Before putting off in kayaks on the morning of April 3, husband and wife Dave and Amy Freeman rolled up their sleeping bags, jammed their extra clothes and gear into stuff sacks, and savored every last detail of the chores associated with packing up their campsite on the Florida coast. Advisable or not, Dave took a moment to inhale the fumes of the camp stove as he took it apart. "Usually we don’t even really think about it because it is part of our daily routine," he wrote on the Wilderness Classroom blog. "However, this was our last time taking down camp before we finished our 11,700 mile journey across North America."
Shortly after 100 of their friends cross-country skied, ice skated, and mushed to their Ely, Minnesota, wedding, the couple took off on a three-year honeymoon. They kayaked up the West Coast of North America, mushed across the Northwest Territories, and kayaked east to the Atlantic Ocean and over sharks on their way down to Key West.
Along the way, they posted daily blogs, videos, and podcasts updating their progress, conferenced into classrooms using a satellite phone, and stopped and held school assemblies when they could. They estimate the effort helped them teach 100,000 students about the value of the outdoors—something they say is essential now, more than ever.
We need future generations of paddlers, hikers, bikers and climbers who will lead healthy, active lives, and appreciate and protect our lakes, rivers, oceans and the wild places they connect. According to the Outdoor Foundation’s 2011 Outdoor Recreation Participation Report, participation rates for kids ages six to 17 have steadily declined since 2006. In some age brackets, participation rates have dropped by as much as 16 percent. The report also reveals that 37 percent of kids who consider themselves outdoor participants get outside less than twice a month. —Dave told Outside in May, 2012
On that last day of the trip in April, they soaked in every detail so they had more to share after landing in Key West. They watched as a dinner-plate-sized sea turtle zizagged beneath their boats, a five-foot-wide eagle ray glided smoothly past, and a three-foot-long nurse shark rested on the sandy bottom—opening and closing its gills ever so slowly.
Once they landed, Dave took some time to ponder the most amazing thing about the couple's 10-million-paddle-stroke journey. "I think the fact that Amy and I are closer than we were when we dipped our paddles into the Pacific Ocean nearly three years ago is our biggest accomplishment," he wrote.