Dave and Amy Freeman began an 11,700-mile, human-powered North American Odyssey on April 22, 2010, with the purpose of educating students and people around the world about North America's waterways and wild places via Wilderness Classroom, their non-profit educational organization.
The couple has spent the last 33 months kayaking, canoeing and dogsledding across North America as 75,000 elementary and middle school students took part in the expedition online. Their final destination is Key West, Fla., which they expect to reach April 6.
The Freemans will paddle Saturday into Charleston, S.C., joined by local paddlers for the final stretch. The Freemans also will give a multimedia presentation about their journey at 7 p.m. Monday at a meeting of the Lowcountry Paddlers.
"We have set an audacious goal for ourselves,” Amy Freeman said in a statement. “If we thought about the final destination every day, we'd get overwhelmed. When the going gets tough, all I can think about is paddling the next mile or just making it through the next 15 minutes. We teach kids that the key to achieving their goals is breaking them down into smaller steps like we do."
For nearly three years the Freemans have been sleeping in their tent each night and battling the elements. Along the way they have come face to face with grizzly bears, watched herds of caribou stream past their campsite, traveled for more than 40 days at a time without encountering a road or town and survived temperatures of minus 50 degrees.
They felt the heat of a massive forest fire and watched 100-foot flames engulf the forest around them from the relative safety of a tiny island. They experienced an eerie stillness when the eye of Hurricane Sandy passed over them near Barnegat, N.J., and spent five days helping locals to clean up after the storm.
"Being eye to eye with a humpback whale that surfaced 15 feet from our kayaks was the most amazing 90 seconds of my life," Dave Freeman said in a statement.
From Charleston, the Freemans will paddle south along the coast until they reach the Satilla River, 10 miles south of Brunswick, Ga. The couple will then paddle up the Satilla, portage into the Okefenokee Swamp and kayak down the Suwannee River to the Gulf of Mexico.
After reaching the Gulf, the Freemans will kayak south along the coast, through the Everglades. Lastly they will traverse the Florida Keys on their way to Key West, sharing their experiences with students and adults along the way.