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Let the adventure begin! | Mizzou Wire | University of Missouri

Sunset on the Missouri River, Cooper's Landing, Columbia, MO

Let the adventure begin! | Mizzou Wire | University of Missouri.

Let the adventure begin!

New Mizzou graduate plans record-setting kayaking expedition

  • Story by Nancy Moen
  • Photos by Shane Epping
  • Published: Dec. 7, 2012

December Mizzou graduate Janet Moreland plans to make history on a solo kayaking expedition this spring — and hopes to incorporate her adventures into a middle school curriculum. She’s equipped with 16 years of kayaking experience and a brand-new bachelor’s degree from the MU College of Education.

At 56 and with a new bachelor’s degree from the MU College of Education, one nontraditional student leaves Mizzou to pursue an adventure she’s been dreaming of for years. In May, Janet Moreland will embark on a solo kayaking expedition of the Missouri River from its headwaters at Three Forks, Mont., to St. Louis, a 2,320-mile span of paddling and portaging.

Moreland hopes to become the first woman to navigate that length of the Missouri River solo by kayak and to use the expedition as a teaching tool for social studies and science classes. She views the river as a “living laboratory” for teaching middle-school students about cultural history, geography, the natural environment and social interactions.

Just the thought of the approaching adventure wakes her up at night. “Maybe I’m an adrenalin junkie,” Moreland says.

Moreland’s journey will take three months, far less time than the 20 years she invested in working on a bachelor’s degree in education.

Extreme journey

Moreland has been training for her river adventure for years. The self-described river rat has been kayaking for 16 years, with nine of those on the Missouri River. She runs two miles every other day and has been jogging most of her life.

Moreland will need mental endurance as well as physical stamina to be on the river for days on end. As lonely as the expedition seems, Moreland will find support from a network of kayakers.

There will be fishermen, boaters and towns along the way, but Moreland could spend 10 days to two weeks on the river with no sign of civilization. She says solitude doesn’t bother her; she once lived alone in a house on 220 acres: “I’ve always been extremely independent. The solitude is something I look forward to.”

The tradeoff is the extraordinary beauty she’ll experience. The first 300 miles of the expedition will be engagingly scenic, and if she’s paddling on a cloudy night, light from the towns will reflect off the clouds to show her the way.

But the seven to nine big lakes along the route will offer challenges. One of those lakes is 230 miles long. Moreland’s major concern, however, is wind. Gusts along the river can reach 70 miles an hour, and if the winds are too strong, she’ll need to paddle at night when they die down.

Moreland caught the lure of extreme kayaking seven years ago after meeting paddler Dave Miller, author of The Complete Paddler. Miller had stopped for breakfast at Cooper’s Landing on the Missouri River, where Moreland cooked on Saturday mornings.

She was further hooked after another paddler, Norm Miller of Montana, said he believed she could be the first woman to kayak the entire length of the river solo. In 2004, Norm Miller (no relation to Dave Miller) paddled and hiked the Lewis and Clark route.

Janet MorelandIn September Moreland retired from her job in the MU Sustainability Office. A longtime environmentalist, Moreland thrives on outdoor adventures.

Wilderness and wildlife

Moreland will take an assortment of essential supplies for her journey, and she’ll refresh her two-week food and water supply in the river towns.

She’ll pack an expedition tent that can handle wind, a cook stove, a two-wheel trailer to portage her kayak around the dams, a sleeping bag, warm clothes and boots. She’ll take a flint stone as an emergency fire starter and a hatchet for chopping firewood, building windbreaks and cutting her way through river brush and vegetation.

She’ll keep bear spray on hand for any encounters with grizzly bears.

Because cell phone service will be scarce, she’ll use a laptop to post blogs and update her journal, forming the basis of a book she plans to write. A video camera attached to her kayak will capture images.

Moreland’s students and the public can follow her adventures at loveyourbigmuddy.com.

Trailblazing teacher

“Life is a journey. Live fast. Paddle slow,” sums up Moreland’s philosophy of life and love of adventure. Her goal as a teacher is to show students that it’s possible to follow their dreams, even those dreams considered out of reach.

“Children need to learn to believe they can make things happen they didn’t think were possible, and I want women to know that, too,” she says.

A lifetime of challenges that would test any adventurous spirit has seriously overqualified Moreland for extreme adventure.

She lived alone in Hawaii in the most remote part of the island and in Yosemite National Park. She worked as the first certified female member of a ski patrol in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains, routinely doing avalanche control with dynamite and sometimes “under-the-rope” skiing on unpatrolled slopes.

She taught wind surfing and tried skydiving. She worked as a commercial salmon fisher in Southeast Alaska and as a carpenter in Bear Valley, Calif., repairing snow-damaged houses and, with two other carpenters, building a redwood house “from the ground up.”

Moreland’s quest for an education degree began in San Francisco, when her daughter, Haley Rose, was in preschool. Attending college part time, Moreland took classes here and there, fitting course work between moves, jobs and family responsibilities.

She moved to Columbia in 1996 after two years in Springfield, Mo., and, in 2005, decided to get serious about a Mizzou degree while working at the university. She retired recently from the Sustainability Office, where she worked on MU’s projects in environmental responsibility.

Her interest in kayaking developed after she learned her house was just down the road from the Missouri River. She drove to Coopers Landing and discovered the river.

“All of a sudden Columbia became home for me,” she says.

Teachable moments

Moreland plans to use her solo kayaking adventure as the basis of a curriculum on river sustainability and stewardship, as well as to build self-esteem in adolescents.

She’s greatly appreciative of and works locally with Missouri River Relief, a volunteer nonprofit organization dedicated to the health of the Missouri River. The organization connects children, teachers and the public to the Missouri River through clean-up activities and educational events.

Partly because of that group, the Missouri River is an “incredibly clean, beautiful wilderness waterway,” Moreland says.

Moreland’s river explorations will continue after she completes this summer’s expedition. She plans to paddle down the Mississippi River, from St. Louis to New Orleans, in summer 2014.

Moreland completed a student-teaching internship during the fall semester at Jefferson Junior High School. She will work as a substitute teacher for Columbia Public Schools in spring semester, while applying for a permanent position after her adventure.

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Approaching a Major Confluence

meandwingdike

Often in life we start new chapters.  These milestones are times of exhilaration and anticipation of experiences in which we are not necessarily in control.  “Positive believing equals positive receiving” has always been my mantra.

In two days I will have achieved a milestone in my life.  A goal always present, always on hold, since the day I dropped out of college at Humboldt State University in 1974.  It was the first day of my third quarter of college when I called my mom and told her I was moving to Montana with three of my friends.  As it turned out, we decided if we could move to Montana, we might as well move to Hawaii! So we did!  My mother let me keep the $250 check she mailed to me for books a few days before.  I told her, “Experience is the best teacher,  I will finish college later.”  In two days I will fulfill that promise to my mother, and to myself.

I have been busy student teaching as part of my internship for the last 16 weeks.  For ten weeks I taught 8th grade Social Studies, and for six weeks I have been teaching 8th grade Science.  This coming Friday is my last day.  I have been an apprentice working with masters of the trade at Jefferson Junior High School:  Mrs. Tracy Worthington (Social Studies) and Mrs. Jennifer Szydlowski (Science).  To these two women I am forever grateful for their expertise, patience, graciousness, and support.  This experience is one I will never forget.  I love teaching, and they have contributed to this passion.

I share all of this here because I have had to suspend much of my expedition planning.  I contacted a few potential sponsors over Thanksgiving break (I had five days off) only to be informed by one that, “Once you get this initial trip under your belt and begin to cultivate a sizable following on your blog, social media pages (you would need to have your own), aggregate additional sponsors, and generate significant media attention (both for yourself and your cause), we would be more than happy to revisit a sponsorship with you for future expeditions or projects of this type.”  This response was from DeLorme inReach with regard to their satellite tracking and communication device and sponsorship I requested from them.  I know that I need to start small and local, but I was thinking more “priority first.”  A satellite tracking and navigation device is high priority for my trip.

Fair enough.  I have not had time to promote myself, which does not come naturally to me anyway.  However,  after Friday I am free from school and work obligations until January 2.

I have reached a major confluence in life where my life lived thus far will join with my future, bright and mysterious.

Saturday I am attending a Missouri Environmental Education Association conference held at the University of Missouri.  I hope to get ideas and network with potential innovators regarding education.  I was honored to attend Missouri River Relief’s Education Committee meeting the other night.  Great things are happening with their organization’s  river education component.  I am proud to know them and help promote their mission and vision.

One other thing:  my expedition story will be published any day on the University of Missouri’s home page as a banner story, written by Nancy Moen, who is retired from MU Publications and now a free-lance writer.  I will be posting on this blog when that happens.  MU’s chief photographer, Shane Epping, shot some photos of me on the river a while back to accompany the story.  We were blessed with phenomenal lighting just before sunset.  Shane is also best friends with our beloved river rat Beatriz Jean Wallace who has begun a new chapter in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania recently.  The Missouri River is all about relationships and community and family.

Anyway, I write this because I can’t sleep at night knowing about all of the things I have to do, people I have to contact, knowledge I must learn, and information I want to share as I begin some serious planning for this epic journey down the Big Muddy.  I feel I have reached a confluence if life, the merging of my life thus far and the bright and mysterious future ahead.  I have so many things racing through my head.

(Oh, and I also talked to journalism student, Tina Casagrand, and ex-President of Sustain Mizzou, a student environmental org, and she has offered to produce a Kick-Start video for me and help me include a PayPal link on this blog site.)

With all that said, life is good.  Thanks for listening.  Sweet sleep to all, and to all a good night.  (Oh, and I can’t wait to finally make it to Montana!) 🙂

Categories: Planning, Reflection | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Big Muddy Adventures: an alternative way of teaching, from the river.

Mike Clark
Big Muddy Adventures, Proprietor
Big Muddy Mike“Big Muddy” Mike Clark is one of the most accomplished canoeists and guides in America.  He has over 10,000 miles of big river experience and has led thousands of people in large and small groups on guided river trips since 2001.  He has completed entire navigations of the Mississippi River (2001), Missouri River (2002, 2005-2006), Yellowstone River (2006), and Sunflower River (2004, 2005, 2007, 2008).  He is the founder of Big Muddy Adventures.  Michael is also a veteran elementary and middle school teacher and currently teaches computers, science and history part time at St. Ann Catholic School in Normandy, MO.

Annually, Mike leads a live learning adventure expedition for school children across North America — connecting our youth with our rivers. Mike Clark is a youth leader and truly a Steward and Champion of America’s Rivers. He has won a number of awards, including the Pekatanoui Award for non-motorized River Cleanups and in March 2012 was recognized as a “Hero of the New South” by Southern Living Magazine for his work as a river steward and river guide.

I love what Big Muddy Adventures is all about.  You can learn more here.

Categories: Education, Missouri River | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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