Thursday, August 1, 2013

Women's Weekend: Wildly Wonderful

On July 5 - 7, Wild River Academy led out our first annual Women's Weekend trip on the Minnesota River. Starting at Moonstone Farm on Friday afternoon, the group toured the farm then spent a lazy afternoon swimming at the pond, soaking up the good weather, and enjoying the company of each other and our hosts. On the way back to the kitchen house, we picked some milkweed and kale, and enjoyed milkweed tempura and sauteed kale for dinner. They only ever add a few ingredients to the food at Moonstone, but it is always incredibly delicious. Audrey and Richard shared their experiences living on the farm, and then we wrapped up the evening hanging out around a fire.

On Saturday morning, we met more participants that joined us for the day at Vicksburg County Park. It was a beautiful day, and it was a lot of fun to meet new folks. Some of the paddlers lived in the area, so it was a great opportunity to explore familiar territory from a different perspective. And it was fun for the out-of-towners and the guides to hear new stories about the River.

We bid adieu to our visitors with hugs, and continued on our way. We camped that evening north of Redwood Falls, at a site that is only accessible by canoe. A pre-dinner mini hike revealed a great view of the river. After lentil soup and biscuits, we had an awesome conversation that spanned many topics and provoked lots of thoughts. Multiple generations were represented in the group, and it was a unique opportunity to spend unstructured and relaxed time together and share about our experiences. After some chocolate for dessert (I think everyone who came was prepared with their own supply :D) and a little "Old Maid" to wind down, we called it a night.

The next morning we canoed out of camp like pros and enjoyed our last few hours on the river. Yoga poses made us limber for the car ride home, and then we headed back to the cities. What a trip! It was a delightful, informative, and memorable way to spend a weekend. We can't wait for Women's Weekend 2014!

Here are some testimonials straight from the canoeists!

I participated in Wild River Academy Women's Weekend a few weeks ago as an early birthday gift from my mother-in-law.  We were only able to join the group on one stretch of their trip, a day of canoeing on the Minnesota River between the Delhi area and Redwood Falls, about 12 miles.  I was excited but a bit unsure of my canoeing abilities.  I quickly realized I had nothing to fear as the group paddled one of the most beautiful stretches of river I have been on.  Experienced paddlers teamed up with less experienced to create a stress-free, educational atmosphere.  Along the way we say gorgeous rock formations and many river dwelling birds and wildlife.  I left the group as we reached Redwood Falls wishing I would have signed up for the entire weekend, and leaving behind a new group of friends.

A week later was my actual birthday.  My gift from my family was a shiny red canoe.  The next day my husband, twelve-year-old son, eight-year-old daughter and I canoed the same length of river I had fallen in love with the week before.  I confidently paddled down the river, pointing out things I had seen the last time.  My family fell in love with the trip as quickly as I had.  We are now planning a weekend trip later this summer.  I am so thankful that I went on this weekend hosted by Wild River Academy and hope to join them again in the future.


I had a wonderful time on our canoe trip this July. The paddling was fabulous, but I was especially happy to meet everyone on the trip. The instruction and support that the instructors gave to each paddler, no matter the level of experience, was impressive. They were patient and willing to teach, if that is what someone wanted, without giving too much information.  I learned that I like to paddle in the stern!

I also appreciate the relationships that Wild River Academy has developed along the river. I had thought of the Minnesota River as a polluted river because of agricultural runoff, but did not realize the clean up efforts that are underway. Thanks for changing my perspective. The part of the river that we were on was especially beautiful.  I am also hopeful that campsites will be maintained and improved because of WRA's efforts to bring awareness to this river. (I was amazed that we didn't see any other canoes or kayaks.)

And of course, it was really fun for me to reconnect with Moonstone Farm, and to see that Audrey and Richard are still doing wonderful work as permaculture farmers and land stewards.  It was a short trip, but because of all the different parts of the journey, I really felt like we got away, and got to know each other pretty well. Let's do it again!


Monday, July 8, 2013

Wild Weather Academy: First High School Expedition

Hello everyone!

On June 19, the Wild River Academy staff (Nick, Anna, and myself) took 4 River's Edge Academy students out to paddle the Minnesota River from Montevideo to Mack Lake Park in Renville County. We truly lived adventure by adventure for this trip and learned how vulnerable human beings are when the weather dictates their day!

We picked up the group at River's Edge Academy in the morning and shuttled over to Moonstone Farm in Montevideo, MN where Audrey and Richard graciously welcomed us with a tour of their farm. They are amazing people and knowledgeable mentors to all who strive to be stewards of the land. After a delicious dinner on the farm, we spent time together around the campfire.

The next morning we departed from Prien's Landing. We paddled to Granite Falls where the group portaged around the dam and continued on to Memorial Park to set up camp. That night, around 2 am, the wind picked up and our tent started caving in. We could see the flashes of lightening from inside the tent and hear the oncoming storm. Anna check the weather on her phone and it read, "Gusts up to 90 mph. Large hail. Deadly debris. You are in danger". Well then! We didn't need any more convincing than that. We carefully tore down our tents in the strong wind so that none of our gear flew away and carried our things to a nearby shelter. We called Scott Tedrick, a reporter and supporter of WRA who lives in Granite Falls, to pick us up and take us to safety. By 3 am, the students were asleep, bundled into their sleeping bags on Scott's living room floor. I stayed up for a while watching the lightening through a small window in the basement before drifting off to sleep. Safety first.

In the morning we made breakfast and headed back to Memorial Park to meet the DNR Minnaqua intern, Devon, who was waiting to give our group a fishing lesson. Spirits were high! Everyone caught at least one fish, several people caught two, and we got to examine four different species in the river. Before fishing, Devon taught us all about fish species and migration in the Minnesota and we played a game to see who could match the fish species in their proper groups. We are all co-learners on these trips!

We continued on the river after lunch and paddled to the old Minnesota Falls Dam, now the Minnesota Falls rapid set! I am personally thankful that the dam was removed in February. Now recreating on the river is more enjoyable and I feel at peace knowing that the river is free to meander and the native species are free to migrate once again. Hopefully someday the dam in Granite Falls will get demolished. Then the Minnesota River would provide paddlers with over 300 miles of free flowing water all the way to Fort Snelling State Park! Not to mention all the awesome rapid sets.

We portaged over the rapid set and were in awe of the natural beauty around us. It was a gorgeous, hot day on the water and we were enjoying the scenery and each other's company. We stopped at Kinney Landing to eat lunch where we met a woman who told us that we were under a tornado watch until 10 pm that night. But it was so beautiful out! How could that be? Well, we decided to proceed with caution so we called Scott Tedrick (again) to see if he could take us to Upper Sioux Agency State Park. We didn't want to encounter any severe weather on the water.

Scott picked us up and we started on our way to the park. Then we saw it. The death cloud. It was 5 PM on the longest day of the year, but behind us there was nothing but encroaching darkness. Anna and I were sitting in the back of Tom Cherveny's truck debating whether or not it was even safe to be outside during the tornado watch. Once again, we made the cautious decision. Anna called to the front of the car, "Hey Scott?", and Scott immediately replied, "Yep, yep that's fine!", and turned the car around. Now we were driving straight into the black clouds.

The wind picked up as the rain pelted down. The bungees holding the boat on top of the car snapped off and Anna and I held onto the boat through the back window until Scott pulled over. Nick and I threw the boat into the bushes along the road, knowing that we didn't have time to re-fasten it to the car. The weather worsened to the point where we felt uncomfortable driving. We only had about 10 more miles to go until we reached the safety of Scott's house, but the weather wasn't going to let up. We pulled into the Upper Sioux Community and ran into their Community Center to find a church group from Maryland playing ping pong and eating dinner. They gave us tea and towels to dry off and stay warm.

The storm passed through around 7 PM and Scott said, "You guys want to go to the Granite Falls Rodeo?". Sure, why not?! We had already given up the hope of a rustic canoe trip. It was time to get to know the community, and what better way then going to a small town rodeo? We drove through town and Scott bought us all popcorn from the famous Granite Falls Popcorn Stand. Then we went to the rodeo. Which was stormed out after about 45 minutes, go figure! Once again, we stayed the night at Scott's house in Granite Falls. The kids fell asleep watching the Avengers in 3D. Outdoor skills for the win.

The next morning we had a wonderful paddle from Vicksburg County Park to a campsite by North Redwood Falls. It felt so great to get back out on the river and to camp and cook in the woods! The river was fast and has risen quite a bit since we started our trip. Anna, Nick, and I sterned due to the high waters. That night in camp we had awesome discussions about life and living minimally, like our ancestors did, and really got to know one another better.

The next morning the river had risen at least a foot since the day before, and was still rising. Trees were crashing from the bank into the current and floating down the river. Flash flood conditions were upon us. We cautiously paddled to a boat launch in Franklin to set up camp and re-evaluate.

That night as I was scoping out the campground, the Renville County Sheriff pulled up to chat. After a little chitchat he asked, "Have you guys seen a group of kayakers paddling the river?". I thought for a second and said, "no, no kayakers out. Only ran into the occasional fisherman." The sheriff responded, "Well, their cars are flooded in at the county park just south of here and we have no idea what to do."

County park...south of "Yep, you are looking for us."

He told me that the river was rising an inch an hour and if we wanted to salvage things from our car we would have to do it immediately. I walked back over to Nick and Anna with a smirk on my face to relay the news. We all had a good laugh.

Anna and I grabbed two bags to put our 'valuables' into and hopped into the SUV police car. I sat in the front and Anna took the back, a heavy-duty cage fence in between us. We were so excited to experience riding in a cop car that we almost forgot that our cars might be submerged in the Minnesota River Valley. The sheriff was amused.

It was around 12 am when we turned down the dark street to Mack Lake Park, just north of Fort Ridgely State Park. The dry, gravel road that we had driven down just 5 days before was now host to three feet of water with a current.  Doug, the sheriff, drove as far as he could until the water reached the tires and we got out to examine the situation.

Doug strapped me into a life jacket with more straps than a straight jacket. Once I was undeniably buoyant, he hooked one side of a rope onto the back of my new favorite PFD and the other side onto the front of the SUV and told me to walk forward into the dark water. Awesome.

12:30 am. I walked slowly through the current, my legs sturdy against the pull of the water. My muck boots (should have bought the full body Muck Suit?) filled up with water as I crossed over to where the road re-emerged. I heard something rumbling in the tall grass beside me and anxiously waited for Anna to follow suit. Once we were both across, Anna freed me of my industrial leash and we walked to our cars. Luckily, the water hadn't reached our tires yet. I had to break into my car with a wedge and wire because, of course, I left my keys with Ted Suss, the Official WRA Chauffeur, at the beginning of our trip. When I unlocked my car I looked over at Anna to see her carefully going through her trunk and putting things into the duffel bag. I looked into my car for 'valuables' to take back and didn't see much that needed saving. I popped the trunk to find my full body dog costume sitting there. I knew I had something worth salvaging in my car! I stuffed the costume into my bag and walked over to help Anna. We walked back to the sheriff's car with a bit more ease and journeyed back to the campground. Nick and the sheriff shuttled our canoes to a pump station nearby to store them until we could return. We decided to end our trip early due to the water level.

The next morning two wonderful WRA supporters picked us up and drove us back to the city. We had an amazing, adventurous week with four wonderful teenagers and I wouldn't change any of the decisions made throughout the trip. The WRA staff made safe decisions and the high school team worked hard to overcome challenges and obstacles. We may not have had the outdoor wilderness experience everyone expected, but we came off the river with stories to tell for the rest of our lives. Visit the WRA Facebook for more pictures!

Stay tuned for our Women's Weekend blog! We had great weather, amazing women, and LOTS of bugs.

See you on the river,

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

WRA Family Trip

Wild River Academy’s Family Trip was full of surprises, interesting conversations, and new experiences. Instead of describing this trip from the perspective of the guides, a few of our participants were gracious enough to write up a post about their experience:

When we left New Jersey for Minneapolis for the Family Canoe Trip, we had expectations about the trip, but little did we know how much we would learn about sustainable farming, fish and fishing in Minnesota, how to portage, and how to "ride the rapids".
Our first night we camped at Moonstone Farm and learned about organic and sustainable farming.  In the morning we woke up to the sound of birds singing, and I have never heard birds sing that loudly!!  

We learned about CURE (Clean up the River Environment), in which people are working together for clean air, water and locally owned clean energy. Two interns from the DNR Fisheries Department taught us about fish and fishing in Minnesota, and we were able to "wet a line". We went to a World War II Museum, which was amazing and beautiful the way the planes and vehicles were set up in the building, even the paintings on the walls were beautiful.

As we canoed down the river, we came across a couple who were so excited to see people canoeing down the river, they even showed up later at our campsite with about 6 buckets of popcorn...what a treat. Speaking of food, every meal we had from our dinner and breakfast at Moonstone Farm, to our last stop, was delicious!! We paddled through sun, rain, wind and cold, but it did not snow!! The assortment of wildlife we saw as we paddled was amazing!!  The bald eagles were my favorite, but in addition to bald eagles, there were golden eagles, painted turtles, turkeys, wood ducks, cormerans and many songbirds. This trip was challenging, but I feel like we met the challenge and it felt good to have done it!! Thanks to Natalie, Anna and Nick for all of their effort.
-Patricia Ryan

The Family Expedition canoe trip with Wild River Academy was an all-around great experience for me. I don’t get a lot of chances to canoe, camp, or fish very often, let alone spend a lot of time with my family; so when the opportunity arose, I was very excited to get involved. Coming into this experience, I didn’t know anything about the Minnesota River, but I was amazed at how much knowledge I left this expedition with from the different speakers we got to meet along the way. I thoroughly enjoyed our talk with the DNR about the different species of fish in the river, since fishing has always been a hobby of mine. After talking to the DNR, I was even able to identify a sturgeon that someone had caught on the river, but was unable to identify.
I loved experiencing the Minnesota River for the first time; it was very exciting portaging around the dam and going through the different sets of rapids. I was able to truly experience what it was like to be on a canoeing expedition. I especially got to experience the different types of insects, along with the bites that come from them. I received some nasty, itchy spider bites on my arms, but luckily Wild River Academy was prepared. Their first aid kit from Wilderness Medical Systems must have had at least 20 compartments, pockets, and zippers; all filled to the brim with anything anyone could possibly need for what ails them.
My favorite part of the expedition was being able to see my brother, Nick, getting so involved in a company and issue that he is so passionate about. By the end of the expedition, Nick, Natalie, and Anna had gotten the five of us to really care about the Minnesota River, as well as their mission, and because of their commitment and passion, the expedition couldn’t have been more fun and exciting!

-Bridget Ryan

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Paddling Theater and WRA Pilot Trip

Hello WRA friends!

Last weekend we attended the 50th Anniversary of the Minnesota River Water Trail. To celebrate, the DNR, CURE MN, Playspace Productions, Wilderness Inquiry, and the Granite Falls Community put on a 3-day event of speakers, theatrics, and paddling. On Friday night, Anna and I attended a series of talks at City Hall. After I presented on my canoe trip to Hudson Bay and Wild River Academy, we heard a wonderful talk about the benefits of dam removals, pertaining specifically to the removal of the Minnesota Dam. We learned about river hydrology and the importance of free flowing water trails to promote a healthy water system for native fish to spawn and migrate. Some people argue that dams are important barriers to keeping invasive species from extending their reach. Luther, the presenter, told us that this is not true. With all of the flooding in our watersheds, invasive fish species, i.e. asian carp, are able to jump and sometimes even swim around dams. Besides, there are 21 other ways that invasive species can spread into new waterways. Crazy! After the Granite Falls dam, there are 254 miles of free flowing water trail until the Minnesota River flows into the Mississippi River at Fort Snelling State Park. That is more free flowing water than the St.Croix, yet the Minnesota River is rarely known for outdoor recreation. 

Nick, Anna, and I just got off the river from a four-day paddle from Moonstone Farms to Morton. We ran the new Minnesota Falls (just go down the center left, it'll be great) and several other rapids along that stretch of the river. I quickly remembered the beauty of the Minnesota River; despite the cold rain, we enjoyed our short expedition and we were in awe of the jungle birds, pelicans, eagles, beavers, granite outcroppings, and dense forest. We made more connections along the route, including new farmers and potentially someone to talk to us about the geology in the watershed and lead a star-gazing session for our groups. With all there is to do along our route, it is a wonder if we'll even have time to paddle anywhere!

We are leading the WRA Family Expedition next week, June 1-5. We start our excursion at Moonstone Farms where we will tour the farm, have orientation, cook dinner, and get to know everyone around a campfire. We will paddle to Memorial Park in Granite Falls the next morning where we will meet someone from the DNR Fisheries Department who will teach our groups how to fish. The next morning we will visit the WWII museum and then paddle to Upper Sioux State Park where we will tour the park to learn about Dakota history and the war of 1862. We will camp there. The fourth day of our trip we will paddle to Vicksburg County Park where we will meet with a local musician. The last day, we will paddle to Redwood Falls where we will meet with Scott Kudelka from the DNR to learn about healthy water systems and to look for macroinvertibrates in the Redwood River. Then we will depart back to our homes after a reflection session and goodbyes!

If you are interested in participating, there are four open spots on this expedition. Visit to sign up. Once you submit your online registration, we will contact you with more information. The cost is $400/person.

Thanks and see you on the river,

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Paddle for Change Debut!

Under the name Paddle for Change, 7 individuals are preparing for the trip of a lifetime. We are going to paddle the entirety of the Mississippi River from Lake Itasca south to the Gulf of Mexico. Time spent on the river will be around 70 days from September 18th to sometime before Thanksgiving. This trip is a dream of everyone involved and is slowly becoming a reality. Paddle for Change will make stops in communities along the river to show the documentary: Do the Math, created by Bill McKibben and to highlight the growing dangers of climage change and the causes behind it. Following the showing. we will facilitate a discussion on local issues pertaining to the themes present in the documentary. Our team includes: Erika Gotcher, currently working with Camp Manitowish; Elizabeth Just, working to implement compost systems in schools; Lee Vue, soon to be a graduate of the University of Minnesota; Joseph Snowdon, who just graduated from the University of Vermont with a degree in Forestry; of course, Anna Johnson, Natalie Warren, and Nick Ryan will be involved in the trip as well.
Considering our pack out date is a summer away, we are planning a string of fundraisers for the summer months to assist us in purchasing gear and funding our expedition. Our first fundraiser was on May 5th and involved a stunning performance by the Walker Brothers Band, growlers containing delicious Fulton Brew, and additional beverages provided by Surdyk’s liquor store. We prepared a taco bar utilizing gift cards generously donated from Rainbow grocery and the Seward Co-op. This fundraiser is the first of many and if you’re interested in attending a benefit concert at a local venue or a portage parade then visit to sign onto the mailing list and receive updates.


Here comes a much needed update on all things Wild River Academy and some things Paddle for Change. We left you in late March, Anna had not yet joined us in Minneapolis and the weather continued to look bleak. Now it is the middle of May and we have acquired vital equipment and helpful partnerships in our race to the pilot trip on May 19th, 5 days from this posting! A huge thank you goes out to all those wonderful companies and individuals that have helped us along the way. Natalie was able to give a presentation at the Bloomington, MN REI on Tuesday May 7th. The presentation was excellent and REI will be a huge support throughout our summer and into the future. GSI will be providing us with a cookware set and Wilderness Medical Systems, LLC has sponsored us with 2 large first aid kits. Thomas Barry, an active member of the MN outdoor community, avid paddler, and white water rafter, generously donated 8 Watershed Colorado dry bags as well as a Watershed camera bag. These sponsored items, alongside support from companies and individuals, boost our ability to efficiently run trips this summer, while also building our network in the outdoor industry and community.

Wild River Academy tabled at Midwest Mountaineering’s annual meeting April 26th through the 28th. The exposure to like minded individuals at expos through conversations made with participants and our fellow table neighbors facilitates lasting friendships and partnerships. Midwest Mountaineering was brilliant in their planning and managed to organize a host of presenters that rivaled the line-up at the recent Canoecopia event in Madison, WI. Organizing the basic expo with presentations, manufacturers, and tabling organizations is a massive undertaking in and of itself, that being said Midwest Mountaineering went above and beyond by orchestrating a fantastic dinner and gathering with the employees, volunteers, manufacturers, and organizations; basically, thank you so much for a wonderful expo Midwest Mountaineering.

Among Wild River Academy’s partnerships, our relationship with River’s Edge Academy has proven to be a wonderful opportunity for Wild River Academy to pursue our mission of outdoor experience and education for all. River’s Edge Academy aims to reduce the drop-out rate, increase the graduation rate of Minnesota’s urban youth, and reduce the achievement gap between white and non-white students. They envision using the natural environment to engage students in work that is hands-on, standards-based and college preparatory. Wild River Academy will be organizing a fully sponsored, free trip for River’s Edge Academy students... wait a second guys, how can we fully sponsor up to 14 students to attend one of our trips?! That’s where you, the blog reader and Wild River Academy enthusiast come in. We need donations, as low as $10, that will allow us to provide this life changing opportunity to the maximum number of students. Our goal is to raise $8000 dollars before June 23rd. The donation page can be found here: Thank you in advance for making this expedition a reality for these awesome students!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Forward On Climate Rally

On February 17, I was lucky enough to sleep in and enjoy my breakfast before making the 15-minute Metro journey to the Washington Monument for the Forward on Climate rally. But thousands of people travelled from all over the country for this moment—the biggest climate rally in history—to protest the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline and to let President Obama know that we expect bold climate leadership.

It was a bitterly cold day (by D.C. standards at least), but the energy was palpable. Volunteers passed out buttons and posters as participants emerged by the dozens from the Metro tunnel onto the National Mall. People from all walks of life, including some dressed as polar bears, migrated to the stage near the Washington Monument, where Hip Hop Caucus’s Reverend Yearwood was acting as MC for the event, getting the crowd to jump and wave their arms for the climate, as well as their core temperatures.

Despite the cold, more than 40,000 people crowded together, all willing to ignore their temporary discomfort in the name of acting on behalf of an issue that has a far greater timeline, scope, and potential to inflict suffering much worse than being chilly for a few hours. A diverse group of people spoke to show solidarity with the crowd. Crystal Lameman of the Beaver Lake Cree tribe of Alberta, told the crowd how her community was already being affected by the horrifying process of extracting tar sands oil in Alberta. High cancer rates plague the communities adjacent to the operation. She reminded us of this certainty: “If this pipeline goes through, it will be at the cost of human life, air life, water life.”

We also heard from Tom Steyer, a member of the financial community and a clean energy investor. “For the last thirty years I have been a professional investor, and I am here to tell you one thing: the Keystone XL pipeline is not a good investment.” The speeches were impassioned, clear, and concise.

The Keystone XL Pipeline does not make sense. The pipeline will be transporting oil from tar sands in Canada to the Gulf Coast. At the source, tar sands extraction requires clear cutting Boreal forest in Alberta, which completely devastates this rich ecosystem and poisons the waterways and adjacent communities. Although the companies responsible for this destruction are required under Canadian law to restore the area to a condition similar to what was there originally, evidence suggests this very well could be an impossible task. In order to separate the sand from the oil requires large amounts of hot water—which relies on fossil fuels to heat—adding to the already atrociously high environmental impact.

This oil will then be transported through the Keystone XL pipeline, which runs through America’s heartland: over rivers, aquifers, and precious farmland. When it comes to oil pipelines, it is not a matter of if a spill occurs, it is a matter of when. The pipeline will put our water, food, and diverse prairie ecosystems at risk.

When the oil finally arrives in the Gulf, it is not for American consumption, and it will not reduce domestic oil prices. Period. After its journey across the U.S., the oil will be shipped abroad. Sure, the construction of the pipeline may create some jobs. But a pipeline only gets built once. And then these jobs will end. And then where will we be? With a long, metal straw, transporting a dirty fuel source out of the U.S. in the name of corporate profits and maintaining the status quo. Why not invest in creating long-term, skilled jobs that make us globally competitive? Building wind turbines and solar panels, operating wind turbines, and installing solar panels are part of the solution. Investing in a destructive, finite, greenhouse gas-producing fuel source is not.

Van Jones, President Obama’s former advisor on green jobs and a climate activist put it this way: “This is the last minute, in the last quarter, of the biggest, most important game humanity has ever played. President Obama, all the good that you have done, all the good you can imagine doing, will be wiped out by floods, by fires, by superstorms, if you fail to act now to deal with this crisis, that is a gun…pointed at the head of the future.”   

Climate change is the most complex and urgent conundrum the human race has ever faced. The Keystone XL pipeline, the development of Canada’s tar sands are simply not part of the solution. What is part of the solution is education. At Wild River Academy, I am excited to engage with high school students about what climate change is, what it means, and how we as individuals and as a community and as a movement we can create a hopeful, bright future for ourselves.

40,000 people gathered to speak truth to power on February 17, to let President Obama know that the climate simply cannot wait. And it will not wait. We must act now because every moment lost is another child with asthma, another home flooded by a superstorm, and another species gone extinct. The sooner we act, the faster we create good, green jobs, increase our quality of life with more livable communities, and create a viable, bright future for ourselves. On February 17, the American people said peacefully, but forcefully, that climate change mitigation must be a priority, and we will not stand aside and let our future go up in smoke.

Monday, March 18, 2013

A Canoecopia Utopia

On Thursday March 7th Wild River Academy began the trek to Canoecopia in Madison, Wisconsin. Excitement was in the air as we consolidated our presentable materials and overnight bags into the trunk of my car. We had spent the last week gathering blown up pictures in the form of: posters depicting scenes from our pilot trip on the Potomac River with quotes superimposed, beautifully designed postcards all thanks to Alyssa Phanitdasack and her designing prowess. We printed a banner depicting our logo and motto in all its 5' x 3' glory. This was Wild River Academy's first experience tabling at an outdoor expo and we did our best to get our ducks in a row. A major player in our success with booth materials was The Print Shop in Bloomington, MN which worked with us to stylize and complete on time all of our masterpieces.
We entered the Alliant Energy Convention Center with about 4 hours of set-up time and beautified our booth to be an eye-catching showcase of Wild River Academy. They opened the doors at 4:00pm and our day began. We were able to meet with a multitude of interested people. Some teachers, throughout the weekend, showed interest in programming through their science and history departments and grabbed multiple brochures. We met with the Bending Branches representatives and picked up our three intricate, efficient, and gorgeous paddles sponsored to Natalie, Anna, and myself as Wild River Academy Guides. Thanks Bending Branches! You guys ROCK! We met many people who showed interest and talked with us about our route, equipment, and plans for the future. Talking with people about our organization helps us to put the plans we have in our minds into conversational and easily understood words which improves our vision of the future and our ability to convey our ideas.
We debuted our idea for a trip-based group called Paddle for Change which uses long paddling trips throughout the USA to bring global environmental concerns to the public by meeting with community organizations, talking with individuals, and spreading information through local media. Specifically, we made connections with potential sponsors for a trip down the entirety of the Mississippi River from Lake Itasca to Port Eads, Louisiana. This Mississippi trip will focus on exposing the truth behind surface mining of bitumen in the Athabasca Region of Northeastern Alberta, Canada specifically from the Athabasca River. These surface mining operations leave behind ponds of excess, unusable product which often leak and are extremely harmful to the native wildlife. Ducks landing on these ponds die upon contact with the toxic contents. Our goal is to use the trip to bring awareness to a wider swath of conscientious Americans who might not have previously known about these environmental atrocities.

Natalie and I both spoke with many people, and found time to listen to some very informative and captivating speakers. I had the opportunity to listen to a representative from Big River Magazine, which focuses on the Mississippi, speak about the river itself, how much it has changed, and the paddlers who enjoy it. I also got to hear a presentation from Jon Turk who circumnavigated Ellesmere Island with Erik Boomer in 2011. Jon Turk was a great speaker and his presentation was inspiring and incredibly interesting. Being exposed to such a wide array of all things canoeing improved my knowledge of the intricacies involved in this amazing industry. The access to a wide variety of canoeing experts, outfitters and suppliers, and experienced paddlers made Canoecopia an incredible opportunity for Wild River Academy.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Nick's First Week in MN

Between chili-cook offs, musical jam sessions, meetings with interesting people, and general exploration of the city, my first week in Minneapolis sold me on the area and was an affirmation for the decision to move Wild River Academy to Minneapolis. Upon arrival I was whisked from the bus station and headed straight to a chili cook-off. The four different chilis were delicious and later that night we all ventured into the basement for a jam session. So far so good, Minneapolis was wooing me right out of the gate. Throughout the week I hit it off with new found family members through various dinner and coffee shop meet-ups. My second uncle offered me a place to live for the summer, at his house in Long Lake, MN. I am constantly surprised by the hospitality exhibited by family members, friends, and strangers alike. On Monday, Anna flew in and we commenced meeting with potential partners and advice givers. Paul Thompson from MN 350 over viewed the mission of the 350 organization. They are working towards cleaner energy and fighting against global warming skeptics with facts and examples of the effects. The town of Granite Falls is in the process of removing an unused damn which will allow for easier recreation access to that part of the river and return the river to a more natural state. We got a chance to observe the progress of the removal and take pictures. CURE Minnesota instilled their confidence in us and offered support for our coming first year; they have offices in Montevideo, MN and Granite Falls, MN. Getting to know the area and finding support for our ideas gets me excited about bringing this unique outdoor experience to high school students. February 9th is CURE Minnesota’s annual convention, Wild River Academy will have a table there and I expect to meet many more amazing individuals.

-Nick Ryan

Partner and Director of Operations