yard.

Studying our maps by headlamp we realized that if we portaged for another 5 and a half miles along the road we could reach the Richelieu River, which we will take to Lake Champlain. With a plan in place we synched up our sleeping bags and switched off our headlamps. The steady drone of traffic on a nearby road made it hard to sleep. Looking out from our tent, nestled along the bank of the river, everything looked wild around us, but I couldn’t shake the thought of the hundreds of cars and trucks that had raced past us as we walked or my hesitation to touch the water in the little river we were camped near. It feels like we are a long ways from home. I miss Northern Minnesota and appreciate our clean water and wild spaces more than ever.

Yesterday morning our gracious hosts seemed a bit confused when declined their repeated offers for a ride to the Richelieu River and walked away with our canoe in tow. The road had a wide paved shoulder and our walk was uneventful. We passed many farms and entered the city of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec and wheeled up to a Tim Horton’s near the river. We parked Sig out front, ordered a couple cups of coffee and waited for Olivia to pick us up.

In a matter of minutes Olivia drove us back to Montreal where we are preparing for an event this evening at the MEC store. Last night we stayed in the apartment of a friend we met on the Sturgeon Weir River in northern Canada. We were both paddling across Canada at the time, but we were headed in the opposite directions. We camped together for the night, sharing stories about the places along our routes. Many of the places we had been they would see in the coming months and many of the places they had visited we would be experiencing as well.

It feels good to be in a warm, dry place, but I am sure it will feel equally as good to start paddling again on Saturday, heading south toward Lake Champlain, a lake I have always wanted to paddle.

City Life

Thursday, October 23, 2014
Posted by

Dave and Amy Freeman—2014 National Geographic Adventurers of the Year— are paddling from Ely, Minnesota to Washington, D.C. to protect the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

The weather is getting colder and the days are noticeably shorter than when we left the Voyageur Outward Bound School on August 24th and paddled down the Kawishiwi River in shorts and t-shirts. Crawling out of our warm sleeping bags and packing the tent takes a little more willpower on chilly mornings! We have come a long way, over 1,000 miles, moving ever so slowly across the landscape from one watershed to the next, towards Washington DC.

As we approached Montreal two days ago, we were blown off the water by winds gusting to 25 miles an hour and building waves. We spent a good portion of the day walking along a road to make slow, but steady progress with Sig. At one point we had to cross a highway overpass that was under construction. The walkway was just wide enough for Sig and our wheeled car. It took some tricky maneuvering, but we were able to speak through! We are entering more urban areas now, which will allow us to reach more people, but will also complicate things a bit and provide us with some new challenges. Today we did another long portage from Montreal to the Richelieu Canal, which will take us to Lake Champlain.

The ends of our portage wheel were worn down by scrapping the barriers. Much different kind of portage for us.

We have left the wilds of the BWCA behind and now the sound of traffic is always apparent and city lights are always on the horizon. It makes me appreciate the Boundary Waters more than ever. Now we have been told we shouldn’t even cook with the water in the Ottawa River and that we should carry all of our water with us for drinking, cooking and washing dishes. That is a long way from dipping my cup into the middle of Basswood Lake and taking a drink. I did a quick calculation in my head today while we paddled and I would guess that combined, Amy and I have taken approximately 1.5 million paddle strokes so far during Paddle to DC and we will take over 3 million before we reach DC. Like our paddle strokes, your signatures and numerous actions to protect the Boundary Waters are adding up. Please sign the petition.

Paddles Up!

Dave Freeman

To Houghton After The Gale

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Dave and Amy Freeman—2014 National Geographic Adventurers of the Year— are paddling from Ely, Minnesota to Washington, D.C. to protect the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

Sig traveled by land to Houghton, MI and so did I. A gale churned up 40+ knot winds and 15 foot waves on Lake Superior on Wednesday. (See Dave’s video clip of the gale.) No way were we going to sail to the Portage Lake District Library in time. Our team discussed the options and we came up a practical solution: Olivia, Sig and I would drive to Houghton while Dave, John and Yemaya would sail once the waves died down.

At the presentation in Houghton I was taken aback by the passionate people who filled the room. There were so many thoughtful questions and words of encouragement. We gathered many petition signatures that night. Chris, the librarian gave us local honey and box full of vegetables—her share from the CSA. Connie, who we just met that evening, took us in for several nights. Thank you to the Portage Lake District Library and FOLK for making the event possible. Thank you to Chris, Connie, Larry, Don and Lynn for making our stay in Houghton a memorable one.

As Olivia and I waited for Dave and John to arrive, we caught up on office work and managed to have a little fun too. On Friday Connie took us hiking at Canyon Falls on the Sturgeon River so we could marvel at just how much water was deposited from the recent storm.

The day got even better when Connie told us that Arun Gandhi (grandson of Mahatma Gandhi) happened to be speaking at Michigan Tech that evening. Did we want to go? What an honor to have the chance to hear him speak! He shared his grandfather’s lessons of peace and nonviolence. Perhaps the statement that resonates most with the expedition at hand is his explanation that wasting resources is violence against nature.