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St. Olaf students hope to be first women to paddle to Hudson Bay

Brian Larsen


Natalie Warren (dark hair) and Ann Raiho will attempt to become the first women to paddle from the Twin Cities to Hudson Bay on a trip made famous by Eric Sevareid in 1930. All told, the women plan to spend three months paddling 2,250 miles. One of their sponsors is Stone Harbor. Jack Stone, on the right, donated a 17-foot Langford canoe to Natalie and Ann. Frank Moe, a Carlton graduate and employee of Stone Harbor, helped put the canoe on the girls' car before they headed back to St. Olaf. 
Staff photo/Brian Larsen Natalie Warren (dark hair) and Ann Raiho will attempt to become the first women to paddle from the Twin Cities to Hudson Bay on a trip made famous by Eric Sevareid in 1930. All told, the women plan to spend three months paddling 2,250 miles. One of their sponsors is Stone Harbor. Jack Stone, on the right, donated a 17-foot Langford canoe to Natalie and Ann. Frank Moe, a Carlton graduate and employee of Stone Harbor, helped put the canoe on the girls' car before they headed back to St. Olaf. Staff photo/Brian Larsen On June 2 two hearty young women will put their 17-foot Langford canoe into the Minnesota River at Fort Snelling and begin their quest to paddle 2,250 miles from Minneapolis to Hudson Bay along the route made famous by Eric Sevareid in his book Paddling with the Cree.

If they succeed, Natalie Warren and Ann Raiho will become the first women to successfully complete the trip Sevareid and a friend accomplished 81 years ago.

The two St. Olaf College seniors were in Grand Marais on Saturday, April 2 picking up a Langford canoe donated from Stone Harbor Wilderness Supply, one of their sponsors.

“We decided to donate a Langford canoe because Langford is the oldest canoe manufacturer in Canada,” said Stone Harbor owner Jack Stone, adding, “Giving a Langford canoe fits the historic nature of this trip.”

Another local sponsor is the Lake Superior Trading Post, which will donate some gear. Eric Humphrey, a St. Olaf graduate, was glad to help support fellow “Oles” in their quest to make history.

Earlier in the day Natalie and Ann met with world-renowned outdoor adventurer Lonnie Dupre. Dupre, they said, gave them a healthy dose of encouragement and tips for their trip. They have also contacted Anne Bancroft, another famous explorer from Ely, and she has given them useful advice and encouragement.

Raiho and Warren met in 2007 while they were on a seven-week Camp Menogyn-sponsored canoe trip to the Kazan and Kunwak Inuit Heritage Rivers on Nunavut, Canada, which ended in Baker Lake. Not long after the trip, both enrolled at St. Olaf College.

Camp Menogyn is a YMCA camp located on West Bearskin Lake and is famous in part because there are no roads leading to it. The camp is open year-round and specializes in wilderness activities like canoeing, backpacking, rock climbing, dog sledding, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Canoeing back and forth is the main mode of travel. In 2008, Ann worked as a cook at the camp. She returned the next two years and worked as a trail guide.

“After we have met our fundraising goal of $20,000, all of the remaining proceeds will be donated to Camp Menogyn,” said Ann.

One of the things that excites Natalie is that she and Ann will canoe through urban areas before traveling into the backcountry. “We’ve done a lot of back country canoeing, but have never had the chance to canoe through urban areas and meet people,” said Natalie. Their route will take them up the Minnesota River to the Red River until they hit Lake Winnipeg. There they make the long paddle along the shore of the big lake until entering the Hayes River and finish at Hudson Bay. The Hayes River is noted for its white water and both women say their 2007 trip prepared them well for the rapids they will face on the Hayes.

The trip will require them to carry a lot of gear. They have three food drops scheduled, so they won’t pack all of the food they need, but the list of items they will carry and transport includes a cooking kit, bug/ cooking tent, water bladders, bear spray, sleeping bags, life jackets, down jackets, hiking boots, rubber boots, paddling gloves, first aid kit, fuel bottle, SAT phone, stove, hatchet, rope, lighters, headlamps, camera, matches, lots of clothes including mittens and hats, and yes, a gun, just in case they run into a polar bear near the end of their journey.

While Ann is a Minnesota girl through and through—she grew up in Inver Grove Heights and has traveled to Cook County all of her life with her parents to their cabin on Saganaga Lake (they had an earlier cabin on Loon Lake but sold it)—Natalie grew up in Miami, Florida, and her parents thinks she is crazy to be living in the land of ice and snow.

“But I love it here,” said Natalie, who decided to pursue college in Minnesota after attending camp at Menogyn and becoming fast friends with Ann.

In high school, Natalie attended the New World School of Arts for saxophone performance. Besides playing ultimate Frisbee she spends her free time playing the saxophone, dressing up as a bear, and working on organic farms. Ann attended Convent of the Visitation High School and spends her free time on outdoor activities including her passion for ultimate Frisbee.

The two have been training for this adventure by running, weight lifting, playing ultimate Frisbee, and will begin paddling on the Cannon River (practicing paddling upstream, said Ann) and portaging heavy packs as they hike trails.

“We only have so much time to train and raise funds for the trip because we’re both seniors and have a lot of school work,” said Natalie.

Graduation is May 29 and Ann will leave with a degree in mathematics and a concentration in environmental studies. In a few years she is hoping to attend graduate school for population ecology. Natalie will graduate with a degree in Environmental Studies and has already participated in a higher education consortium for urban affairs (HECUA) program in Minneapolis where she learned more about the world of environmental sustainability.

Should all go well the dynamic duo will land at Hudson Bay by September 10 and get picked up at York Factory. Along the way they hope to spend time with people they meet and each will each keep a journal. “We’re not doing anything scientific on this trip, we don’t have time. But we don’t want to rush either,” said Natalie, adding that she hopes their adventure will inspire more young women to explore the outdoors.


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