Curiosity leads to epic journey for young couple
By Tyler Whittamore, Sports Editor
Exploring the back yard can lead to some surprising adventures, but an Indianapolis couple has taken that to an extreme.
On May 27, Andy and Lyndsey Mundell hopped in a canoe and set off down the White River in Broad Ripple Park, near their home, and paddled themselves all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.
“There is a creek in our back yard that runs into the White River a couple of blocks away, and I thought it would be cool to follow it,” Andy said. “It’s interesting to think that the water there runs all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.”
It took 36 days to navigate approximately 1,315 miles of the White, Wabash, Ohio and Mississippi rivers, and the couple encountered many tenuous situations during their long boat ride. They enjoyed their time with each other, however, and got to see many sights that they will always remember.
The idea of paddling all the way to the sea might seem crazy, but for Andy and Lyndsey, who were married last October, it was an opportunity that they had to take.
“We’ve always been adventurous,” said Andy. “We thought it would be a great way to start off our many years together.”
Lyndsey attended St. Michael School at a young age and is a 2007 graduate of Franklin County High School. The timing of the trip was important to her because it is her last summer off before she graduates college.
Andy is a teacher at Indianapolis Bishop-Chatard and is one of those few who is fortunate to have every summer off.
Although both of them have some experience with the outdoors, neither Andy nor Lyndsey would be considered experts in river navigation.
The couple did prepare for their journey. Packing canned food, crackers, water and other provisions into the canoe, as well as stowing a smart phone to keep in contact with friends and relatives.
“I took out the phone and updated our status on Facebook when we stopped to make camp at night,” said Andy. “It was amazing that we had people at home following us on our journey.”
Lack of sleep and physical fatigue plagued the paddlers, and three weeks in they both needed a break. The couple stopped in a small town, called Helena, which was nestled on the river.
“I got to the point that I was so dirty and just wanted to stay in a hotel,” said Lyndsey. “The people there were really great, and it gave us an opportunity to recharge our batteries.”
Andy and Lyndsey’s perspective during the trip was one that is right out of a Mark Twain novel. The couple encountered plenty of wildlife while on the water, including an alligator, many types of birds and a majestic beaver that waddled near the boat and was less afraid of them then they were of it.
One of the toughest obstacles the pair faced was personal hygiene. Hot sun, hours of paddling and the humidity made keeping fresh a challenge. Their only advantage was that, most of the time, no one else was around to notice.
“We smelled,” Lyndsey said. “We didn’t want to ruin anyone’s dinner, but there were times we just needed a cold Dr. Pepper.”
“Sometimes we bathed in the river,” she added. “Andy said that if we were dirtier than the river, then the river could clean us.”
The two saw their fair share of boats during their getaway, especially barges.
“We saw fishing boats and lots of barges,” said Lyndsey. “(The Ohio River) was the first time we had seen barges, but the boats in Baton Rouge (LA) made those barges look like our canoe.”
This was no vacation, however. The couple had to deal with the hot rays as well as the elements, and on the water there is no place to hide from summer storms.
“One day we saw this huge blackness headed towards us, so we pulled onto a huge sand bank to wait it out,” said Lyndsey. “It ended up being a lot worse than we thought. There was a wall of wind that unearthed our tent, and there was sand everywhere. We tried to find shelter, but we had to hunker down and wait for the wind to stop.
“The sand was like little needles cutting our skin,” she added. “It was terrifying. We stopped in a town the next day, and a guy said the storm took trees down.”
Despite the tough and arduous journey, the two Hoosiers had experiences on their voyage that will last a lifetime. It also gave the pair a lot of quality time to spend with each other and helped to solidify their relationship.
“When you are arguing on a boat, there is no place to go,” said Lyndsey. “You can’t run away.”
The couple made their way past New Orleans, where they honeymooned after their wedding, and reached their goal of making it to salt water before turning around and finally bringing their voyage to an end at the port city.
Andy and Lyndsey enjoyed a few nights there before packing up their canoe and heading home.
“The trip back was much faster,” said Andy. “It took only 13 to 14 hours.”
“We enjoyed being free from technology and having our lives void of that,” said Lyndsey, “but at the same time I was ready to see my friends and family again, and I couldn’t wait to tell them all the stories of our trip.”
While Andy and Lyndsey may not make this trip again, it is clear they have no regrets about putting the ball in the water. Waking up at dawn and starting down the river provided both individuals with a peaceful sunrise that made the trip worth it.
“When it was really hot during the day, we would get an early start in the morning and go until it was too hot,” said Andy. “We would hit the water around 5 a.m. every morning.”
He added, “You’re paddling under the last remaining stars and the sun is rising on the Mississippi River. Moments like that are why we made the trip. It was one-of-a-kind, awesome.”
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