Steamboat residents to canoe 2,320 miles to raise money for Haiti
August 22, 2010
Steamboat Springs — Before he reached the end of a 2,178-mile hike along the Appalachian Trail last year, Michael Gutschenritter was busy dreaming up his next big adventure. Somewhere between Mount Katahdin and Springer Mountain, he decided he was ready to taste the freedom that comes with another cross-country trip and paddle down the Mississippi River.
Seven months ago, the dream finally became a date on a calendar in Steamboat Springs, when he and his cousin Louis Gutschenritter were experiencing a case of cabin fever.
"Getting that crazy feeling of freedom and a little bit of madness on a long trip is what life is all about for me," Michael Gutschenritter said. "I'm always ready for the next big adventure."
In February, he and Louis Gutschenritter plotted a 2,320-mile canoe trip from Lake Itasca, Minn., down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico. Then the trip gained a cause.
"I had always felt that doing these long-distance trips had always been a little selfish," Michael Gutschenritter said. "Louis agreed, so we started doing some research on Haiti."
The Gutschenritters, fellow Steamboat resident Brett Poche, and at least seven other people from across the country will begin to paddle down the Mississippi River on Sept. 3 to attempt to raise $50,000 dollars that will be donated to the Lambi Fund of Haiti.
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The funds will be used to help rebuild infrastructure and homes that were lost in the wake of a devastating earthquake that struck the island nation in January.
The trip, named Paddle to Haiti, will include three major fundraising events in Minneapolis, St. Louis and Baton Rouge, La., The events will include barbecues and concerts. Louis Gutschenritter was busy this week placing phone calls to concert venues, hoping to attract bands that they could use to raise the funds.
He said that on some nights, the paddlers don't know where they will be sleeping.
"There will be a lot of camping," he said. "I imagine some nights we will be sleeping on uninhabited islands or bunking up with friends who live in towns along the way."
Louis Gutschenritter also is no stranger to long adventures.
He rode a mountain bike 1,000 miles from Atlanta to Key West, Fla., last year to raise money for the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation.
After dunking his bike tire in the Atlantic Ocean, he remembered the stitches and the stolen bikes, but he couldn't stop thinking about the people he had met along the way.
He's looking forward to meeting some more along the Mississippi.
"We've been wanting to see America," he said. "The Mississippi is the main vein, and I really want to explore the small towns and the people in those small towns and get to know them."
The group will paddle between 15 and 25 miles a day until the river begins to speed up after they leave St. Louis because of the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers.
Then, they will be traveling nearly 30 miles a day and will hope to see the muddy waters of the Mississippi fade into the blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico in December.