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The Adventures of Monty

Minnesota pair to travel through Walsh County on historic canoe trip
By Mike Alan Steinfeldt
Sports Editor

In May of 1930, two adventuresome teenagers, Eric Severaid, 17 and Walter Port 19, of Minneapolis, Minn., set out for the adventure of a lifetime. The pair, without the aid of modern gear, paddled their wood-and-canvas canoe named the "Sans Souci" (with out care) from St. Paul, Minn., up the Minnesota River to Lake Traverse, down the Red River of North to Lake Winnipeg, and over 500 miles through lakes and rapids-strewn rivers to Hudson Bay. The trip, made 75 years ago still stands as one of the greatest canoeing adventures of the 20th century

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In 1935 Sevareid recorded his journey in the book, "Canoeing with the Cree."
After the 2,250 mile journey by paddle, Sevareid, who was born in Velva, ND, became a news correspondent covering World War II and eventually came into millions of households in the U.S. and around the world during his 38-year career as a CBS newsman before retiring in 1977.


In less than six weeks, a pair of modern day Minnesota explorers, Scott Miller and Todd Foster of St. Cloud, Minn. will embark on the same journey on the 75th anniversary of the trip made by Port and Sevareid. The trip by Foster and Miller will bring them right through the eastern edge of Walsh and Pembina counties.


The historic journey:


In mid-summer of 1930, Port and Sevareid spent many days on the Red River and wrote of their experiences. They spent 11 days in Fargo under the care of Doctor Frederick Gronvold after Port developed an infection in his thumb and became ill.
While in Crookston, the teenagers stayed with relatives of Sevareid and there received a long distance call from Sevareid's father who told his son it was ok if he didn't follow through with the trip. The two didn't listen and the rest is history.
Describing the Red River north of Grand Forks, Sevareid wrote:
"The district into which we now made our way was inhabited almost entirely by Polish farmers. They lived in scanty peasant fashion. All had deep wells from which they drew their water by hand in pails attached to the end of ropes." Sevaried also wrote. "Near Drayton, North Dakota we passed through a pontoon bridge, the only one we came across all summer. A dozen large scows with boarded tops were linked together, leaving an aperture between each sloping end, through one of which we slipped, heads lowered."


Port received news while in Drayton from a high school teacher of a scholarship awaiting him at the University of Chicago. Because of their determination to finish the trip Port was unable to accept that scholarship. Upon completion of their journey, Port was delighted when he received another scholarship offer from another university.


New adventures


Foster and Miller will leave St. Cloud May 1, and hope to travel though Walsh County sometime in June. Unlike Sevareid and Port, Foster and Miller will be the beneficiaries of modern technology and as a result will literally be sharing their story with the world. The entire journey will be chronicled on their website, www.hudsonbayexpedition.com. "The most interesting gear we'll be bringing is the technology for us to share our story with other people," Foster said. "I've done lots of canoe trips in the Boundary Waters and the Quetico, but I've never shared that story while I was doing it. That's an interesting take on a trip like this."


Foster said at any point in the trip, people with the aid of the world-wide-web, will be able to experience different aspects of the trip with them. "We're planning on writing a book when we're done," Miller said. "It will be nice to keep our journals up to date and keep notes on the trip. It's almost like there will be someone else on the trip with us. It's fun for me to think about everyday when I'm writing my journal how to express what happened today so that other people can experience the trip. That changes the trip for me. Thinking about more people than just Todd and I -that's fun."
Miller said another intrigue, besides the history, is the fact that the "road" to the exotic wilderness to the North that Sevareid wrote about is just outside our back door.
"For any North Dakota or Minnesota kid - I don't know of any other adventure story that is quite so audacious or begins in this area and is conducted through this area and ends up where there are Polar Bears. It's just a cool story. A lot of people don't realize that you can get to an exotic location from Minnesota and North Dakota." He said.

The pair is anxious for the ice to disappear for area rivers and lakes.
"We've been planning so long," Foster said. "We're counting the days until our launch date on May 1." Foster is married and has two daughters who are seven and three years-old. Miller is single. The pair met over ten years ago while working at a boy scout camp near Detroit Lakes. They don't have a final itinerary and will plan to camp most of the way. Foster said many people have offered them a place to stay along the way.


Miller and Foster plan to re-supply themselves with food and other provisions either by mail or by the aid of their expedition manager and plan to carry between two and four weeks supply of food with them at all times. The trip will be broken up in several distinct chapters. Foster and Miller will add more than 60 miles to the trip by launching into the Sauk River in Foster's backyard. The pair will follow the Sauk downstream until it joins the Mississippi North of the Twin Cities. The duo plans to follow the fledgling Mississippi until it's confluence with the Minnesota River. The pair will then paddle upstream along the Minnesota River south to Mankato and then Northwest, eventually along the Red River of the North. They then will travel the muddy, serpentine course of the Red to Lake Winnipeg which holds it's own, very unique set of challenges. The Shallow lake, one of the largest in North America, is strewn with dangerous reefs which will necessitate the adventurers to venture from shore and will open them up to the treacherous waves created from the almost constant and unpredictable winds.


Foster says the part of the trip that gives him most concern is the 500 or so mile traverse of Lake Winnipeg. "It's such big water," he said. "You're kind of at the mercy of the lake and the wind." Once at the Northwest corner of the Lake the pair will enter Cree Indian territory and follow several watersheds as they course their way to Hudson Bay and the Historic trading Post at York Factory. Foster also said the stretch from the Hayes River system to the God's River system between Lake Winnipeg and Hudson Bay will also prove to be difficult. "We've done some research on how to get from the Hayes to the Gods. Of our last chapter of the trip that will be the most difficult," he said.


Foster and Miller, who had little whitewater experience before planning the expedition, have taken the time to take a class on whitewater canoeing from the Minnesota Canoeing Association. Foster, an EMT, will be in charge of taking care of any medical emergencies. "Needless to say, I'm very pleased to know that Todd is an EMT," Miller joked. "Hopefully, in the event he gets hurt he's conscious enough to tell me what to do."


Foster and Miller will be leaving a full month earlier than Port and Sevareid and have built time into their schedule in the event of an emergency. "Not completing the trip has never crossed my mind," Miller said. "We like to plan things very well and we like to be successful. I expect to complete this trip and I expect to complete this trip whether or not anyone is paying attention or not. It's important to me personally."
Foster reiterated the fact that the duo is excited to share their trip with the public.
"It was only after that initial commitment of doing the trip, that we did more research," he said. "We planned on how big we could make the trip and how many people we can share our story with."





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