Paddling a canoe for up to 12 hours a day, sometimes while covered in ice, may not be every person's idea of a good time, but for six outdoor adventurers, that's exactly what they'll be doing until September. Iowans Luke Kimmes and Jarrad Moore, along with four other intrepid explorers, have set out on a nine-month, 5,200-mile canoe trip that involves paddling upstream from the Gulf of Mexico to the Arctic Ocean—along a route the Des Moines Register says has never been traveled. "This is the type of trip I dreamt about when I was a kid," Kimmes tells the Register, which also documents the scheduled route, set to snake through 10 states and five Canadian provinces using a 2,000-mile stretch of the Mississippi River, followed by 10 smaller rivers up to the Arctic.
The guys taking part in this ambitious journey, dubbed the Rediscovering North America expedition, have experienced their fair share of canoeing challenges since they pushed offshore on Jan. 2: There's ice, strong winds, and the pain of paddling for hours on end. "Mentally, I don't ever think about that. … We have to keep pushing forward," Moore tells Steamboat Today. There's also their greatest fear. "[Tipping is] always in the back of our heads," Kimmes tells the newspaper. "It's life-threatening and extremely dangerous." But they've met plenty of friendly folks along the way (Kimmes recalls one man who invited them ashore for some brats and beans) and have the chance to see the American landscape at a slower pace and reap the benefits of escaping the 9-to-5. "Getting outside and enjoying the environment is good for the soul," Kimmes tells the Register. "It's a lot better than sitting at a desk." (Looking for your own adventure? Search for these hidden treasures.)