Father and son retrace historic Jesuit journey

By | April 4, 2012

What Faulkner and his son, Justin, 16, accomplished was a 1,000 mile canoe trip in the spring and summer of 1996 that retraced the discovery route of Jesuit Fr. Jacques Marquette and his companion Louis Joliet. Just like the 17th century French voyageurs, the Faulkners began at St. Ignace, an early French mission in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and they ended 62 days later in St. Louis, Mo.

Author holds book signings

Steven Faulker will give a presentation and sign copies of his book, “Waterwalk,” April 11 and 12. He will be at the Paper Discovery Center in Appleton April 11, 6:30 p.m., and at Heritage Hill State Park, Green Bay, at noon April 12.

Much of their journey took place in northeastern Wisconsin. They journeyed along Lake Michigan, up the Fox River and finally down the Mississippi River. In two months, the duo averaged around 15 miles a day. They ate lunch and pitched their tent at night on any sandbar or clearing they could find.

Their story was detailed in a 2008 book by Faulkner titled “Waterwalk” and the book was recently made into an independent film with the same title. Faulkner will be in the Green Bay area next week for book signings and presentations. He will also be here to promote the film, which he says will debut in select theaters around the Midwest at the end of April.

In the book, the author tells of how he and his son attended Mass at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral. Afterwards, they strolled around downtown where the two came upon the stone sculpture “The Spirit of the Northwest.”

“Beside the nameless Indian is Father Allouez,” wrote Faulkner, “that early Jesuit missionary who had discovered copper on Lake Superior and was a friend to Marquette as well as the one the one who founded the mission at Green Bay.”

The most harrowing experience of their journey occurred in this region. “It happened near Appleton, Wis.,” wrote Faulkner, who now teaches creative writing at Longwood University in southern Virginia. “We capsized and came within seconds of getting washed over the dam there. We lost the canoe and much of our supplies over the dam. But thanks to the help of some local reporters we were able to retrieve the canoe and most of our supplies.”

Faulkner credits the idea for a movie to his publisher, Roger Rapoport. According to Rapoport, the movie was shot in five Midwestern states, took 40 days and included 40 actors and more than 200 extras. Veteran Hollywood actor of film and television Robert Cicchini plays Faulkner. Chase Maser takes on the role of Justin.

“This was a movie that would be hard for a big studio to make because there were over 50 locations, including many in remote areas that couldn’t accommodate a big film crew,” Rapoport said.

Faulkner explained that the movie will appeal to a variety of audiences, including people who don’t go the movies much. He noted that one aspect of the film is that it demonstrates the determination of those early explorers.

“The early voyagers were not only brave men but they were incredibly strong and determined,” he said.

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