Hodding Carter III and his crew set off in a replica 18th-century bateau to retrace Benedict Arnold’s historic 1775 expedition to sack Quebec City for the Continental Army. It was a torturous 350-mile journey upstream with dozens of portages through bogs, swamps and rocky passes and then down a rapid-filled river to the St. Lawrence. Arnold started with 1100 men and 200 bateaux and after seven weeks he arrived at Quebec with less than 700. Along the way his soldiers had starved, drowned, fallen sick with countless illnesses and deserted. It is considered to be one of the greatest campaigns carried out by Americans, second only to the Lewis and Clark expedition. Afterward–before he became a traitor, of course–he was one of the most beloved officers in the young nation and was often referred to as America’s Hannibal.
The modern group traveled in the same type of 400-pound boat, ate the same food, wore the same clothing and hoped to finish in the same amount of time. They successfully completed the journey in the fall of 2017.
Hodding Carter–the son and grandson of journalists–was born in Greenville, Mississippi and has spent his entire adult life, according to the New York Times, “as a wise-cracking warrior,” writing about his attempts to understand both our history and our place in the world. He attended Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, (BA, English Literature, 1984) and was an All-American on Kenyon’s national-champion swim team. Just months after graduating, Hodding landed “the toughest job you’ll ever love” and served 2-½ years as a US Peace Corps volunteer in western Kenya, teaching English and assisting with rural development.
In 1989 and back in the States, Esquire magazine hired him as a fact-checker with one caveat: he could never write for the magazine (thanks to Bright Lights, Big City for years to come every wannabe writer had to be a fact-checker). Quickly defying this rule, his first article, an examination of Mark Spitz’s midlife-crisis-driven, ill-fated Olympic comeback, appeared in Esquire less than nine months later. And he has been writing professionally ever since.
In 1992, he retraced the Lewis and Clark expedition by foot, horse, and boat and wrote his first book, Westward Whoa (Simon and Schuster, 1994). Entertainment Weekly gave it an “A” and the book also received a positive mention in The New Yorker. Deciding he was an adventurer, Hodding set out to retrace Leif Ericsson’s voyage to the New World soon afterwards. After Hodding and crew survived a number of close calls with polar bears, icebergs, frostbite, and even a sinking ship, Ballantine published his account, A Viking Voyage, of this misguided undertaking in 2000. National Geographic Adventure heralded the memoir as, “Funny and self-deprecating and sweetly engaging…It’s such a charming book, in fact, that when they do reach their goal you wish it had taken longer—and that you could have gone with them.”
During this period, 1996-1997, Hodding also hosted a television travel show, Off to Nowhere, on the Outdoor Life Network (OLN). He led celebrity guests on outdoor adventures around the world and, for better or worse, was one of the first TV hosts to use video-diary entries as a recurring device to reveal his guests “real” views. Entertainment Weekly labeled this offbeat show the best program on OLN.
His 2004 book about the Everglades, Stolen Water, was published by Atria Books. “Carter is a passionate grumbler,” Audubon magazine declared when awarding it an “Editor’s Choice” for 2004. “Stolen Water is his love song to the Everglades as well as a heartfelt rejoinder to the dealmakers who brokered its restoration plan…” His 2006 book on plumbing, Flushed, was called “delightful” by the LA Times and “witty, entertaining and just plain fun to read” by the Minneapolis Star Tribune. His most recent book, Off the Deep End, published in June 2008 by Algonquin, covered his attempt to qualify for the US Olympic swimming trials at the age of 45. The New York Times wrote “…he’s a hell of a guy… because, despite himself, he usually ends up doing the right thing.” He did not, by the way, qualify for the Olympics.
Hodding has won numerous writing awards, including three Society of American Travel Writers (SATW) awards for his magazine articles. An Outside magazine article, about canoeing from Memphis, TN to Vicksburg, MS during the Mississippi River’s 500-Year-Flood in May 2011, was chosen as a best travel story of the year by about.com and awarded the 2012 SATW Best US/Canada Travel Article award. He lives in Camden, Maine with his wife Lisa Lattes, a public interest attorney, and their 4 children.