America’s original interstate highway system was its lakes and rivers. But most people today would choose automobile or airplane if they wanted to travel from the northernmost point of the Lower 48 to the southernmost point.
Not Daniel Alvarez. What would have been the adventure if he would have chosen transportation other than a kayak?
Alvarez is currently paddling from Lake of the Woods, specifically the part called the Northwest Angle, to the Florida Keys. His route has taken him across Voyageurs National Park, including Rainy Lake, and all along what’s known as The Border Route in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
From there, it was just a little eight-mile hike over to Lake Superior along the historic Grand Portage.
Outside magazine found the trip crazy enough to support with its first-ever Adventure Grant this spring. The magazine published a profile of Alvarez, calling the trip bold, inspired, and “slightly reckless.”
The word is that the Grand Portage paled in comparison to the other big portage on his trip, the Savanna Portage from the St. Louis River to the Mississippi. That six-mile trail is notoriously swampy and overgrown. Everyone following the trip was relieved when we heard from him after he finished it. It should be the last big portage of his 4,000 mile trip.
When Alvarez paddles into the Twin Cities this week, the Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness will be there to greet him. Indeed Brewing Company is graciously hosting a party on his behalf at their beautiful new taproom in northeast Minneapolis.
Everyone at the Friends is eager to congratulate Alvarez on his accomplishments so far, and thank him for his support. The adventurer is making a donation to the Friends and other conservation organizations working on behalf of the waterways he is paddling, as well as keeping up an inspiring pace on his well-written blog about the trip and the issues he learns about along the way.
I would be hard-pressed to pick a favorite post from his blog so far, but Alvarez made as fine a case for wilderness in a blog post from July as anything I’ve read in recent years:
“Just look at a road map and ball your fist up,” Rolf Skrien said. “That”s how big it is, just the size of your fist on a map, that’s all the wild left.”
Rolf’s an old-timer, past 90, and other than when he was in the Pacific fighting World War II, he’s been paddling around the Boundary Waters. He used to run an outfitter off the Gunflint Trail north of Grand Marais and spent more nights on the lakes up there than off them.
The truth is, wilderness is indeed a dwindling resource. But Alvarez is paddling proof that it’s still out there, if you just go looking for it.