A love of canoeing and the outdoors brought two lifelong friends together to fulfill a goal in 2016.
Jason Worden of Chatfield, Minn., and Jeremy Rabe of La Crescent, Minn., grew up together in Chatfield, were in the same graduating class of 1996, and have remained close friends since.
Although “life” happens – people get married and have children, responsibilities pile up and commitments must be met – these two men have managed to carve out time for friends.
After canoeing/kayaking together since the age of 15, these two friends have spent many hours on the water, whether just the two of them or with a group of friends and family.
They went on their first canoe trip together back in 1993 and have continued canoeing together since, many times choosing to camp overnight and other times just doing days trips.
At the beginning of 2016, Worden and Rabe made a pledge to canoe the Root River every month of the year.
The idea began in 2013 as Rabe explains, “We tried to get every month of that year but we missed one month,” so they were determined to complete their goal in 2016 through “snow, ice, rain and sunshine,” states Worden.
“January was always the tough one to try to get because it’s always frozen over,” says Worden, explaining, “there was a mild winter, probably four years ago, and we just couldn’t line up our schedules to go” that January.
This year, on January 2, 2016, the river was still open, so the two said, “let’s do it,” and they were able to float all the way down the river to their destination through the ice except one spot “which was a tight corner, where we had to get out and couldn’t paddle through, about a hundred yards over land” and then they were able to get back in the water.
After the first trip of 2016, the two friends have canoed a stretch of the Root River each month anywhere from Chatfield to the Mississippi River.
On December 10, 2016, with the temperature in the teens and a winter weather advisory issued for the area, Worden and Rabe put their canoe and kayak in the river at approximately 11 a.m. at the Hwy. 16 canoe launch between Lanesboro, Minn., and Whalan, Minn., for the 14 1/2 mile trip to Peterson, Minn.
As they floated down the river and out of the sight, the sun was bright and it was a cool, crisp winter day.
As the afternoon progressed, the snow began to fall, lightly at first, but then quickly the snowflakes became larger and more frequent until visibility was affected. The area received several inches of snow over the course of the day. Although the weather, combined with ice on the river, slowed the paddlers down, it did not stop them.
At approximately 4:30 p.m, after 5 1/2 hours on the water, dark floating objects worked their way around the final bend before Peterson until they got close enough to be recognized as canoers.
After paddling their way near the shore, their adventure was not over, as they needed to get onto the shore. “The tough part about the ice isn’t the actual canoeing, it’s when you get out – there is usually a foot or two of ice off the shore,” which the men must break through using their canoes until they can get onto the shore, hopefully without getting wet, explains Rabe.
With snow settled on their hats, on Rabes’ beard, and on their canoe and kayak, it was a chilly sight, but as the experienced outdoorsmen dressed appropriately, they were not too uncomfortable.
Always being prepared, they had brought extra clothes in waterproof bags just in case, but thankfully, they were not needed.
As the friends came ashore, we were able to commemorate the moment in photographs. Rabe and Worden have many photos of the trips completed in 2016, and seeing the difference in the scenery over the months is very interesting.
The canoe trips they completed in 2016 include:
• January 2 – Parsley bridge to Allen’s bridge
• February 27-28 – Parsley bridge to Moen’s bridge
• March 26 – Parsley bridge to Moen’s bridge
• April 15 – Parsley bridge to Allen’s bridge
• May 28-30 – Moen’s bridge to Rushford, Minn.
• June 26 – Parsley bridge to Allen’s bridge
• July 24 – County Road 2 access to Parsley bridge
• August 24 – Hokah to the Mississippi River
• September 30 – Houston, Minn., to Hokah, Minn.
• October 19 – 22 County Rd. 2 access to the Mississippi River
• November 12 – County Road 2 access to Parsley bridge
• December 10 – Hwy 16 access to Peterson, Minn.
“Jeremy and I have canoed about 230 miles total on our monthly trips,” states Worden, noting that another mutual lifelong friend, Scott Touhy, of Rochester, Minn., has accompanied them on several of their canoe trips, including their final trip of the year in December.
Worden and his wife Alesha have three boys – Henry, 10, Charlie, almost 6, and Joey, 3. Rabe and his wife Emy have two daughters – Autumn, 12, and Lilly, 9. When asked if their families think they are crazy Worden quickly responds “yes” they do.
Worden says they usually go canoeing in the summer “like normal people” and then adds “but the canoeing season kind of got longer and longer and then it was a challenge,” he said.
While spending time on the river on a regular basis, Worden and Rabe see the drastic changes in scenery. “The cool thing about going every month; the river looks so different one month to another month,” says Worden. “By November, the water starts to get super clear… and it will stay like that until March,” states Rabe.
They also see a lot of wildlife, including deer, beaver and many other animals. During their trip in October, they saw over 50 bald eagles; one group of over 30 and another group of at least 15. “I have never seen that many of them together,” says Rabe, and it was something they will always remember.
All of the canoe trips in 2016 created many great memories for Worden and Rabe, as Worden explains, “We are just good friends that really enjoy the river no matter what time of year,” and also enjoy spending time with friends in the outdoors.