As a sort of old man's salute to those two 20 years after they did it I have been following portions of their route on Google Maps. This lets me fly above them with maps, satellite photo coverage and something Google calls "Terrain", which is good for observing waterways and surrounding topography. I also look at topographic maps on TerraServe or MapQuest for details on such things as portages and canals.
I sometimes tap Wikipedia and other Internet sources for the history of various places that interest me. Thus I like to think I am in some minor way duplicating the extensive research that Verlen did with books, maps, atlases and correspondence in preparation for the expedition.
In 2008 for Charlie's Odyssey, and in the spring of 2009 for the Detroit-to-Chicago Ultimate Hugh Heward Challenge, I followed the paddlers with what I called my "Virtual Helicopter". This system involved using Google Earth satellite coverage, tilting the perspective and following up and down the rivers and shores at various levels above the tree tops.
For this project I think that approach is too fast and mechanical. This time I'm going to use what I think of as the "Seagull" system. Slower and much quieter, so-to-speak. I will use Google Maps map and terrain coverage to see where I am and am going or have been, and the satellite coverage to see what the waterways and surroundings actually look like. Then I sort of fly upstream or down like a seagull follows a stream.
As you who paddle know, from the canoe on the river at paddler's eye level all you really see is the river and its nearby banks. On backwaters or lakes your view expands to include more sky and farther shores and maybe distant highlands. Using the Seagull approach, thanks to the miracle of the Internet, I can look down like God from any height and see what paddlers can't.
For my first exercise I looked at their route from the mouth of the Detroit River across Lake Erie to the mouth of the Maumee at Toledo.
This is familiar territory to me and my computer since Hugh Heward and his crew in 1790 and the Ultimate Hugh Heward Challengers in 2009 paddled across the lake from the Detroit River to get to the mouth of the Huron River for their upstream struggles. Also, the mouth of the Huron was where my hero Charlie Parmelee started upstream in the snow on his 2008 Odyssey. Further, in 1680 LaSalle rafted across the mouth of the Detroit to get to Ontario on his way to Niagara after having walked across the the wilderness of the Lower Peninsula.
I invite you to join me in following Verlen and Valerie. As usual, if you want to opt out, just let me know.