By TARA BARNWELL • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
Talk about huge goals and going after them … meet Neal Moore.
He’s an explorer. He’s an adventurer. He’s an athlete. He’s a journalist and a teacher. He wants to get the story right.
Dubbed “a modern-day Huck Finn” by CNN, Moore is on an adventure of a lifetime.
“I started canoeing from Astoria, Oregon on the Pacific Coast, across our country, down south to Louisiana,” Moore said. “My final destination is Lady Liberty in New York City.”
“My big idea is not only to explore how the rivers and waterways connect but how we, as Americans, connect,” he said. “I’m looking for the ingredients of the American experience.”
That’s a lot of water miles; 7,500 to be exact. Twenty-two rivers and 22 states, all in 22 months. Quite a goal.
“I’ve always been interested in historical communities, those that are rich in history. Plus, I’m a big baseball fan. Cooperstown fit nicely into my schedule,” he said. “I actually hiked here from Little Falls; I left my canoe there and will return for it to continue my journey. I could have gotten a ride here, but I felt like walking here honors this community. I had the chance to step into the rhyme and reason of the village.”
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Moore spent his summers in Hawaii and England.
“My only brother died when I was young, and my parents didn’t want me to grow up without other children around,” Moore said. “We had relatives in Hawaii and England, and I would spend my summers there. I think that’s where my taste for travel and adventure started”.
“I’m an explorer at heart, but my profession is journalism and I teach English in Taiwan,” he said. “I saved money for a year and a half for this trip. I also deal in old relics, photos and books that sell at auction. That helps pay the bills.”
Although Moore was an Eagle Scout, he only completed half of his canoe badge at 12 years old and didn’t get back into a canoe until he was 38.
“I really wasn’t thinking about canoeing at all, but my friend had a dream to canoe up the Amazon River,” he said. “We made a plan to do it together. He ended up backing out but I decided to canoe solo down the Mississippi. That got me back into a canoe.”
His current cross-country canoe journey is a tough trip.
“It’s physically demanding — and mentally demanding as well,” he said.
He’s had some interesting encounters with wild animals. The most memorable was an encounter in the middle of Montana with a grizzly bear.
[And then there was the giant gator down in Louisiana. “I didn’t see the alligator at first,”] he recalled. “When I did, I froze, then I started clapping my hands. He [kept on coming, so I shined my bright diving light, and he] ended up walking away. He had no interest in me.”
A bull shark in Biloxi, Mississippi, did a “bump and bite” on his canoe.
“The shark hit my canoe hard three times, thankfully he wasn’t interested in me either!” he said.
Moore appears accustomed to taking care of things on his own terms.
“My folks cut me off financially after college,” he said. “The good part about that was that every success was mine, but then every failure was mine as well. It gave me confidence in life, I have very few fears. This trip has taught me a lot.”
Moore’s end game is paddling down the Hudson and ending up at the Statue of Liberty on Tuesday, December 14. “The final hurrah and paddle around Lady Liberty will be great. A number of paddlers I’ve met along the way and various NYC-based canoe and kayak clubs will greet me and paddle with me. Then we’ll celebrate in Midtown Manhattan.”
“The Beacon Hand of the Statue of Liberty is extended to all of us. I will earn and have an understanding of what liberty means, not only for this country but for the world at large,” Moore said. “This journey isn’t about me, its about a perfect blend between nature, wilderness and community.”