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“…the amazing scenery and landscapes I saw from the water served as a backdrop to what truly makes this country great… the people.”
For centuries people have linked the Mississippi and Great Lakes watersheds through the Fox and Wisconsin rivers via Portage Wisconsin. In 2010 Jake Stachovak set out on a journey to link the two watersheds – the long way-. Starting in Portage Jake paddled the Wisconsin River to the Mississippi, down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico, around the Gulf to Florida, up the East Coast to New York, up the Hudson River to and through the Erie Canal, across the Great Lakes to Green Bay, and finally up the Fox River right back to where he started ten months earlier. All told it was 177 days on the water, 5740 miles of paddling, over five million paddle strokes, and fifty pounds of GORP…all to see where the rivers go. The spirit of this trip was as much about the people as it was about the paddling. The idea was to show the kind of adventure to be found in your own back yard, and to invite you to experience part of it for yourself.
“I started out thinking that the sights and places I’d see would be what the trip was all about — but soon realized that wasn’t it. Through countless gestures of incredible generosity and kindness from strangers all along the way, the trip became much more. In the end, the amazing scenery and landscapes I saw from the water served as a backdrop to what truly makes this country great… the people. So many people, like the couple that picked me up on a cold rainy dock in Memphis on Christmas Eve so I wouldn’t spend the holiday alone; to the strangers (now friends) that took time off of work to help me portage around the locks in Appleton, I owe a thousand thanks for helping me experience the adventure of a lifetime.
Today I hope that the story of my trip might inspire others to pursue their own dreams, or at the very least help folks appreciate how special where they are, right now, really is. At the same time I hope to “pay it forward” to other adventurers whenever I get the chance. Because I now know how even the smallest gesture can mean so much when you’re tired, hungry, and a long way from home.”