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Toting canoe to the Boundary Waters, Ladysmith man says, floats his boat

There are tough portages, and then there are portages like the one Jim Kurz is undertaking.

Kurz, 63, is walking from his hometown of Ladysmith, Wis., to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness pushing an 83-pound wheel-mounted aluminum canoe loaded with 320 pounds of gear.

Kurz plans to spend all summer in the Boundary Waters, the Quetico and Ontario, Canada.

"Basically, I'm out to have fun and eat walleyes," Kurz said.

Kurz, who makes home repairs and is a farmers market gardener when in Ladysmith, hiked in a similar fashion to the headwaters of the Missouri River in Montana in 2005.

"It was kind of a statement, seeing what you can do without using dinosaur blood," he said, referring to fossil fuels.

As of Tuesday, Kurz estimated he had canoed and portaged about 100 miles through the Flambeau, Chippewa and St. Croix rivers. He's hiked about 35 miles pushing the canoe. He got a ride for another 32 miles from Brian Carlson, the owner of Brule River Canoe Rental, who drove him from Brule, Wis., to the area around 21st Avenue East in Duluth.

Carlson met Kurz for the first time Monday.

"It's a little crazy, but I wouldn't mind trading places with him," Carlson said. "It seems like a carefree life, just to take the canoe and start portaging."

Aside from rainy weather at the start of his journey and a half-gallon of olive oil that leaked in his food pack, Kurz said the trip has been going well.

"My legs are fine," he said. "My feet are a little sore from walking in the water for so long."

After spending Monday night camping across from the EPA lab on Congdon Boulevard, Carlson had reached Larsmont -- 14 miles away, by his estimation -- by late afternoon Tuesday. He hoped to reach Two Harbors by nightfall.

Today, Kurz plans to turn up Lake County Road 2 and hike toward Greenwood Lake, where he'll put his canoe in and begin paddling toward the Boundary Waters. He hopes to make his entrance to the park May 28.

"I haven't been there since I learned to canoe in the Scouts," Kurz said. "I thought it was time to take another look."

After the Boundary Waters, Kurz plans to enter the Quetico and perhaps go as far as Lake St. Joseph and the Cat Lake Chain of Lakes in Ontario.

He expects to leave Canada four months later, on Sept. 10.

Kurz said drivers who pass him have been courteous. Some have even gone so far as to be helpful. Cathy and Dale Krueger, who own Dodges Log Lodges resort on Scenic Drive between Duluth and Two Harbors, saw Kurz walking Monday on London Road. So when he passed their place Tuesday, they invited him in for some brownies and milk.

"I love that people do different things," Dale Krueger said. "The guy absolutely has a spirit of adventure and I really admire that about him."

Kurz didn't theorize about why people reach out to him, but it's clear something about his trip inspires some people.

"It's something you think about and never really do it," Carlson said.