BRAINERD, Minn. — Mother Nature played a role this week in the adventures of three local men traveling down the Mississippi River.
The trio, Forrest Schoessow, 25, of Sidney, Shea Selsor, 25, of Piqua, and Alex Ross, 26, of Sidney, traveled close to 150 miles during their endeavor to reach the Gulf of Mexico. They’ve traveled around 350 miles since they began their adventure May 20 in Bemidji, Minnessota.
“We are close to getting our of Minnesota,” said Schoessow during his weekly phone-in report Sunday morning. “We’ve been in and out of rain all week.”
Schoessow said the ever-changing Mississippi River has been at full force.
“After leaving Grand Rapids (Minnesota), the river began moving quicker. There are tributaries emptying into the river, which means there’s more water in general.
“The water quality has improved each time a tributary has been added to the river,” he said.
Between Grand Rapid and Brainerd, the trio encountered fewer dams.
“I think we’re finished with taking the canoe out of the water to avoid the danger of the dams,” said Schoessow.
The three, said Ross, are becoming more comfortable in each of the positions in the canoe — front, middle and back.
“We’ve each taken our turn at steering,” said Ross. “Shea is the most competent in each position. But we can handle each seat too.
“My first time at steering was on Winnibigoshish Lake,” said Ross. “It was kind of scary. The last time I steered was a couple of days ago and it went very well.”
The trio, said Schoessow, are becoming synchronized in their work.
“When someone yells out a command, we all switch paddling sides,” he said.
The canoe, said Schoessow, is handling very well on the river.
“With the wind and quick moving water,” said Schoessow, “I put the paddle in the port side of the canoe and it handled very well.”
Schoessow said they encountered white caps before and after the dams.
“We also encountered a low head dam, which is dangerous because you can’t see it on the horizon,” said Schoessow. “It just drops off. It takes quite a bit of work to get through it because whirlpools can form and suck the boat down. They can be very dangerous.”
Mother Nature had her own show for the travelers. Lightening would light up the sky during the storms.
“When there’s lightening, we stop,” said Schoessow. “We a great big metal lightening rod in the water.”
As they’ve traveled the river, the trio has seen low depths of water in the beginning of the trip — 18 inches — and a narrow river. As they travel down the river, it’s getting wider, said Schoessow.
“We’re at the beginning of the wide river,” said Schoessow. “The river is widening significantly.”
The men are being greeted by both humans and animals during their travels.
“We’ve seen all kinds of wildlife,” said Schoessow. “The beavers will follow our canoe and smack their tails at us. The otters will dive under the canoes. We’ve seen eagles swoop down beside us to get fish.”
There was one mildly embarrassing moment for Schoessow this week.
“I broke my paddle,” he said. “I was hitting the paddle on the water trying to make the beaver sound. Luckily I have a backup and I’m planning on fixing this one.
While they’ve been at Brainerd, the trio was interviewed by the local newspaper.
“They wanted to help us get the word out about water conservation,” said Schoessow.
There’s been on equipment malfunction thus far, said Schoessow. The WiFi in his multiparameter instrument, which gathers water data, has malfunctioned.
“I’m kinda bummed out about that,” said Schoessow. “We’re getting quotes to have it fixed. So for now, I’m going back to old school tests by using vials and test papers.
“We always have a backup if something fails.”
The trio is keeping a close eye on the weather and forecasts for upcoming days on the river.
“There were a couple of snafus on the weather forecast,” said Ross. “So we took a couple of days off. So far, there hasn’t been anything (weather-wise) to worry about.
During those days, Ross said he’s taken advantage of having time to chronicle the trip so far.
“I’ve been focusing on people,” he said. “That’s my strong point. The wildlife is a little harder for me.
“I’ve drawn the people we’ve gotten to know on the trip and Caleb and his goose is one of them. I’ve also drawn a 7-year-old girl and folks along the river. There’s a rich tapestry of folks we’ve met along the river.”
During the past week of travel, the trio has spent the night at five or six different places.
“There was only one town and it was extremely small,” said Schoessow.
They spent the night at Palisade, Minnesota, which according to the 2010 census has around 170 residents.
“They had a storm shelter and we spent the night there. I think every person in the town came out to meet us. Many of them brought us wood,” he said.
Schoessow said they have received many positive reinforcements for their trip.
“Ninety-five percent of the people have told us this is something they’ve always wanted to do,” said Schoessow. “They tell us we’re living life to its fullest and they’re living vicariously through us. We’ve met so many good people on the trip so far.”
When they relaunch Monday morning, they will begin a new chapter in their travels.
“We’ll be seeing locks instead of dams,” said Schoessow. “There will be barges on the river.
“So far, there have been no barges. It’s just been us on the river. Caleb (and his goose) is in a canoe in the river as well. He’s just taking his canoe wherever the river goes. The world in the wild is Caleb’s classroom.”
The trio continues to send out postcards to people supporting them in their adventure down the Mississippi River.
Selsor was not available for interview Sunday morning — he was guarding the crew’s equipment on the river’s edge.
The trio are collecting data about the river as part of their Mississippi River Survey Expedition.
The trip can be followed on their website, http://mrexpedition.squarespace.com and on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/m.r.s.expedition. The Sidney Daily News has also linked up with the expedition’s Facebook account on its site, https://www.facebook.com/SidneyDailyNews.