News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Top Story 4

February 18, 2014

Video: Navy veteran recounts tale of kayak trip

Bedwell is first to make blind, solo trip of entire length of Grand Canyon

TERRE HAUTE — Sharing his story is exciting for a Dugger man who made history by becoming the first blind solo kayaker to travel the entire length of the Grand Canyon.

Lonnie Bedwell told the Terre Haute Rotary Club on Tuesday about his experience learning to kayak, and why he chose to make the journey down the Colorado River, accompanied by a support crew from Team River Runner.

“To me, you can live in fear and pity, and do nothing, or, you can just live. I have chosen to live life,” said Bedwell, who lost his eyesight in May 1997 in a hunting accident when a friend shot him in the face.

At the time, Bedwell had served nine years in the U.S. Navy. His prior military service made him a candidate for Team River Runner, which gives active duty service members and veterans an opportunity to find health, healing and new challenges through whitewater boating and other paddling sports.

Bedwell has worked with the Terre Haute chapter of TRR, located at Indiana State University’s Sycamore Outdoor Center, where he learned how to handle a kayak despite his disability.

He made the 16-day journey through the Grand Canyon in August 2013. But it was 16 years ago that he lost his sight, and he had gained confidence in his own abilities during that time to feel that he could make the hazardous and physically demanding trip.

At all times while he was in the water, he was surrounded by a team of paddlers and followed by four support rafts. Through their verbal commands, Bedwell was able to navigate the entire trip, and he ended up swimming outside of his kayak only on two occasions near the end of the trip.

After losing his sight, Bedwell said, he was frustrated that he couldn’t maintain his property as he had in the past. It was his 5-year-old daughter who took him to his lawnmower, guided him to his barn and watched as he drove around the barn with one hand touching the wall of the structure while he mowed down the weeds.

Later that day, he said, his father got mad at him for taking on the lawn mowing, but Bedwell pointed out the faith of his youngest daughter, who knew he could still do anything he wanted to do. Bedwell said his other two daughters quickly caught on to challenge their father and help him do regular activities.

“Those three little girls refused to let me quit,” he said. “Just to know somebody believes in you makes all the difference in the world. And that’s what Team River Runners does for me.”

Bedwell said he met the organization’s leader several months ago, but neither one of them dreamed that Bedwell would end up kayaking the Grand Canyon as soon as August 2013. He did a lot of training on his own and with the local TRR group. In addition to kayaking, Bedwell has ridden a bike across the Rocky Mountains and gone mountain climbing.

“Seventeen years ago, I never dreamed of doing any of this kind of stuff. Impossible. Yet, it’s coming true,” he said.

His next challenge is to solo hang glide, he said. And he will likely accompany other disabled veterans on kayaking adventures.

Bedwell said he enjoys sharing his story. He hopes it inspires others and that it builds support for Team River Runner and other organizations that assist disabled veterans.

He summed up his feelings about his experiences this way:

“When a tough part comes up in someone’s life, it’s like, you’ve been dropped behind this big wall, and you’re just stuck,” he explained. “And then this organization comes along, and people financially support it, and that puts a door in the wall. And then, you can go through that door to the other side and start to live again.”

But that, he said, is not the best part of the experience.

“When the time is right, people go back through that door, to get someone else, and bring them through that door, too. That’s why I support this so much, because I have literally watched this happen time and again,” Bedwell said.

Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.


Text Only | Photo Reprints
Top Story 4
Latest News Poll
AP Video
Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station New York Auto Show Highlights Latest in Car Tech Man Charged in Kansas City Highway Shootings Raw: Greeks Celebrate Easter With "Rocket War" Raw: Students Hurt in Colo. School Bus Crash Raw: Fire Destroys 3 N.J. Beachfront Homes New York Auto Show Highlights Latest in Car Tech Raw: Massive 7.2 Earthquake Rocks Mexico Captain of Sunken SKorean Ferry Arrested Drought Concerns May Hurt Lake Tourism Small Reactors Could Be Future of Nuclear Energy Raw: Easter Morning Delivery for Space Station Popular Science Honors Year's Top Inventions Ceremony Marks 19th Anniversary of OKC Bombing Raw: Church Tries for Record With Chalk Jesus Raw: Orthodox Christians Observe Easter Rite Raw: More Than 100,000 Gather for Easter Sunday Vermont Goat Meat Gives Refugees Taste of Home Obama Awards Navy Football Trophy Police Question Captain, Crew on Ferry Disaster
NDN Video
Jabari Parker's Top 5 Plays From Duke Career Kourtney Kardashian Is a Bikini Babe More Manpower Than Ever Expected At 4/20 Rally Debunk'd: Miley Cyrus AIDS, Cheeseburgers Cause Cancer, Military Warning Bill Previewing the NBA playoffs Raw: Orthodox Christians Observe Easter Rite My name is Cocaine Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Lohan Gets Candid About Her Sex List The 2014 New York Auto Show Meet Johnny Manziel's New Girlfriend Chelsea Clinton Announces Pregnancy Funny: Celebrating Easter with Martha Stewart and Friends Man Accuses 'X-Men' Director Bryan Singer of Sexually Abusing Him As a Teenager Man hit with $525 federal fine after he doesn't pay for soda refill Lea Michele & Naya Rivera Feuding? Jabari Parker declares for the NBA draft Singing Nun Belts Out Cyndi Lauper New West, Texas Explosion Video Swim Daily, Throwback Thursday

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
  • -


    March 12, 2010