Special Guest


During a lazy day of fishing, a father asked his young son a seemingly harmless question, "Do you know where this water goes?" Several years later, the boy, his brother, and two friends set off on a 1,400 mile journey to find out.

That fishing trip planted an idea that eventually led four Iowa lads on a two-and-a-half month canoeing voyage from Minnesota to the fabled Hudson Bay. Three decades later, their inspiring adventure has been captured in This Water Goes North, a new book by Dennis Weidemann.

The young travelers met while working at a pizza parlor, the typical job for college students. Short of money and experience, they opted to make the trip on their own terms, rather than to seek sponsorships to purchase the gear they would have liked.

On a bone-chilling May 8. 1979, they pushed off in two beat-up canoes, one of them a square-back Grumman purchased at at garage sale, still painted with red, white and blue markings from a bicentennial parade. On the bottom was a name--"Lucky." And it was.

Just three days into the trip, the intrepid explorers had their first brush with near death, when two of the young men capsized and found themselves pinned under a fallen tree in fast water. There were still treacherous rapids and hundreds of miles of unpopulated wilderness to come, but close calls would be just a part of a rich adventure filled with tales of bootleggers, friendship, a polar bear, and humorous escapades with local characters.

The foursome spent the first three weeks snaking down the Otter Tail River and Red River to Canada, camping at farms along the way. Leaving civilization behind, they battled Lake Winnipeg, a frigid 300-mile beast with a bad temper. Following old fur trading routes they passed through another 400 moles of untamed backcountry to the remote York Factory outpost on Hudson Bay.

Why did they go? Thirty years later the somewhat older explorers respond as they did in 1979, citing a song by Pablo Cruise. "The time has come to cast away and sail into the sun. We wanna' be worlds away."

"The spirit of adventure is universal," says Weidemann, who hopes that the book will help others appreciate the value of an adventure of youth. "Everyone dreams of going somewhere, but often life gets in the way. I hope that for at least a moment, This Water Goes North will take readers to wherever they wanted to go. Maybe one day, they too will be worlds away."

Author Dennis Weideman will present a slide show of this amazing story at 7 p.m. on Monday, April 13, at the Madison Public Library. Books will be aviable for purchase; signing follows.