Edit ModuleShow Tags

Minnesota Team Finish World's Longest Canoe Race

Emma Burgeson and Paige Norman (team Minnesota Gneiss) paddled the Yukon 1000 and became the first women's team to complete the race



When Minnesota Monthly last spoke with Emma Burgeson and Paige Norman, the Minnesota Gneiss said their goal was to complete the Yukon 1000, the world’s longest canoe and kayak race. Not only did Minnesota Gneiss cross the finish line, but they placed fourth overall and third out of all canoes, becoming the first women’s team to complete the race. We caught up with Burgeson as she reflected on her paddling adventures.

MnMo: First of all, congratulations! How does it feel to have completed the race?

Burgeson: Having completed a goal I had been working toward for two years feels wonderful. It's fun to talk about now that all of the planning is over, but now everyone asks what's next and I have yet to figure that out.

MnMo: What was it like at the finish line?

Burgeson: The finish line was slightly underwhelming, but incredible. We got closer and closer and couldn't see anyone on shore. I was so disappointed, but I knew that at the very least, my parents had to be there. We came around the last small point and there they were! The first three teams, my parents, the race director, they were all cheering for us and it felt like a giant weight had been lifted off my shoulders. We immediately started swapping stories with the other racers. It was fun to hear about the similarities and differences in our experiences.

MnMo: What was the significance of being the first all-women team to complete the race?

Burgeson: We wanted to show everyone that women are an important part of wilderness travel and adventure racing. Our time was faster than many teams that have competed in the past as well. There were things we had to think and worry about that the other teams didn't, like how to go to the bathroom without stopping on shore and the thought of "what if strange people crashed our campsites at night?" We hope that we can encourage women to have more confidence in the wilderness, especially in tackling goals as big as this. Wilderness travel is for everyone.

MnMo: What were some of your biggest challenges during the race?

Burgeson: One of our biggest challenges was getting up in the morning. We would try to set our alarms for four or four and a half hours of sleep, but we almost always ended up sleeping five. After a few days we accepted that we needed to sleep more, so we decided we'd be more efficient during the day and use the extra sleep to our advantage. One of my personal challenges was the responsibility of making good backcountry decisions. Paige didn't have back country travel experience, so it fell on me to navigate and find safe camps at night. There were some tough calls, it took a lot out of me mentally on the tough navigation days.

MnMo: What were some of the best moments during the race?

Burgeson: We came into Dawson really late on night four and had a cheering squad. My mom was driving along the race and had met some people who waited for us to get in that night. We couldn't believe how many people believed in us, but we were so out of it we didn't really know what to do except give a little wave.

MnMo: How did you pass the time while canoeing?

Burgeson: We talked a lot. Since we didn't know each other super well, we had a lot to talk about. We listened to podcasts (“Invisibilia,” “This American Life,” “RadioLab”) and music. Lots of Sia! Her song “Unstoppable” got me through a lot of tough days.

MnMo: How did you grow as a canoer–and as a person–from this experience?

Burgeson: I've spent so much time in the wilderness, true wilderness, but this race gave me a different level of confidence. One day we ran into another team that was incredibly lost. They were middle-aged men, and I immediately lost all confidence in my navigation skills and second guessed every decision I was making. I'd never been on a co-ed backcountry trip, and even though I knew I had more experience, I felt the need to confer often. It taught me that my age and gender have absolutely nothing to do with my ability to travel and race through the wilderness. It taught me that I can trust my judgment and skills that I've learned and practiced for years.

Edit ModuleShow Tags

About This Blog

Whether you are a seasoned Twin Cities traveler or planning your first trip to Minnesota, this blog will introduce you to many new adventures to add to your itinerary. From day trips and scenic discoveries to luxurious girls weekends, travel tips, and insider scoops, our editors will give you all the information you need to enjoy your stay Up North.

Learn about the contributing writers.

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Travel Blog

It's Farmers Market Season

No matter where you live in Minnesota, fresh produce, flowers and homemade goodies await

Origami in the Garden

The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum's latest exhibit puts the art of folding paper on full display with a garden and metal twist

New Ways to Explore 3 Classic MN Destinations

From Fort Snelling to the North Shore, check out this summer's technological updates to historic and wild Minnesota places

Sue Z.'s Charitable Check-In: May

This month, Sue Z. recommends supporting local student chefs with a dinner at Saint Dinette

What to Wear + Where to Go: Music Festivals

Your style guide for Minnesota music festivals

Mesabi Trail Offers New Views in Northern Minnesota

The Mesabi Trail, a 120-mile paved cycling and hiking trail that spans the Mesabi Iron Range, recently opened a new connection in Virginia, MN that crosses the state's tallest bridge and offers amazing views of former minelands.

Glensheen Mansion Bonfire Nights

Enjoy this summer tradition from one of the most iconic estates in the state

Twin Cities Festival Spring Babies

If April showers bring May flowers, spring babies bring fun for the whole family

Record Store Day: Where to Find Rare Releases in MN

On April 21, rock out at mini-music festivals around the state, dig into gourmet donuts, and collect the rare vinyls available one time a year

Catch the Lyrids Meteor Shower

The meteor shower peaks April 21 and 22, just in time for Earth Day

A Day Trip to Excelsior

Just 20 miles west of the Twin Cities, this waterfront town is complete with charming shops and lakeside dining

Night Art Gallery Is Your Sober Night Out

The Lindstrom art gallery entertains with hors d'oeuvres, tons of art available for purchase, and non-alcholic drinks

Treasure Island Resort & Casino 2018 Summer Concert Series

Check out the awe-inspiring lineup of summer concerts at Treasure Island Resort & Casino.

Weekend Activities to Satisfy Your Inner-Child

Check out these weekend activities that will have you feeling like a kid again.
Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags