80-Year Old Becomes Oldest to Paddle the Mississippi Source-to-Sea


Way back in May of this year, I wrote about Dale Sanders, an 80-year old adventurer who was planning to paddle the length of the Mississippi River from source to sea. Dale was using his epic journey as a way to raise awareness and funds to fight type 1 juvenile diabetes – something his great niece suffers from – and he was inspired by the likes of Dave Cornthwaite, who he assisted on his Mississippi paddle a few years back. On Sunday, Sanders completed his journey at long last, arriving at the Gulf of Mexico after weeks out on the water. In doing so, he became the oldest person to paddle the length of the “Mighty Mississippi” and instantly became an inspiration for the rest of us.

The self-proclaimed “Grey Beard Adventurer” set off from Lake Itasca in Minnesota back on May 15. Back then, he still had to endure late spring sleet and snow, with cold winds making his progress difficult. But as the long days of summer dragged on, the weather shifted noticeably. For six weeks he faced daily rainfalls that left his clothes and other gear constantly soaked. Later, as he moved further south, it was heat and humidity that made his Mississippi sojourn a challenging one.

By the time he reached the Gulf on Sunday, Sanders had paddled more than 2300 miles, spending just over three months out on the river. Along the way he met hundreds of people that lent him a hand or joined him for a stretch of the expedition. Judging from his last dispatch, it seems clear that he was overwhelmed by the support he received along the way, particularly as he neared the end of the paddle where he received a hero’s welcome from friends and family.

I want to congratulate Sanders on completing his journey. As I mentioned, he is an inspiration to all of us. Hopefully when I’m 80 I’ll still be able to go on these types of adventures. Dale is living proof that age is not a barrier to achieving your goals.

Kraig Becker

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