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Scout crew to canoe length of Mississippi

Eric Grapentine, Davin Grapentine, Brian Holloran and Maggie Matthews are pushing off Tuesday around noon from the Mississippi River headwaters in Itasca State Park. The four are canoeing the river in 70 days to bring awareness to the Boy Scouts organization, which is celebrating 100 years.

On Tuesday, three former Boy Scouts and a friend are taking off on an adventure down the Mississippi River to utilize their skills learned as scouts and to bring awareness to the 100-year-old organization.

Around noon at Itasca State Park, the headwaters of the Mississippi River, Davin Grapentine, Brian Halloran, Eric Grapentine and Maggie Matthews will push off in their canoes and spend the next roughly 70 days canoeing the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico.

The four are all staffers at Tomahawk Scout Reservation, a Boy Scout camp in Wisconsin. Tomahawk is under the same Boy Scout council umbrella -- Northern Star Council -- as the Many Point Scout Camp in Ponsford.

"The idea came from Brian Halloran. He had thought about doing the trip at one point, but it didn't really become a reality until he started speaking with these other people at camp," Tomahawk Scout Reservation Director Mark McCabe said.

It was being a part of the Boy Scouts and their work at the camp that has give them the canoeing skills to take on the Mighty Mississippi.

"It probably started as 'gee, it would be great to do a trip of that magnitude,' and then it got to be, 'wow, I should do that with these other scouting people' and realizing the skills they had ... Yeah, it just kept growing," McCabe said of the idea.

Now the trip is more about raising awareness for Boy Scouts during the 100-year anniversary of the organization than just taking a fun trip down the river. It's about showing others what skills can be learned in the Boy Scouts and how they can be put to use.

"They talked about raising awareness about the camp they work for, but more, just nationally about the Boy Scouts in general," McCabe said.

He said the canoers are trying to make contact with other scouting troops along the Mississippi to meet scouts along the trip.

McCabe said they plan to journal the entire trip and then use that information not only to speak about their experience but to also be able to prepare others for large expeditions.

"One of their outcomes now is they are going to be posting regular updates on Facebook, but keeping this journal and tracking all their expenses, food and equipment inventory and things like that, so hopefully people following them can gain some knowledge on doing these types of trips and better prepare scouts to do trips like that," he said.

On Facebook, (, the group is posting updates and an explanation of their trip.

"Cliché or not, it is our goal to illuminate the lives of those living along the great arterial passageway of America, and in doing so, bring a revived passion to scouting in our own lives and in the lives of those we meet," Matthews posted on the group's Facebook page.

"There's a lot to think about. How much food should we stock? How available is shelter? How much foul weather gear should I bring? What kinds of creepy, crawly animals will find their way into my sleeping bag? The answer is that the memories that we will make along the way are not something you can get anywhere else."

With nearly 150 fans already, it's posts like that and updates along the way that the group hopes will inspire more and more followers.

"That's a goal, too, seeing if we can get kids and volunteers leaders to follow them as they're doing their trip," McCabe said.

The group has mapped out a few stops in the beginning, but is waiting to make more plans until they find their pace. They should average about 33 miles a day for the trip.

"Most people that we meet along the way won't be in our lives for long, but our goal is to positively affect their lives through our actions and demeanor," Matthews posted.

McCabe said the group has estimated the trip will cost about $5,500 for food, gear and travel back from the Gulf to Minnesota. They have raised $1,000 through the Tomahawk Alumni Association, which is made up of former camp staff members from Tomahawk, as well as fellow camp staff members.

"They raised money with the stipulation that they would share their experiences and trip planning expertise with Scouts online and in person at training events."

Tuesday, they'll start their expedition.

"Well, we'll see you in November, New Orleans," Matthews said.