Monday, March 1, 2010

Once Around the Block

Report from
Naples News
by Elizabeth Keller

In December, Jake Stachovak put his paddle into the waters of the Wisconsin River and began what he is calling the Portage-to-Portage Paddling Project. The journey’s route so far has taken Stachovak down the Mississippi River and into the Gulf of Mexico, and will ultimately loop over to and up the East Coast, into the New York Canal System and the Great Lakes, and finally returning him to the town of Portage, Wis., where he began.

Stachovak said the trip is expected to conclude in October. There’s no special cause or mission attached to the effort, but the 34-year-old Stachovak is a lifelong outdoorsman and paddlesports enthusiast. Last year, he challenged himself to paddle 100 different boats in 100 days, recording the results on a blog.

He’s also keeping an online record of his Portage project,

He paddles an average of 25 miles daily, allowing for the occasional day that must be excluded for inclement weather. Still, the biggest nuisances have come not from nature, but humans: On New Year’s Day in Vicksburg, Miss., he was hospitalized after two prank-playing teenagers pepper-sprayed him. Earlier in the trip, he had his gear stolen, too.

“Other than that, things have been going very smoothly,” he said.

The trip has had some highly memorable paddling moments. The Mississippi River was demanding throughout, Stachovak said, akin to paddling on a highway. When he exited it at a canal just below New Orleans and entered the peaceful Gulf of Mexico, it was a revelation.

Stachovak said he knew then that he was able “to actually own this thing.”

By his own admission, Stachovak is not trying to make this trip more arduous than it needs to be; he is happy to accept a warm meal and a soft guest bed, not only for the creature comfort they provide, but also because it helps him meet people who live along his route.

“It’s been really cool,” he said. “I’ve met some fantastic people.”

As he notes on his blog, his trip may be long, but it’s not exploring areas that are previously unexplored, or especially remote. Instead, he’s interested in experiencing the American wilderness and communities, and showing how “we are linked by water.”

“It’s really just to see what’s out there, what’s along the way,” Stachovak said.

Jake's current location is near Fort Lauderdale. He should be paddling through the Georgia Coast in about three weeks time.

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