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Hoff continues Atlantic to Pacific journey

For many people, retirement signals a period of rest and relaxation in life. In the case of Larry Hoff, however, retirement gave him an opportunity to go on adventures. Extreme adventures.

For many people, retirement signals a period of rest and relaxation in life. In the case of Larry Hoff, however, retirement gave him an opportunity to go on adventures. Extreme adventures.

A few years before retiring from his job as a high school teacher and a football coach at Superior High School, Hoff got the idea that it would be fun to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, which runs from Mexico to Canada and crosses the mountains of California. In 2002, two years after he retired, Hoff went through with his plan and completed the more than 2,500-mile hike.

"When you get to be my age, you think of some crazy things," Hoff said, laughing.

"I just enjoy the outdoors," he continued. "People have also said that I enjoy beating myself up."

Indeed, Hoff hadn't finished beating himself up after his first trek. After spending so much time by himself on the Pacific Crest Trail, Hoff said he got the idea for another journey, this time by bike.

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In 2004, he biked around the perimeter of the United States -- roughly 10,000 miles. Two years later, he used yet another form of transportation on his extreme adventures, as he began a quest to paddle and portage from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

Last year, Hoff began the first stretch of his voyage on June 3. He started at Washington D.C. and worked his way up the Potomac River. From there he went down the Ohio River to the Mississippi and then took the Missouri after reaching St. Lois. When he arrived at Bismarck, ND -- his set goal for the first leg of the trip -- he was two week ahead of his goal.

Hoff said he tries to keep in pretty good shape, so the journey isn't as difficult for him as it might be for others. In fact, he said the mental part of the experience is a bigger challenge than the physical. Just as marathon runners must mentally prepare for a race, so to does Hoff condition his mind for his feats.

It also helps to have the proper gear. Among his essential items, Hoff carries a sleeping bag, tent, change of clothing, rain gear and a very small collapsible bike. And of course, when he must portage, he hooks his light canoe behind the bike and pedals away. In all, Hoff said his gear weighs about 25 pounds, not counting food and water.

The people Hoff meets as he progresses also make the journey easier. They often offer advice, help or just conversation. But for Hoff, "meeting fantastic people along the way" and the adventure itself is what makes the trip worthwhile.

Hoff said anyone who enjoys the outdoors should go on a similar venture. Of course, one needn't begin with a cross-country canoe trip. Indeed for those living in the Northland, the opportunity to head out on a adventure lies at their backdoor.

In Hoff's opinion, the Superior Hiking Trail is one of the most beautiful trails in the country, easily one of the top five in the country. He highly recommended the trail as a great start to anyone interesting in hiking for a day or backpacking for a longer period of time.

Another point Hoff emphasized was that adventures (such as his) are certainly not just for the young. He said as larger numbers of people approach retirement, they should give serious thought to undertaking a trek, whether it's just a few miles or a journey that lasts a few months. Retirement didn't mean the end of an active life for Hoff, and he saw no reason why it should for others.

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So what's next for Hoff? He's thinking Europe. Exactly what challenge he will tackle is not yet certain, but Hoff has ideas. For example, he said it might be fun to swim the English Channel ... even though it would only take one day.

But Hoff will have time to contemplate his next big adventure as he paddles toward the Pacific for the next few month.

Hoff expected to reach Bismarck on May 31 and start paddling on June 1. He will go up the Missouri to Montana and take the Clear Water River to the Snake River. From there he will link up to the Columbia and follow that to the Pacific. This leg of the trip will be about 1,500 miles, and the total for both halves of the venture will be more than 6,000 miles. He hopes to finish the second half of his journey in July.

The Daily Telegram will follow Hoff as he makes his way across the country. His journal entries will be printed periodically and can also be found at www.lhoff.com . Following is Hoff's first journal entry for the second leg of his Atlantic to Pacific journey.

May 31, 2007 --

Starting off for Bismarck

It's 5:30 in the morning on the day I'm leaving. My cousin, Gary Hoff, is picking me up at 7:00 AM to drive me to Bismarck. Plans were to write this journal entry yesterday, but I had not packed yet so the day was spent rounding my gear up and running to town to get various items I needed. Then our daughter's twin boys, Devin and Drake, had their very first baseball game and there was no way I was going to miss that. They both got hits and they won! Also, our friends Charlie and JoAnn Wright, Jim and Sandy Waletzko and Dean and Teri Neumann came over to wish me good luck. Very nice of them. Then I still needed to finish packing so this entry had to wait until now.

Over Memorial Day weekend my sons Dean and Eric took our annual trip to the Boundary Waters along with nine others, including my good friend Charlie Wright and his son Scott. Others included David Edquist, Don Polkinghorne, Pat Boyle, Pete Willcoxon, Jason Waletzko and Nick Milroy. They were all friends of our son, Ryan. Charlie Wright and I have been doing this trip since Dean (soon to be 39) was 7 years old. Ryan was only 5 on his first trip.

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The area we usually go to had a forest fire, so we had to camp one lake short of our normal camping spot. We did portage into the burnt area to visit the area Ryan loved so much. I was concerned his favorite little island and the tree we made a cross on in his memory had burnt, but fortunately it was okay.

I spent a couple of hours on the island while the others fished. Only thing I was disappointed in was the two loons that always were at the island every year were not around. When we had our little ceremony on the island 5 years ago, these two loons showed up when we finished. They have always been there every time I have gone back, but this time they were nowhere in sight. Then when it was time to leave and we were paddling back to the portage, out of nowhere off to my right this loon showed up and followed us all the way to the portage.

All in all it was a great trip. Fishing was tough but lots of good times were had by all. Although, I did lose my glasses, headlamp and hat. Some things never seem to change!

Trip plans: Gary will be here in an hour and the two of us along with my gear will take off for Bismarck. Gary is a year younger than I. Along with his brothers Randy and Dan and my brother Don, we spent most of our summers in our preschool and grade school years together. Actually my brother and Gary were very close until Don was killed in a car accident at age 16 in 1963.

I hope to start paddling tomorrow and will need to make a decision as to whether I start in Bismarck and paddle up to the Garrison Dam or go in reverse, starting at the Garrison Dam and paddle to Bismarck and then bike back to the dam. The reason for this is the possible heavy current in this section because of water being released by the dam.

Then of concern will be paddling across the last two dammed up lakes of the Missouri, Lake Sakakawea and Fort Peck. I think Sakakawea is close to two hundred miles long and up to four or five miles wide in places. Fort Peck is about 80.

The guide I'm following, The Complete Paddler, written by David Miller, describes this area as almost impossible to get through. (I've noticed before that David seems to err on the side of caution, which is almost 180 degrees, maybe 160 degrees from my thinking).

Lake Sakakawea is supposed to have the possibility of strong winds coming up at a moment's notice, causing sea-like waves. He suggests staying on one side of the lake and not crossing over because of this. Then in the Fort Peck Lake Indian Reservation area he talks about having bullets flying by him from a few youths fooling around with a pistol on shore. I remember this area when I did my bike ride back in 2004. Three days before I got to Poplar, Montana, a paddler (actually in the same model of canoe I'm using) was retracing the Lewis and Clark route and was attacked in this area. They took everything he had and left him severely injured.

My experience at the time was very pleasant. I had bike problems and needed to get to Williston, ND to get it fixed and an elderly couple from the area was nice enough to give me a lift into Williston, ND some 40 miles away. They even bought me lunch. Very nice people and it's my hope the same will be true this time.

Well, my cousin will be here soon and I need to say goodbye to the best person in the world, my wife LuAnn.

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