Girls that go to Menogyn are taught something, you can do anything you put your mind to doing. I say this from personal experience. As a young 14-year-old, I spend my first time alone in the wilderness at that camp learning to Canoe with the BWCA.
Natalie Warren and Ann Bancroft learned that too some five years after I was there. Menogyn teaches you to harmonize with all things outdoors.
They teach you that even though the canoe is so big, you can get in on your shoulders with a little teamwork and portage it to the next lake. Natalie and Ann took their experience a little further.
They got a crazy thought that they could recreate Eric Sevareid’s 1930 expedition from Minneapolis to Hudson Bay, documented in Canoeing with the Cree.
This review based on ARC obtained via NetGalley from the University of Minnesota Press in return for a candid review. There may be affiliate links within the post. Clicking on them doesn’t cost you anything more. But I do earn a small commission. I never promote things I don’t stand behind.
Hudson Bay Bound Review
Ann and Natalie would end up going on an unthinkable journey from Fort Snelling Minnesota, all the way to the arctic waters of Hudson Bay.
The three month canoe expedition is over a 2000-mile journey. On the side of the canoe was written, Hudson Bay Bound.
They helped prove that women can do anything men can do. When they realized funding would be an issue, they crowdsourced and got the equipment and funds through sponsorships.
On their journey, they found river angles willing to let them sleep in their homes and lawns. They struggled through strong winds, currents, big water, snake nests, floodwaters, unrelenting winds, moose encounters, and carnivorous polar bears.
Along the way, they found river angels that let them say in their homes or camp in their yards. They fed them breakfast or put them up in a hotel for the night.
They had an incredibly supportive family that would even meet them at a few points on the journey to give them a touch of home.
A Different Side of Minnesota
Their love for the river was felt throughout the entire novel. One thing that took me by surprise was how unhealthy the Minnesota River was.
Due to farming and runoff near the river, phosphorus causes algae, nitrogen poses risks to humans and fish, and bacteria make the water unsafe for swimming. One look at the river and it shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Through my own adventures, I could picture where they were as they stopped at lunch at The Landing. When they stopped in Chaska looking for a place to set up camp, they knocked on doors to ask for permission to camp in their yard.
Everyone was wary of them and said no. For some reason, city folk didn’t understand why anyone would want to canoe upstream on the Minnesota River. Can you blame them?
They portaged around Granite Falls breathtaking Dam. There they learned about small-town traditions that carry on.
In each city they came through in Minnesota, they got to learn about much of the river communities and how much they depend on the river.
Modern Women Paddlers
One of the strong undercurrents of the book was that they were the first two women team to complete this canoe trip. This is a common thing women experience in outdoor recreation.
Men perceive women different in outdoor settings. As a woman myself, I’ve experienced the ‘Mansplaining’ at outdoor stores. I just roll my eyes and start asking technical questions they don’t have the answers for.
One thing that struck me early on in the book was how much it affected these two women in particular. It could be the difference in my upbringing, but it just fuels my desire to do it more.
I could tell it got under Natalie and Ann’s skin a little more.
I think it was more due to their own insecurities. When trying to obtain sponsorships for some of the gear they needed they promoted themselves as the first women to do it.
When someone responded saying, “I wouldn’t be impressed with two men paddling to Hudson Bay from Minnesota, this is not 1915 before women had the vote, so why am I to be impressed by two women doing it today?”
The individual was concerned about the marketability and his own return on investment. From a business expense, I understand his point of view. To the girls, it was just another man talking down to them.
They often would hear things on the river from men with undertones of, “You can’t make it, you are crazy”. Each time they wondered was is it because they are women? As a woman I feel like I should be girl power, they can do anything”.
In reality, anyone would be crazy to canoe under those conditions.
Would I recommend Hudson Bay Bound?
Natalie Warren decided to write Hudson Bay Bound for a couple of reasons, first to empower other young women to follow their dreams. She also wanted to give a more accurate description of what the current conditions of the route are, compared to the original one depicted in Canoeing with the Cree.
It succeeded as a great travel log. Their historic trip wasn’t easy and there were definitely some unplanned portages and navigational errors along the way. It lacked some of the traditional memoir elements.
If you are one of those people that love to do crazy things, like canoe the entire length of the Minnesota River or a former camper of Menogyn, this is a good read.
Since traveling to Hudson Bay in 2011, Natalie has since canoed the length of the Mississippi River and won first place in the Yukon River Quest in the women’s voyageur division, paddling 450 miles in fifty-three hours.
Hudson Bay Bound doesn’t go on sale until February 2, 2021. You can pre-order your copy now on Amazon.