Published July 06, 2011, 12:00 AM

WITH PHOTO GALLERY: Pair bound for Hudson Bay on more than 2,000 mile canoe trip

Goal is to be first women to complete canoe trip
FARGO – On May 29, Ann Raiho and Natalie Warren notched one of life’s big milestones: graduating from college.

By: Helmut Schmidt, INFORUM

FARGO – On May 29, Ann Raiho and Natalie Warren notched one of life’s big milestones: graduating from college.

Now they’re well on the way to setting a milestone for all women.

Pushing a 17-foot canoe off the muddy bank of the Red River in Lindenwood Park here on Tuesday, they yelled “Bye!” to family and friends and began paddling the next leg of a 2,250-mile journey by rivers and lakes from Minneapolis to Hudson Bay.

The journey’s been done before, most famously described in the book “Canoeing with the Cree” by journalist Eric Sevareid, who fresh out of high school in 1930 made the trip with a friend, Walter Port.

In recent years it has been accomplished by a few other men. But Raiho has found no record of any women who have met the outdoors endurance test.

“I thought it would be cool if Natalie and I were the first women to do this trip,” Raiho said.

The pair met at YMCA Camp Menogyn in 2007. The camp is on West Bearskin Lake in Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area.

Raiho, of Inver Grove Heights, Minn., and Warren, of Miami, bonded during a seven-week canoe trip in Canada, and then attended St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn.

At St. Olaf, Warren earned an environmental studies degree. Raiho majored in mathematics, with a concentration in environmental studies.

They dipped their paddles into the Minnesota River at Fort Snelling on June 2.

On one end of the canoe they’ve stenciled “Hudson Bay Bound.” On the other, “Kawena Kinometa” – “no worries” in Cree.

So far, the first 550 to 600 miles of the trip, much of it paddling against the current on the Minnesota, gave them a lot of lessons in the environment.

They received equipment donations from several outfitters, and they raised $2,500 to pay for trains and planes to return from York Factory in Canada.

The rest of the money they raise, so far about $1,500, will go to Camp Menogyn to provide scholarships for youth.

After arriving in Fargo at the end of June, Warren flew to Philadelphia for her sister’s wedding. Raiho went back home to pack the food for the Canadian legs of their journey.

Raiho estimates it will take 10 days to paddle north to Grand Forks, where they’ll load their next pack of food, and continue on – unless it’s July 15.

“Then we have to see ‘Harry Potter’ ” at a theater, Warren said.

They’ll paddle on Lake Winnipeg, to get to the Hayes River, and then follow that rugged course, with roughly 30 portages, to Hudson Bay.

The last 90 kilometers is in the range of polar bears. For that, they’ve got a shotgun loaded with military-grade shot, Raiho said.

They’ve used the time on the river to contemplate where they’re at in their lives.

“I think, what I’ve discovered, a new message for me … is if you want to do something, you should just decide do it, and it will happen. It’s just a jump of blind faith that we took,” Warren said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583