“Bear Grylls” Conquers the Mississippi

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“Bear Grylls” Conquers the Mississippi

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By Silas Olson

At Forest Hills Northern High School, we have a variety of people from all over the world. There is one man, however, who surpasses them all with his kindness, strength, and never-ending adventure stories. His name is Jason Olson. Kindness to others, generosity, honesty, being humble and keeping a positive outlook on life are his guiding principles.

What makes Olson one of the most interesting people I’ve ever met is the stories he tells about his life. One of the greatest adventures he has ever embarked on was his kayak trip down the entire Mississippi River. Olson and his father had planned the trip 10 years earlier (he was graduated from college at the time). They had no idea of the dangers they would certainly encounter. They had no idea what to expect.

“We were just bent on sheer adventure and trying to be excited about brand new things around each riverbed.”

“We started out the trip thinking it was going to be all about adventure. It went from adventure to adventure and a lot of pain. A lot of pain and more pain. Stiff, sore, and stretched muscles. Burnt, crispy skin. Waterlogged clothes. Stinky, smelly, sweaty, and swarmed with bugs. Itchy from bug bites. It was just one day after another of complete and utter survival some weeks.” Spending time with his dad through the back-breaking torture and torment of paddling 11 hours a day with limited breaks in between made the entire trip worth it.

Some of the dangers they encountered were barges, usually 100 hundred yards long, and most barges were tied to other barges. If they weren’t careful, a barge would run them over.

“We were tiny specks on the river compared to these barges,” Olson adds. “There were all kinds of venomous snakes and spiders we had to watch out for, as well as alligators. The most dangerous part was the river itself, especially at night. The river would drop off and go into swirling rapids and whirlpools.”  A kayaker’s nightmare.

Olson met a multitude of people on their trip. “We met some really beautiful people with big hearts that wanted to share our trip and adventure. They were willing to help us resupply with food and supplies many times. We had people offer us cold drinks while paddling on the river. We met boaters who would share their lunches with us. People who wanted to know who we were and where we came from. When we got down south, we truly sounded so different than most of the people that lived on the river. Many times they would call us Yankees because of our Northern accents. We did run into some people who weren’t so friendly, but that’s for another time.”

He told me it took them three summers to complete. At the final stretch, they had heard that Hurricane Dennis, the hurricane right before Katrina, was about to make landfall. They made it to the Gulf of Mexico one day before the hurricane hit. After Mr. Olson got done telling me his story, he seemed more like Bear Grylls than a high school biology teacher. Olson has many more stories that include danger and adventure that he enjoys sharing. All you need do is ask.   



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