Sometimes things don’t go according to plan. After our 2022 Bob Swanson Memorial Exploration Grant winner Jean Marie Gossard was called on to fight wildfires for this summer, she chose to give up her nomination and 7,000 mile thru-hike on the Great Western Loop. Applications for this year’s grant attracted more than 80 entries for adventures across the world. Big Agnes is excited to re-award the grant for the 2022 year.
The 2022 Bob Swanson Memorial Grant Winner is…
Madison Williams – Expedition Alpine
Hi, I’m Madison! My solo trip will take me over 1,600 miles from Minneapolis, Minnesota, to York Factory, Manitoba in Canada up on the Hudson Bay by kayak.
This trip goes from urban city center to lazy midwestern rivers, to sub-arctic rapids in some of the most remote wilderness left in North America. I’ll be going from a very democratic city with vibrant cultural influences, to a prairie dotted with multi-generational family farms, and finally into indigenous Cree First Nation communities.
I feel that my trip will bring all these unique communities together to stand behind the conservation of their waterways, which most of their livelihoods depend on. I hope to accurately portray the stories of the people living along these waters, and the difficulties their waterways face, and how they can be united on the common ground. It will also address the problematic issues of the “ripple effect’ that our improper use and pollution causes here in the US, before those waters flow north into Canada and to the arctic, and how those issues are further compounded.
I have also tried to focus on low waste/sustainability for my trip. Most of my gear I already had, and any new items (like wool base layers) I have tried to buy second hand to limit my consumption and carbon footprint through manufacturing. I hope to further promote low-waste living by limiting the amount of garbage I produce while traveling/planning meals, and hope to buy carbon offsets for all carbon emissions on my trip.
I first kayaked around the age of 7 at my grandparent’s summer home in Maine and fell in love! I’d spend each summer bombing around on the lake in one of two older Perception Acadias that we would borrow from the neighbors. As I got older, I would go a bit farther away from my grandparents’ home. Down to the point, part way around the island to the general store, to the cliff jumping spot across the lake. At some point, I tried to fly the idea of circumnavigating the island by my parents and grandparents. It caused quite a fight.
Since then, I’ve kayaked regularly, bought my own boats, and even taught informal lessons on the rental dock at the outfitter I worked for. I did a few longer trips where I would be gone for a weekend. However, this will be my first truly long-distance trip.
This was never about being the first soloist to embark on this trip. It just kind of evolved into that. It’s hard to find someone skilled who also is interested and willing to take the time off/save up the finances to go on a crazy trip for up to 4 months. I’m very comfortable on my own in the backcountry, so I just brushed up on several skills (first aid, navigation, self-rescue of a capsized kayak, etc) and got in the right mindset to attempt this solo.
I’m really excited to carry Bob’s memory with me on this expedition, from inner city to midwestern prairie and finally to the sub-arctic taiga in northern Manitoba. I did not know him, but from what I’ve read about him, I feel like he would be really excited about this trip. This grant gives people like me the opportunity to follow their dreams and adventures.