Joining us to talk about this incredible excursion is Don Mann, contestant on “The Brigade”. Don himself is an impressive guy. He’s a former Navy SEAL Team SIX Commando, renowned World–Class Adventure Competitor and New York Times Best Selling Author. He has climbed Denali, Kilimanjaro, Mount Whitney, a summit attempt at Everest and so many more mountaineering accomplishments. By any standard, Don is an incredible guy that has seen and done more than most people ever will. With so much experience in different areas, “The Brigade” is right up his alley!
Don says the 750-mile trek from the Pacific Northwest to the Hudson Bay was very challenging. The contestants of all different skill levels had to contend with the cold, windy conditions, good and bad weather, use different kinds of boats to travel up currents, down currents, through rapids and traverse all kinds of terrain. Because he has such an extensive background and is highly skilled, Don says one of the biggest questions for himself was not about his own abilities but wondering about the skill level of the 9 other team members. Furthermore, Don said there was a bit of a generational element to the challenge as well because he was older than the other contestants. Relating the skill level and individual specialties to that of a SEAL team, Don says that the cast was diverse and likely each was chosen because of an individual skill or strong suit they could bring to the challenge. Unlike other competitions where contestants work to outwit and outperform their competitors, “The Brigade” is a team event where each and every member is valuable and has to make it to the finish line so working collectively is a must. Don says that all of the contestants knew that a $500,000 prize awaited them at the end, however the driving force for him personally was the desire to work together with these strangers, finish the challenge and have a great experience.
When the fur traders were using the route more than 100 years ago, Dons says they used large, wooden open water canoes. Throughout their trek across the York Factory Express, Dons says Brigade members used several different boats, including one very similar to that of the fur traders. The massive canoe was loaded down with 10 people and all of their gear and they had to work together to navigate different waters. At night they would then find a place to camp, start a fire, warm up, and map out the route for the next day. This trail from more than 150 years ago was well traveled then but hasn’t been touched much since and as a result he says it felt like they were walking and paddling on hallowed ground and waters. They came across old buildings, carvings in trees with dates, signs and other historical artifacts and markers. The infrequency of travel on this route since the days of the fur trade means that very few people have seen the land and waters they traveled in more than 100 years, making the journey that much more significant.
Although Don has an extensive amount of experience in outdoor situations, there were a few things that he was concerned about on this journey. One was the wildlife, and more specifically bears. He slept each night on the ground without a tent so other contestants could have those shelters and he wondered about the possibility of bears coming into camp and finding him. In a quick trip to the woods to use the bathroom, he was followed by a black bear so he knew the risk was definitely there. Not only did they encounter black bears, but polar bears as well so any trepidations about wildlife were justified. Furthermore, Don notes that prior to “The Brigade” he experienced frostbite on both of his feet and, as a result, he had a hard time with them in cold water. Plus, he had to contend with a previously ripped shoulder muscle. To top things off, Don was recovering from a near fatal experience the year before as he attempted to summit Everest. Don talks about getting deathly sick and almost dying on Mount Everest after his lungs filled with fluid, his brain cavity filled with fluid, he experienced memory loss, loss of color vision, was exhaling fluids and beginning to drown in those fluids. Amazingly, he was able to come back from the brink, get off the mountain and shortly thereafter he was asked about trying out for “The Brigade”. Although he was recovering from a serious episode, Don said that he was ready to take on a new challenge. At 60 years old he was excited to do something else big, and this adventure sounded like a great opportunity.
After the adventure was over Don says that returning to civilization was strange. To see people, vehicles and stores seemed odd and made him realize just how far off the beaten path they had been. Don says that he loves being out in nature alone and didn’t want the experience to end. And, if given the opportunity, he says he would do it again without a second thought. Whether or not each and every member crossed the finish line and whether or not the team was able to claim the $500,000 is yet to be seen. You have to tune in to Outdoor Channel and find out!
“The Brigade – Race to the Hudson” premieres April 22 at 8:00 pm ET on Outdoor Channel! Be sure to mark your calendars so you don’t miss it. In the meantime, tune in as Don Mann joins The Revolution to talk about his experience on this one of a kind adventure.