Grand Portage: The next adventure in the Extreme Challenge series

by Michael Tesdahl, Director of Resource Development


OCF's Grand Portage Adventure logo


What is the Grand Portage Adventure?

OCF is hosting another “extreme challenge” initiative over this upcoming Labor Day weekend to raise well over $250,000 toward breaking ground on New Fort Shine this year. In keeping with OCF’s 70th anniversary theme, this event draws on the 1950s “Of Paddles and Purpose” legacy of Cleo “Buck” Buxton, and will assemble as many as fourteen fundraising teams committed to raising $25,000 per team. The culminating event is a four-day, twenty-six mile, four lake, five river and fifteen portage canoe adventure on the boundary waters of Minnesota, reliving a thirty-mile stretch of the region made famous by French trappers and their associated voyageurs. The route includes “Warrior Hill,” used by both the Cree and Chippewa Indians in their rites of passage to manhood, where braves would race up the granite slope from the water line.



Anticipation. The feeling of “not yet” has been with me from the beginning, through the planning, the friend-raising and fund-raising, the praying, the equipping, the travel, the waiting. Until, at long last, because of some intersection of Providence and serendipity—and time and timing—it has all come together. I walk and smell the sweetness of early fall over the tang of my camp coffee. Wilderness canoeing is an exchange, a quiet negotiation. We voyageurs must bring something to the river before we can take anything away from it. Am I up to this? This is private water. There is no fence, no signs, protected only by distance and terrain. The wilderness is both fortification and fortifying. The wet air and extreme exertion might discourage others, but we who have persevered will be strengthened, marked, even changed this weekend. The morning fog lifts just enough to awaken the senses required for navigation, and we push into it.

Day 2. This is a physical day, to be sure. For hours we are led on by what may be the defining allure of a small stream: curiosity—the reward at the next bend, next plunge, next pool. A serious portage confronts us that will take all morning. The stream gets steeper and navigation sometimes seems sketchy. But we’re rewarded the longer we slip through places with names like Stewart River, Swamp Creek, White Feather Lake, Dahlgren River, Lac La Croix, Nina Moose River. I’m surprised that such things exist, and that I am allowed to see them, as if I’m being shown a secret meant for someone else. And over me washes a feeling I only can describe as grounded. The streams laugh louder, the loons wail and yodel and hoot; they have taken “not yet” with them. Dip, dip, swing.



How can you get involved?

Be a Voyageur Team Captain. Captains are both voyageurs and fundraisers; they will usually represent the team on the trip. Captains find donors from within their circles of influence, recruit other Team Members, and shepherd the team toward its fundraising objective. 

Be a Voyageur Team Member. Each Captain needs three Team Members to shoulder a portion of the fundraising responsibility, to build prayer support, and to maintain the momentum of the main effort. Not everyone can make the trip, but the canoe adventure will not be successful without you. 

Be a financial supporter. If you can’t participate in the actual trip or as a member of a fundraising team, support your favorite team with a pledge or a one-time gift.

Mentor the next generation. We want every team to sponsor a cadet/midshipman or newly commissioned officer to go along with the team’s designated voyageur.


Are you ready to take the challenge?

For more information and to get involved, contact COL Mike Tesdahl, USA (Ret.) at 303-761-1984 or