Alexander Martin

Inland canoe traverse of the United States

    Photo: Photo by Alexander Martin

Some recent college grads backpack around Europe. "Zand" Martin wanted something a little more Lewis and Clark. So the 25-year-old borrowed a 33-pound canoe, drove it to Portland, Oregon, and on April 4, 2009, set off up the Columbia River Gorge toward home—Portland, Maine. "I wanted to challenge the idea that you need to go to Patagonia to find adventure," says Martin. "I liked that I was traveling through people's backyards." Going on his own steam save for a couple of rides he hitched, Martin paddled up the Columbia and Snake rivers before stopping in the border town of Weiser, Idaho, where he found an old cruiser bike on Craigslist for $30 that he retrofitted with a trailer made from scrap metal. After making it to Jackson, Wyoming, he turned north and began a 650-mile portage and paddle up and over the Continental Divide and down into Montana's Yellowstone River, where he chipped away at his ice-crusted paddle before a 400-mile portage across North Dakota. Twice during the circuitous 4,000-mile affair, he paused his journey to guide wilderness-education trips for his employer, the National Outdoor Leadership School. Seven months in, he'd made it to Minnesota's Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. "It's supposedly the most popular canoe destination in the country, but I didn't see anything besides wolves and ice for 16 days," he says. "Maybe that's because it was November." After connecting with New Hampshire's Androscoggin River via the Great Lakes and several Adirondack waterways, he floated down the Presumpscot River into Portland on September 25. Now he's thinking of crossing Eurasia. "I'd like to paddle from Portugal to Nakhodka, Russia," says Martin. "It's something like 12,000 miles. No one has come close to doing anything like that yet."

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