CHICAGO (CBS) — Two young men from the suburbs have embarked on a 1,000-mile canoe trip from the Great Smoky Mountains to the Gulf of Mexico, to benefit diabetes research.

WBBM Newsradio’s Mike Krauser reports Nolan McClelland, of Batavia, and Pete Stadalsky, of Channahon, both have fathers who have Type 1 diabetes.

They launched their 70-day trip on June 23 from Fontana Lake in North Carolina, and have been blogging about their adventure along the way.

They’ll paddle or carry their canoe for the entire trip, following various waterways from the Great Smoky Mountains along the Tennesse-North Carolina border to Mobile, Alabama.

“It’s pretty much just elbow grease getting us down to the Gulf,” McClelland said in a video about their Paddle To Cure Diabetes.

On Thursday, they were floating down the Tennessee River, headed toward Chattanooga. They said they’re wet, hot, dirty, and full of bug bites; but they’re having a great time.

“It’s beautiful, and it’s awesome,” McClelland told CBS affiliate WVLT while they were near Knoxville.

Neither has done much canoeing until now.

Aside from inexperience, Stadalsky has another challenge.

“I’m also terrified of water,” he said.

Stadalsky said he’s gotten to know McClelland maybe a little too well.

“I didn’t know I was going to be painting nail polish on Nolan’s butt cheeks every night to cure his chiggers,” he said.

They’re not using GPS to guide their way, or motors to help propel the canoe. They’re also camping every night.

“It’s a complete disconnect from technology,” McClelland said.

They’ve received some help from strangers along the way.

“The best thing you can do is just help each other out,” Stadalsky said.

To donate to their effort to raise money for diabetes research, click here.

You can also help cover the cost of their expenses by clicking here.