After eight months in the field with only a handful of days off, I am at my parent's house enjoying beds, ice cream, fresh food, and showers. The comforts here and the prevalent ease of life is overwhelming and wonderful. As I mentioned in late May, I put the ARE on pause for the summer so that I could go back to work and earn enough money to continue. I put the boat in storage, headed home, and drove 4500 miles from the East Coast to the Yukon with two of my best friends from college. We did the trip in three days, and I immediately started in on three months of work with the National Outdoor Leadership School.
A month of hiking through the snow, rock and tundra of the Coast Range was followed by a thirty day hike/canoe combo course that had us completing the first descent of the North Big Salmon River. A flight to Utah followed, as did a three week canoe expedition on the Green River from Flaming Gorge to Green River, UT, through Lodore, Desolation, and Gray Canyons. Now I am home, resting up for my brother's wedding in the Adirondacks.
As soon as the wedding is over, I will pack up and fly back to Jackson, WY, clear out my storage unit and attempt Leg Two of the America's Rivers Expedition. This leg will take me north from Jackson through the Tetons and Yellowstone National Park to the Yellowstone River at Gardiner, Montana. There the sleigh ride begins- for the first time on this trip I will be going downstream, and for over 600 miles of free flowing river. I cannot wait.
After the confluence with the Missouri, I will paddle across Reservoir Sakakawea and then portage to Minot, North Dakota, the Souris River and the Hudson's Bay watershed. The Souris leads to the Assiniboine River and on to Winnipeg, Manitoba. From there I will take the well established voyageur road up the Winnipeg River to Lake of the Woods and up the Rainy River to Rainy Lake, Voyageur National Park, and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. Leg Two will conclude at Grand Portage, Minnesota on the shores of Lake Superior.
I've got a hair less than 2,000 miles to travel between September 23 and the true onset of winter, whenever that is going to be this year. I could get blocked by ice October 15 or December 15- all will depend on the weather this autumn. I expect to either be praising or cursing the weather volitity that global climate change has injected into the system. As I get closer to the height of land and the Laurentian Divide, Lake Superior will exert more and more influence on the weather, increasing the chance of ice and snow. The effieciency with which I approach the first 1000 miles will make the second vastly easier though still inevitabilty cold and snowy.
My favorite canoe trips are usually those the week before the ice comes or the week after it goes out- the timing is always chancey, but the beauty of the landscape in sometimes violent transition is unparalleled. That's what I'll keep telling myself anyway. Stay tuned, more to come as I get back to it.