In the summer of 1975, Jerry Pushcar was paddling up the Mississippi River from New Orleans. After seven months, he arrived in Prescott, Wis. He’d been paddling since early January, and was ready for a few days off the water before moving on to his final destination: Alaska.
Pushcar grew up in Biwabik, Minn., and had worked as a laboratory technician at North Star Steel in Cottage Grove. He had a good job and money in the bank. But at 25 years old, he wanted more.
“Etched into my very soul was a desire — a scrimshawed collage of Indians, voyageurs, trappers, canoeing, log cabins, and adventure,” he writes in his newly published account of the 9,000-mile trip, “Waters Beneath My Feet: New Orleans to Nome … My 3-Year Canoe Odyssey.”
That summer of ’75, while resting at his brother’s house in Bloomington, he was summoned by Minneapolis Star columnist Jim Klobuchar. The two had occasionally been in touch by phone, but hadn’t met in person. Now they sat in Klobuchar’s cubicle as Pushcar told stories from the river. The next morning, he was front page news: “Canoeist licks Old Man River on long haul to Nome,” read the headline.