Traditions continue as teacher, students return to river

Campers Tyler Lenning, Jake Bedmar, Kayla Collins and Tori Kuhlmann dry their gear after thunderstorms struck on their first night along the Minnesota River.

GRANITE FALLS — Thunderstorms swooped down in the middle of the night on 18 unsuspecting campers with winds strong enough to pull some tents from their stakes and with rain enough to soak most of the party.

Some traditions never change.

“It always seems to happen here,’’ laughed Richard ‘Butch’ Halterman, a Montevideo science instructor as the water boiled for instant oatmeal in the Memorial Park shelter in Granite Falls on Tuesday morning.

The instant oatmeal is also part of the tradition began in 1999, when Halterman started leading students down the Minnesota River. He’s made an annual trip ever since, with the exception of the last two years when circumstances prevented it.

His goal remains to inspire the next generation of river advocates by introducing them to the wild beauty, history and science that are to be discovered.

They travel by canoe like paddlers in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, packing camper’s foods, tents and even a few fishing poles.

“It’s an experience,’’ said Jake Bedmar as he hung wet clothing on a tree as if he were decorating a Christmas tree.

Like most of the high school juniors, seniors, and recent graduates on the trip, Bedmar is no stranger to canoeing or camping.

But most have never really explored the Minnesota River. Their introductory, 10-miles paddle from Wegdahl to Granite Falls on the first of a four-day adventure had them eager for me. “Some of the scenes were next to none,’’ said Bedmar.

There are still many ahead. The trip’s itinerary covers roughly 50 river miles, with camping stops at Memorial Park in Granite Falls, the Upper Sioux Agency State Park and Renville County’s Vicksburg Park before reaching a take-out point at North Redwood Falls on Thursday.

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