River pilgrimage takes paddlers on 400-mile spiritual quest

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New England Episcopalians have organized a 40-day pilgrimage of canoeists and kayakers of all faiths along the 400-mile Connecticut River, trading cellphones for paddles.

The idea for the "River of Life" pilgrimage came from Robert Hirschfeld, the Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire. Hirschfeld sees the journey as a way for people to renew their relationship with God and connect with one another and with nature.

Nine people started the first leg of the trip May 31 near the Canadian border, hiking where it was too shallow to paddle, at first, before venturing onto the water. Participants can join at any part of the trip, or follow a special prayer book at home with daily readings and reflections.

The pilgrimage is scheduled to end July 9 at the Long Island Sound.