Bloomington teens kayak the Mississippi River for a cause

- What teenager hasn't fantasized about spending the summer, floating down a lazy river?

Two best friends from Bloomington just finished an epic journey that would do Huckleberry Finn proud.

It took Matt Rens and Jessie Richards 51 days, 10 states and 2,300 miles to travel the entire length of the Mississippi River.

They just got home on Saturday after spending their summer kayaking for a cause.

"It was too many memories all crammed into a few days," said Rens. "It's really nice to be home, but it's also confusing because for 51 days, we've been waking up in a different place every day. For the past three days, I've been waking up in my own bed in the air conditioning and out of the bugs."

Ever since Rens got a kayak for a birthday present a few years ago, Rens dreamed of paddling the entire length of the mighty Mississippi.

When his dad died last year, Rens decided to honor him by making his dream a reality.

"He was the only one who thought I would do it," said Rens. "Even I didn't think it would happen. It was an idea, a joke. And then he died and I was like I just have to just because he knew I would. I have to do it now."

On June 11, Rens and Richards left Itasca State Park on their 2,300-mile journey to the Gulf of Mexico.

Every day, the pair posted video updates on Facebook, while battling the elements, bugs and boredom and raising more than $12,000 for Lifewater, an organization that provides clean water and sanitation to villages in third world countries in the process.

"Keeping my mind occupied was pretty tough," said Richards. "You feel like you've thought of everything your mind can think of. You just start thinking about things that you wouldn't normally think about. You get bored with yourself."

After nearly two months of spending 12 to 13 hours a day in their kayaks, Rens and Richards are glad to be back on dry land.

But they'll always have the memory of their once in a lifetime journey that allowed them to make a few waves.

"Easily the best thing I've done," said Rens. "Great to do it for such a worthy cause."

Rens and Richards say they lost about 30 pounds during their trip.

At 18 and 19 years old, they believe they're the youngest to ever kayak the entire Mississippi.

If you'd like more information on their trip or to donate to Lifewater, click here.
 

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