The vision is set, the trip decided. We will paddle 1,200 river miles on three rivers spanning multiple months, collecting litter and natural/community observations along the journey. Now come the details: Where do we resupply? How many miles will we paddle per day without exhausting ourselves entirely? What food do we want to eat along the way? Where do we get the gear we need? How can we afford it? How can we accomplish our goals of connecting with our community and the communities we pass through while developing a sense of place within the greater ecosystem?

These are just a few of the questions we have been kicking around as we plan and prepare for our upcoming Three Rivers Expedition. With days getting longer and time for preparations getting shorter, we have been busy developing meaningful partnerships, mapping out trip logistics, and tying up loose ends around home so that we are set to go when the launch date arrives.

So what defines a meaningful partnership? I could ramble on for a while about all the different thoughts that come to mind, but let’s keep this short and sweet, eh? A meaningful partnership is one that is mutually beneficial, provides value to all parties, and brings involved parties closer to their goals than previously on their own. For the case of this project, focused in and around Minnesota, local partnerships are high on our list of values. Ultimately, this trip is one of ethical principles. Sure, we could go buy all the gear necessary, buy the food, and be individuals and do everything on our own. Everyone can do that if they prepare properly by saving money and allocating the time. For this journey, we determined to focus on the belief that we can do more together, in a more sustainable way, than we can alone.

To allocate canoes, we determined it would be more valuable and sustainable to develop a partnership with Urban Boat Builders (UBB), located in St. Paul, than to purchase canoes. UBB empowers local youth through providing apprenticeships teaching job skills that translate into life skills through woodworking and developing meaningful relationships as they construct skin-on-frame canoes. The aesthetically beautiful and rugged design of UBB’s Wilderness Traveler, built by the hands of the community tells a story of working together in partnership for a greater purpose that truly emanates our desire for this trip.

Vessel of Light (Wilderness Traveler built by Urban Boat Builders)
The “Vessel of Light” aka Wilderness Traveler by Urban Boat Builders

Regarding food for the trip, we determined that developing a partnership with Sisters Camelot, who reduces organic food waste from warehouse grocers by picking up damaged or less than perfect goods and offering them free to the community out of their grocery bus at various locations in the Twin Cities would be the best community building partnership we could imagine. They are helping to circumvent two issues in our local community that all cities face. One issue being the lack of access to affordable organic foods, or food in general for some, the second being the waste of food products before they reach the consumer because they go bad or have dents or dings in packaging. So our food supplies are always unique and sometimes require us to eat in a feast/famine cycle, eating lots of veggies that would go bad without refrigeration on the first days of resupply then potentially living lean toward the end of each food resupply.

We are fortunate to partner with many other organizations (which can be found on our Partners webpage) that value our approach to adventure and our focus on stewardship, community, and connection to a sense of place within our natural communities. Some may wonder how we are so privileged to endeavor upon a journey such as this Three Rivers Expedition we will soon embark upon. Do we have rich parents supporting us? No. Did we get grants? That would be great, but not yet. To those curious folks I will say that we are able to do this through hard work and a desire to connect with others in a tight community web that includes our natural environment. Through a desire to tell stories from the river and to build community, we have developed meaningful partnerships and a willingness to do this trip on a shoestring budget. Without the partnerships and relationships we have formed within our local Minnesota community and the greater outdoor recreation community, we would not be able to accomplish our goals for this trip. Community makes everything possible.

As we near our departure date of June 13th, we are realizing just how much we have left to do: organizing shuttles to/from our starting/end-points, organizing drop-offs for our food resupplies, and determining the float plan so we can allow people to join us along the way by knowing our intended schedule to name a few. If that isn’t enough, writing articles for partners, finishing the website, organizing gear, and building a canoe rack for the shuttle van will continue to keep us busy beyond our work responsibilities, moving out, and daily lives as we get closer to launch. With all that is happening we are not stressed (though maybe we should be!) but rather, we are excited! Excited for the experience, excited to connect more deeply with these great rivers and with the various communities along these watersheds, and excited to push off from shore and live life in the universal flow of the river of life.

Mapping out river logistics and maybe our lives.

Logistics can be stressful and bog us down, but once we set off on the journey they are worth every second of effort. Go forth, map out the plan, develop your community, work together to accomplish more than you could on your own, experience life, then come back and tell the tales. That’s what we’re doing and we want to see others out there along the way. And hey! While you are at it, clean up some litter, have meaningful conversations in day to day interactions, and try to leave the people and places you meet/experience better than you found them.

Live intentionally, act ethically.

– Paul Twedt

P.S. If you would like to help us in some way, we welcome folks to reach out via our Contact page. We are currently seeking help with delivering resupplies of food to select places along the rivers and can email locations and dates to those who are interested. If you desire to support our cause but can’t allocate time to come visit/join us, we welcome donations to the cause at the bottom of the webpage.


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