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Minnesota State University, Mankato
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Canoeists, both bound for Minnesota State Mankato, ready for another adventure

Colton Witte, Sean Bloomfield paddled 2,500 miles to Hudson Bay

Colton Witte and Sean Bloomfield -- the recent Chaska High School graduates who'll soon be students at Minnesota State Mankato -- have another adventure planned, but it may not top their recent 2,500-mile canoe trip to Hudson Bay.

By Robb Murray, Free Press Staff Writer [published in The Free Press, Mankato, MN, 6/20/2008]

Janet Fofie
Colten Witte and Sean Bloomfield have completed their 49-day journey to Canada's Hudson Bay by canoe. The pair never had thoughts of quitting in spite of illness and grueling conditions. They are back in Minnesota now.

Sixteen-hour days paddling. Up at 4:30 a.m. Food poisoning. An emergency room visit. Canoe rollovers and hostile weather. Two thousand miles from home.

And in the end, the achievement of a goal is acknowledged by a moment of silence.

Colton Witte and Sean Bloomfield of Chaska — who 49 days earlier launched their canoe into the Minnesota River with a vow to replicate Eric Sevareid's epic journey to the Hudson Bay in Canada — rounded a bend and saw the bay on Sunday.

"We both silently stopped paddling and just stared for 30 seconds or a minute," Witte said Thursday.
Bloomfield added, "It was a feeling of shock," he said. "It was hard to believe we actually made it. I mean, this was the ocean ... There were so many emotions going through. Happiness, self-accomplishment, relief."

And even a little sadness, he said, because the trip — as grueling as it was — was coming to an end. They said they never gave any thought to quitting. Although Witte, who became ill early on in the trip and visited the St. Peter Hospital, said the thought of continuing on another few thousand miles was daunting.

But the trip garnered the pair much attention, and all that attention was inspiration enough to tough it out through the difficult Minnesota River portion of the trip, which is all upstream.

"You try not to let it not affect you," Witte said, "but it's hard to paddle that long and only make 20 miles."
In a fitting twist, a pair of Cree Indians the pair met ended up being among their most memorable moments.

Photo by Pat Christman
Janet Fofie
When the pair finally hit the Hudson Bay, they just stared in silence at having finally reached their goal. "One of the biggest lessons I've learned is just to appreciate the things that really matter in life. Like having food, a warm bed, family around you," Witte said.

Near Lake Winnipeg, they met the two Cree and had a brief conversation.

The next day, while paddling, Witte and Bloomfield saw the pair again camped on the shore. They stopped and had a longer conversation.

Witte said he learned a lot about the Cree and some of the environmental issues they face and care about, such as the impact of a company called Manitoba Hydro. The Cree told Witte and Bloomfield that the company is trying to install hydroelectric plants in parts of Canada that are untouched.

"It ruins their way of life, changes migration patterns, ruins habitats," Witte said.

He said it was intriguing to meet people who are at once foreign and yet share the same interests.

As for how the pair got along during their long canoe trip, they said all went well ... for the most part.

"There were a few bitter exchanges," Witte said, " but no actual yelling or arguments."

Now that they're home, the media requests are coming in quickly. As they spoke to The Free Press on Thursday, they were enroute to a TV interview at WCCO in Minneapolis.

Both Witte and Bloomfield will be students at Minnesota State University this fall. Initially, just Witte was MSU bound.

Bloomfield, having decided the University of Iowa was too spendy, chose the more affordable MSU.

They looked in to rooming together, but it didn't work out. That's OK.

They've already got another adventure planned. Look for an announcement about it sometime during the next week or so.

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