In the summer of 2014, Mountainsmith will sponsor two brave souls who venture to kayak North America’s longest continuous waterway from Brower Springs, Montana all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. Carrying Mountainsmith tents, sleeping bags, and camera bags; Joe Zimmerman and Nick Caiazza will have to brave the elements rain or shine. In order to reach the Gulf of Mexico in their target time-frame of 5 months, they will have to spend 8 hours on the water per day.  

A few thoughts from Joe just days before his departure… 

The Space for Unanswered Questions

Three weeks ago I walked away from my comfortable job as a private banker in Denver, Colorado.  I had everything I needed- a stable source of income, opportunity for advancement and a number of promotions, and yet I left.  I needed something more- a more tangible challenge, a deeper feeling that I was actually doing something with the short time we all have.

A map of North America shows the path that will be taken by the Blackwater Drifters kayak expedition from Montana to New Orleans
The route from Montana to the Gulf of Mexico, via kayak…

This June I will be kayaking the longest waterway in North America- 3,800 miles filled with rapids, dams, barges, mosquitos and who knows what else.  I’m honored to be joined by my great friend and filmmaker Nick Caiazza, and we’ll need to paddle for 8 hours a day to reach the ocean in 5 months.  Together we’ll be bringing the river’s transformation from Rocky Mountain snowmelt to the Gulf of Mexico to life for people who have never seen it before through our website and a documentary.

We’re typically asked what do you hope to get out of this experience and there are three responses I give.  The first is that I hope to slow down.  I am constantly jumping from one meeting or task to the next all the while checking Facebook, replying to texts or emailing in between.  I look forward to unplugging for longer than a weekend and having the pace of my life more closely reflect that of the river.

I also want to more deeply consider some of the challenges we face as humans today.  Too often my response has been, “yeah that stinks, but I don’t have time to do anything about it,” but for the next 5 months I will have plenty of time to evaluate my impact.  I know there are probably ways I am living that are negatively affecting the planet or those around me, and this expedition will give me the chance to try a new way of living.

Nick Caiazza and Joe Zimmerman test out their Hobie kayaks in Chatfield Reservoir
Prepared for their trip, Nick and Joe get familiar with their Hobie kayaks.

Lastly I look forward to having less stuff.  How will I regard the things I “need” after having only the bare necessities for 5 months on my kayak?  I’d imagine that I will cultivate a love for the few items I have like my Mountainsmith Mountain Dome tent and my Arapaho sleeping bag, but as long as these crucial items shelter me, maybe I’ll find I’m better off without all the rest that fills our garages, basements and closets.

We’re not taking this expedition to find ourselves or to find the “answers.”  Simply going on a river trip doesn’t gift-wrap the solutions so easily, but hopefully the river will allow us the space and time to more fully engage in some of these questions.

To learn more or to follow Joe and Nick’s expedition visit: | facebook | twitter | YouTube | Vimeo

Look for the film made about the expedition at a film festival near you in the summer of 2015…


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *