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Most Epic Sea Kayaking Adventures #10: North American Odyssey

Posted by on November 6, 2012

So it’s an epic adventure you’re looking for, huh?? Well, try this one on for size: 3-years to travel 11700 miles over the river and through the woods from Bellingham, WA to grandma’s house in Key West, FL…via the Arctic Circle. Substitute planes, trains, and automobiles for kayaks, canoes, and dog sleds. Oh, and lets’ throw in the added challenge of engaging thousands of school children in your travels while operating off the grid. What I’m referring to is the aptly-named “North American Odyssey.” It’s a journey so large and impactful that it may very well come to define the modern Homeric epic!

Amy and Dave Freeman of the North American Odyssey

Dave and Amy Freeman launched the “North American Odyssey” from Bellingham, WA on Earth Day 2010. The first leg of their journey found them kayaking the Inside Passage along the coast of British Columbia and the Alaskan Panhandle to Skagway, AK. From there, the couple shouldered their loads, made their way over the fabled Chilkoot Pass and canoed/hiked their way 1350 miles to a village called Inuvik; high above the Arctic Circle in Canada’s Northwest Territory. There they traded their canoe for dogsleds and covered the over 1800 miles to Ft. McMurray, Alberta. The Summer of 2011 was spent paddling the 2300 miles across Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba to Grand Portage, Minnesota in their Wenonah Itasca canoe with their beloved sled dog Fennel. On April 15th, 2012 they returned to Grand Portage with their Current Design Solstice sea kayaks. They paddled east across the Great Lakes and banged a right when they reached the Atlantic Ocean. The last time I checked, the Freemans had just passed through Plymouth, MA and had their sights set on reaching Key West, FL by April 2013.

Map of the North American Odyssey Route (Image Courtesy of the Wilderness Classroom)

Unlike many of the other adventurers on this list, the Freemans aren’t out to set any speed, distance, or “first-to-do-it” records. Their mission: to bring the wonders of nature and the thrill of adventure travel to school children around the world. The experienced outdoor educators operate an extensive, non-profit online learning center called The Wilderness Classroom. By toting along lap-top computers, solar chargers, and satellite transceivers they have been able to post hundreds of trip updates, video reports, pictures, and lesson plans throughout their adventure. Topics range from discussions about the wildlife they encounter to the various cultural experiences they’ve had along the way. At times, the Freemans have decided to “poll the audience” as a way for students to guide them in some decision-making aspects of their trip. The most ambitious part of the entire project may be accomplishing the 50+ classroom visits that the Freemans have planned along the Atlantic seaboard this year. The extent of the educational aspect of the North American Odyssey is largely unparalleled in today’s adventure travel and secures its spot in Kayak Dave’s Most Epic Sea Kayaking Adventures of All Time!

To learn more about this epic adventure check out the North American Odyssey and Wilderness Classroom websites.

Here it from Dave and Amy:

– Kayak Dave


Disclaimer: I know what a lot of you are thinking: how could I rank a 11,700 mile journey with such great educational impact at #10?? The answer is quite simple and more of a technicality than anything else. The list that I’m creating is of the “Most Epic Sea Kayaking Adventures of All Time.” The North American Odyssey consisted of multiple modes of transportation of which roughly 6300 miles (54%) was accomplished in a sea kayak. Therefore, it’s not entirely a sea kayaking adventure by definition which makes it like an orange in a basket-full of apples (it still made it into the basket though J). Otherwise it would have probably landed in the top 4 or 5.

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