This site will be updated over the next few weeks with stories, photos and details of our trip.
By Dan Hopwood on 9th Sept 2007
Here is a paragraph to summarise the last 3 months of adventure as best as I can from a laptop in New Orleans. When I get home I will totally revamp the site with stories, a diary, gallery and tips
for other disabled adventurers. Please come back periodically to our web site.
I came on this adventure for a tough personal challenge with two of the best mates a bloke could wish for. We
worked together consistently for 3 tough months. Most mornings we were up between 4 and 5. We averaged 40 miles per day. Non of it
involved floating down a river. It was tough hard work in heat exceeding 110 degree f (40 degrees C)
and on our best day completed 69.95 miles! However, it was some of the best times of our life.
We met some of the most amazing people. More than we ever envisaged whilst planning our trip.
Kevin & family, Mike C (Wenonah Canoes), Darcy & family, Rolly, Bob & Ray, John & Sancy Courson and friends, LaCrosse friends,
and many many more amazing people. You all know who you are. Thanks for everything. It wouldn't have been the same without you.
One of the reasons I undertook this trip was to show people that with good family, friends, planning and training people with disabilities can
achieve as much as the toughest able bodied person. I hope we went some way to showing that.
There's a saying in the Paras (British Airborne). "BETTER TO JUMP AND DIE THAN NOT JUMP AT ALL".
Don't take it too literally, but think about it!!!!
7th September 2007.
It is official, the challenge has come to an end. The lads arrived in Gretna on the west bank of the Mississippi River,
down town New Orleans! The monumental occasion took place as dusk approached on September 7th at 7.28pm after a 58 mile day, the crew said this was their hardest day ever!
This particular day started at 4.30am, the first 25 miles was covered by 10.45am and the going was good however all this was due to change. The wind and rain started, continuing through
this was a torment with 4-6 foot swells and chopping waves from every angle. Just still on schedule, but by mid afternoon the heavens truly opened, an angry black cloud engulfed the sky, winds picked up to 40-50 mph, a true thunder and lightning storm. Through no choice yet again a turn was made swiftly towards the river bank seeking shelter and safety. After about an hour it passed and they set off again, the deadline to meet the photo crew with sufficient light was only just in reach.
6th September 2007.
Well well well, the goal is a whisker away, they are expected to roll in around 7 o'clock tomorrow evening, Friday. The river has slowed down now as expected, a 60 miles push is required, however
with these slower conditions what was relatively easily achieved before now is somewhat more of a challenge. I suspect this final day without any doubt will be one of their hardest. It will start at 4.30am, still dark, break camp, afloat by 5.30,
oats with cold water for breakfast as usual, this should take them to around 6 o'clock. Set up for the day paddling will begin, a faster pace than usual due to the deadline, a photo journalist in New Orleans, Mr Charlie Varley. We expect to see them this evening at the official
finish point on the west side of the river, a good 13 hour paddle!
I'm off down the liquor store to find some Champagne, think they may be in need of a little drink that night, await the photos!!
2nd September 2007.
Today another milestone was reached, they burst through the 2000 point around mid afternoon, a good sense of achievment.
The last two states are on either side of them now, Louisanna to the west and Mississippi east.
1st September 2007.
Currently now just south of Vicksbourg, the past few days they haven't managed to keep the average mileage up due to bad storms on Thursday
and the need to re-supply on the Friday. Brother Iain and I drove down and met the crew Thursday, but due to the weather they never made the ronda view point in Vicksbourg, so we drove north to Madison Parish, here at a limestone facility we caught
up and dropped off some food along with a new camera for Dan B, let the footage continue.
28th August 2007.
So here we go, it's me again Stu Mackinnon updating from dry land! The crew set off in my absence, (a sad day!) on Sat 25th around 10.30am, there was quite a
congregation of people we had managed to muster up due to our extended stay in Memphis. Channel 3 news complete with TV crews joined, cut and paste this link to see the article, http://www.wreg.com/Global/story.asp?s=6982446.
We would like to thank Ricky from MMS Equipment Sales who helped us store and transport the canoe, he ran us around and brought food, fantastic spag bol! That day after the late
start 40 warm up miles was achieved.
The next two days they accomplished a 68 miler followed by a 69, this particular day they broke a record hitting 30 miles by 11.15am, we're always setting ourselves little
challenges and goals, a good motivational tactic, we arrived that evening in a small town near Arkensas City.
Here the boys met up with a 21 year old lad, Matt, with a similar spinal injury to Dan H, we would like to thank his parents John and Sancy Courson for their fine hospitality.
The river now is generally rising by 2 feet per day due to the excessive rainfall in the north, it hasn't necessarily got any faster but there is a lot more debris which takes some avoiding and some of the dykes/wing dams are submerged.
The beautiful sand bars which were in so abundance before are mainly submerged now, therefore making it trickier to find a decent camping spot, life's tough!
21st August 2007
By Dan H - The last 2 weeks have been full of un-expected and un-wanted drama. We stopped in Memphis, TN for an intended break
of 1 to 2 nights. On arriving at our hotel in Downtown Memphis I inspected a small skin injury on my hip. It was considerably worse than expected. Although this is a problem it was not a disaster as I had
planned contingency days into our schedule for just an occasion. We decided to rest up in Memphis and I would stay in bed until it healed (1 -2 weeks).
While I was resting in bed Stu landed awkwardly while jumping over a small fence and shattered his heal in 4 places.
The police called an ambulance, which took him to hospital. The injury is quite serious and Stu has undergone an operation to re-build his heal with metal pins.
This ensured he was in hospital for a week and is now unable to continue.
Part of this trip is about overcoming adversity. Dan and I therefore decided to continue and complete the adventure. I phone called my mate who served in The Parachute Regiment
with me. Steve O'Reilly (biog to follow)from Newark, Notts, will now fly over to Memphis and complete the 750 remaining miles of our adventure. He will face the most dangerous part
of the river. 750 tough, fast and hot miles will take us past New Orleans and to the Gulf. Steve served with me for 4 years in the British Airborne regiment so I have no doubts that he has the qualities
to step in at such short notice!
By Stu MacKinnon - The accident happened just over a week ago now they released me out of hospital after a total of 7 days,
it hurts me more knowing now I can't complete this challenge than it actually does physically. The break to my right calcaneum (heel) bone however is quite serious, they have secured a plate
to the outside of my heel with a total number of 10 screws, 1 of them appearing to be approximately 3 inches in length!
The remainder of my time here in the US will consist of closely following the lads progress and acting as back up,
I really need to rest for another week so the swelling and pain can subside which I will take here in Memphis. My plan will be to meet the lads in New Orleans and be there for when they reach the final goal, mile marker '0'.
From the moment we left the river we have experienced a heat wave, the average temperature over 100 degrees,
without any doubt paddling in this temperature would carry some serious complications.
However north in the Mid West they have been experiencing some of the worst rainfall on record, 1/3 rd of the rainfall in continental USA will drain down the Mississippi river, should make things a little more exciting for you chaps!!
3rd August 2007.
We are currently having
a rough few days, the heat has at times, been unbearable and last
night we had to camp on rocks as there was a warning of a bad
Our day begins at half past
4 in the morning to avoid the heat and we are hoping to rest and
keep out of the midday sun and then continue with our days paddling.
This seems to be the only way we can cover the miles and stay
safe within the extreme heat of the south.
We have enclosed some pictures
of our journey so far, as you can see there is some beautiful
scenery and as a picture can convey a thousand words, it just
portrays what we have been experiencing over the past 2 months.
1st August 2007
We have now completed over
half of our challenge! We have had an enjoyable yet productive week.
We have had a few well deserved days off in
Alton, St Louis where we met the mayor of the town and were interviewed
for the paper, television news and radio! In St Louis they named
the day, Mississippi Canoe Challenge, this is a tremendous honour.
Thanks to the mayor of St Louis we were able
to get the best night sleep we have had so far in the 5 star Hilton
Hotel, St Louis. It had beds and showers, wow! We really appreciated
this treat and it was just what we required to recharge our batteries
and boost morale.
After our luxurious stay at the Hilton, on
Sunday we easily completed 61 miles within 10 hours on the river.
The river is much deeper and is therefore flowing at a much faster
rate which is assisting our journey however; it has been a little
frightening at times.
With the extra flow from the river we are
now completing about 50 miles a day and are hoping to be finished
within the next 20days. We are still facing many challenges along
the way such as fast currents, commercial traffic, the high and
humid temperatures and Dan H is suffering from a few sores.
We all in good spirits and continue to be
highly motivated to complete our amazing challenge which is the
equivalent of paddling from Uttoxeter to the south of Spain. Thank
you to everyone whether it is at home or in America for all your
encouragement and support, it would not be possible to achieve
so much without you.
We would like to give a special thank you
to Matt Glover who has kindly with the support of Natwest Bank
donated £1,000 to our cause.
A donation no matter
how big or small all contributes to the thoroughly worthwhile
cause Spinal Research which will help people in similar situations
ours. Keep donating!
22nd July 2007.
THIS LAST WEEK THE WEATHER
TURNED AGAINST US, WE HAVE HAD TORRENTIAL RAIN, THUNDER STORMS AND
TORNADO WARNINGS SO WE HAD TO STAY OFF THE RIVER FOR LONGER THAN
WAS ANTICIPATED. THEN OF COURSE AS YOU CAN IMAGINE EVERYTHING IS
WET THROUGH! THE WIND HAS ALSO BEEN EXTREMELY STRONG, AND DURING
ONE NIGHT THE KIT OUTSIDE WAS BLOWN ALL OVER THE PLACE! IT MAKES
IT MUCH TOUGHER TO PADDLE TOO.
HOWEVER, WE ARE STILL CURRENTLY MANAGING TO
DO 30-35 MILES A DAY. AS WE GO FURTHER SOUTH THE NIGHTS ARE DRAWING
IN, SO IT’S EVEN MORE IMPORTANT TO BE UP AND AWAY AT DAWN
EACH MORNING. THERE ARE LESS CAMP SITES NOW SO WE JUST GET OUT
OF THE CANOE ON A SANDY AREA, PUT THE TENT UP, FEED OURSELVES
AND GO TO BED. DAN’S WHEELCHAIR IS GETTING CLOGGED UP WITH
SAND AS IS ALL THE OTHER KIT!
FRIDAY SAW US PASS THROUGH KEOKUK, MISSOURI
AND 30 MILES BELOW THIS HAILED US ACHIEVING 1,000 MILES. SIX MORE
DAYS AND WE SHOULD REACH ST LOUIS. 200 MILES FURTHER SOUTH THERE
WILL BE NO MORE LOCKS TO NEGOTIATE, THE SHIPPING TRAFFIC HAS PRIORITY
SO WE HAVE TO WAIT OUR TURN – THERE ARE BARGES AS LONG AS
A FOOTBALL PITCHES AND NOT MANY CANOES ABOUT NOW!
WE ARE MEETING MANY PEOPLE WHO ARE BEING VERY
HOSPITABLE AND GENUINELY WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT OUR CHALLENGE
AND WHY WE ARE ATTEMPTING IT, BUT WE KNOW WHY!
MET A NICE GUY THE OTHER DAY, NAMED TEX FROM TEXAS! HE AND HIS
WIFE ARE DOING THE RIVER ON A HOUSE BOAT, THEY KINDLY ENTERTAINED
US TO VENISON AND SAUSAGES, VERY WELCOME. WE ALSO UNDERSTAND THERE
IS ANOTHER PERSON WHO IS TRYING TO CATCH US UP – HE IS A
CANOEST WITH ONE LEG, BUT AT THE MOMENT HIS BACK UP BOAT IS IN
DOCK. WE DON’T HAVE THAT PROBLEM!
THERE WILL BE NO MORE NEWS UNTIL AT LEAST
31.7.07 AS THE PERSON UPDATING THE WEB SITE IS GOING HOLIDAY,
KEEP DONATING AND
THANKS FOR FOLLOWING US.
the past few days we have worked hard to get some mileage behind
us and we have passed through some very picturesque sites and towns
such as La Crosse, Dubuque and recently Clinton.
The weather is warm
and the river is quite muddy rather than sandy now so there is
plenty of washing for us to do when we reach the next campsite!
We are currently averaging at 40 to 50 miles a day although we
regularly have locks and beaver dams to contend with. We have
now completed 840 miles of our trip only 1501 to go!
We are all in good
spirits and we even managed to have a few beers last night!! Today
we are hydrating before we set off for another 12 hour day on
We are overwhelmed
by everyone’s kindness and generosity we have received along
the way, we can not thank you enough for all your support and
it is making our trip even more memorable.
have added some photos to some updates further down this page.
Check them out!
We are finding it difficult to get to the internet to put on recent
pictures however, there are different pictures, reports and a
video of a news report on the net. Simply google and search for
Dan Hopwood, Mississippi for endless accounts of our trip.
you to those who all donating at home both on and off line and
a special thank you to Isabel Lunnun of Oldfields Middle School,
Uttoxeter for raising £62 at her summer fair for Mississippi
currently heading for Wenona and are hoping to meet the managing
director of the canoe company, Wenona and we have a meeting with
a film crew this evening to promote our challenge.
We have had a tough
couple of days as the temperature has been well above 90 degrees
and the river level is low therefore, there is not much flow to
help us along.
We have paddled across
a 21mile lake and encountered many locks that can slow our time
down as we have to wait our turn to get through them.
are having a more relaxing day today as we are hoping to promote
our challenge and give more details and pictures of our progress
as soon as possible. We have had a lot of interest and support
over here in America and we would like to continue to raise money
for Spinal Research and reach our goal of £20,000.
are having problems inserting our photographs however, if you
go to www.startribune.com, search Dan Hopwood and follow the links
there is a slide show of some of our pictures from the trip so
are currently completing 40 to 50 miles a day and we are planning
to be in St Paul, Minneapolis in a few days time where we are
hoping to meet the mayor.
are all in good health, in high spirits and enjoying our challenge.
will give a more detailled update as soon as we can and we would
like thank everyone who has helped and supported us on our journey
27th June 2007.
are currently in a place called Aitkin, we completed 50 miles
today and we are hoping to do another 55 miles tomorrow to the
next town as we are running out of food due to a late night visitor
outside our tent a few nights ago!!!!
are having problems updating the offline sponsors but we will
try to overcome this problem but we would like to give a special
thank you to Mrs Hopwood’s Year 9 English class for completing
a sponsored silence and raising £50 for our cause.
are in a remote area at the moment but we currently have completed
170 miles within our first week. The river has been narrow and
in some areas quite marshy but we are over the worst. We are hoping
to get more miles done in the week ahead and the website will
be updated with more detailled information.
are still collecting sponsors both on and offline and the current
figure is £3919.55. Thankyou to all who have sponsored and
supported us so early on in our challenge.
have had a hectic few days collecting kit and practising in the
Candian canoe. We would like to say a big thank you to Kevin for
helping us with the canoe; we wouldn’t have managed without
past few days.
On Wednesday we drove north to Bemidji and during our journey
we were listening to radio when we were featured!!!!
Thursday we met the mayor of Bemidji and the press. Later that
day we continued our training on Lake Bemidji.
Friday, we drove to Lake Itaska and camped for the night ready
to start our challenge early Saturday morning.
have now begun our challenge and all is going well. We are in
remote area at the moment but we will keep the website updated
the best we can.
is a more detailed up date of challenge so far.
Sat 16 June - This is our starting day on the river at Itasca
Park. We still have lots of preparation to do and a 100m portage
so we didn't get started until 1pm. Initially there were lots
of steps to carry the 20 foot canoe and about 400lbs of gear down.
We had a small audience wishing us well at the start. Paddled
about 2 miles to the official start of the river where there were
loads of tourists. The river is really small and winding at the
start, during that day we had a 50 metre portage over stepping
stones, and extremely narrow culvert with rapids at the end &
numerous beaver dams to negotiate, already Dan B has had 2 leeches
on his feet.
17 - 3 miles until our first portage however many unexpected beavers'
dams in-between. Dan B obtained another 5 leeches and Stu 1. Extremely
difficult portages to get canoe and wheelchair across. Some difficult
navigation in marshes and 4 miles of rapids gave the canoe a quick
and harsh christening.
18 - we soon covered 15 miles to the campsite we were after. We
struggled with the navigation due to the changing nature of the
river in the marsh stages and had to carefully observe the reeds
under the water to determine the correct route for the river's
flow. Whilst struggling in the marshes, a high wind of 40 mph
picked up making progress against the wind extremely difficult.
It looked like a severe storm was brewing so we made it back to
the nearest safe camping ground that we'd see as we were stuck
in a swamp that we could not camp on. It happened to be a piece
of private land that was infested. Dan B found 6 ticks on him,
one deeply imbedded (video to follow). In bed extremely early
to severe weather and ticks.
19 - Still high winds in the morning so we had a late start until
they abated. To avoid the ticks and save time we had cold oats
for breakfast. We cracked the remaining marshes with no navigational
problems and decided to make straight for Bemidji about 20 miles
distant. The storms had brought hundreds of trees down in and
around the river. Luckily we came well prepared with a folding
saw, machete and hunting knives (shame we didn't pack a chainsaw).
There were at least ten parts of the river that were completely
blocked by fallen trees but with had work and ingenuity we managed
to get through. On the this last push across Bemidji Lake, we
had to contend with 2 foot waves from behind but the canoe is
very capable and handled it with no stability issues. We arrived
at the campsite just prior to twilight and set down pretty exhausted.
All the people we've met on the way have been very helpful and
kind. We have now completed 60 miles to Bemidji.
Thankyou to all those people who have helped and supported us
along our journey so far.
do not forget that donations can still be given throughout our
journey on the website, ALL the proceeds go to Spinal research,
an extremely worthwhile cause.
an early start on Sunday morning; the enormity of the challenge
a head of us was becoming a reality. We flew from Manchester airport
to Chicago and then onto Minneapolis, where we are currently collecting
some of our supplies in preparation for the start of our challenge.
Over the next few days
we are planning to practice our paddling and capsizing techniques
so that we are completely confident before we set off on our 2,341mile
adventure! We hope to begin at the weekend.
website will be constantly updated with our progress and we are
still raising money throughout our journey, there is no easier
way to donate than online, simply follow the links!
There are now only 6 days to go until we depart for the USA. The
planning and preparation has been completed and we are looking
forward to leaving all the admin behind and getting out there
on the river! Due to baggage restrictions we will take the minimum
of kit with us and have pre-ordered all our gear to pick it up
on arrival in the USA. We will take 2 big bags with medical kit,
3 personal packs and 1 communal bag containing a portable toilet,
a canoe seat, paddles and sleeping mats.
to everyone who has helped us so far. Now we just want to get
out there and get started!
check back soon to follow our progress and help us to raise the
maximum of sponsorship money for our charities. - Dan H