MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Every morning, beginning promptly at 6 a.m., Daniel Lee grips his standup paddle board and dry packs, and heads to down to the banks of the Mississippi River.
“I always wanted to paddle the Mississippi – I fell in love with paddle boarding last year,” Daniel Lee said.
But it’s no simple outing — the Mankato native is attempting to paddle, standing up, 50 miles every day for 50 days. If he can, he will cover the full length of the Mississippi, source to mouth and stroke after arduous stroke.
“Everywhere I meet someone and they go, ‘Are you a little bit crazy?'” Lee said. “Obviously I am, that I want to stand for 2,300 miles.”
But there’s good reason for his expedition downriver. He’s raising money for the American Camp Association, to provide scholarships to children who can’t afford to attend summer camp.
“If I get to have my dream, someone else should have the opportunity to achieve theirs,” he said.
Along the route are the portages around locks and dams, but he’s self-sufficient and extremely compact for such an extensive journey.
Along with his camping gear, hammock and freeze-dried foods, Lee has a solar panel to charge batteries and a GPS tracking device to help show his followers his hourly progress.
“I got friends who say, ‘You haven’t hit it in a while — hit it so I know where you’re at,'” he said.
Out on the wide Mississippi, even a gentle breeze can be brutally difficult.
“When you are on an SUP versus a canoe or kayak, where you’re sitting down with a low profile, I’m standing up and basically a human sail,” Lee said.
So with muscle and grit, he’ll sail along downriver. It’s a mission to bring others the soul-washing beauty of nature.
“People are paddling the Mississippi to get away, just relax and be in nature, which is an amazing thing,” Lee said.