The Source Runs North: A Canoe Trip across Canada

source runs north map

Shortly after the ice comes off the lakes along the Minnesota/Ontario border, The Source Runs North canoe trip will begin.

Zach, James, Bram, Axel, Paul and Quinn will launch their three canoes with a few hundred pounds of gear and food on Rainy Lake and head north. They’ll use our Expedition Plus and Black Pearl II paddles—paddles designed specifically for these kinds of epic excursions.

Their destination is Kugluktuk, a village that sits on a gulf of the Arctic Ocean in the Canadian province of Nunavut.

We asked these men to tell us more about their background, vision and preparation:

BB: You all come from different parts of the US. How do you know each other?

Source Team: We all grew up going to an all-boys summer camp in International Falls, Minnesota called Camp Kooch-i-Ching. Kooch-i-Ching focuses on wilderness tripping, especially canoeing. We go on trips ranging from six to twenty-one days, depending on the age group.

source runs north team
The Source Runs North team

Although our group of six canoeists range in age from 22-29, we all overlapped during our time at Kooch-I-Ching as campers and staff. Paul and Axel were James’, Zach’s and Bram’s counselors when they were 15-17. We especially grew closer over the past five summers when all six of us were on staff together.

Our camp has been a cornerstone in our development from boys into men. Through camp we’ve cultivated a love of service, hard work and wilderness tripping. This camp also provided us with generations of men who’ve inspired us to embark on this journey.

BB: So your camp experience has been profound. What’s the Camp’s connection with your Source Runs North trip?

Source Team: Since the 60s, Kooch boys have ventured into the Arctic. The most recent Arctic canoe trips in 2007, 2013 and 2017—mounted by both Kooch-I-Ching men, and women from our sister camp, Ogichi Dae Kwe—have inspired us to attempt our own Arctic trip.

Now, carrying on this legacy, the Camping and Education foundation has awarded us a grant that covers 50% of our budget for this trip. So one of the many ways we plan on giving back is by donating all our gear back to the camp afterwards.

This gear will be used on future Kooch-i-Ching canoe trips. It includes three 18-foot Nova Craft Prospector canoes, three 3-man Chogori 4-season tents from Nemo, 6 Pro Portage dry backpacks from Sealline, and 12 Bending Branches paddles.

aireal view of lakes and forest

BB: What are your goals for the trip?

Source Team: Our first goal is to get everyone to Kugluktuk safely! Then to have our personal bonds more tightly-woven together for the adventure and challenges we undertook.

This is our Mission Statement:

With a route challenging both resolve and skill, framed by our collective tripping philosophy, we will highlight the achievements of past Arctic expeditions and, revive the Kooch-i-Ching tripping culture of attempting longer, tougher and more epic canoe trips.

BB: What do you see as your biggest challenge on this trip?

Source Team: This is a question that’s been asked many times this winter. Collectively, the biggest challenge will be getting along with each other for 120 days of constant contact! We all come from a base of love for one another, so we hope this will help resolve any disputes or tensions that may arise.

We also know that crossing Lake Winnipeg will be very challenging, and may drastically change our trip if we end up wind-bound for days or weeks. To combat this we’ll be pushing our limits in the first portion of the trip, before Lake Winnipeg, to give us extra security time.

BB: How are you preparing physically and mentally?

Source Team: Physically, we’ve all been getting into the best shape of our lives with weight training and cardio, including swimming, rowing and running.

Ideally, come mid-April, we’ll be getting our bodies used to the high amount of calories we’ll be consuming and burning on the trip, which will be around 5,000 a day. This means intense cardio and lots of food. That’ll make the transition easier on Day 1.

Mentally, we’ve been focused on this trip since June of 2018. We keep it that way by talking on the phone as a group about once a week, along with daily messages and emails.

partner Bending Branches

For more details about The Source Runs North—the team members, the trip and photos—visit them on their website, Facebook and Instagram.

We’ll catch up with them again after their trip!

What paddle questions can we answer for you? Our Wisconsin-based customer service team is ready to help: 715-755-3405 • [email protected]

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