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Viewfinder: Brothers paddle Mississippi River in canoe

NATCHEZ — Eric Phendler and his brother Daniel Phendler stopped in Natchez overnight Tuesday after traveling down the Mississippi River in a 15 1/2-foot canoe for 61 days.

“I think this is by far one of the coolest towns,” Daniel Phendler said. “We’ve seen Memphis and St. Louis, beautiful towns but this has tons of history around here and everyone we meet has been really nice.”

The two Canadians said they began their canoe journey in Minnesota. They have been camping on sandbars and restocking for supplies when they have a chance to dock in towns.

Eric Phendler, 27, the older of the two, said he roped Daniel, 24, into traveling with him. Daniel Phendler said his brother had been planning this trip for a year and a half, after meeting someone during his time in South Africa who told him about hiking the Appalachian Trail.

“I thought it was super interesting,” Eric Phendler said. “I didn’t want to hike for six months, and I was looking for something similar. Just the history of the Mississippi River is super interesting.”

The two also have used the experience to help raise money for Conservation Memphremagog, a not-for-profit organization that works to protect Lake Memphremagaog, which crosses the borders of Canada and the United States.

More than 90 percent of the population of the Canadian town of Sherbrooke depend on the lake for their drinking water.

As of Wednesday, the two brothers had raised nearly $2,000 for the project.

Daniel Phendler said they predict they will be on the river seven more days before they reach the Gulf of Mexico. Then, afterwards they plan to travel back to New Orleans and then fly back to Canada.

Both brothers said what they would take away from the trip is the people they met along the way and the kindness they received from strangers.

“Everyone we met so far has been amazing,” Eric Phendler said. “We’ve had people feed us, give us tours of their towns everyone on the river has been super nice. It has been pretty eye-opening.”

Daniel Phendler said people on the river seem to have a different mentality.

“We expected to be roughing it the whole time,” Daniel Phendler said, “but they say there are river angels on the way who will take you in, give you a shower . . . wash your clothes and make you feel at home a couple of nights. That’s been the highlight of our trip, the people that we’ve met. It’s unbelievable.”

To donate to the brothers’ 3,700-kilometer Mississippi River Canoe Challenge for charity, visit  https://www.gofundme.com/mississippi-r-magog-conservation.

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