Hudsonite canoes down the MississippiSeventy-three days, 2,552 miles, three friends, two canoes, weather ranging from 25 to 105 degrees, countless different games and experiences and multiple new relationships along the way made for one unforgettable experience for Jen Sass.
By: Jace Frederick, Hudson Star-Observer
Seventy-three days, 2,552 miles, three friends, two canoes, weather ranging from 25 to 105 degrees, countless different games and experiences and multiple new relationships along the way made for one unforgettable experience for Jen Sass.
Sass, a 2006 Hudson High School grad who also graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls with a business degree, completed the Mississippi River canoe trip in early August.
“Every single person either thought it was awesome and they wish they could do it, or else they thought we’re crazy and we’re going to die,” said Sass.
She and her three friends, Brian, Cody and Kyle’s trip began in Lake Itasca in Northern Minnesota and ended approximately a day past New Orleans in the Gulf of Mexico. The crew got the idea for the adventure from chatting last winter while snowboarding.
The weather provided plenty of obstacles along the way. Sass said the crew encountered a few thunderstorms and sandstorms. Temperatures ranged from 25 degrees in Northern Minnesota, where the crew was in danger of hypothermia to around 13 days of 105 degree heat farther south. Even the water height was a major variable.
“We went from flash flood warnings in northern Minnesota and everywhere past Iowa and Missouri, we were in droughts,” said Sass.
Throughout the changing waters, they managed to keep their boats afloat, though Sass said they were close to tipping a few times.
Four bags were stocked inside each canoe, which allowed for food, gear and a few personal items. Everyone brought their own tent, which Sass said was necessary on such a long trip.
“We needed our own space.”
The group started out with a lot of leisure items to fill the time such as fishing gear, Frisbees, slack-line, a cribbage board and a water balloon launcher. They also played countless social games and took advantage of any slide or rope swing they spotted.
Sass said the crew was able to leave some of their leisure items, along with their heavier layers meant for the northern weather with friends and family along the way. Those times also provided chances to restock food. Sass’ parents took an opportunity to kayak along with the group for a day early on in the trip.
She had another family influence toward the beginning of the trip. Her dog Meiko tagged along for the first 800 miles.
“She did really good,” Sass said.
While they were able to replenish food from family and friends early, the group cooked more traditional meals, such as tuna and potatoes. Sass said as the trip went on, they got lazier with their food selections. They did not fire up the stove for two and a half weeks.
“We would rip open a pack of oatmeal, dry, and pour it into our mouths,” she said, “It became a point where it was just to get calories, it didn’t matter how.”
Those calories were vital as the group increased their workload. In Minnesota on the flood waters, the four paddled six hours a day. As they moved toward the southern drought waters, which Sass said were at record lows, the group paddled 14 hours a day to make up ground.
“We would get up half an hour before sunrise, pack, and be on the water the whole day,” She said.
There were some aspects of the trip that were not so rough. Sass’ crew had solar panels in their canoes which they used to power their phones for the duration of the trip. Phones were used to listen to music and keep their loved ones informed of their happenings.
As the crew headed south, they hooked up with another group of four and a group of two making similar trips. Sass and the nine men took the rest of the journey together. The new company was a welcomed surprise.
“Everyone got along. It made the days go quicker because there were more people to talk to.”
Sass was amazed at all of the help strangers were willing to give along the way, constantly offering them food and drink. A family in Louisiana found her group’s Facebook page and invited them over for a large meal.
“People are awesome. We got help everywhere,” she said.
There were some scary experiences. Sass is not a fan of snakes, which were plentiful along the river. Her group also was surrounded by police one night for unknowingly trespassing in a woman’s yard in what turned out to be a prison town while they were looking for water.
Sass, whose brother is a cop, said she knew to remain calm and courteous while addressing the situation, at least on the outside.
“I was a little nervous,” she admitted.
When the group reached their final destination, they were met by a friend who drove down to meet them in New Orleans. After a few days of fun, they returned home.
Sass, who took multiple Boundary Water trips with her family growing up, loves the outdoors.
“You get the quiet, you get the time to think to yourself and the scenery is definitely number one.”
She enjoys experiences the longer trips like this one provide.
“I like meeting cool people and seeing things.”
Sass recommends everyone take a similar adventure. She thinks it provides a lot of real world experience.
“If you do something like this with 10 people, you can work in any business teamwork situation ever.”
Sass is looking forward to future excursions, though she may try a solo act.
“It’s just easier when you only worry about yourself and not a big group. Buying food for four people and trying to schedule around four people is a lot harder than one,” she said, “I got stuff on the list.”
For more information on the journey, visit www.paddlecrew.com, or visit their Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/PaddleCrew?ref=ts.