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From the Wabash River to the Gulf of Mexico - Kayaking couple stops in Wabash on their way downstream

LaNae and John Abnet are heading south for the next four months on a kayaking trip from the source of the Wabash River to the Gulf of Mexico. To their knowledge, they will be the first couple to make and document this journey. Photo by Emma Rausch

By Emma Rausch

From the source of the Wabash River, John and LaNae Abnet plan to spend the next four months kayaking and camping on their voyage to the Gulf of Mexico, and, to their knowledge, they’ll be the first to document it.

“Life is too short to sit on the banks watching the water go by, wondering … wondering where the water flows,” the Abnets wrote on their blog. “Sitting is safe, but all these questions will never be answered, and we stay in a state of wondering, while sitting in silence, so … we decided to ‘LIVEout-loud.’”

On April 12, just two weeks into their trip, the Abnets stopped in Wabash to camp for the night on the River Walk near the Wabash Street bridge.

Although the couple has never reached out to the local papers to publicize their journey, somehow word always gets around. As Mrs. Abnet recalled, while in Wabash, a curious jogger had stopped by and heard their story.

“The jogger just so happened to run into Mike Beauchamp’s wife who then came down to the river to meet us himself,” Mrs. Abnet said in an interview with The Paper of Wabash County. “He told us all this information about the river that we didn’t know before.”

“He’s a great guy and big on the (Wabash River Defenders),” Abnet said. “It’s just funny how people come out of the woodwork (as we travel from bank to bank).

“We’ve met amazing people without doing anything.”

Beachamp announced the couple’s journey at the Wabash County Comissioners meeting on Monday April 13 where The Paper of Wabash County picked up the story.

Originally from Berne, near the Ohio state line, the Abnets began planning every detail of their trip a year prior to setting out, including mapping out the post offices along the entire route, dehydrating meals for every day of the trip, and Abnet quitting his job.

“We saw an opportunity to do this,” Abnet said. “I was going to leave what I was doing and so this was a great time to (have an adventure). We have enough money saved that we can go for four months and three days.”

“And then we’ll be broke,” Mrs. Abnet said with a laugh.

The 1,591-mile journey will take four months to reach the Gulf, or so they’re guessing, according to  Abnet’s calculations.

“We did the math,” Mrs. Abnet said.

“If we go 15 miles a day for six days of the week it comes out about four months,” Abnet said. “We can do 30 miles in a day. Today we did 12, and the last stretch was 23, so 15 miles is a reasonable average.”
When the couple originally started their journey on April 1, they were dragging their boats behind them for 18 miles over three days.

“The Wabash River starts in a field behind a farmer’s house,” Mrs. Abnet said. “It just bubbles out of the ground and we had to walk 18 miles before we could find somewhere deep enough to put our kayaks in. It’s just a creek to begin with and you think, ‘This is really a river?’ So we started at the very beginning of it and we’re going down to the Gulf of Mexico.”

The Abnets have kayaked for many years, taking many trips to the Artic Ocean and traveling through northern Canada, Mrs. Abnet said. So while they’re experienced with kayaking, Mrs. Abnet admitted they have never done anything this lengthy.

“We live close to the Wabash River (in Berne) and we actually drive over it a lot,” she continued. “John always teases and goes, ‘You know we could just put our boats in there and go anywhere.’”

In March 2014, the Abnets attended the Quiet Water Symposium at Michigan State where they made an inspirational acquaintance.

“There was this lady there who had started from the head waters of the Missouri (River) and gone down to the Gulf by herself,” Mrs. Abnet said. “And I thought, ‘Wow. That’s cool.’ I would never want to do it by myself ever. That’s just a bit too scary, but then as we were talking, we thought, ‘That’s cool. We could maybe do that—‘”

“It was literally her idea to do that,” Abnet added with a smile. “The next week, we’re driving home and she’s going, ‘We should do that.’ So it’s really her fault we’re doing this.”

Although the couple isn’t doing this journey for any recognition, Abnet said that while they are out there they might as well do something worthwhile and bring awareness to a charity called Fortress.

“(Fortress) is a really good cause,” he continued. “There’s a woman in Uganda doing great things for pregnant moms. … She’s got this little rented place that’s quite a ways from the hospital and they’ll put a girl in labor on the back of a motorcycle and get her to the hospital. … It’s great but it’s not sufficient for all the work that they’re doing and they want to get their own place.

“So we’re going to try to raise $40,000 to help them get their own place.”

To follow the Abnets’ journey south or to donate to the charity, visit separateboats.com.

Posted on 2015 May 04