Voyageur's travels to be featured A modern-day North American voyageur and outdoorsman, Matt Simonson, will present Gayville Hall's first lecture on Saturday, Nov. 17, at 7:30 p.m. at the six-month old music hall on the main street of Gayville.
Simonson, of Austin, MN, traversed the continent's northern, western and southwestern regions during the 1970s, '80s and '90s in a way that had not been done since the true mountain men and voyageurs of the American and Canadian frontiers of 170 years ago or more.
A bit of a Lewis or Clark as well, Simonson keenly recorded in photos and journals the world he saw during his travels, be it game and fish upon which he depended for sustenance and survival or the great geological and environmental wonders of the natural world that he experienced first hand.
During his longest trip, which he calls his "Poverty Kayak Traverse," Simonson traveled western North America for 5 1/2 years, covering more than 20,000 miles, primarily by two kayaks, which he and his partner carried between lakes and streams.
Starting from Minnesota, they paddled north across Canada to the Arctic Circle, then down the Pacific Coast of Alaska, British Columbia and Washington to the Columbia River, where they headed upstream to the Rockies.
Simonson made a cart and pulled their kayaks over the continental divide while walking 400 miles across Idaho and Wyoming. They dipped their kayaks back into water at the Green River and followed the Colorado River to its mouth in Mexico and into the Gulf of California.
They paddled south and crossed the gulf from Baja California to the mainland coast. From there, they loaded their kayaks onto the Copper Canyon train, crossed the Sierra Madre and got back into the water at the Rio Grande, which they took to the Gulf of Mexico.
They started up the Texas coast, but decided, because Simonson had already paddled the Mississippi River from Minnesota to New Orleans and back in the late 1970s, to continue home to Minnesota by a different route. Coming ashore at Corpus Christi, they shipped their kayaks by freight to Wyoming and started hitchhiking.
They claimed their kayaks and headed down the Platte and Missouri rivers to the Mississippi and turned north. Veering northeast on the Illinois River to Chicago, they entered Lake Michigan and continued north to Green Bay before returning via the Fox and Wisconsin rivers to the Mississippi again and home.
Simonson trapped, hunted and fished to provide for most of their needs, enough so that they were able to live on only $1,000 a year. He took meticulous notes and thousands of photos. His handwritten account of the trek, at more than 3,000 pages, is nearly completed.
Simonson studied geology at the SD School of Mines and earned a degree in science education from The University of South Dakota. He still travels regularly to the Northwest Territories of Canada or the mountains and prairies of the United States to hunt, fish and camp in the great outdoors.
Gayville Hall is located at 502 Washington Street in Gayville. Admission is $7.