OCEAN CITY — After kayaking, canoeing and dogsledding for thousands of miles, David and Amy Freeman arrived in Ocean City last week.
They would have arrived earlier, but they were pinned down in Barnaegat, N.J., during Hurricane Sandy. They stayed there an additional four days to help owners of a kayak shop clean up.
“Their shop was really hard hit, so we were delayed about a week by the storm,” David said Nov. 20.
Their journey began in Bellingham, Wash., in April 2010, and they expect to reach Key West, Fla., their final destination, in early April. Their 11,747-mile trip will include 6,300 miles by kayak, 3,524 miles by canoe, 1,800 miles on dogsleds and 123 miles on foot.
So far, they have endured temperatures of 54 degrees below zero and they were approached by humpback whales in Alaska along the Pacific Coast.
“Two swam up to us,” David said of the whales. “They stopped 15 feet from us. We could see a giant eyeball. It was the most amazing animal encounter ever.”
They also had an encounter with a bear in the Yukon Territory in Canada near Alaska. First, they saw a bull moose, got out their cameras and moved closer.
“Then I saw brown fur in the woods next to us,” David said. “He popped his head out around a tree. He was 10 or 15 feet away from us.”
David dropped his camera and grabbed bear spray.
“We had it in holsters on our hips,” he said. “I said, ‘hey bear, hey bear,’ and it turned and ran away.”
They try to be self-sufficient on their trips and usually have at least a two-day supply of water and a five-day supply of food, but they sometimes have more.
“We can easily carry three weeks worth of food,” David Freeman said while eating crab cakes for dinner at BJ’s on the Water last Tuesday evening.
To cook, they use a small stove that uses white gas or Coleman fuel. Other than that, they don’t have many cooking supplies.
“We have just one pot,” he said. “We eat a lot of rice and beans.”
Along the way, they use Google Earth to look for places to stay.
“We find little islands or places in the marsh above high tide,” he said.
From Maine to New York City, it was difficult to find places to spend the night. Sometimes they stay in campgrounds and they would have stayed in a campground on Assateague Island if it had been open. In Ocean City, they stayed at a hotel on the Boardwalk downtown and stored their kayaks and other gear at Paddle House Outfitters on Route 50.
Sometimes, weeks can pass without having a place to stay with comforts of home.
“It’s nice to take a shower after a month,” he said.
Their home, however, has few comforts and they like it that way. When not on expeditions, they live in a 60-foot by 20-foot house David built in Minnesota. It has neither running water nor electricity. They cook on a wood stove, get water from a lake and use a composting toilet. The nearest power line is 12 miles away.
Their life together is an adventurous one. This expedition is part of Wilderness Classroom, a non-profit organization David Freeman started in 2001 to educate children about the wilderness and the environment. His first trip to educate others was a six-week, 240-mile solo toboggan trek along the border between Minnesota and Ontario.
This trip, the North American Odyssey, is the 10th classroom project. They began by traveling from Washington to Alaska.
“We wanted to go on some of the route of the Klondike Gold Rush,” Amy said.
They then traveled to the tip of North America, across Canada, down to the northeast United States and they are now on their way to Key West.
Amy, an avid kayaker and canoeist before she met David in 2005, said her parents were not worried about her latest adventure with her husband of two-and-a-half years.
“My parents were so worried about South America, but not about North America,” she said.
Using laptop computers with solar-powered charges, Dave, 36, and Amy, 30, write about the adventure and provide lesson plans for teachers online at wildernessclassroom.com.
“We post new information almost every day,” he said. “It’s up to teachers how often they use it.”
Occasionally, they visit schools where students are participating in the online lessons. Their goal is to visit 50 schools on the East Coast.