Scouts have five-year plan to canoe the Mississippi

Mississippi trekkers, front row, from left: Nick Jacobsen, John Proper and Lucas Carmichael Tanaka. Back row, from left: Will Farley, Peter Fortier, Caleb Andrew, Jack Farley, Ethan Helmer, Elliott Helmer, Jackson Lee, Bruce Deal and Ben Schafer.

The Boy Scouts of Troop 17 have a five-year mission to canoe the Mississippi River from its source at Lake Itasca in northern Minnesota to St. Paul over the next five years.

The trip began on June 8 when 11 scouts, 10 leaders and other family members launched a flotilla of eight canoes and three kayaks on Lake Itasca and headed down the first stretch of the river.

The troop, which is sponsored by St. Anthony Park United Church of Christ, plans to make several trips each year on various sections of the river so that by the fall 2018 the Scouts will have covered the more than 500 miles between the headwaters and St. Paul. Leaders hope that some of the young boys who participated in this first leg of the trip will be able to canoe the entire stretch of the river before they graduate from high school.

A number of the Scouts in the troop are starting with Boy Scouts this year and have just complete fifth grade. This was the first canoe trip for several of the boys and for others it was their first chance to try kayaking.

The trip started with some basic instruction and then skills were tested on the flat water, traveling the entire 6-mile length of the lake before heading down the narrow winding river, which is less than 20 feet wide in most places.

One of the Scouts commented that “going through the tight turns and dodging fallen trees was really fun!” and another said “making the kayak go straight was a lot harder than it looked.”

Despite a few minor spills, one abandon-ship maneuver to prevent tipping over and heavy drizzle (some might call it rain) all day Sunday, everyone kept their spirits up and enjoyed the experience despite getting fairly wet.

The group camped at a remote site on the river and woke up to the gobble-gobble of wild turkeys and the drumming from rough grouse. Pancakes with blueberries were a big hit for breakfast and one Scout mastered the fine art of flipping pancakes without using the spatula.

The campsite was shared with three kayakers from New Orleans who were headed down river, planning to spend the summer traveling back home.

One of the goals of scouting is to help youth develop the camping and organizational skills needed so that they can plan and carry out a trip like that on their own in a few years. For now everyone is looking forward to another leg of the trip later this summer and eventually getting all the way to St. Paul in a few years.

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