GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - 80-year-old retired Navy Veteran Stanley Stark has been preparing for the past year to kayak the Mississippi River. Putting his plans into action, Stark is well on his way.
“We started on the 15th of July at the headwaters of the Mississippi River at Lake Itasca. Right now we’ve probably traveled over 200 miles,” Stark said.
Just south of Grand Rapids, Minnesota, on his sixteenth day on the river, Stark explained he’s paddling for a cause.
“I figured maybe it would be nice to motivate some of these older people that are kind of sitting on the couch waiting to pass away, and they need to get off the couch,” Stark said. He also mentioned he is raising money for a nonprofit homeless housing development Sarge’s Place.
Along his journey, he said it’s been peaceful, but the first 53 miles were pretty rough.
“Bemidji, it’s shallow, kind of low water. My kayak took a beating. It’s not the kayak I should’ve had for that section, but you must start and end with the same boat. So, I really didn’t have much choice,” Stark said.
Many people may wonder what Stark is eating and where he’s sleeping along the way. Stark shared he’s sleeping in a two-man tent and eating a lot of dehydrated foods.
“Along the river, there’s river angels. Occasionally they’ll invite you into their home,” Stark said.
So far Stark and friends have been inside three homes and offered a nice meal and shower, but for the most part, they’ve been camping out during downtime.
With hopes to fulfill a world record, there are many things he must do alone, but he’s glad some friends have decided to join him.
“Clayton Corbin, his wife Jill and their friend Brian. It’s been nice to have a little company and it’s been a great adventure so far. I’m looking forward to the best of it,” Stark said.
He estimates the journey will take roughly 85 days, and should make it back to South Mississippi mid-October.