Connected by Water

I had the pleasure to meet up with Bud Herrera of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. Bud is an Umatilla, a fisherman and entrepreneur who lives near the Rufus Landing Recreation Area where I recently made camp. We traded goods (he told me with a laugh, just like 150 years ago).

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He gave me a beaded salmon necklace so that other Native Americans I meet along my journey will know that I’m a friend, dried salmon for energy, which he called “gold”, and his own personal copy of Shadow Tribe: The Making of Columbia River Indian Identity by Andrew H. Fisher.  I gave what I could: organic coffee, a honeycrisp apple, and the promise of a signed copy of my previous expedition memoir, Down the Mississippi.

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I am excited to come back to Rufus to document Bud’s story and those of his tribal elders.  The Umatilla are a Native American tribe that traditionally inhabited the Columbia Plateau along the Umatilla and Columbia rivers, a civilization dating back millennia. Bud told me that salmon is gold and that we as a world are all connected by water.  Heartfelt words from a humble and wise new friend.

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Hood River News: A voyage by canoe across America

A7_Neal_Moore_t800Photo by Kirby Neumann-Rea

From the Pacific to the Atlantic coast, Neal Moore (pictured) will travel a total of 7,500 miles across America in the next two years, by both canoe and land, to document and connect stories of diversity.

 

Hood River News

Over the past eight years, former CNN [citizen] journalist Neal Moore has not traveled, but has lived in Africa and China to try and understand different cultures instead of just experiencing them.

Now, he’s on a mission to understand ours in America.

However, his voyage to understanding America is unique in a way that connects himself with the origins of this country.

In 2008, Moore had this idea that, “What if the greatest adventure was in your backyard?”

Not literally in “your backyard,” but instead the backyard of this country: rivers.

“Before we had roads, we had rivers,” said Moore. “To really understand where we come from, my journey relies on using the nation’s rivers with my choice of transportation being a canoe, as that’s how I feel is the best way is to learn about the origins of this country as I am putting myself in the shoes of those before us.”

In a two-year expedition, Moore’s solo journey by canoe stretches 7,500 miles across the country.

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Moore’s access to outdoor recreation growing up was a hard thing to come by.

But what helped him to venture out of the city was becoming a Boy Scout.

Moore, who is an Eagle Scout, had his first experience with canoeing at summer camp at the age of 12.

That experience, along with his passion for storytelling, helped lead him to the 7,500-mile voyage he currently is on.

The mission of Moore’s journey is to document and understand stories of diversity from Astoria to Queens, New York, to find the “common amongst us all,” said Moore.

Moore started his two-year voyage early last month in Astoria because of its “rich history of diversity,” said Moore.

Astoria is home to the first U.S. settlement west of the Rockies, and saw some of the nation’s earliest migration with Chinese immigrants.

And with Queens being one of the more diverse places in this country, Moore’s decision to highlight these two cities as a start and end will help him discover “the common between our nation,” he said.

“By taking my canoe through the rivers of this country and connecting the stories from Astoria to Queens, I’m trying to give face to a country that’s split into two,” said Moore.

However, it won’t be easy.

Moore’s expedition will take him across 22 different rivers and states, including the Columbia River, where he’s currently paddling.

“The Gorge is a different animal,” said Moore. “It’s like nothing I have experienced river-wise.”

Not only will canoeing across the country be a difficult task — Moore already feels he has developed arthritis from paddling his canoe 152 miles into this journey — but trying to understand a country and the people within it in a short period of time will show itself as a challenge.

Although that’s what makes this journey achievable for Moore.

“When you push yourself outside of your comfort zone, you must make new connections and it puts yourself in new situations that you wouldn’t be in otherwise,” said Moore. “That’s what makes you grow.”

Moore split his journey up into three parts: to the Great Divide, the Big Easy, and to Lady Liberty.

Moore hopes to complete the first 1,086 miles of his journey to the Great Divide in two to three months. To follow and learn more about Moore’s journey visit 22rivers.wordpress.com/about-the-voyage.

Wheels!

Friend David Brown at Precision Rail of Oregon helped me put together some wheels to connect rivers on my journey across America (see the yellow lines on my route to see where I’ll need to haul the canoe and gear). The wheels are loosely based on Steve Posselt’s design, a long distance kayaker who just paddled down the coast of Australia — who told me he’s portaged for over 1000 miles in his career. Amazing!

The Daily Astorian: Spinning a story

Freelance journalist sets off on 7,500 mile canoe odyssey

By Elleda Wilson

The Daily Astorian

Published on March 9, 2018 12:01AM

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Neal Moore, a freelance journalist called “a modern-day Huck Finn” by CNN, set off from Pier 39 in Astoria last Saturday to start his two-year 7,500 mile cross-country canoe expedition. But his mission is more than the journey — along the way he wants to “spin a story of the human face of the economic situation. And in Astoria, I’d love to start out with a good one.”

To that end, he wanted to interview Astorians “from the Nordic, Finnish and/or Chinese-American community who run a business. … The idea is to speak about the first settler inhabitants of the town (these three cultures), and see what they’re up to today.”

Regina Willke at the Astoria-Warrenton Area Chamber of Commerce helped him set up interviews, and he was off and running. He talked to Liisa Penner, Pam, Julie, and Lori Lum, Robbie, Roger, Ron, and Flora Law, Berit and Yorgen Madsen, Saara Matthews, and Sari Vedenoja. Floyd Holcom was Neal’s departure consultant, advising him on the tides and safest time to leave, and local writer Peter Marsh took the photo shown of the actual takeoff.

The Astoria interviews will be the first of his 100 stories across America, which will turn up on his blog at tinyurl.com/NealMoore in a few months. Photos are already up on his Instagram account at instagram.com/alittlewake, and you can also follow his travels at fb.me/alittlewake

“The town has been so very hospitable and friendly,” he recalled of our fair city. Apparently Astoria made as good an impression on Neal as its residents.

Launch from Astoria, Oregon

thumbnail-4A successful launch from the mouth of the Columbia River at Astoria, Oregon. A treacherous stretch of river awaits, along with the promise of adventure and stories and friends over the next two years. Cheers to Floyd Holcom, Tom Hilton, and Peter Marsh in Astoria for their hospitality, assistance with preparations, and camaraderie, along with all of the families I interviewed in Astoria for the very first story to be (stay tuned). Also thanks to my friends around the world for their support and belief in this project. The big idea — to paddle a canoe 7,500 miles across the United States — from the Pacific to the Continental Divide to the Gulf of Mexico to the Great Lakes, to the Atlantic at New York city — in search of the American dream.

Photo courtesy Floyd Holcom; video courtesy Peter Marsh.

The Picasso of canoes?

To launch out onto a voyage of nature and heartland and Main Street and liberty, to embrace and fully explore the storied town and country and river landscapes of this land down low from the bow of a canoe, it felt only natural to consider my vessel to be as more than a mode of transport and lifeline, but as an allegory for freedom.

Which led me to the history of canoe making in the United States, and with it, the legacy of master wood-and-canvas canoe maker L.H. Beach of Merrimack, N.H., who in the 1950s first introduced a thin fiberglass hull reinforced with wooden ribs to the world. “THE FIBERGLASS CANOE THAT LOOKS LIKE A CANOE” was his slogan. A perfect blend of the old and the new.

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From L.H. Beach to his son Lem, to grandsons Randy and Vernon, the authentic Merrimack design was passed along and remained true.  While Randy retained Merrimack for many years in name, his “black sheep” brother Vernon moved West and started up Navarro in his California garage, a canoe design based on Lem’s old molds.

Fast forward to the present, with WhiteGold and Kevlar and Tuf-Weave Flex as one’s (pricey) choice of material, with manufacturers like Northstar and Wenonah and even my very own Old Town running through my mind (according to Paddling.net there are “900 or more canoe models to choose from”), I decided to look back to where the revolutionary balance of old and new originally began.

With Merrimack eventually purchased by Sanborn Canoe Co. of Winona, Minnesota, and Navarro bought (via Craigslist) by a pioneering retiree couple in Rock Island, Illinois, the choice came down to price and availability.  And just the right model for this trip.

Loon on CarThanks to an exchange of emails with Bruce and Sue Peterson of the reincarnated Navarro Canoe Co., I soon settled upon the Loon, which can track in wind and wakes and waves, and also carry a generous “expedition” long-distance load.

27398526_10155724263167655_1462546566_oIn the end, I took a lead from Sue and found my very own Navarro Loon on Craigslist up in Lake Bluff, just above Chicago. The nautically-minded gent who was selling had taken care of his craft with love and with oil and with grace, and as it dates from 2002, it comes with a Certificate of Origin, from Talent, Oregon, signed by Vernon Pew.

The canoe will be more than a partner in expedition. She will be my home base for the next couple of years, a focal point for the journey, and a canoe I’ll need to embrace with my life. I see it as a great honor to carry (and paddle) along a bona fide Merrimack/Navarro work of modern art from West back to East, to partner up and traverse and share via this blog the watery byways of this great land in style and with a tip of the cap to history.  In so doing, hopefully living up to L.H. Beach’s good name.

 

20 random things

I was tagged by @hettela to share 20 things about myself, so here goes:

On a hike across northern Ethiopia in 2014 with a donkey named Afro (well, his real name is Gopher — in Tigrinya that means “Wild Hair”)

1) I attended a Rudolf Steiner school as a kid so I’m big on the arts but don’t believe in grades or tests.
2) My family moved every 2 years around LA and I promised myself when I got big I’d stay in one spot.
3) Instead of revolving communities I now revolve continents.
4) I was asked to join my friends in the “gifted class” in Jr High, if only I’d take an IQ test, and I flatly refused, asking my teacher who she thought she was to measure my intelligence.
5) The most interesting person I’ve ever lived next to was the comedian Richard Pryor at the time he set himself alight.
6) I am drawn to eclectic characters with stories to share.
7) I hit my head in the bathtub as a little kid and have had a speech impediment ever since.
8) Which has inadvertently helped develop my writing.
9) On the night I finally got represented, by Writers House, I confided with the barmaid that this was the greatest day of my life, to which she replied, this is my worst. Life is relative.
10) I lost my brother Tom when I was thirteen and he was sixteen. Not a day goes by when I don’t pause and smile and remember him.
11) For a long time Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises was my bible but now I like good traveller stories.
12) I’m currently reading Danziger’s Travels: Beyond Forbidden Frontiers.
13) On the open road is my favorite place to be.
14) I think I spend too much time dwelling on the past.
15) I just finished a memoir about my exploits as a teenager in the townships of South Africa.
16) A jumbo jet I once travelled on lost 2 of 4 engines over Africa.
17) The first question people ask about paddling the Mississippi is: Tell me about the time when you almost died.
18) I’m in awe of friends and family who settle down and start a family.
19) I think the ideal life is that of Huckleberry Finn, and I love the fact we have no idea what happened to Tom Blankenship.
20) I live for travel and continually dream about the next adventure to be.

Mission Statement: Sea to Shining Sea

My name is Neal Moore. I’m a storyteller and a paddler, and I’d like to invite you on an expedition of epic proportions.  We’re going to be taking this canoe up the Columbia River from here at the confluence of the Columbia River on the Pacific Ocean, right across America — 7,500 river and portage miles to New York City.

It’s going to take 2 years — we’ll be traversing 22 rivers and waterways, touching 22 states and stopping off in 100 story-stop towns. Although the best stories are going to be the stumble-upons – the characters we meet up with along the way. The characters that hold the power to transform how we look at the nation, how we see ourselves and our place in the world.

The expedition, it’s large in scope and it comes at a time when we’re struggling, when we’re searching, for our identity as Americans, for a path forward.  The aim here — it’s not to be divisive but to be inclusive. To showcase and highlight and celebrate how our identity, ethnicity, and freedom play out across this entire land.

Also, to showcase that discovery.  For you, for a worldwide audience, for really anybody whose interested in what makes the American experiment tick.

Of how we can wear our heart on our shirtsleeves — of how we can try.  Small communities, big metropolises, indigenous Americans, African Americans, Latinos, Asians, gays and straights, and the transgender community to boot.

Those who identify with all of the above, with none of the above, that hold the secret for what works for them, for their families, for their communities.

They’re not going to say it — they’re going to show it.  And if we stop and pay attention, and observe, and feel, we can find the answers, we will see and we will know what has always made this country great.

Inclusiveness, and hopes and dreams and falling down and scraping our shins and getting back up and drying our tears — and putting our best foot forward.  With the hope, with the certainty, that the future can most certainly be bright.

It’s a grandiose idea, that taking a canoe across the country, that thread by thread, that piece by piece, when we link it all up together — from here at the Pacific Ocean to the Continental Divide to the Gulf of Mexico to the Great Lakes to the very feet of the Statue of Liberty — we will know, we will feel, and we will understand, the story of America.

CNN.COM: A modern-day Huck Finn

ATLANTA, GEORGIA (CNN.COM) —

iReporter Neal Moore left the northern source of the Mississippi River in July and ended his trip in New Orleans in December, traversing the Mighty Mississippi the whole way by canoe. His mission was not only to document his canoe journey but also report on and participate in positive and uplifting stories of American communities along the way. To view CNN.com’s “Down the Mississippi” retrospective CLICK HERE.

Life lessons of the dugout canoe

HELENA, ARKANSAS 

Canoe guru John Ruskey’s exploits along the Mississippi River have been featured in Southern Living, Outside Magazine, and National Geographic.  But it’s his work with the at-risk children of this region of America that intrigued me: the idea of using a canoe as education; of transforming a log into useable art; of the dugout canoe as a life-changing experience.

QaGaron, Fredrick, Brooklyn, and Veronica, four KIPP Charter School Middle School kids from downtown Helena, Arkansas smile as they walk the levee from their school to Mr. Ruskey’s Helena-based workshop.  This is their second class at Quapaw Canoes, and even though their friends are catching the bus for home, these kids walk with a stride in their step.

Helena has a rich and illustrious past.  As one of the few original bluff cities on the Mississippi River, the boomtown that once was is now an economically-depressed region, save – one of the only things going for it – the hope, promise and vision of the children. 

Mr. Ruskey has been volunteering his time with the local KIPP Charter School for over a year, so when the principal phoned and asked if it would be possible to transform a log into an original dugout canoe, comprised of KIPP-only students, the answer was, “We’d love to do that.”

QdMr. Ruskey does not speak in sound bytes. He speaks from his soul and he speaks with conviction.  When asked how art, education, and the Mississippi River come together, Mr. Ruskey explained, “They come together with each paddle stroke you take.  If you watch the way a paddle cuts thru the water – it creates a double spiral on either side of it – and if you look at the shape of a classic canoe, it’s almost the same shape you see created in the water as you’re stroking the paddle.  And that’s the wonderful thing about the Mississippi River and any moving water – but on the Mississippi you see it more than any other body of water I’ve ever experienced.  You see expressions of patterns, of life patterns – the very basic patterns that govern our life – you see them expressed, constantly being expressed and then re-created over and over again.  And so it’s actually there on the face of the water that you see all those things come together.  One of our mottos here is Qcthat the River brings us together, and in that sense it literally does bring together education and canoes and art – they all come together as you’re paddling the canoe.”

The KIPP Dugout Canoe Project, as it is officially known, is a twice-weekly after-school class that begins with a pad of paper and a pencil.  The students are asked to sit quietly and look at the log and visualize what it will one day become.  Some draw the log as they see it while others draw a dugout canoe with an animal head.  At some point, the kids, in coordination with their school, will vote democratically on what the final shape is to become.  For now, part of the fun is just that idea alone.  The idea that this cottonwood log can one day become anything and everything they hope and desire it to be.