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Alvarez paddling Lake Superior, 400 miles from his destination

Daniel Alvarez, who has already paddled from Minnesota to Florida is now 400 miles from making his adventure a round trip. He's facing colder temperature, but has added a new hat and mitts to his wardrobe. Photo courtesy of Daniel Alvarez

Paddler Daniel Avarez, the Florida man who made his way from the Northwest Angle in Lake of the Woods County to Key West Florida by kayak is making his return to the angle, now navigating Lake Superior near Thunder Bay. He estimates that he is just 400 miles from his destination and said he should complete his journey by the end of next month. The Lake County News-Chronicle has been tracking his progress after an initial interview with Alvarez last summer.

In 2012, the Yale Law School graduate started the first half of an epic adventure from north to south, taking him through a segment of the Boundary Waters, across the Grand Portage, along the North Shore (with a stop in Two Harbors) to the St Louis River and finally to the Mississippi and points south. He finally arrived in Key West just after the New Year. Along the way, he said he'd considered the idea of coming full circle, but reserved the final decision-making for when he reached his Florida destination. Not one to leave a stone unturned and a challenge untried, Alvarez, who has walked the length of the Hyduke, Continental Divide, Appalachian and Pacific Crest trails, repacked his 17-foot craft and pushed her into the water again, this time along a route that follows the eastern coast of the U.S. from south to north. He's made his way from the Atlantic to the Great Lakes. Now on the greatest of the lakes, he's facing new challenges. Last week he described a day at the mercy of Superior's fierce temper:

"The wave swept me up into the sky. I looked out at the wild sea, at the cliffs of rock stretched for miles, at the foaming white chaos where they met. The wave pushed by and I fell, sliding down, down, down into a blue walled canyon. Everything but water disappeared. Gravity caught my stomach and I felt heavy for a moment until the next wave came like a rolling hill and swept me back into the world... I felt a wild flash of terror and swallowed at it, trying to keep it in, trying to bury it underneath me, but the fear leapt forth, dancing over my eyes as I rose and fell. I felt so alone, too tiny against the power moving past me and hurtling into the rocks, wanting to take me with it."

When he decided to undertake the return to the angle, Alvarez said knew he knew he was in a race against unpredictable northern Minnesota weather--likely frosts, violent storms, punishing winds and possible early snow. With temperatures in the Arrowhead now dipping into the 20s, he is confronting the transition--it's stillness, beauty and the deepening chill.

"A cold wind blew from the north. It swept over the rocky coast, through the boughs of the boreal forest, across the waves, and chased away the last warmth of summer...It feels like the first touch of winter, like any day now I will wake up with frost on my sleeping bag. As the sun set, beautiful against the high, thin clouds of the north, I rolled out my sleeping pad on a low flat rock and sat wrapped in my bag, watching the colors change and fade over the shadowed silhouettes of the forest. The first stars glowed out of the dark blue and I lay down to stare up at them, to watch the constellations flicker into existence...I just lay and looked up at the sparkling sky, knowing summer has ended," he wrote.

Monday Alvarez said he plans to return to the angle by a less traveled, reputedly more challenging route.

"I'm going to head up the Kaministiquia River in a few days along the non-Grand Portage voyageur route back into the interior," he said in a message to the Lake County News-Chronicle, "I wanted to try something different on the way back and figured it would be quite interesting, as almost no one has traveled some pieces of it for decades and more than one person has told me it is impassable. Hopefully winter will hold off on me for a bit!"

Look for updates of Daniel's journey by visiting his website The Lake County News-Chronicle will also be following Daniel's progress.