By land or by river
Two area men, one from Tonganoxie and another from Roeland Park, have returned from a two-year canoe trip and have settled in to write a book about the experience.
"It was life-changing," Jared Jellison said of the experience. "The way I perceive the world it's smaller now."
Jellison is the son of L.C. and Julia Jellison, Tonganoxie.
Robert Carpenter, who lives in Roeland Park, is the son of Ken and Mary Lou Carpenter. Ken Carpenter is Tonganoxie's chief of police.
Robert said what the trip started out to be and what it turned out to be are two different things.
"We started out wanting to get into the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest canoe journey," Carpenter said.
At first they thought that would mean canoeing 13,181 miles. But three months before starting on the trip, they learned the record was more than twice that 28,000 miles.
A different record
So, the men started anyway, and wound up with what they believe to be a record of a different sort for portaging, or pulling their canoes on land, 555 miles, from Duncan, Ariz., to the Pacific Ocean.
"We didn't plan on doing that, but that is currently the longest portage, human power, that anyone has ever done," Carpenter said. "There was no throwing it in a pickup truck that would be against the rules Guinness set."
Jellison, 28, who lives in Tonganoxie, and Carpenter, 33, met on a construction site where they were working in Kansas City. They took several weekend canoe trips before embarking on plans for a trip of a larger scale.
They started their journey May 26, 2000, putting their canoes in the Missouri River at Kansas City and floating toward the Mississippi.
But Jellison said the bulk of the 8,000-mile-trip consisted of anything but floating.
"What we were doing was not floating a river," Jellison said. "We went up over 1,000 miles of river in two years, we were packing twice our body weight over the mountains we went over 2,000 miles of land dragging twice our body weight."
The first portage occurred in Missouri where, south of St. Louis, the two pulled their canoes 33 miles to reach the headwaters of the Current River, crossing the Ozark Plateau.
Later, that portage was dwarfed by others, a notable one in Texas.
"The Nueces River looked navigable by map," Carpenter said.
But it wasn't. They wound up carrying the canoe 260 miles to the Rio Grande.
"Which we thought was a long darn ways compared to the 33-mile portage back in Missouri," Carpenter said.
Then they traveled up the Rio Grande, and made a 450-mile portage from Presidio, Texas, and crossed the continental divide to reach the Gila River in New Mexico.
Later there was a six-week portage, starting in Duncan, Ariz.
"From there we carried our canoes 555 miles in July all the way to the Pacific," Carpenter said.
It's the sun
Jellison compared the desert crossing to Mount Everest.
"There were dead bodies all around us," Jellison said. "The difference is in the extreme temperatures in a way the desert is an Everest in itself. It was 120 degrees, we were climbing mountains pulling canoes at 6 percent grade, no shade. It's not the heat that gets you it's the sun."
For $25, the men purchased bicycles at an Arizona pawn shop which they used to pull their canoes, which were on carts. They camped along the way, learned to live without modern conveniences, and literally met thousands of people.
"When you're pulling a canoe down the road attached to a mountain bike it's psycho-looking," Jellison said. "So people stop and start to ask you questions."
The men also got to know each other well.
"We don't even have to use words," Jellison said. "We just look at each other and we know what the other is thinking."
Although for several months the men went separate ways, they kept in contact with each other through their families in Kansas. They met up again by chance after Carpenter stopped at a library in Fort Benton, Mont.
"Somebody tells me there's a guy doing exactly what you're doing, he was in here about an hour ago," Carpenter said. "They said he's camped about 50 yards from where your canoe is parked."
Back together, Carpenter and Jellison stayed together for the rest of the trip, traveling down the Missouri River, and returning to Kansas City, Mo., on Sept. 13, 2002.
The trip may be over, but the work is not the men are writing a book, when they're not working on their construction jobs.
The book, "There and back," is based on the trip. Carpenter said it's ironic that he's writing a book.
"I hear my English teacher chewing me out," Carpenter said. "I was one of those kids that hated English. : I just think wow I wish I'd paid more attention in school."
Jellison said he and Carpenter kept journals throughout the trip. The book, he said, is merely an extension of that. After the book is completed, it's likely more trips will be in the works.
"I want to do the Louis and Clark trail from start to finish during its bicentennial celebration, from the spring of 2004 to the fall of 2006," Carpenter said. "It will be another 7,000-mile journey."
Jellison said he plans another adventure, too.
"Not as long as this one, but oh yeah, I'll be back out," Jellison said. "There's lots of trails to hike, bike, river floatin', whatever."