Tuesday, September 18, 2018
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Canoeing with the Cree 75 years later
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Todd Foster, in front, and Scott Miller, behind him, are traveling to Canada's Hudson Bay, by canoe. The two will follow a route made famous in Eric Sevareid's book "Canoeing with the Cree". (MPR Photo/Tim Post)
Eric Sevareid made his name as a CBS news correspondent. But at a young age, Sevareid experienced an adventure most only dream of. In 1930, as a teenager fresh out of a Minneapolis high school, he took a 2,200-mile canoe trip to Canada's Hudson Bay with friend Walter Port. Sevareid detailed the journey in his book "Canoeing with the Cree". Now to mark the 75th anniversary of Sevareid's journey, two Minnesota men plan to make the same trip.

St. Cloud, Minn. — Todd Foster and Scott Miller are packing for the biggest trip of their lives. Boxes of freeze-dried food, oatmeal, cookies and crackers are piled high around Foster's St. Cloud home. In the kitchen, they're grinding up ingredients for a super sweet, high calorie beverage they'll mix with water and drink while canoeing. They've spent two years planning for a 2,200-mile canoe trip into Canada. Their inspiration comes from the book "Canoeing with the Cree". Foster discovered the book a couple of years ago in a library.

"I read the dust jacket and said 'Wow this is a really cool book'. So I checked it out that evening, and I read it cover to cover that night. The next morning I called Scott and said 'Hey, you should read this book and we should do this trip'," Foster says.

The book was written by Eric Sevareid. Sevareid, who died in 1992, is well-known for his four decades in television and radio. His breakthrough came as a foreign correspondent for CBS radio during World War II. Sevareid worked with Edward R. Murrow, filing reports from Paris as the German invasion of France began.

Sevareid's reporting was intellectual and adventurous. For Jan Olson that's also a good description of the man himself. Sevareid was Olson's uncle. Uncle Bud, as she called him, credited his success in life to his four month canoe trip into Canada at age 17.

"He told my parents he learned his perseverance through his canoe journey. So that took him a long way...he never gave up," Olson said.

Despite that, Olson said her uncle admitted he might not have made the trip had he'd known the difficulties ahead. Sevareid faced blistering heat, freezing temperatures, clouds of insects and a shortage of food that nearly ended the trip.

Those are the challenges Todd Foster and Scott Miller say they're prepared for today. With the help of plenty of high tech equipment, and ten hour days of paddling, the two think they can make the trip in 110 days.

Foster, who's stocky and strong with a close cropped beard, has found the adventure he's been waiting for all his life.

"After I asked Scott to go on the trip and he said yes, I said 'Hang on a second, I really should check with my wife first'. So I said 'Hey Molly, there's this book and we want to do this trip and what do you think about this?' and she said 'That's the chance of a lifetime. We can figure out how to pay rent and insurance so go for it'," Foster said.

Foster has been canoeing with Miller, who lives in St. Paul, for over a decade. Miller is lanky and built like a long distance runner. When asked why he's taking this trip, he's got a simple answer.

"I like canoeing. I like being out with Todd. Paddling for 10 days has been fun, so why do it for 110 days? I don't know if I'd do just any 110 day canoe trip, but this one was particularly captivating for me because it's from our hometowns and has the interesting historic aspect to it," Miller said.

Scott Miller and Todd Foster will launch their 18-foot canoe into the Sauk River behind Foster's St. Cloud home. They'll make their way to the Mississippi, then follow the Minnesota River to the Red River north into Canada.

They'll cross Lake Winnipeg, and then face 500 more miles of river to Hudson Bay. They plan to to take their copies of "Canoeing with the Cree" so they can compare their experiences with those of Eric Sevareid. It's an adventure they hope to finish by August 20.

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