It may seem like Jared Munch's self-preservation instinct is MIA. Most people run into Lake Superior, yelp, and zip out when their feet start to go numb. Not Jared.
When the school year ends, the Civil Engineering major is launching his paddle board with the goal of being the very first person to circumnavigate the largest Great Lake. Jared will move his body and all his gear 1,300 miles on top of a board that's 14 feet long and two-and-a-half feet wide, an engineering feat in itself. Challenging enough? “I’m actually hoping for some crazy weather to spice it up a bit.”
Growing up in New Auburn, Wisc. among a graduating class of 31, Jared focused on more traditional sources of adrenalin. The three-season athlete played football, basketball, and alternated between baseball and track each spring. When he got to UMD, he needed something to fill the void and turned to the water. Kayaking grew into a love of paddleboarding, which continued to evolve until this explosion of a trip.
Less than a month before its realization, Jared is busy finalizing what, for many, is unfathomable.
Getting ready for this expedition is good practice for the adversity he's sure to face. "Training has been difficult," says Jared. "I came into this semester thinking that I'd have a lot more free time." Jared's combined shifts at RSOP, Ski Hut, and under graduate research testing add up to 30 hours each week, hours carved out in between classes.
When he gets a chance, here's how Jared prepares: Physically, he's doing his best to get ready at the gym. Mentally, Jared's studying up on what Mother Nature may have in store for him. "I'm trying to figure out what Lake Superior's weather is doing. Fog, navigation - that's going to be a very big part of the trip because the lake doesn't cooperate."
It's not like the Superior Hiking Trail, there's no path to follow. Jared says he'll hug the shoreline and have a compass, but he realizes he's not really in charge, "My biggest fear is the wind. That's a large force of nature and if it's strong enough, I can't overpower it."
This is especially true when he's in the Great North, where Jared says Canadian water is the most exposed to wind and waves and also the most remote. "You'll go 100 miles and not see any civilization. I need to have my stuff together when I'm in Canada." The good part about this leg of the trip is that finding a place to camp should be a piece of cake, unlike Minnesota, where Jared says he'll have to paddle up to 40 miles between designated camp sites.
All this paddling will burn through an estimated 5,000 calories a day. Jared will rely on food shipped to post offices along the route to supplement what he'll carry on the back of his board.
Logistical challenges on a lake with tempest tendencies - circumnavigating Lake Superior is something very few could do, even if they were so inclined.
For Jared, it's as simple as preparation and getting your mind in the right place, "You just need a good attitude about it." It's not that he isn't careful, he simply doesn't allow adversity to scare him away from experiences. Instead, he prepares for the challenges. If he were the King of Duluth, he would apply this attitude to all his citizens. Meticulously getting ready for a 1,300 paddle around Lake Superior can be applied to everyday decisions about enjoying Duluth or not, he says. "It's sad but a lot of times it's just bad attitudes that inhibit people. This isn't a fairytale land, it's not California. You have to learn to make the most of it." In other words, throw on an extra layer and get outside.
While not a fairytale, Duluth is Jared's Utopia. With easy access to Lake Superior and area rivers, he knew UMD was for him ever since he visited campus with his older brother and spotted all the outdoor gear in RSOP. Jared says he would like to stick around after graduation, but first he has to cross this epic journey off his bucket list. Why? "It's a passion about Minnesota and a passion for pursing myself in the outdoors. This is what I've found and I like it."
Photo credit: Jim Gallop
Jared will be using media coverage to raise money for the Neighborhood Youth Services of Woodland Hills with the goal of keeping youth engaged in the outdoors and living a healthy lifestyle. More information about Woodland Hills.
Story by Lori C. Melton, April 2015
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