Posted 4/07/10 (Wed)
By Tina Foreman
Farmer Staff Writer
A canoe trip down the Little Missouri River is a great way to experience the beauty and solitude of the North Dakota Badlands. According to the Theodore Roosevelt National Park Guide, it takes three to four days to canoe the 110 miles from Medora N.D., to the Long X Bridge south of Watford City. But if you ask Nick Ybarra and his father-in-law, Marty Mulder, they’ll tell you it can be done in one day.
Mulder and Ybarra aren’t new to canoeing, and it wasn’t even Ybarra’s first day trip on the Maah Daah Hey Trail. But it was the group’s longest adventure in one day.
“I also mountain biked the 96-mile Maah Daah Hey Trail in one day, says Ybarra. “Mountain biking was hard, but the canoe trip was even harder. Without some motivation to complete the trip I’m not sure I would have made it.”
Ybarra and Mulder’s motivation came in the way of a fundraiser.
“We talked about doing the trip, and it wasn’t until Saturday morning that we decided we would for sure do it,” adds Mulder. “Previously, I did the trip with my son, Zach. But we camped two nights along the way so it was a completely different adventure this time.”
After deciding to do the trip, Ybarra and Mulder decided they would raise funds for the Speed the Light organization, a group that purchases vehicles for missionaries and the Convoy of Hope group, who buys vehicles for first responders to disasters, like Hurricane Katrina and the Haiti Earthquake.
“On Sunday, we offered a challenge to members of the Assembly of God Church, and they pledged $6,000 if we completed our trip in one day,” adds Ybarra. “We were excited to be making this trip, but the fundraiser added some purpose and really kept us going.”
In addition to Ybarra and Mulder, Mulder’s son, Zach, and his son-in-law, Kody Devlin, participated for part of the grueling journey. The group headed out from Medora at 6 a.m. on Monday expecting to arrive at the Long X Bridge by 6 p.m.
“We were expecting to be able to travel eight mph, but the water was moving slower than we thought and we only averaged six mph,” comments Mulder. “We didn’t think we would have to paddle the entire time, but we did.”
As 6 p.m. came and went, it was apparent that the trip was going to take a lot longer than they had expected. But they were still hopeful that they would complete the trip in less than 24 hours.
“When you’re out on the water, everything starts to look the same, and at one point when the GPS was down we actually thought we were about an hour ahead of schedule,” says Mulder. “We kept waiting for the park to come into view, and when it didn’t, we realized we were off and it was going to be much later when we arrived at the bridge. After realizing how far behind we were, the paddling was really hard.”
After discovering that they were behind schedule, Zach got a phone call from someone watching their GPS location and they found out they were still six miles from Bill and Sharon Ceynar’s ranch, which is three hours from their destination.
“Zach had to work at 4:30 a.m. on Tuesday, so his wife was going to meet us at Ceynar’s to take him and Kody home. Marty and I were worried that our wives were going to be there and make us stop too,” adds Ybarra. “By 10:30 p.m. when we got to Ceynar’s, it was a good thing that our wives weren’t there because it would have been easy to quit and just say that our wives made us.”
Thanks to Sharon Ceynar and some hot drinks, Ybarra and Mulder left the ranch feeling refreshed and ready for the next three hours.
“I’m very thankful that we didn’t get out at Ceynar’s,” states Ybarra. “With the moon almost full and the clouds cleared away, it was the most beautiful and definitely the most memorable part of the trip. We never could have done it without the moon. It not only lit our way, it also rejuvenated us so we could finish the trip.”
Ybarra and Mulder were anxious to pass by the Juniper Campground, because that meant they had only one hour left until they arrived at the bridge.
“Several times we thought we were passing the campground, and then we saw flashlights and heard cheering and knew we were finally at the campground,” says Ybarra. “Some of the church youth group and our family were at the campground cheering us on, and it was a great way to start the last hour of our trip. Especially, when the youth group told us they would be at the bridge to pull the canoe out.”
“Knowing someone was going to be there to get the canoe was a huge weight off both of us because we didn’t know how we were ever going to get it out,” adds Mulder. “We were so cold, exhausted and cramped up that I wasn’t sure how I was even going to get out of the canoe.”
Ybarra and Mulder arrived at the bridge at exactly 1:30 a.m. on Tuesday. After 18½ hours and having only left the canoe four times, they were ready to be done but excited to have finished the trip.
“I couldn’t even walk by myself when we got to the bridge,” says Mulder. “It was a great experience, but I’ll never do it again. I’m just getting too old to be in a canoe that long.”
“I was exhausted and cold when we finished,” says Ybarra. “But the great feeling of accomplishment that came the next morning and knowing we had raised money to help a great cause made it all worth it.”