North American voyageur will speak at Gayville Hall A modern-day, North American voyageur and outdoorsman, Matthew Simonson, will present his illustrated lecture, which was Gayville Hall's most popular non-musical event last year, on Saturday, Oct. 19, at 7:30 p.m. in Gayville.
Simonson, of Austin, MN, traversed the continent's western 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 and down the Green and Colorado rivers to the Gulf of California.
They paddled south and crossed the gulf from Baja California to the mainland, loaded their kayaks onto the Copper Canyon train, crossing the Sierra Madre to the Rio Grande, which they took to the Gulf of Mexico.
Simonson had already paddled the Mississippi River from Minnesota to New Orleans and back. So, after paddling up the Texas coast to Corpus Christi, they shipped their kayaks by freight and hitchhiked north to Wyoming.
They headed down the Platte and Missouri rivers to the Mississippi and turned north, veering northeast on the Illinois River to Chicago, Lake Michigan, Green Bay, and finally the Fox, Wisconsin and Mississippi rivers enroute home.
Simonson trapped, hunted and fished to provide for most of their needs, enough so that they lived on only $1,000 a year. He took meticulous notes and thousands of photos. His handwritten account of the trek is more than 3,000 pages.
Simonson studied geology at the S. D. 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 $10 at the door. Call 605-267-2859 for a reserved seat.