The Crew



Richard O’Connor

          Ahoy there, my name’s Rich and I will be the bowman for this trip.  I’m currently completing my senior year at Northland Environmental College with plans on graduating in May later this year.  I will be receiving two BAs, one in History and the other in Music.

          Anyone who knows me can tell you that my taste in music is extremely particular, but I don’t think its that hard, I just like the best of the best.  Being a classical pianist, I listen to a great deal of classical piano, Beethoven, Chopin and the lot, but I also play and listen to a great deal of Woody Guthrie, Dylan, and other folk artists.  These two styles of music greatly interest me because of the immense amount of historical knowledge that comes with them, and I find that where my interests in music and history converge is where I’m most happy.  This leads me to believe that I will one day pursue an academic career in music history or musicology.

         In the mean time my interest lies with medicine.  Ever since getting diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes in June 2007 and getting certified in Wilderness First Aid in June 2008, I’ve been interested in medicine and the human body, leading to many strange conversations with both Phil, who is a Wilderness First Responder, and my aunt who is a doctor.  The fascination with medicine that Phil and I share has led us to the conclusion that we should be EMTs, a possibility we have begun researching and expect to begin training for in September.

          My experience with camping, while admittedly limited, is rich in interesting experiences and adventures due to my choice in traevling companions.  Phil Middleton, the sternman on this trip, takes a truly unique approach to wilderness survival.  Due to the relatively low occurance of accidents under his exceedingly competant watch, Mr. Middleton takes it upon himself to create his own disasters and then uses his extensive knowledge in first aid and forest fighting to put right the situation he intially disturbed.  

           Because of this propensity for adventure camping, I’ve had the honor of accompanying him on trips that include a 3-day backpacking trip through the Porcupine Mountains with a foot and a half of snow, another 3-day bushwacking trip through the Chequamegan National Forest using only a compass and topo map for navigation, and two 5-day backpacking trips through the Porkies and the north shore of Lake Superior.  The picture above is from the second 5-day trip that we led, we were taking pictures on top of Pincushion Mountain on the north shore of Lake Superior.






Phil Middleton

Phil Middleton


Boozoo, Aniin Echikazogen? Phil  nindjinikaz, ni mino-ayah. (Hello, how are you? My name is Phil and I am doing swell.) This greeting is in the Algonquin languange of the Ojibwe Chippewa people of Northern Wisconsin. No, I am not Native American nor do I pretend to be; however while at Northland College I have been studying a great deal about the Ojibwe people and have developed a passion of their culture and  learning the ways of the land. 

I will be recieving my BA in Outdoor Education with an emphasis in Therapeutic and Universal Design.  I have been an outdoors person my entire life, however my exposure to nature was greatly limited from growing up in the inner north suburbs of Chicago. I began developing my passion of nature ever since I was a wee lad when I spent every weekend of my summers sailing on Lake Michigan with my father and two brothers on our 24ft sloop “Looney”. My exposure to the wilderness however, hails from my extensive involvement with the Boy Scouts and working to obtain Eagle. I received this great honor my senior year of high school in  2005.  

While in the scouts, I focused my skills in leadership and teaching. I quickly learned that my life’s purpose is to combine my love of the land and fondness of teaching and show other people the importance of preserving our natural world. While at Northland I have completed three internships for the completion of my major. For the first Internship, I was an Adaptive Ski instructor at at the BOEC (Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center) in Colorado. The second, I had the privilege of working with adjudicated youth who were serving time with the Minnesota Department of Corrections at Camp Thistledew. While at thistledew, I went on a three week winter expedition as a form of restorative justice through Nature. It was cold.  

My last internship however, is what defined my education at Northland. This past summer (08), I had the honor of working at Camp Courage as the Nature Director. Camp Courage is a camp that focuses on working with people with physical disabilities who range in age from eight to eighty. As Nature director, my job was to develop and implement all of the nature programs at camp. In addition to this I had to assist with the campers basic living needs; this includes feeding, dressing, bathing, and even assisting with using the “bathroom”. If I was to choose only one thing to do with my life it would have to be working with people with disabilities. 

I have always been and “out of the gate” type person. Since high school, I have held jobs as a expedition trip guide, wildland firefighter, forest ranger,  and camp counsellor.  I am currently certified in law enforcement through the USFS as a Forest Protection Officer. I am also medically certified as a Wilderness First Responder. I have been specifically trained in navigation, risk management, group process, and having a damn good time. To me, this trip is a final chance to experience the world in my own way before I dedicate myself to a life of service to others. I am looking forward to partying it up Huck Finn style as we disect this country through means of the Mighty Missisipp! I can’t wait to listen to stories, share a few laughs and meet some exciting new people. So if you see me on the river, give a wave and I’ll steer the canoe your way. I just might drag Rich with me if you don’t mind… Until then, peace! 






Honestly, I’m not really sure why I have to go along on this trip.  My interactions with these two jokers has brought me nothing but pain and heartache.  I’ve been threatened with sharp objects, thrown from high balconies, and encased in a slinky for weeks on end.  Ridiculous.

I first came into contact with Mr. O’Connor after a particularly rough time in my life.  I had been drinking, smoking, and injecting everything but the kitchen sink right up my arm.  I had hit rock bottom, passed out in the gutter.  Mr. O’Connor found me, took pity on me, and took me home with him.  In my delerious state, I swore a life oath to him, swearing to never leave his side.

Its been downhill since then, and it only got worse when these two started rooming together.  Their endless chattering, their insistance on bringing me on every one of their adventures, and Mr. Middleton’s recurrant and bloody encounters with all manner of sharp objects has been enough to make even the strongest of stomachs curl in disgust.

I will remain true to my oath as these two disasters head down the Mississippi River together.  I can only hope that I will make it through in one piece and that my cruel masters will suffer some sort of crippling injury so that I will be free of them. 



5 Responses to “The Crew”

  1. also..i’d like to formally invite you for a sleep in a warm,dry bed, shower, ride for supplies and internet in fountain city, wi…i live on the second house on the wisconsin side…..just let me know…..i wish you the best and hope to see you on your journey….sincerly….matthew mohlke.

  2. Boozoo, Aniin Echikazogen? Ni mino-ayah. Yer elk-hide & my djemba drum(s) gitbeat on regularly.

    I reckon we kin feed the three o’ye at Hannibal, Mo. to a rare or medium filet minon from a grateful-to-be-humanely-slaughtered Black Angus outta Kansas City and later at Grafton on the sick side if we don’t fergit to keep the batteries charged in the Sanyo and petrol-ethanol in the Prius. We will hae to figger out yer ETA and manage a rendevous.

    FYI, the coupla weeks of yer trip after yer graduation festivities at Northland, me mate and I will be trekkin’ ‘cross Canada to Nova Scotia & fro’ south tae Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire: Live Free or Die! (and keep yer powder dry!)

  3. As a person who has first hand experience in camping with Phil, I say greatest empathy to you Rich! Ok, that was a joke, I’m deeply envious of your awesome trip (even if I wouldn’t want to do it pesonally for a million dollars!) Well, maybe a million, but not a thousand! But I will be doing it with you, by reading your blog -I expect a lot of hysterical laughter and emotional tears! And all I can say is “oos wes, tuis bes!”

  4. To the crew,

    I wish you the best on your voyage! What a great way to finish up your undergraduate experiences. What a great adventure:-)

  5. Dear Rich, Phil, Rob, and the rest of the New Crew. I found it marvelously interesting to read about you and your river adventures. It makes my heart smile to know there are wonderful young men like you in America. Sometimes I almost lose heart but I can rest easy knowing this country will be taken care of in your capable hands and bright minds. I hope you have a very wonderful rest of the journey on the houseboat. Keep in touch.


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