Midwest Hidden Gems by Canoe Expedition

add to outlook calendar add to gmail calendar April 28 - May 2, 2021
Carbondale, Illinois
Entry Form Open from February 15, 2021 to February 25, 2021

All adult survivors 18 and older are invited to join TAPS on the 2021 Midwest Hidden Gems by Canoe Expedition as we explore the wilderness of our earth and of our grief alongside our fellow survivors from every population. These therapeutic, outdoor skills-based events are led by both TAPS facilitators and professional outdoor guides through some of the world’s most challenging and inspiring landscapes. 

If you’re living a life you never thought you would, why not do the things you never thought you could? When grief halts everything we once knew, we are asked to pause, reflect, and then rebuild. This is TAPS Expeditions - where planning and preparation are the gateway to discovering something new outside of who we are, learning who we can become if we simply keep going.






Join TAPS as you and your fellow survivors paddle by canoe through the Mark Twain National Forest of the southern Midwest! During our Expedition, participants will learn how to navigate by canoe on the 11 Point National Scenic River, explore caves and fresh water springs, and so much more!

Leading up to the expedition, a team bond will begin to form as you gain familiarity with each other through team meetings to discuss training regimens, gear lists and more. Your team will be a source of encouragement as you train for this canoeing adventure and an ongoing support network long after the expedition is complete.

While each expedition is unique and rewarding, they can also be physically, mentally and emotionally challenging. We at TAPS hope you’ll apply to join the team after you’ve taken some time to consider your current physical and emotional strength and resilience.

This expedition is being put together through a partnership with Touch of Nature Environmental Center. Through this partnership, we rely on our qualified guides at Touch of Nature Environmental Center for their expertise in ensuring our physical safety in a variety of outdoor spaces. 

COVID-19 Information - For those selected to attend, please note that TAPS will adhere to the CDC and WHO standard event safety protocols. These include but are not limited to, face masks to be worn at all times and social distancing guidelines in place. All guidelines are established to ensure our participants' safety as directed by the Touch of Nature staff and guides.




There will be at least two team meetings via video chat that is mandatory for participants. These meetings are designed to support you in your preparation for the Expedition and foster connections with your fellow survivors. You will have access to the Expeditions Facebook group, which will include participants from this expedition, as well as those who participated in previous expeditions so you can ask questions and learn from their experiences.


*This schedule is provided by Touch of Nature Environmental Center and is subject to change due to a number of reasons, including weather and participant skill level.

Day 1: The Expedition will begin at the Touch of Nature Environmental Center in Carbondale, Illinois with group introductions, gear check and family dinner. We will stay on site in the lodge.

Day 2: We will rise early on Thursday and depart for the Eleven Point River. The day will include a paddle to our camp, with time to explore fresh water springs and caves along the way.  We will arrive to set up camp in the afternoon at Denny Hollow Float Camp/Roaring Spring. All meals provided. Paddle: 6.5 miles

Days 3 and 4: Rising early each day, our paddles will be both adventurous and enjoyable, with sections of rapids and beautiful views of the Mark Twain National Forest. We will explore numerous springs, feeder creeks and caves along the way, camping primitively along the river, with our final night together Saturday.

Day 5: Another early rise, but a short paddle and adventurous paddle with sections of rapids. We will take out, pack up, head back to Touch of Nature Environmental Center for a short closing, well-earned showers and family lunch.


We fully expect your team members to become your family and an ongoing support network long after the TAPS Expedition is complete. You'll be provided with a directory following the expedition to keep in touch with each other.



This expedition requires no canoeing experience but does necessitate that you be physically fit and healthy. This physically demanding expedition that will include kayaking between two and fifteen miles a day and some one- to two-mile hikes with hills and uneven terrain. Even if you don't have canoeing experience, if this adventure excites you then we encourage you to submit an entry form by Thursday, February 25, 2021.

To maximize your enjoyment of the trip and to avoid sore muscles, we suggest you engage in a regular exercise regimen leading up to the trip. Prior to the trip, we'll have an online video meeting to go over training regimens, gear lists and more. The TAPS Outdoors team will make sure you are prepared and well informed of the nature of this expedition.


Tour Facilitators

Rachel Hunsell


Rachel Hunsell, Program Manager for Outdoor Engagement

Rachel develops, implements and supports programming in the outdoors across the TAPS network, including our backcountry Expeditions. Rachel connects survivors with the healing power of the outdoors and encourages participants to reconnect with their inner strength by creating emotionally safe and understanding environments. As a survivor honoring the life and death of her brother, Marine Lance Cpl J. Kyle Price, she understands the valleys and mountaintops we experience along the journey after loss.

Tony Paz


Tony Paz

Tony came to TAPS in 2019 after serving 25 years in the U.S. Army. An experienced leader in special operations, training development, and an avid outdoorsman, Tony joined TAPS to continue serving everyone with ties to our military. He is dedicated to connecting the TAPS family to the therapeutic and transformative power of the outdoors.



All trip fees from Wednesday evening through Sunday afternoon are covered by TAPS thanks to our generous donors. 

Trip fees not noted above are your pre/post expedition transportation costs, meals outside of events, guide gratuities and gear not provided.



You will need to cover the cost of your transportation to and from the Touch of Nature Environmental Center in Carbondale, Illinois. Plan to arrive by 4 p.m. Central on Wednesday, April 28 and stay through the event’s conclusion late afternoon on Sunday, May 2. 

During this expedition we will be staying in a lodge on Wednesday night and camping along the beaches of the 11 Point National Scenic River. Your accommodations are provided at no cost to you thanks to our generous donors.



Entry forms will be open from February 15 to 25, 2021 (look for the blue button at the top of this page at that time). You can expect a call from TAPS Outdoors staff within one week. If more entry forms are received than we have slots available, TAPS will host a random selection from qualified entries.


If you have any questions, please email expeditions@taps.org or call 800-959-TAPS (8277).

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