A 2,250-Mile Journey Begins with the Stroke of a Paddle

Blakeley, Minn. – Ann Raiho and Natalie Warren are paddling to
become the first women to traverse the 2,250 miles from Minneapolis
to Hudson Bay in an effort to inspire other young women to explore
the outdoors and raise money for the YMCA’s Camp Menogyn.

Outdoor News caught up with them on day five of their journey on
the Minnesota River near Blakeley, about 70 miles from their
pushing off point at Fort Snelling. “We’ve been moving about 15
miles per day and things are going pretty good,” said Raiho during
a rest along the riverbank.

“Originally we were concerned that we’d only be able to go 10
miles a day because the river was so high but it’s been going down
every day,” Warren said.

Where the river twists and turns the current is easier to deal
with but the long, straight stretches are the toughest, she

Their days have been long, beginning around 7 a.m. and ending
around 8 p.m. “The river is still kind of high, and it’s been
really hot but we are getting used to that,” Raiho said.

Their journey began four days after their graduation from St.
Olaf College in Northfield. Departing from Fort Snelling on June 2,
they plan to paddle upstream on the Minnesota River, switch to the
north-flowing Red River, paddle across Lake Winnipeg, stop at
Norway House in Manitoba, then finish the trip paddling down the
Hayes River into the town of York Factory on the Hudson Bay.

The route was first made famous by Eric Sevareid in his book
“Canoeing with the Cree,” published in 1935. In 2008, Sean
Bloomfield and Colton Witte made the journey to commemorate
Sevareid’s journey seven decades earlier.

Raiho and Warren have a Spot Personal Tracker that they punch
every night they get to camp and it uploads their location to their
website. Visitors can track the pair’s progress throughout the
entire journey.

The pair will also update a blog during stops in major cities
along the way and they will be regularly calling into WTIP out of
Grand Marais via satellite phone once they reach Lake Winnipeg.

Paddling upstream against the current of the swollen Minnesota
River is no easy task, both said. “This is probably the toughest
part of our trip – along with Lake Winnipeg depending on which way
the wind is blowing,” Raiho said.

Even with the difficult conditions, the trip has been very
successful so far. The $2,500 they estimated the trip would cost
already has been raised along with an additional $2,500. Raiho said
unless an emergency arises, those proceeds along with whatever else
they raise, will be donated to Camp Menogyn to help fund outdoors
opportunities for young people.

“There’s definitely a greater need than that so people are
encouraged to visit www.hudsonbaybound.com to find more information
and to make a donation,” she said. The donation button can be found
under the “How to Help” page and clicking on the button labeled

They hope to see other people out and about exploring these
wilderness areas and enjoying the outdoors.

“We haven’t seen anyone out – we saw two canoes in the last five
days and only three motorboats,” Raiho said. Inspiring others to
get outdoors is something they are hoping their trip will

“We found out that we are the first women to attempt this trip
so that was pretty cool, but we also wanted to make it known that
the reason we can do this type of trip is because it is really
accessible and because Menogyn is a place that taught us how to do
long trips,” Raiho said.

Common bonds

Raiho and Warren have extensive wilderness paddling experience.
They grew up thousands of miles apart from each other but, because
of their experiences at Camp Menogyn, have formed a strong
friendship that only comes from joint adventures in the

Camp Menogyn offers wilderness canoe, backpacking, rock climbing
and winter camping trips for teens through remote locations
including Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area, Yellowstone,
Alaska and trips upwards of 50 days through the large, historic
rivers of the Canadian Shield.

One of those 50-day trips is known as the Femmes du Nord (Women
of the North) trip and it traverses remote areas of the Canadian
wilderness. Raiho and Warren were participants together on one of
these trips with Camp Menogyn in 2007. They traveled along the
Kazan and Kunwak Inuit heritage rivers of Nunavut, Canada and ended
in Baker Lake.

A native of Miami, Fla., Natalie Warren did her first trip with
Menogyn in 2005 and said after a two-week camping trip in the BWCA,
she was in love with the wilderness. Her degree from St. Olaf is in
environmental studies and was inspired, she said, by her
experiences at Camp Menogyn.

Ann Raiho is a native of Inver Grove Heights, and a graduate of
Convent of the Visitation High School. She grew up visiting a
family cabin along the Gunflint Trail and worked at Camp Menogyn
for several years as a cook and trail guide. She majored in
mathematics and environmental studies at St. Olaf and is looking to
pursue a graduate degree in ecology.

Equipment check

The pair are paddling in a 17-foot Langford Prospector canoe,
which was designed after a model used by guides ferrying sportsmen
to their destinations. The unique design of the canoe is made to
easily navigate shallow rivers while also traversing massive lakes.
The canoe was donated by Stone Harbor in Grand Marais which will
auction off the canoe at the end of the journey and donate the
proceeds to Camp Menogyn.

They are also diversifying their paddles depending on the
conditions. For the rivers, they are using longer shafted paddles
for a better stroke. Once they are on the lakes they will switch to
the Bending Branches paddles they used on their 50-day trip.

While the fishing rods are not being used just yet, once they
reach the rivers of Canada, the pair plan on dragging a line to
catch their daily meal.

The canoe is fully loaded with four packs donated by Ostrom
Outdoors, equivalent to the average amount a pair of people would
need on an extended trip of this nature, Warren said. For music,
they brought only a travel guitar and ukulele – in case they aren’t
too exhausted at the end of a long day.

Warren also said she recently began reading several Sigurd Olson
books, including “Reflections from the North Country.” Olson wrote
about numerous journeys through the canoe country and reflected on
the voyages of the fur traders. “It’s really great to read on this
trip,” Warren said. “He talks about the different things you think
about while on trail.”

With 2,180 miles and three months to go, Warren and Raiho will
have a lot of reflecting to do as their journey continues.

Short break

The goal is to get to Breckenridge or Fargo by the end of June
because Warren’s sister is getting married in Philadelphia and she
is the maid of honor. “My mom said I could do this if I was 100
percent going to make it to the wedding,” Warren said.

That will trigger a week-long break and it will come at a
perfect time – the end of the upstream trek on the Minnesota and
the transition to the downstream paddle on the Red River of the
North. Once back from the wedding, their trip down the Red River
will continue and the goal is to reach Winnipeg by the third week
in July.

Outdoor News will check in regularly with Raiho and Warren, so
watch for future articles and blogs at www.outdoornews.com. When
available, video and audio will also be downloadable. To hear an
interview with the pair, see Ron Hustvedt’s blog at

Categories: Ron Hustvedt

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