Arctic Expedition Begins

Have you been keeping up with the 8 Rivers North Expedition? There are posts on Facebook and you can follow along with their journey by checking out their Spot Locator tracks. Hear about what they are eating(cheese & summer sausage), how far they are paddling each day and other exciting updates about their journey. There’s even an article about them in Canoe and Kayak. Please keep these paddlers in your prayers for a safe journey.

M-L grad leaves for epic arctic adventure

Submitted by editor on Wed, 06/25/2014 – 8:12am

A Montgomery woman embarked on an epic arctic adventure on June 18.

Tessa Olson, daughter of Gary and Debbie Olson, and five friends began a 900-mile trek on June 18, from northern Saskatchewan to Whale Cove on Hudson Bay.

“Our expedition this summer will leave from the Waterfound River in Northern Saskatchewan. From there the crew of six will traverse 900 miles through boreal forest into the barren lands to end the trip paddling on the tide flats of Hudson Bay in Whale Cove, Nunavut,” Olson said. “We are calling ourselves the 8 Rivers North Expedition because of the rivers we will follow on our journey north. We are all wilderness enthusiasts and we want to inspire and encourage both preservation and use of wilderness.”

The mission of the trip is to educate people about the wilderness and importance of preserving it. They aim to share their adventure through presentations, blog posts, social media (Facebook “8 Rivers North Expedition”) and their web page at

Since graduating from Montgomery-Lonsdale High School in 2008, Olson spent four years attending the University of Minnesota Duluth where she received a bachelor of arts in international studies and a graduate certificate in environmental education. Olson is very familiar with the environment, having spent a lot of time in the Boundary Waters.

“During each summer while attending college I worked at the end of the Gunflint Trail for Voyageur Canoe Outfitters. Here I became hooked on back country traveling and paddling through serene places,” she said. “I made some friends there that will be going on this adventure with me this summer. Since graduating from University I have spent the last two years as a naturalist and environmental educator at Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center in Finland.”

One of the crew members on the 8 Rivers North Expedition is Adam Maxwell, who has done two other expeditions like this one. Olson said one was traveling from Lake Superior to Hudson Bay, and the other one was traversing the Churchill River with other naturalists Ryan Ritter from Owatonna and Jake Bendel from Lakeville. The other crew members on this year’s expedition are Alex Compton and Kari Smerud.

According to the team’s webpage, Olson is right at home in nature.

“I am a Naturalist and environmental educator. Currently I am teaching at Wolf-Ridge environmental learning center in north eastern Minnesota. I teach students a variety of subjects from canoeing to renewable energy, and cross country skiing outdoors everyday. Working in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness provided opportunities for my first wilderness experiences. This was where I first developed a deep sense of place in the backwoods. I worked with Voyageur Canoe Outfitters to provide services for novice and experienced canoe camping enthusiasts, occasionally acting as a wilderness guide. This past summer I explored a new wilderness out in Alaska, back backing and working as a Naturalist on the Kenai Peninsula. I am seeking a new adventure and I have been dreaming of the Far North and its mysterious rivers for a long time. I want to experience wilderness for an extended expedition and explore the tundra. Another personal goal for the trip is to be able to share stories of our expedition and use these stories as a way to educate people on the importance of the world’s wild places.”

According to Maxwell, this kind of trip isn’t for everyone. The first week out, he said, can still seem like a vacation. But after that, Maxwell and his five fellow paddlers will get into a groove that will let them paddle as hard as they wish.

Olson and her team didn’t even begin their expedition until after they had driven 47 hours from Duluth to the trip’s starting point. Once they departed, the group won’t come across any roads or towns for almost two months, crossing one waterway to another en route to their final destination, approximately 60 days after it began.

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