(WJMN) — Barges, heavy winds, and a whole lot of mud: Those are just some of the challenges Nate and Christa Denofre and their dog Marcie faced as they made their way down the Mighty Mississippi River.
The journey took 115 days to reach the Gulf of Mexico, and now they are finally home.
“Canoeing one of the biggest rivers in the world is very self-gratifying, to say the least,” said Nate Denofre. “It was hard, it was tough. Extremely tough and hard. The hardest thing I ever did in my life hands-down. But I learned a lot of good lessons every day. I saw a lot of beautiful things, and most importantly I met a lot of great people. This world is filled with good.”
Though they finished the feat, there was a deeper meaning behind it: to inspire those with disabilities and remind them of their capabilities.
The “Paddling to Persevere” campaign was to bring awareness and raise funds for Courage Incorporated, a nonprofit that helps veterans and individuals with disabilities “find feelings of accomplishment and self-confidence through free wilderness excursions.”
“I am the first amputee, double-amputee ever to ever canoe the river and the first American ever double-amputee to paddle it,” Denofre said.
Excessive tick bites almost cut the trip short after Nate fell extremely ill. An ambulance was called at one of their stops in Grand Rapids, Minn. After a few bags of fluid and other remedies, they were on the river the next day.
Their longest day of paddling was 82 miles from Natchez, Miss. to the start of the Atchafalaya channel. They paddled on average of about 12 to 13 hours a day.
Many people along the way provided hot meals, a shower, and supplies for the Denofres.
“The people were so kind. They were really nice people that we met. A lot of them were River Angels, but some of them just had family with disabilities and they knew people with disabilities. They heard about us and wanted to meet us and support us in whatever way they could,” said Christa Denofre.
Watch below a web exclusive with Christa Denofre, talking about the moment when they finally reached the Gulf of Mexico.