Paul Twedt is on a mission to pick up trash. In 2015, the Lakeville man helped collect 1,100 pounds of garbage along the Appalachian Trail. He removed 720 pounds last year while hiking the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail.
Twedt, a founder of Packing It Out, a campaign challenging recreationists not only to enjoy the outdoors, but to leave them better, has taken the initiative to this state's three great rivers: St. Croix, Minnesota, and Mississippi.
The trek's first three days started out slow, according to their "litter log." Fishing line and lures accounted for much of the haul. They'd pick up hundreds of pounds over the coming week, including a Weber grill, a bowling ball, and numerous tires.
Over 15 days they pulled 740 pounds of garbage from the St. Croix. The men would transport it in their handcrafted canoes, then bring it ashore, where they would ask a business if they could deposit it in the company's dumpster.
The Minnesota River brought the mission to an entirely different level.
"July Heat. Mosquito Swarms. Waist-deep Mud," Twedt's titled his July 9 entry. "With 64 miles paddled and 347 pounds of trash and hazards to the river removed, it’s safe to say the Minnesota… is underway."
Between July 18 and 27, they would haul a fertilizer spreader, a car axle, and a human-sized teddy bear.
"At every bend," Twedt's wrote, "the Minnesota River has demanded a complete surrender of any expectations or preconceived notions of how a river ‘should’ be."
Neither Anderson nor Twedt were surprised at how people once used and abused the waterway. Historic dump sites sat along its banks, the nearby shallows a receptacle for car parts and anything else that had outlived its usefulness.
"This is about the relationship between humans and water," says Anderson. "We're out here and staying positive and trying to leave the river better for generations to come."
Their greatest surrender may very well lay ahead. Starting on September 22, the pair will paddle 622 miles on the Mississippi River, from Lake Itasca's headwaters to Winona.
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