JANESVILLE — After four years hiking the Frozen Otter Trek, Rock Valley Community Programs Director of Residential Re-entry Joel Galvan still hasn’t finished it. His knees have given out and he’s suffered leg cramps. Last year, a wind chill of 27 degrees below zero knocked him out.
Despite it all, Galvan plans to return to the Frozen Otter on Jan. 14 in order to raise funds for Housing4OurVets. He is calling on the community to sponsor him as well as Rock Valley Community Programs Residential Re-entry Monitor Nick Brockley.
The two men plan to take the 64-mile trek through Kettle Moraine State Park. Participants are required to complete the trek within 24 hours with a pack of survival gear. Typically half of the people who enter the race do not finish it.
“It’s the combination of deep snow, hills, freezing cold and hunger. It gets hard to see after dark in the middle of nowhere,” Galvan said.
People can make donations at the following link https://www.gofundme.com/Freezin4HomelessVe or by typing in “4th Annual Freezin4HomelessVets” at www.gofundme.com.
During the past three years the group, called the Rock Valley Rockstars, have raised close to $50,000. However, donations are down this year. As of Thursday afternoon, Galvan said they had only raised about $400. In other years the group raised anywhere from $12,000 to $24,000 a year.
The funds will be used to help fund Housing4OurVets, a 48-bed wing for veterans.
Veterans can stay for 24 months. During their stay they are provided with food and lodging, a case manager, transportation and any hygiene items or clothing. The veterans can take part in cookouts, holiday parties and community outings.
Galvan explained how Housing4OurVets is only partially funded through a grant per diem program with Veterans Affairs. Housing4OurVets only receives $30 per veteran per day.
“It’s not enough, so we must depend on fundraisers to help with transportation costs and the men’s needs. We raise money throughout the year,” Galvan said.
Because of the needs of veterans, Galvan will try the Otter one more time, hoping to finally finish it.
He’s planning to stick in back with his fellow Rockstar to get the encouragement he needs. Although he typically hikes about 8 miles ahead of Brockley, he said it will be worth it to stay behind to avoid the utter isolation and low spirits which set in after hours of cold and darkness.
Galvan has had quite a battle with Mother Nature at Kettle Moraine.
The first year, he got leg cramps which made him so stiff he had to drop out at mile 40.
He tried to rehydrate but his water bottle was frozen. The second year, he dropped out after having knee problems. He later developed tendinitis.
Joel said last year was his worst. He only made it 32 miles because of the negative 27 degree Fahrenheit wind chill.
“The wind was like knives going through me,” Galvan said.
Brockley said he will be returning for this third try at the trek. He said he only made it 24 miles last year because of the frigid weather and his 40 pound pack.
“It was definitely terrible,” he said.
The weather, he said, can be key to success. It it gets too cold more gear has to be carried which weighs one down. Although there are light snacks at checkpoints, there is almost no time to eat.
“I do the same pace every year. It’s definitely a hard time out there. You have to stay warm but you can’t sweat. If you sweat, you freeze and then you die. I plan to do as little dying as possible,” Brockley joked.
Brockley said the Rockstars will be doing it for fundraising, but many seasoned and sponsored racers compete. With only seven of them completing it last year, it shows how challenging the race can be.