Where is the Crew?


Day 13 - Aitken Park, Bring on the Rain

I write this from under the "mega-tarp." Brett managed to bring a football field-sized tarp that has saved us from wet tents and miserable nights time and time again. Every night, we raise the population of a new town by eight people. We were all sad to see Matt Bailey hitch-hike in the opposite direction from us due to some unforeseen circumstances. But the same day we saw Matt stick his lone thumb out, we got news from our Colombian friend, Oscar, with whom we played Ultimate Frisbee in Steamboat. He couldn't find work to support a surfing lifestyle out in San Diego, so he joined us, after using all methods of transportation, in Sandy Lake recreation area, just up stream of Palisade, Minn. We are again eight, which has proven to allow faster, more efficient paddling. His enthusiasm and lack of expectations are welcome in this crew. The full day of rain today didn't stop the bald eagles from sweeping down by our canoes and soaring south. They may be faster than we are, but we share a common direction and appreciation for the bountiful beauty of northern Minnesota. We arrived at the state park this evening, expecting showers, shelter, and space to make a warm meal. Our resources were not as reliable as we hoped, but the night ended up great. We met a man traveling for work who offered to head to town for a resupply. Though we all had a luxury, such as hot chocolate and marshmallows on our minds, we refused. His nephew and his nephew's wife showed up later with dry firewood and pleasant conversation. We cooked rolls and hot dogs in the fire. Now, the crew is munching on cinnamon rolls- a treat we picked up in Grand Rapids. Collectively, we end each day feeling that "roughing it" is not as bad as people have made it out to be- not with cinnamon rolls at least.
Brett made up an itinerary that we can follow in order to make it to St. Paul in time for the event. It involves many 30-mile days, which, considering the quickening pace of the River, is quite feasible. But we have decided not to rush anything. We are getting a taste of the towns and the people along the shores. Many have offered hospitality, food, and a beverage over a conversation. And we've taken them all up on their offers. A few people send a holler from shore. We heed and yak it up for a few minutes, then hit the aqua highway. Everyone has been overwhelmingly generous. Is it because of the cause we work for or is it out of the hospitable spirit of Minnesota? I don't know, but it has begun to affect us deeply. Although the crew has Haiti on the forefront of thought, it is impossible to live outside the moment. It is impossible to bypass these people and to ignore the intrigue we've ignited in the towns. tomorrow morning, before we head out of camp, we have another interview with a local newspaper. We plan to have everything packed up and ready to go by 7:45 am, when we meet the reporter. We'll have to get some beauty sleep before our picture hits the press, I suppose. Then, after we get out our quotes out to the public and grab a quick breakfast, we'll paddle 41 miles, giving us an easy day into Brainerd on Friday.
Wildlife abounds, spirits remain heightened, paddles continue to stroke, people prove the American spirit, and we head south for Haiti.
The original 8. From left to right- Amanda Stenman, Matt Bailey, Brett Poche, Dave Lathrop, Karrie Kressler, Michael Gutschenritter, Zach Wehr, Louis Gutschenritter


  1. Hello friends!

    So glad to hear the adventure continues with a full crew of eight again and you have met with kindness and hospitality along the way. I am also heartened to know of everyone's unsinkable attitudes regardless of the weather conditions, you hearty band of voyageurs!

    The river has a mystical way of fostering community and mutualism and you all have an equally beautiful way of creating the chance to share in a much larger common goal with all you encounter. Keep up the great writing Michael and keep those buff arms paddling everyone!

    Peace from upriver,


  2. Your writing from Aitken allowed me to be with you on your adventure - experiencing the driving rain, hospitality, and cinnamon rolls!
    Paddle On, Mamma G

  3. Hey There Michael, Zach, Louis, and Amanda. Greetings from Finland. I hope everything is going well and mother nature isn't being a bitch.

    It sounds like everyone is having a great time. I am very excited for you guys, I wish I could be there.

    Cant wait to hear more.

    Take care

  4. Following your adventure with great interest. I am looking to catch up with you in Arkansas, Tennessee or Mississippi. I want to do "river" magic for my niece, Karrie and her fellow paddlers. A big hello to my dear Karrie, please let her know that I am thinking about her and pray a safe journey.