When I passed through Fort Benton, MT a few weeks ago, I was interviewed by an aspiring reporter/summer intern, Zach Brown, from the University of Montana. Here is the article that resulted, online copy is behind a paywall. Hoping to get ahold of a hard copy at some point:
Two years ago, Mark Fingerhut was on his honeymoon driving through Yellowstone National Park when he decided he was going to kayak from Yellowstone all the way to St. Louis, Missouri.
Fast forward two years and Mark is 38 kayaking through Fort Benton on his journey. “We made it through Yellowstone and to the headwaters of Three Forks and being there I was just like I’m going to do this trip from here someday,” said Fingerhut. Then the opportunity presented itself this summer.
For the past 13 years, Fingerhut has worked for Ungerboeck Software in St. Louis. “I kind of just asked for some time off, for a sabbatical and they were very understanding with me,” said Fingerhut.
Someone else who has been very understanding about his trip is his wife. “She’s totally on board she’s happy to support me.” A good friend of Fingerhut’s runs Timber Longboard Company back in Missouri and asked if he could build his Kayak. Mark had to drive his big wooden kayak and all his equipment out to Montana. She flew out to Bozeman to put him in the river and drive the truck back home. “She’s supportive she says awesome, take your adventure and in a couple years when I decide to do the Appelachian trail you can support me doing that.”
It sounds simple right? Get a kayak, water and some food, get into the river and away you go. Unfortunately, this is not the case. “When I first started sketching out plans for the trip I thought maybe it would be ten grand for everything included… that’s probably an overshoot and I’ll be a lot less than that but who knows?” Said Mark. He does have some sponsors to subsidize that cost though.
This trip is about passion. Passion for kayaking but also, passion for the water. “My main cause is I’m raising money for Missouri River Relief. It’s an organization that’s based in Missouri and their mission is to kind of connect people to the river.” Missouri River Relief holds river clean-up events, they host educational programs and in Columbia, MO, they will take every fourth grader out on the river for a day and show them around.
There was no exact preconceived plan that Fingerhut had, “I was just going to go as the river and whether dictates.” Mark is planning his trip to be about three plus months. He does have some people along the way that want to see him. “I have had a lot of friends and family say we want to meet you, where are you going to be on this date. I’ve kind of tried to put together a rough plan of where I’ll be and when.” Fingerhut knows his trip is going to go fairly quickly, forcing himself to move slowly to enjoy the scenery that is coming up along the journey.
You can follow Mark’s journey by keeping up-to-date with his blog, Paddle St. Louis, A Journey From Yellowstone to the Arch in Support of Missouri River Relief: www.paddlestlouis.com