Before I step into Grasshopper, a 30-foot voyageur-style canoe, I regard the big river I am about to navigate with six other paddlers. Lyrics from a song by bluesman Big Bill Broonzy echo in my head: “Mississippi River, it’s so long, deep and wide.” I’ve canoed and camped along the Upper Mississippi many times, hiked up limestone bluffs to inspiring views, but this will be my first time paddling the lower half. Besides my camping gear, I’m packing a host of stereotypes.

Read more here (redirects to my article at the Minneapolis Star Tribune website).