In May 2014, Afghanistan veteran and Duluth Trading customer Nic Doucette dipped his kayak in Lake Itasca, MN, the headwaters of the Mississippi River. He paddled into the Gulf of Mexico 71 days and 2,340 miles later with a whole lot of stories to tell. But this was no pleasure cruise. He was kayaking for a cause: to raise donations for the Semper Fi Fund, which provides urgent assistance and lifetime support for critically ill and wounded service members. And he did it clad in Duluth Trading’s Summer Solving clothes.
His buddy Gabe Vasquez joined him for all but the first week — finishing his enlistment with the Marine Corps held him up a bit. Every day they photo journaled the wonder and struggle of the river for the folks back home. “At the start of the Mississippi, you can touch the shore on each side. Then it turns into a 7-mile wide beast. You definitely grow with the river as you go along,” says Nic.
A Wet And Wild Ride
Amazingly, Nic never took a spill. But he did end up in some soggy situations, paddling by alligators, navigating dam spillways, fighting buzzing hoards of mosquitoes, and kayaking through flooded subdivisions. His most pants-wetting moment happened on Day 2 of the trip. “The water was fast, deep and horrifying. I came around a bend and hit a fallen tree straight on. My kayak was stuck, and 30 minutes of sawing didn’t free it. I had to get out and stand on the tree to crack it. Then I hopped in and pushed my kayak through, but ended up spinning backward around rocks and through rapids.” That was the roughest point, but he said the highs were life changers.
“Absolutely, the best part was the people,” Nic says. Fellow veterans and supporters cheered Nic and Gabe the whole way, inviting them into their homes, covering their hotel rooms, hosting barbecues, even switching out kayaks. And in New Orleans, the Marine Corps Reserve and Semper Fi Fund held a concert where they invited Nic and Gabe on stage to tell their story. Afterword, they kicked back a few beers with a three-star general, a mind-blowing experience for any marine.
This intrepid jarhead completed his mission to raise donations and awareness for the Semper Fi Fund and conquered the mighty Mississippi along the way.
Pack Like a Devil Dog – Pack Duluth!
Space is at a premium when you have to cram 2 1/2 months of your life into the stowage of a kayak. Nic packed with a purpose, choosing clothes he could wear day after day after day. He relied on our Summer Solving clothes to do it, which included our Ventilated Booney Hat, Ripstop Action Shirt with UPF 50+ and Buck Naked™ Boxer Brief Underwear. But the stuff he really relied on and raved about? His Dry on the Fly™ Pants and No Fly Zone Action Shirt.
“I wore Dry on the Fly Pants for 80% of my time kayaking down the Mississippi,” Nic says. “They got serious test of wear, and they’re still good as new! And the No Fly Zone Action Shirt was a serious lifesaver. It was like armor and kept us from getting chewed alive.”
Heading out to the wild and want to clad up like a Mississippi king?
Photos provided with permission by Nic Doucette and Gabe Vasquez.