Harvesting Wild Rice

Welcome back to school and welcome to the final month of A Year in the Wilderness! Dave and I have been in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness for 350 days. We have been paddling our canoe all summer, visiting about 470 lakes, rivers and streams. There are sure signs of the fall season around here. The maple leaves have started to turn red, some birch leaves are turning yellow, the nights are getting cooler and school is back in session!

There is an amazing plant here in the BWCAW. It grows in shallow water and ripens in the fall. Maybe you have eaten it. I’m talking about wild rice. Dave and I have been watching the wild rice grow all summer. First we saw their slender leaves and stalks poking up above the surface of the water. Then they got taller and taller. Now the biggest stalks are well over our heads when we are sitting in the canoe. The plants produced a bunch of tiny seeds near the top of the stalk. Those seeds are what we know as wild rice.

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Here in Minnesota, wild rice really is wild. I mean it grows naturally in shallow lakes and streams. There is some “wild rice” that is cultivated (grown on a farm). The next time you are in a grocery store, take a look on the shelves for wild rice. You can read the package to find out where it came from.

Have you eaten wild rice before? Do you know where it came from?

Share your answer!

It took all summer, but the grains of wild rice are ripe now. They fall off the stalk easily. A gust of wind or a hard rain might make the kernels fall off. When the wild rice falls in the water, it will grow a new plant next spring. An animal, like a swan or a human in a canoe might make the kernels fall off too. The wild rice is a traditional food source for the Native Americans of this region, the Anishinaabe (also known as Ojibwe). The wild rice is such an important part of their traditional way of life that it is considered to be sacred.

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We have friends who harvest wild rice, so we asked them when and where they were planning to harvest. As luck would have it, they were planning to harvest rice near where we were! We met up with them a few days ago and have been learning how to harvest wild rice. We are not the only creatures out here harvesting the rice. Over the past week, seven trumpeter swans have been cruising around the same lake. When two of the swans landed in the bay near our campsite, I watched closely to see what they were doing. They used their long necks to reach all the way along the length of stalks of rice to eat the grains!

What other animals do you think eat wild rice?

Share your answer!

I will share with you what we have learned about harvesting wild rice. We each got a license to harvest the wild rice. There are two different jobs: making the canoe move and harvesting the rice. Dave and I take turns at each job. The person in charge of moving the canoe paddles or uses a pole to push the canoe through the shallow water. The person who is harvesting rice uses two cedar sticks called flails. One flail is used to gently bend the stalks of rice over the canoe. A light stroke along the stalk of rice with the other flail causes kernels of ripe rice to drop into the canoe. We did this over and over again, slowly moving through the stalks of wild rice. We could tell when we hit a good patch of wild rice by the steady tick, tick, tick sound of the kernels of rice hitting the bottom of the canoe.

At the end of each day we would spread our wild rice out onto a tarp to dry in the sun. Then we would put it away before dark. We have spent the past four days harvesting wild rice. There will still be more work to do with the rice once we are done. Each grain of rice is in a husk. The rice will be winnowed to get rid of the husks. Then it will be parched (or heated) to dry it out so that it can be stored for a long time.


Have you ever harvested anything? Did it come from a garden, orchard, farm or out in the wild?

Share your answer!

We can’t wait to see what our finished wild rice is like. I think it will taste extra good because of all the work we put into gathering it!

Student Response Worksheets



Day 350: Trumpeter Swans in the Boundary Waters

Scanning the lake for our seven glistening white neighbors has been a real joy during our stay on Nina Moose Lake. Trumpeter swans were hunted to near extinction but they are coming back and each year we have started seeing a few more in the Boundary Waters. The seven magnificent birds, that seem content to gorge themselves on wild rice, are the most we have even seen gathered together.

They are massive birds that grab our attention anytime they are near. It’s the sound of their wings that can be heard from several hundred yards away that awes me the most. The air rushing past their wings sounds like a small plane flying overhead.

I want to remember many things from our week spent ricing and visiting with friends on Nina Moose Lake. I hope the sound of the swans taking flight and circling overhead, the rhythmic thumping of their wings, the air rushing over their feathers and their trumpet-like call spurring each other on will be at the center of those memories.

Source of Confidence


Alyce, Lisa, Viki, (and Owa!) of Source of Confidence.

In April 2015, we decided to go on an expedition to explore the confidence-building process. On this source-to-sea expedition of the Missouri-Mississippi River system, we are on a real life mission to discover our own sources of confidence. As we make discoveries, we will share them with you to help you navigate your own path to confidence.

What is a Source of Confidence?

Let’s break it down:

Source: origin; beginning or start

Confidence: the purity of action that comes from a mind free of doubt

Source of Confidence: something that inspires, motivates, or sparks you into positive action, even in the face of doubt, fear, or uncertainty

Confidence sounds awesome!

When you have it, confidence is the stuff that allows you to make decisions more easily. It’s the stuff that helps you share your ideas, opinions, creations, and dreams. When you have it, it’s the stuff that allows you to go after your dreams. It feels a lot like belief and optimism; it tells you to go for it, no matter what happens. It takes you from thinking “I can do it” to actually doing it. When you have it, it’s incredible. Confidence, however, can be hard to find and sometimes even harder to hold on to. You can have it one day and seem to lose it the next.

Why is confidence so hard to pin down? 

A lot of times, we don’t know where to look. In fact, we might not even be aware that we should be looking! The truth is, confidence is something that you build. It’s like a muscle, the more you exercise it, the stronger it gets. The tricky part comes in figuring out how to exercise it. We don’t have confidence class in school like we do gym class. It seems like one of those things we’re expected to somehow learn on our own like breathing or not eating the entire bag of marshmallows in one sitting (that’s called impulse control and we’re not going there right now).

Confidence is something that takes patience, practice, and persistence to build. It also involves an element of risk which can be scary. We start building confidence as kids by learning how to use our bodies and minds and how to get along with other people. As we continue to practice and develop these skills in the way that’s right for each of our own unique selves, we gain more and more confidence in what we have practiced. By trying and practicing a broad range of things, you find out what you like and what you don’t; what you have natural talent in and what you don’t. From here, you can decide what to focus even more attention and confidence-building practice on.

The environment we grow up in can have a big impact on confidence too. Our families, communities, what we see in the media, and the friends we choose can help support us in building our own confidence. They can also be destructive to our confidence, without meaning to be. The same goes for you. You can help others build confidence by helping them practice skills, by saying kind words, by being a good listener when someone needs it, and much more.

Some of us do seem to be able to build confidence without paying much attention to it. There’s some great research behind what else those fortunate folks might have working in their favor. For the most part, however, most people struggle to build and maintain confidence. The good news is, it really can be done.

Identify the Source

When we can identify our own sources of confidence, we can more easily use them to our advantage. There are many, many sources of confidence of there and everyone’s will be a little different. A source of confidence can be:

  • activities
  • hobbies
  • rituals or routines
  • family
  • friends
  • your community
  • past experiences
  • places
  • pets
  • material things
  • words
  • thoughts
  • accomplishments
  • goals
  • role models
  • you name it!

Anything goes when it comes to being a source of confidence

Usually, the most mighty sources of confidence are the ones that make you feel really good or that last for quite a while. The most powerful ones are usually the ones that accompany taking a risk. You find them when you step outside of your comfort zone in some way to achieve, acquire, or experience something new.

Positive risk

Here’s something to keep in mind when you are identifying your sources of confidence: are they the leading you to take risks that are positive and healthy for you? Do they sometimes lead you in a direction you don’t want to go or that gets you in trouble? When we talk about taking risks to build confidence, it’s important to remember that not all risks are healthy or worth taking. Sometimes it can really be hard to tell if a risk is positive or not. Sometimes the risk seems way too scary, but in reality, we can handle it. Sometimes something that didn’t seem too risky gets you in way over your head. We’ll have our 7 step guide to positive risk-taking up soon to further assist with your risk-taking decision-making!

What if I take a risk and it doesn’t work out?

That’s the thing about taking a risk – you never really know exactly how it will turn out. That’s what makes the rewards of risk-taking so fantastically meaningful. The greater the risk, the greater the reward, as the saying goes. In this case, we are talking about the reward of confidence. The beauty of building confidence is that even if you “fail” at whatever it was you were trying to do, the act of trying gives you something. It may give you new perspective, different opportunities, increased knowledge, a better understanding of yourself and others. It may give you confidence.

To see these gifts requires a willingness to look at the failure through the lens of building confidence rather than whatever the end-goal you were trying for was. It takes stepping back and looking at the big picture. What skills did you gain? Who did you meet? Where did you go? What did you see and learn as a result of taking that risk? These are things that succeed or fail, no one can take away from you. You earned these things.

These are now tools you have to make more confident decisions in the future about which risks to take and how to take them. Maybe you go back and try again, but this time in a different way. Maybe you abandon that idea altogether and move forward to a new one. No matter what you choose, if you are willing to look at the obstacles as opportunity rather than failure, you give yourself a break from feeling like you have to get things right the first time or do things perfectly. This is really important. Perfectionism and fear of failure are two really big confidence killers. Perfect doesn’t exist and failure is inevitable; your perceptions and expectations influence how you view and react to these realities.

So celebrate!

Any time you put yourself in a position that makes you feel the good kind of uncomfortable, celebrate yourself for the effort. This isn’t the “every participant gets a medal thing”, this is you recognizing yourself for facing a challenge. This is you being intentional about identifying and acknowledging the intangible gains of whatever challenge you took on.

Also, if you go for it AND achieve what you set out to do, CELEBRATE. It is 100% acceptable and encouraged to take pride in your accomplishments be they at work, school, in sports, arts, relationships, or goals. That doesn’t mean you should go around being all boastful, but you shouldn’t belittle, dismiss, or negate the things that bring you confidence and success either. It’s okay to think and say “I’m proud of…”, or “I feel good about…”, or “…makes me feel awesome/dazzling/respected/accepted/creative/energized/excited/etc.”, if that’s how you feel. Life is way more fun that way.

Confidence in action

Overview Map of Route

Alyce had a dream to canoe the fourth longest river system in the world, Lisa had a dream to put herself to the test through adventure and writing, and Viki had a dream to share her creativity through film and photographs. Together, we came up with Source of Confidence to support all three of our dreams. Right now, Lisa and Alyce are becoming the first all-female team to canoe the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers while putting their skills and knowledge to the test. Viki is helping to support, document, and share the experience with a wider audience. Our mission as a trio is to encourage and support other girls and women in navigating their own paths to confidence.

We planned for this expedition for an entire year. We brainstormed, researched, gathered supplies, and did a lot of fundraising to put our shared dream into action. We worked long hours, taking on many, many new tasks that felt overwhelming and scary a lot the time, but we knew we had the basics covered. With Lisa and Alyce being professional explorers and educators and Viki a professional artist, we had a foundation of confidence (that we built over many years of practice) to take on the challenges of preparing for our big adventure.

In early May, we drove to Montana where Viki and some friends dropped Alyce and Lisa off at the base of a mountain to hike to the ultimate source of the Missouri River – Brower’s Spring. Lisa and Alyce both had some experience mountaineering, but are mainly canoeists by trade, so this was a new and risky experience. By making sure we had all the supplies we needed and a strong foundation of teamwork and backcountry skill, we set out for the source.


Alyce and Lisa before ascending to the Source, Bower’s Spring!

Right from the very beginning, our confidence was called into question. At 8,600 feet of elevation, the spring was covered in snow, which we expected, and the trail was nearly impossible to follow, which we did not expect. Doubts crept in. We’re we skilled enough to be here? What were we thinking? What if we can’t find the source? What if all our hard work goes to waste? We had to stop that negative-thought train in its tracks right then and there if we were going to survive in the remote wilderness and be successful in our mission.

So, we did.

We called upon our past experience, our sources of confidence, to face the challenge ahead.

It took us three days to locate the source of the river system, a feat we had expected to accomplish in one. It was cold, confusing, frustrating, and plenty of things went wrong. Our maps weren’t very helpful, our stove didn’t work, Alyce’s sleeping mat wouldn’t inflate, our packs were unnecessarily heavy, and we climbed to the top of several peaks only to realize we’d gone in the wrong direction and needed to turn around. There was a moment when we really questioned ourselves and thought that maybe we should turn around, gather more info, get better prepared, take more time…


“This is hard.”


That’s not what this expedition is about. It’s about relying on the strength, capabilities, and resources that we have now to get to where we want to be. To wait for everything to be perfect would be to wait forever. We knew where we were, we knew where we wanted to go, it’s just that the way we expected to get there wasn’t as straightforward as we anticipated.

Despite the setbacks, we had a TON of fun. The mountains were beautiful, the sun shone every day, and we ditched the plans to follow the trail and followed the creek instead. We felt a tremendous surge of empowerment going off the beaten path. We relied on our skills and reveled in the fact that WE got ourselves there (wherever we were) and WE knew how to get ourselves out. By staying focused on the goal, supporting each other, being honest with each other about our fears, and trying different solutions, we eventually made it.


But worth it. Eating chocolate at the source (hidden under snow) of the world’s 4th longest river system.

Standing at the source of one of the world’s longest rivers after working so hard to get there felt like winning the emotional lottery. Jackpot. What an awesome place to be. Unfortunately, the magic of the moment was short-lived as we had to get ourselves back down the mountain. We were exhausted, but had no choice. After another day of hiking, following Hell Roaring Creek, we met up with Viki again to resupply our food and swap out some gear for the next phase of the expedition.

We continued on foot for more than 100 miles (blisters!!!), following the path of the water from the source to Hell Roaring Creek, Red Rock Creek and the Red Rock River. When we finally had enough consistent water to float our canoe (which Lisa’s parents dropped off at Clark Canyon Reservoir), we couldn’t be more thrilled to get off of our feet. With the challenge of hiking over, we had the next 3,900 or so miles to enjoy canoeing the Beaverhead, Jefferson, Missouri, and eventually, the Mississippi River.


Lisa dragging the canoe under a barbed wire fence.


Alyce dragging the canoe over railroad tracks.


Viki documenting the smiles and frowns.

It will take us about 200 days to travel this route from source to sea, making us the first women in history – or HERstory – to do it in a canoe (only one woman, Janet Moreland, has done it in a kayak). Now, about half-way through, we can look back on our time hiking to the source and see what an important decision we made to trust ourselves, each other, and all the work we had done to that point. Finding the source of the world’s 4th longest river system has become a source of confidence for us to continue to face the challenges and embrace the triumphs of the rest of this 4,000 mile journey.


Just a taste of the joy and beauty found along the river.

The gift that keeps on giving

Remember that confidence is like a muscle. The more you work it, the stronger it gets. The more positive risks you take, the more mistakes you make (and learn from), the more confidence you build. This is a process so be patient with yourself and those around you. Eventually, you’ll find yourself on top of whatever mountain, real or metaphorical, you wanted to climb and when you do, remember to say “I DID IT.”

Will we make it all the way from Montana to the Gulf of Mexico? Follow along with us here and here as we build confidence by canoeing the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers.


  1. Describe a time when you have felt confident. What were you doing? Where were you? Who were you with? Do you remember what was going through your mind?
  2. What is your biggest source of confidence? Do you have more than one? What are they?
  3. Are there any people in your life who are a Source of Confidence for you? What do they say or do that helps you feel confident?
  4. Describe one way in which you are or could be a Source of Confidence for someone else.

Day 347: Soaking in a Natural Jacuzzi

Cool water bubbled and swirled around our tired muscles. Paddling and pushing the canoe through thick beds of wild rice combined with constantly lifting and moving the cedar flails to gently coax the ripe kernels into the canoe is hard work. It makes us appreciate the food we’re gathering. Soaking in a natural jacuzzi overlooking the same lush wild rice we had worked hard in all day was a Wilderness luxury worth repeating.

I’m having the time of my life and I only have myself to blame- August 5th-19th, 2016

I’m not a daily journaler in my regular life so there are many days on this expedition that I feel totally apathetic towards writing an account of what just happened. The entire first half of August was like that for me but I still want to describe the experience. Hence, a brief description and a series of Haikus.

– Lisa

August 5-19, 2016

Garrison Dam, Lake Sakakawea, North Dakota to Mobridge, South Dakota.

August has been a total time and mind warp. It started very strong with a celebratory attitude for reaching the end of Lake Sakakawea. The weather held up and we crushed it. 178 miles over 21 days, 14 of which were spent paddling. Two big reservoirs down, one to go.

Alyce and Lisa happy at having just completed the 178 (ish) paddle on Lake Sakakawea. Now for the mile and a half portage around the Garrison Dam!

Alyce and Lisa happy at having just completed the 178 (ish) paddle on Lake Sakakawea. Now for the mile and a half portage around the Garrison Dam!

We came into the Garrison Dam feeling tired but proud, and camped at Sakakawea State Park where we met the fine folks at the Dam Bar Steakhouse in Pick City, ND. We got portage help as well as a place to stay and excellent company from Nate McCleery, owner of Sakakawea Sunset Lodge and the Iron Oar Pub and Grill in Riverdale, ND.

The cook, Eric, and the bartender, Megan, were both musicians. I joined them with my guitar when they got done working and we played music for more than six hours. It was one of the most fun nights I’ve had playing guitar and singing. Megan and I hit it off really well and knew a few of the same songs. We even got some harmonizing going. Didn’t get any of it on camera, I was far too present to even think about documenting and that was a really good thing. I ended up playing and singing stuff I’ve never played for anyone with that supportive crowd. That filled me up.

We spent a day at the Lodge hoping to meet up with Viki but she got delayed. We enjoyed resting in the AC and beds to the maximum. It is so much easier to solve problems in comfortable places. Seriously. It eliminates like 50% of the battle. Remember that note I’d written Alyce before? The one that I found hard to deliver? Well, it didn’t go over as well as I’d hoped initially but that’s part of the risk, I suppose. What did go really, really well was the several conversations we had following.

Here’s what I have to say about teamwork and friendship: there are many, many levels and each one is more challenging and worth getting to than the last. Alyce and I have been friends for four years and in the last few weeks have reached a new level of friendship. It’s similar to the level we had before starting an expedition and a business (at the same time!) in the amount of laughter and fun we have together. Now, however, we have a much deeper understanding of one another. By making mistakes, talking through issues, celebrating moments when things are going well, and constantly being humbled by the expedition and each other, we have developed a more deeply respectful and honest friendship. I believe this is also known as sisterhood.

It feels great to have all the effort we’ve put into the foundation of our relationship and communication pay off. As similarly independent, tenacious, and self-assured women tackling a very large dream, our atmosphere is charged for conflict. It has taken a lot of intention and humility to practice compromising. Through this ability to compromise and find ways to complement one another’s boldness, we channel that charge into confident, forward-moving energy.

This energy elevates our moods and helps us move through disagreements more fluidly, seeing them as opportunities to look at another perspective, rather than defend your own. This energy is what allows for the true collaboration that brings out the most creative in each of us and keeps us getting back in that boat every day until we get to the Gulf of Mexico.

Instead of competing with each other, we’ve now banded together to oppose the forces of Lake Oahe and the dead center of a 200-day expedition. We’ve taken to playing cribbage to wait out wind and bantering in Irish accents to defeat boredom in the boat. We make dumb videos for fun and high five pretty much every day. It’s great.

And now…I present…

Two weeks in Haiku

Wake before the sun
Pack up, load boat, breakfast, go
All day, if able

Hydrate. Dehydrate.
Paddle paddle paddle swim paddle
Hydrate. Dehydrate.

Water bottle cap
Toothbrush, tent, hair, bowl;
Sand in Every Thing

Alyce eating an SOC staple- Ramen noodles. This is part of the classic "get to camp, don't want to cook, just heat some water in the JetBoil and dinner is done" routine.

Alyce eating an SOC staple- Ramen noodles. This is part of the classic “get to camp, don’t want to cook, just heat some water in the JetBoil and dinner is done” routine.

We finished Big Lake
Sakakawea. Cheers! Cheers!
Proud, happy, good feelings.

Nate McCleery built
Sakakawea Sunset
Lodge with his own hands

Nate: what a kind host
Heart for adventure and big
dreams. Thanks so much, man!

Here we are with Nate in front of Sakakawea Sunset Lodge. Build with his own hands and those of his community out of repurposed materials, this place is one of the coolest and friendliest on the Lake!

Here we are with Nate in front of Sakakawea Sunset Lodge. Build with his own hands and those of his community out of repurposed materials, this place is one of the coolest and friendliest on the Lake!

Iron Oar Pub
Where I played my guitar for
like five hours straight

Reunion with Vik
Always great to see you, girl
Most bomb resupply

Didn’t expect houseflies
of the Dakotas to cause
the most grief. Don’t scratch!

Set up camp; avoid
cooking. Rice again? Google search
pizza delivery.

Fire on the earth; fire in the sky. Might as well cook with it.

Fire on the earth; fire in the sky. Might as well cook with it.

No service. Sorry,
not sorry. Having the time
of my life. Blame self.

And Alyce. Top notch
companion. Friendship level up.
So much laughter; fun!

August 7th was National Sister Day. We celebrated Sisterhood with a buffet and by sending love to all of our sisters near and far.

August 7th was National Sister Day. We celebrated Sisterhood with a buffet and by sending love to all of our sisters near and far.

Bud and Calvin found
us in Bismarck. So good to see
your smiling faces

Fun with good friends fills
the cup for the miles ahead.
Thanks, men, we love you.


Calvin, Lisa, Bud, and Alyce. So good to see our friends from Voyageur Outward Bound School back home in Minnesota. Thanks for the fun, laughter, and for cooking us dinner!

Farthest from the start
Farthest to the finish. Meet
the halfway doldrums

Motivation at
all-time low. Do we have to?
Just keep paddling.

Muscles working hard.
‘Nother paddle on nature’s
treadmill. More headwind.

We could see the storm coming from a long way off. As it got closer and closer, the wind got wilder and the rain and hail turned my tent into a drum. 70mph winds pulled the stakes holding my rainfly out of the ground. My tent did virtually nothing to protect me and my stuff from the torrential downpour. With water pooling at my feet, I pushed my sleeping bag to the driest (still wet) part of the tent and focused on helping the aluminum poles withstand the force of the wind. As lightning flashed, the thunder crashed soon after, I was stunned by the force of nature. It passed relatively quickly but was powerful enough to leave an imprint: nature is boss.

We could see the storm coming from a long way off. As it got closer and closer, the wind got wilder and the rain and hail turned my tent into a drum. 70mph winds pulled the stakes holding my rainfly out of the ground. My tent did virtually nothing to protect me and my stuff from the torrential downpour. With water pooling at my feet, I pushed my sleeping bag to the driest (still wet) part of the tent and focused on helping the aluminum poles withstand the force of the wind. As lightning flashed, the thunder crashed soon after, I was stunned by the force of nature. It passed relatively quickly but was powerful enough to leave an imprint: nature is boss.

Storm on Oahe
winds. Tent flattened; soaked

My third and most successful attempt at dinner after the storm passed.

My third and most successful attempt at dinner after the storm passed. First attempt was a (closed) restaurant nearby. Second was dinner cooked over a fire that promptly took on a sandy texture as the storm blew in.

Sail on the tailwind
If it’s blowing just right, you
might surf some big waves

Alyce figured out a new rigging system for some hands-free sailing. Now we can both paddle and sail, maximizing speed AND stability.

Alyce figured out a new rigging system for some hands-free sailing. Now we can both paddle and sail, maximizing speed AND stability.

Cribbage when the wind
blows; paddle when she’s calmer
Jokers in the tent


My first attempt at a driftwood cribbage board. Still in the design phase, utility expected to improve in subsequent models. Note: Frost River Camp Cook’s Kitchen pack makes an excellent card table.

New mission: Source-to-
Wherever We Are Right Now.
Like Source-to-Sandbar.


Alyce, Connie, Mike, Jess, and Lisa at Bridge City Resort near Mobridge, South Dakota. Thank you again for your generous hospitality, your warm and heartfelt words, helping us get groceries, and celebrating Day 100 with us!

Source-to-Bridge City
Resort. Mike, Jess, Amanda, Connie,
Jasmine and Tyler

You all are awesome.
Much love in your Family.
Thanks for sharing, friends!


Jasmine giving Alyce a handmade book on canoe safety. The drawings were incredible; thanks for the thoughtful gift, Jasmine!

Day 100. We
still got this! Source-to-Sea! Al-
most through OH-AH-HE.


Sunset on Lake Oahe.

– Lisa

August 5th, 2016

Just as predicted it was a beautiful morning and I was excited to get back on the water. We were any where from 24-30 miles from the Garrison dam. On the maps it was 24 river miles, though locals stated it was closer to 30. I was unsure if we would make it there today. We bid Amber and Rome adieu and were on the water by 8am.

It is mind-boggling that we are almost done paddling this gigantic, ocean-like reservoir. Today was a reminder of that, as Sakakawea disappeared into the horizon. WOW! She is an ocean. The pristine beaches, now more numerous with groves of trees. Creating the most illusive stretches of shaded beach! Though also more abundant were houses on the bluffs, over looking the lake. Large houses, that were honestly an eye sore. Up to this point we had only seen a few houses and mainly oil rigs. Sometime in the later afternoon, only a handful of miles away from the Sakakawea State Park, we saw two people in yellow kayaks. Could that be Diane and Warren, whom we had first meet the day we arrive at Fort Union, way back in the middle of July? Then reconnected with at Tobacco Gardens, though they only stayed for a day. What are the chances we would be finishing this lake on the same day.

Earlier in the day we had encountered a man fishing, he offered us some fish, though having no way of storing them in the blistering heat, we were not able to accept this kind offer. He stated he had seen some other folks in kayaks a couple of weeks ago. We thought that might have been Diane and Warren. So when we saw the boats now, we weren’t sure. Though it wouldn’t have made an sense for them to have been here two weeks ago, as that was around the time we were all at TG. We didn’t find out who it was because they got ahead of us and rounded a bend. We took a snack break and enjoyed our final moments of Sakakawea. Back to paddling and around 5 pm, rounding the peninsula that is Sakakawea state park, we came upon the intake building for the dam and the road that runs across it.

Well holy guacamole! We did it. We paddled Lake Sakakawea. We took a moment to let it sink in. We had successfully finished one of the top challenges of this route. This was a huge success and we knew we needed to celebrate.


The end of Lake Sakakawea. The Dam intake is the structure in the background on the right.

We pulled into the bay before the intake building on river right and stopped at the first rocky beach, to take a quick swim break. We weren’t sure where to get out to camp here, so while Lisa called the Sakakawea state park office, I got out and walked up the embankment, where I could see cars from the river. I found some folks who were selecting their campsites and had a list of all the available ones. Not too many still open, though one decently close to the waters edge. Getting back to Lisa, she was on the phone with the state park and we registered the site. We are getting pretty good at creating plans in the moment and finding the information we need from local people.

The state park ranger who helped us over the phone also had knowledge of who could help us with the portage around the Garrison Dam. She suggested we call Nate, at the Sakakawea Sunset Lodge, as he has helped other paddlers with the portage. Lisa did just that and created a plan for the morning, to meet Nate at the boat ramp by the dam. With a plan for the portage created and our tents set up, we headed into Pick City, the near by town. It was a two mile walk to the Dam Bar steakhouse and restaurant and well worth it. What a great place, with awesome people.

We met the owner and our meals were on the house. We enjoyed a celebratory beer and chatted with other patrons of the restaurant about our expedition and what we are doing. Everyone was supportive and enthusiastic. Needless to say we had a lot of fun and truly celebrated completing Lake Sakakawea, one of the greatest challenges of the whole route. We were offered a ride back to the state park, though with all the excitement, and the nice weather, we elected to walk, still basking in our success. The sun was starting to set in the sky, dusk was blanketing the land and I had a tremendous feeling of pride running through me. Another amazing day on the river.

August 6th, 2016

Tense morning. Paddled the approx. 1 mile from the east end of Sakakawea state park to the take out point, right next to the road and past the intake building. We completed the paddle and short stretch of hill to get our gear near the road in silence. Dang why is this so hard at times? Yet that’s how life is: amazing sunsets and challenging portages, as a metaphor. Nate from Sakakawea Sunset lodge picked us up and informed us his restaurant the Iron Oar was serving brunch. Can’t pass up an opportunity like that. I love brunch! He also informed us that there were two other paddlers there right now. It was Diane and Warren we had seen the other day. We got to the restaurant and joined them at their table.

During brunch Warren gave us his opinion of the downstream campground, where we are going to bring our gear after brunch and pick out a camp spot (the primitive area, we had been told by locals the other night, was not that far from the river, accessible via a sandy beach). After doing that Nate would bring us back to the beginning of the portage, which we would do and then paddle the half mile to the beach. Warren advised against camping there because  the walk from the campsites was too long to the beach. I like to get people’s advice, though each person has their own meter for what is too long, or too short. I did not see a need to change our plan of camping there based on this one opinion. I was also not in the mood to change the plan, paddle more miles that afternoon and we still had the portage to do. We also were meeting up with Viki tomorrow and it just seemed to me like it would all get so complicated. Plus we needed to get more lunch supplies and food before paddling further downstream.

We were in the middle of our discussion, assessing each option, though we were both really sitting in what we wanted to do in that moment, each thinking it was the right choice. At this point Nate offered us a room at the motel for two nights, free of charge. For me that sealed the deal that we should stay here, rest in the air conditioning and bug free room. Also it would make meeting up with Viki easy and we could go to the grocery store in town. So that is what we ended up doing. There was tension between Lisa and I around this decision and we spent the rest of the afternoon having conversations around our frustrations, the tension in making decisions and how to find common ground and resolution. It was a really wonderful afternoon and these conversations felt fruitful. I think being out of the sun, the heat and the bugs was tremendously helpful. We also cleaned gear and spent time writing and reading.

At dinner time we went to The Iron Oar for dinner, for more celebrating of our biggest accomplishment yet: paddling all of Lake Sakakawea. It was a terrific night! Lisa, Megan (who works at the Iron Oar), and Eric (who along with Nate, hand built the restaurant, all from watching YouTube videos) entertained us all night long with their singing and guitar playing! Another perfect river night, with new friends.

August 7th, 2016

Rest day. Grocery store (Thanks again Megan for letting us use your car!). Watching Olympics.

August 8th, 2016

What a day. It was time to leave our little oasis, of beds and three pillows, air conditioning and a mini fridge. Back to the river we are headed. We loaded up the truck and trailer with gear and canoe. Around 9am Nate drove us to the end of the portage, a boat ramp with nice bathrooms. We dropped our gear off to the side by the water and then drove the short 1.7 miles to the beginning of the portage; where Nate had picked us up on the 5th.

What a terrific guy. His generosity over these last few days was extremely helpful and amazing. As it has been a challenging few days, interpersonally between Lisa and I, having the Sakakawea sunset lodge and amazing enthusiastic and supportive people, was beyond words. Thank you to everyone I meet! The last two days were great!

The portage was done quickly, approx. 50 minutes. Nothing compared to Great Falls, and a good chunk down hill. We loaded the boat; took a quick swim in the refreshing water! Ice, crispy cold. Almost cold enough to give you a brain freeze. Though great for cooling the body temperature down, as I was already sweating and the heat index was rising.

I was looking forward to the current of the river and really being able to make some miles, ideally making it to Washburn (doing this would make getting to Bismarck on the evening of the 9th doable) or very near that town this evening. Accounts of other paddlers were that on this stretch of river a paddler could make between 5 and 7 miles an hour. Yet that’s when you don’t have a decent sized head wind coming right at you. Well at least we are averaging 3.5 miles an hour. We paddled for a while, made camp and settled back into our camp life. Ramen noodles for dinner and early to bed.

August 9th- 11th, 2016

We paddled into Washburn ND on the 9th, to stop at the post office for a letter Norm Miller sent us. Alas, the letter was not there and we couldn’t get a hold of Norm for the tracking number, so we went to a local diner for a second breakfast. At this point it was getting later in the day, around 10am, and our aspirations of getting to Bismarck by the end of day seemed to be slipping away. Viki was already there waiting for us to do a resupply. I

had discovered in the morning that I had forgot the marine radio and my solar charger at the Sakakawea sunset lodge and was trying to get a hold of Nate and figure out how to get those items. From Washburn it was about a 30 minute drive to the lodge and didn’t want to get further away from it before retrieving those items. Good thing we have been doing this expedition for so long and we know how to adapt plans and create entirely new ones. The new plan had Viki coming to us in Washburn and staying at the park for the evening. Around this same time Nate contacted us and stated he would be to Washburn in a few hours with our forgotten items! What an awesome guy.

Before Viki arrived we got our grocery shopping done and had a joyous reunion with her and Owa. We spent the afternoon having a really good conversation about the direction of Source of Confidence and what action steps we need to take moving forward. We also had a challenging conversation around finances and how to pay for things moving forward. We are getting really good at these conversations and I felt a sense of pride at how far we have come as a group. The rest of the day went by quickly, finishing resupply, enjoying each others company and listening to music. A large storm front began moving in as dusk defended and my hopes of a good nights sleep were dashed, like the river water against the rocks. The storm circulated over us all night long, with large flashes of lightening and booming thunder. I didn’t really get any sleep.

I was not a happy camper the morning the 10th and we bid Viki adieu and got on the water. It was a rough day, with a really hard headwind to paddle in, even with the current. We paddled for a while and eventually camped at some point (writing this after the fact, I can’t recall all the details).

We paddled into Bismarck on the morning of the 11th, meeting our friends Bud and Calvin at a restaurant on the water. It was so fun to see our friends! After a lunch of pizza we paddled a few miles to the Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park, where Bud and Calvin had gone to by car and secured a site right by the confluence of the Missouri River and Heart River.

We had a really fun afternoon and evening with these guys. We made a quick trip into Walmart for some supplies and the guys cooked us a dinner of bratwursts, while Lisa and I had our first podcast interview, with Paul of the Pursuit Zone! We are getting more and more media attention and it was really fun to talk about our experiences. I was feeling a great sense of accomplishment for the rest of the night. We took a little canoe ride to a small island near by, played around and swam. We then made a decent sized fire and spent the evening laughing and playing music. River life is the best.

August 12th, 2016
Left Bismarck. Said farewell to Calvin and Bud
Later start. Good current leaving. Made some miles
Camped in sand. Always sand.
Camped about 18 rms from Bismarck. The real Lake Oahe starts tomorrow.

August 13th, 2016
Trying to get back in that routine though it is tough. We are approaching day 100 and the middle of the expedition, so perhaps it is catching up to me. Not much motivation to write or do anything else except the necessities: paddle, set up and take down my tent, eat food and drink water. I guess thats just how it goes. We paddled 37 miles today, made possible by a terrific tailwind. Harnessing the power of the wind is incredible. It was a long day, 10 hours in the boat and I was exhausted when we arrived at a campground (the name escapes me right now and I don’t have the energy to look it up). Sterning the boat all day, especially in the wind is really hard.

We had nice neighbors at the campground who gave us fire wood and the campground host brought us some kindling. He was a really nice guy and for the life of me can’t remember his name right now. I am trying to keep good records of all the people who we meet and offer us kindness, though there are so many that some of them get lost in the passing of time. Today we also discovered that one of our portage wheels had been left at the campground in Bismarck (funny it took us over 24 hours to realize this). We tried to get a hold of the park, yet to no avail. Oh well, we only have 4 portages left. With dinner finished, card games played and the sun setting, it was time to retire to the tent. Good night.

August 14th-16th, 2016
August has been a tough month, in terms of motivation to write down all that I am seeing, doing, experiencing and feeling. As I look back on these days now, trying to write about them I don’t really fully remember what all we did. We paddled a lot. Lake Oahe is beautiful, yet big and challenging. We had a good tailwind and traveled 27 miles, another 11 hour day on the water. Saw some spectacular sunsets and survived some of the notorious Oahe storms, complete with hail one night. These were some long and hot days. Classic River life.


Sunset and storm clouds on Lake Oahe.

August 17, 2016
I thought we would have been to the Bridge City Marina well before 3. I wanted just a half day of paddling. After yesterday’s 11 hour paddle, I was exhausted. As we are on Day 98 of this 200 day expedition, I now find myself not being able to sustain long paddling for days in a row. My body is saying take a break and we have the time to do just that, since we are now half way done with the largest reservoir of them all, Lake Oahe.
The morning was a bit rough, getting back into the canoe, only having been out of it for a short while. The water was glassy calm and paddling was nice. We were making good time for most of the morning. As we rounded the bend and started passing MoBridge the wind began to pick up. Not too bad at first, yet around lunch time, a true headwind arrived, making progress slow going.
It’s also hard to accurately gage how many miles we had to go. All the maps we use have different scales and it’s sort of a guessing game on miles at times, though its part of the adventure and makes me feel like an explorer. I figured we had about 5 miles to paddle to the Bridge City Marina, a paddler friendly stop just south of Mobridge, South Dakota.
When we finally made it to the marina I was pretty well spent and excited for a cold beer. It was another hot day in paradise and upon entering the marina, we immediately found the office. Connie was working and answered all of our questions. We could camp at the marina if we wanted and she would be able to bring us into town to go to the grocery store, once she was done working. I enjoyed the afternoon in the shade and air-conditioning. We got our town errands done and were back at the marina, when Mike (he and his wife Jessie own the marina) arrived and offered us a cabin for two nights! We couldn’t pass that up. What an amazing cabin! We got settled in and then were invited to dinner!

We met Jessie and their daughter Amanda, her kids Jasmine, Tyler and Oliver, along with her friends who were there on their honeymoon. It was lovely community dinner and was so much fun. This is a major reason I canoe these types of rivers: all the truly amazing people that live along the river and are happy to give. There really is goodness in the world. If you lost your faith in humanity or never really had any to begin with, I say go paddle a river like the Mississippi or Missouri. You will feel restored and have a new perspective on the human condition. I plan on doing these types of expeditions the rest of my life. What a day. In this life you wake up in the morning and never know where you are going to end up.

August 18, 2016
What an amazing day! I slept until I wanted to and lounged in bed for a little while. Then motivation struck and I cleaned the lunch food bucket, which was a little worse for the wear because of some stinky cheese smell that just wouldn’t go away. Though the power of hot water and soap and multiple rinses did it! The funky cheese smell was gone. I also washed my tent! Wow, where did all this motivation come from? Especially after the last few days of feeling drained. I also talked to my grandma and my grandpa! So much accomplished in such a short time.


Tyler, Jasmine and Alyce. New friends, making goofy faces.

I then went up to the office and was fed a delicious breakfast! Mike, Jessie and their kids and grandkids are such wonderful and generous people! I ended up spending most of the day with Jasmine and Tyler, two of Jessie and Mike’s grandkids. We had so much fun. We spent time at the beach, skipping rocks and admiring their beauty. Jasmine found two rocks that had perfect holes in them and I suggested we make rock necklaces! I got some string and we created some fantastic necklaces. They were also fascinated with what color my home was, so I showed them my tent. They spent some time just sitting in the tent! My afternoon with these kiddos went by way too quickly and all of a sudden it was getting to be dinner time. Their mom Amanda arrived, along with a handful of other folks and we had a beautiful community dinner of corn and steak! What a feast and what a night! Lisa pulled out her guitar and along with Jasmine provided an excellent concert to close the night with. What another day of this beyond words river life.


Lisa teaching Jasmine some cords on the guitar, while Tyler looks on in curiosity.

August 19, 2016
We said good bye to Mike, Jessie, Jasmine and Tyler. It was a tough one. I would have loved to stay another day and goof around and go on mini adventures with Jasmine and Tyler. They were so much fun! Yet, back to the water we must go. Mike fed us breakfast, delicious eggs, sausage and potatoes, a hearty paddling breakfast.

As is usually the case when leaving places like this it took us a long time to get our gear together, water jugs filled and last minute internetting completed. Jasmine and Tyler helped me get our last remaining items out of the cabin and down by the water. I put the canoe in, so they could sit in it. They took the paddles and dipped them in the water. Paddlers in the making. They also helped me fill up the water jugs and get everything down to the water.


Jasmine, a paddler in the making and sporting her awesome rock necklace.


Tyler, another paddler in the making, trying to use the canoe paddle that is a little to big for his size!

Day 100. What a way to start and it felt celebratory because of the people and food. Before we left we checked the weather forecast and it was not good. Big storm and wind coming. I debated in my head to say something about us just staying, since it was already 10:30am, though I didn’t give my self the space to listen. Also it seemed Lisa really wanted to get back on the water and I didn’t feel like spoiling the moment with a potential argument. So as I have learned from this relationship, you just sometimes say okay and go with it. Sometimes you just have to go to know they say.

My mood was really lifted up by Jasmine, because as we were walking down to the beach to leave, she presented me with a handmade book on boating safety. In it she listed all the necessary items for camping, along with drawings of each item. There was a masterpiece drawing of Lisa and I in the canoe. I started to tear up a bit, as I was really moved by how much care and time she had to have put into the book. Also, the gear she listed was all items I had shown her and talked about with her. This is the real reason I paddle.

So we got in the boat and were only able to paddle not even two hours before the wind kicked up and we were forced to shore. 5 miles paddled I guess is better than nothing. Tents set up, cribbage played and the temperature dropping, it was a fine evening. It drizzled for a while and by dusk stopped, creating the most stunning displays in the sky. I also put on wool socks for the first time in months because it felt that cold. It had only dropped down to 50 degrees, though when you are use to the 80 and 90 degree temperatures, that’s a huge difference. Yet it was also nice to be in the cooler weather. Snuggling up in my sleeping bag, after watching the sun make her grand disappearance behind the horizon, I felt truly content with life.


The best entertainment: sunsetting on Lake Oahe. These have been some of the most stunning sunsets I have ever seen.

– Alyce



Day 346: Harvesting Wild Rice in the Boundary Waters

Tick, tick, tick, tick, the sound of ripe wild rice kernels landing in our canoe signaled we were in a good spot. Amy paddled and pushed the canoe through the thick rice, which was tall enough that about all I could see was the green stalks of rice and the blue sky. We fell into a rhythm talking about rice, silently enjoying the subtle sounds of the rice kernels landing in the canoe and musing about a variety of things. All the while carefully bending the rice over the canoe with one flail and lightly stroking it with the other.

In the afternoon we carefully scooped handfuls of rice into one of our packs for the trip back to our campsite. Then we spread the rice out on tarps to dry in the sun and sifted through the kernels, hunting for small, white, rice-eating grubs. Soon small fish were splashing in the shallows as they gobbled up the grubs that we pitched into the water.

We have picked our fair share of berries and fried up plenty of fish, but we have never gathered food in such a deliberate and steady manner. What a wonderful gift these clean lakes and streams provide us. I hope we can return each year to the Wilderness as summer transitions into fall for the annual harvest. Gathering wild rice connects us to the land. We haven’t tasted a single grain of this rice yet, but I feel nourished in ways that a trip to the grocery store can’t provide.

Day 346: Swans in the Morning Mist

There is a primal enchantment aroused when you wake to a blanket of mist covering your temporary home on the edge the water deep in the Wilderness. I often find myself fiddling with dials and switches, trying in vane to capture the moment with my camera. Maybe it’s best that the camera can’t capture the cool moist air soothing trail-worn muscles or the silence broken by swans skimming the tree tops overhead and disappearing into the fog as they glide towards the water’s surface.

This is the real world– wild, free and untrammeled. We don’t find it on our phones or computer screens, TVs or radios no matter how many times we surf the web or change the channel. We have to put all that noise away and make pilgrimages into wild places to remind ourselves what is real and what is important. We have to slow down, unplug, and just be.

Day 344: Northern Lights on Nina Moose Lake

I woke up at 4:30 AM this morning when nature called and decided to crawl out of the tent. The faint glow of the aurora borealis had gotten our hopes up for several nights in a row and I felt the urge to look north.

Ribbons of green pulsed across the northern horizon and reflected off the lake’s glassy surface. Amy choose sleep over nature’s silent fireworks so I sat in the cool night air alone, soaking in the silence as the northen lights danced across the sky.

Day 344: Morning Magic in the Boundary Waters

“Hey Layne, it’s about to get good.” A blanket of fog hung over the lake and the sun’s first rays would crest the trees any minute. I scrambled to set up my tripod, rub sleep from my eyes and explain to Layne Kennedy what was unfolding just outside his tent.

A minute later Layne’s head poked out of his tent and we were soon chattering away about light, shadow and fog. It was clear that we were about to witness something magical and our excitement soon had our camp bustling in the predawn light. Jason and Goose launched a canoe and paddled out into the fog.

Fog flowed over them, sun sparkled over the wild rice and danced off their paddles. We can’t capture moments like these in words or images, but we can try to illuminate their essence, inspiring others to heft their pack and head out in search of their own singing Wilderness.

Moments like these fuel our souls and bring into focus the intangible values of Wilderness.

We must all speak loudly for this quite place.

Day 343: Visitors on Nina Moose Lake

A canoe loaded to the gunnels paddled across Nina Moose Lake towards our campsite. The faces of our friends Goose, Jason and Layne became distinguishable and soon we were waving and smiling as they drew closer. They paddled in for an overnight– a brief respite from their busy lives. We lounged on a beach taking turns hooking smallmouth bass and walleye lurking in the weeds a few feet off the beach.