Camp Menogyn on the Gunflint Trail has been the start of many canoe trips over the years, but few so epic as that detailed in "Hudson Bay Found: Two Women, One Dog, Two Thousand Miles to the Arctic."
Natalie Warren and trekking partner Ann Raiho met there as high schoolers — Raiho a Twin Cities native and Warren a Floridian inspired by a junior high classmate to attend the Minnesota canoe camp.
After becoming fast friends at Menogyn, and further solidifying their bond at St. Olaf College in Northfield, the classmates became determined to canoe from Minneapolis to Hudson Bay, a trip inspired by Eric Sevareid's 1935 classic "Canoeing With the Cree." (Having devoured the book as a college senior, Raiho one day opened Warren's dorm door, threw it at her, and said, "Read this. We should do it.")
So it was that the longtime friends set out to follow Sevareid and Walter Port's 2,000-mile route — the first women to complete the expedition. Once they'd arranged to have a canoe and gear donated and supplies sent, and had raised enough money to rent a floatplane, the two were ready to go.
They left Fort Snelling State Park on June 2, 2011 (despite Minnesota River flood warnings), determined to reach Hudson Bay 90 days later, before the cold weather set in.
Along the way they encountered the ecological devastation wrought by farming and development on the Minnesota River, huge waves on Lake Winnipeg, white-water rapids near a Red River dam, many thunderstorms, bothersome black bears, and plenty of disbelieving men and pesky journalists.
But perhaps the biggest risk to their trip's success was the question of whether two people, however close, could get along for three months in the face of so much stress. And indeed, they had some tense times as teammates. At one point, Raiho angered Warren by insisting that they take a detour on Lake Winnipeg to meet up with some Menogyn friends (whom they ended up missing); later Warren enraged Raiho by repeatedly failing to put their safety first. The latter blowup led to several days when the women stopped speaking and instead communicated only by note.
But along with confronting the many challenges of such an ambitious trip, Warren and Raiho also enjoyed many wonders — moose and polar bear sightings, Northern Lights, pearly pink sunrises, and the wild, free-flowing rivers of the north country.
By summer's end, being on land began to feel strange to them. As Warren put it: "The water was our true home."
Lynette Lamb is a writer and editor in Minneapolis.
Hudson Bay Bound
By: Natalie Warren.
Publisher: University of Minnesota Press, 248 pages, $24.95.
Virtual event: Book launch, 7 p.m. Feb. 9, with Ann Bancroft, Lee Vue and others. Hosted by Friends of the Boundary Waters, the St. Croix River Association and the Friends of the Mississippi River. Register at https://z.umn.edu/Warrenlaunch.