DAY 17 Tuesday May 16 Stopped at mile marker 866. Paddled 33 miles today.

Today started out wet. No way to sugarcoat it. It started to rain at 5:00 am and didn’t quite until about 9:00. Everything was wet, but in order for me to stay on schedule, I packed up, wet or not, and started paddling at 9:20. The sun finally came out and the river was flowing well as the water level increased about six inches from yesterday.  I made extremely good time the first two hours today, six mph.  Then the wind started but it was a cross wind so it was tolerable was was still able to go about five mph. Then at Elk River as the river turns straight south for three miles it was brutal going into the 10 – 15 mph winds. I eventually made it to the Coon Rapids dam at 4:00, just before the cities started to get pummeled by the storms this afternoon. Staying at my kayaking partner’s home tonight in Anoka. He will be dropping me back at the dam in the morning.

I saw a number of eagles today but the best siting was of four deer, two bucks and two doe. I stopped paddling and floated within fifteen yards of them – incredible.

Expecting a night of rain tonight so we’ll see how dry tomorrow will actually be.

 

DAY 16 Monday May 15 Camped at mile marker 899. Paddled 35 miles today and portage 8.

I can tell that I’m officially back in the metro area as all night I could hear the mind-numbing drone of Hwy 10’s traffic and the constant train whistles.

Woke at 6:30 and started breaking camp immediately. Having been given good weather advice the night before, I adjusted my schedule to leave an hour earlier than planned.  Since it was too early to call Bill, Gary’s friend in Sartell, to let him know that I would be an hour early for the portage, I just took off for the eight mile trek to the Sartell dam. Half way down I got ahold of Bill and he had no problem trying to get ahead of the weather.

The portage went well. After discussions with Gary the day before and Bill today, I decided it makes most sense to portage around both dams and the class 2 and 3 rapids all at once. As we were putting in below the St Cloud dam, we were informed that there was a search and recovery mission going on South from this point. Since I was heading down river,  they asked if I would also keep an eye open for the missing teen.

As I’ve been paddling I’ve been keeping an eye on the pending storm. I’ve tried to make the correct call when I  get to a sheltered area whether I can make it to the next possible shelter before the storm hits. Of course, I ended up 3/4 miles short of the Clearwater bridge and the downpour started. I took shelter under some nearby trees but that only helped for a few minutes. Since I was wet and not going anywhere for the time being I ate lunch. The rain eventually quit and then the sun came out and it got muggy. I think I may have preferred the rain – just kidding.

Surprisingly, it was a good wildlife day. I saw more eagles than I could keep track of, upwards of 25 to 30 if I had to guess. The usual array of waterfowl, but with all the development along the river this close to the metro areas, the odds of seeing much of anything else is getting slim.

I made it to the Montissippi County Park by 7. I made camp and prepped for the overnight storm that we are supposed to be getting tonight. Turned in early since my cell and tablet don’t have enough power to do much since the sun was not out long enough today to charge my battery pack.

Just a couple of notes to mention that I forgot to include previously: I saw my first water skier this year on the chain of Lakes just north of Brainerd and I saw the first golf course with holes on the river just north of Little Falls.

 

DAY 15 Sunday  May 14 Camped at mile marker 942. Paddled 21 miles today.

Today  started as a lazy day. I woke up at 8:30 and proceeded to plan the day. I blogged a bit and finally got caught up to date. Not really paying attention to the time, it got to be later than I planned. Gary stopped by about 11:00 and further discussed my plans for the balance of the trip. He was able to get ahold of Bill Ness who would help me out with portaging through the Sartell to St. Cloud area. I am glad to take their advise and experience on the river.

Having done all this, I did not start paddling until 1:15. Facing a stiff headwind and 12 inch waves, it took me over two and one half hours to go seven miles to the dam where Gary was waiting to portage me around the Blanchard Dam. (At the dam, I have been on the river for exactly two weeks now). I was back in the water again by 5:00 with fourteen miles to go to the Stearns County Mississippi Campground. With the current back to normal below the dam, the winds dying down a bit and paddling like hell, I made it to camp by 8:00.

It was a slow wildlife day, however, I did see two eagles today – bookends for the day, first thing this morning and just before getting to camp. A small amount of various waterfowl was present but not what I would expect.

I only saw three or four boats today contrasted with the fifteen to twenty yesterday for the fishing opener. I’m surprised that only about ten percent of the docks are in. At least I saw more people in their yards today.

Set for tomorrow, I’m turning in. Mary let me know that it is supposed to storm tomorrow so I might try get an earlier start than planned.

 

DAY 14 Saturday  May 13 Camped at mile marker 963. Paddled 29 miles today.

My alarm went off at 5:45 this morning. After pressing snooze a few times I got up and started blogging trying to get up to date. Harlen and Nancy invited me over for breakfast: apple pancakes and venison sausage. They were delicious.

After planning my day and making a reservation at Charles Lindbergh State Park for tonight I started breaking camp. By the time I hit the water it was 12:30, but I only had about 30 miles to go today with one portage, or so I thought.

Except for a few waterfowl and some turtles, there appeared to be no wildlife. No surprise since most of today’s trek is past Camp Ripley where shelling can be heard all day and into the night. The turtles, however,  provided some levity as they lined the west shore bank for some 200 yards as if watching a military review and as I passed they would, one by one, slide into the water.

As the water level continues to fall, the current is detectably slower.

The approach to the Little Falls dam is a blind approach, being right after a highway bridge and off to the left at a 90 degree angle. Unsettling at best. The portage went well except for backing into the only two stinging nettle plants in the whoever park. The entry back into the river below the dam was precarious at best – still in the turbulence of the dam flow. They should move the re-entry point to the end of the park, another 200 yards but definitely well worth it.

I got to the park landing about 6:30 and found I had about a 3/4 mile portage to the park plus getting to my campsite. After just about getting settled, I met a park volunteer, Gary Hennessy, who happens to be the former president of the Minnesota Canoe Association. We talked and he told me the next stretch was the most challenging of the upper river – 3 dam portages and two sets of rapids all within a stretch of 30 miles.

With that in mind, I am ready to call it a night at 10:30 and get some rest.

Only 118 miles to go to get to Fort Snelling State Park.

 

DAY 13 Friday  May 12 Camped at mile marker 992. Paddled 26 miles today.

I woke up at 6:45 this morning, rolled over and said enough is enough, and went back to sleep for another 2 hours – even though as the case usually is the river was like glass and not a breeze in the air. When I did get up I faced going through the Brainerd Chain of Lakes, basically just much wider unnamed parts of the river on my map. In any case the Potlatch Dam holds back water which also slows the current. A rough day paddling for about nine miles through the chain. It was about noon or a little after when I finally hit the water. Even though it was supposed to be nice the rest of the day it was sprinkling and skies were threatening, however, it is the first day that it was warm enough to paddle in a t-shirt instead of a sweatshirt. It felt just as good as finally not having to wear my shorty wetsuit for warmth any longer beginning the day we crossed Winni.

Seeing wildlife was slow today, but I did manage seeing a lone eagle and its nest, a couple blue heron, and a sandbill. No deer today but a lot of turtles, seven on one log – some large enough to be hubcaps. What wildlife was short, beautiful homes on the river made up for – the homes got closer together and bigger the closer to Brainerd I came.

The lock will be the challenge today. It is designed in an L shape with water flowing in from both sides. The turbulence below the dam is unreal. The eddies it creates last for a quarter mile downriver.

I camped at the Crow River State Park tonight.  I met Harlen and Nancy from Sauk Rapids at the boat ramp. It turned out that they were camping at the site right next to me. They are up camping for mother’s day as they do every year. Their son lives just minutes away and all the kids come to the park on Sunday. They invited me over to share there fire so I brought my two cans of food, popped the tops and let them heat while we talked and they continued with their game of Yahtzee. They play with a sheet for each game; and as usual, they also have House Rules for scoring. Nancy had made chocolate chip cookies earlier in the day and offered some – I could have eaten the whole bag but I kept it to just too. They were delicious.

I cleaned up and called it a day to get ready for tomorrow.

 

DAY 12 Thursday May 11 Camped at mile marker 1018. Paddled 38 miles today.

Today was another long day. Thankfully,  the wind, although rough at times, was o.k. and made for a good day of paddling with the current.

I was up at five and started to break camp early. While eating last night’s dinner, the remainder of the sloppy joes, I blogged and cleaned up. Thank goodness for the Aitkin County Park.

As I started taking the tent down the guy on the bike showed up. I told him about Sharon and offered him the remaining food that she had given me, crackers and peanut butter. He declined and told me to keep it. He said that he had enough peanut butter. This gentleman’s name was Todd and he had worked in computers and he just had had enough. He has a cabin up north of here and bikes the U.S. seasonally – from here to the Gulf Coast. When here he works at a local sod farm – that is the job he is waiting to start now.

The river seemed to be moving slower as the water level dropped about five to six inches overnight. It was filled though with wildlife for the first 10 miles and the last five miles of the day. I saw two groups of three deer earlier in the day. Since I didn’t get on the river, after talking with Todd, until about 11:10, it actually made the deer sittings about noon. I saw another group of four about 5:30. Two groups of trumpeter swans, a 3 pack and then 5 more about a mile down river toward the end of the day and two blue heron. All the Canada geese have their young in tow these days. The center of the day was visually void of wildlife and the strange thing of the day was that I hadn’t seen even one eagle.

The shoreline has been rising a bit but still predominantly low river bottom flood plains with hardwoods.

I got to my destination for the evening,  Half Moon campsite. It was great – there was actually a sign, plain as day, ‘campsite 300 yards’ , but finding the the actual site access still took a couple tries. I could see the site but couldn’t the easy access so once again did it the hard way. Then found the easy way by following the trail from the camp and then moving the kayak. It was 7:00 by now. I prepared the chili I had picked up in Palisade and had some tomato soup, with crackers – thank you Sharon.

I lied down and was out for the night.

 

DAY 11 Wednesday May 10 Camped at mile marker 1056. Paddled 30 miles today.

I woke early, 5: 15 and broke started breaking camp. I utilized the shower facilities and headed back downtown Palisade  with gear in tow for a hearty breakfast at the cafe. Unfortunately, once again, I couldn’t get internet service so was not able to catch up blogging as planned. There were many interesting individuals at the cafe. I had the egg scrambled and highly recommend it if you find yourself in Palisade. I left the cafe with the intent on hitting the water by 9:30.

I was all ready to hit the water when a gentleman,  Don, stopped by. He had seen me in the cafe and heard about my journey and had a story to tell me about his own personal journey.

The wind was steady but the current was aging fast. Planning on going to Aitkin today, 30 miles. There was virtually no wildlife for the first half of the way. During the second half I saw some yearling deer and more waterfowl. I passed the overflow dam to the Aitkin flood control channel. I could hear the dam about 3/4 of a mile away. After the dam the current slowed significantly.

Another County park – great facilities. Got camp set up and started to eat a snack when a lady, Sharon, looking for someone else came down with sloppy Joe’s for him. Since he was not there, rather than carry everything home again she gave me not only two she had already made, but enough for three more plus.

Having had a good meal so far and a long day, I fell asleep before ever making the other three sloppy joes.

 

DAY 10 Tuesday May 9 Camped at mile marker 1086. Paddled 24 miles today.

It was amazing last night – fish kept jumping out of the water and splashing all night long. Eery though, I thought it was a bear slapping the water fishing at first.

I woke this morning about 10:00 and blogged about little. I fixed dinner from last night for breakfast, double rations. The wind was blowing as usual. Had I gotten up and going at 6:00 when I first woke it was calm, but I couldn’t do it. Yesterday’s forty had been just too much. It was warmer this morning than it has been  – a pleasant surprise.

Finally hit the water at 12:45. Not much different to see today  – still low river bottom flood plains with hardwoods. My plan is to get to Palisade to restock some supplies today and to get a good supper. Once again, thankfully,  the current offsets the wind and I am still making some headway.

Very little wildlife for the first 15 miles but in the next 10 I saw three pair of geese and five eagles.

It seemed to take forever but I finally got to Palisade at 5: 30. I had a conversation with a grandmother who was babysitting her grandchildren at the county park campground. She gave me the lay of the land and the time when stores closed so out of the kayak and on went the portage get gear and downtown I went before all the stores closed.

The town is basically the park, a convenience store,  co-op, a cafe, a liquor store/ bar, and a sports type bar called the Rustic Trail. Lucky for me it was taco Tuesday at the Rustic. I got dinner to go and restocked some groceries and back to the campground to set up camp.

Cell coverage is better in town but still sporadic and is nonexistent in the campground, therefore, I can’t blog tonight so I’m calling it a day.

Side Note: Today I passed half way in this first section of my journey. Palisade is at 256 miles done, 241 to go to get to Fort Snelling State Park.

 

DAY 9: Monday May 8 Camped at mile marker 1110. Paddled 40 miles today.

Taking some time this morning to update my blog since it is cold and the wind is not blowing in my favor.  I’ve switched tactics as how I was trying to update before was not working and now it apparently.  I began to break camp at 9:45 to be on the water by 11:30.

A pretty uneventful day. Most of the day. Most of the day was spent meandering through lower river bottom flood Plains with hardwoods. Wildlife was scarce. One eagle,  four pair Canada geese  – two with goslings, and a couple ducks.

There have been more homes along the river, maybe 10 to 15. It’s nice to see signs of civilization along the river now and again besides the big cities. When I’m in need, I  can always look up and see a contrail from a passing jet – not much but some reassurance.

Since there was not much to look at today, I concentrated on paddling. The wind only subsided a little. Swells of 4 to 6 inches at times, however the river was flowing well and except for battling turning, the current overshadowed the wind. The wind, however, was still a pain as no matter which direction the river flowed, the wind was always in my face.

I paddled for eight straight hours. Only breaking for a 15 minute lunch snack along the way. After going through Jacobson and getting to the 20 mile minimum goal for the day I pushed on and reached 32 miles by 5:30. Not seeing the designated campsite on I went to go to the next. After turning a bend about a mile further down river I saw a totally new campsite, however , it was across the river and being passed with every second I didn’t turn. In my mind the new goal was the next site at 40 miles so I pushed on. With rain now in the immediate future – clouds moving in and getting darker, I beaded down to make it to camp.

Made it to camp at 7:30. I got everything setup just in time for it to start sprinkling. I was so tired that I sent a text, made a call, and fell right asleep. Apparently I’ll eat dinner in the morning.

Today was hard on my right forearm. It is the first real ache and pain that I’ve felt aside from the expected lower back ache.

The one big change today was the water temp. It must be 5 rto 10 degrees warmer than the previous days – or it could be that the Grand Rapids water treatment facilities released a processed batch.

 

DAY 8: Sunday May 7 Camped at mile marker 1150. Paddled 29 miles today.

Two days in a row started at 7 – in time to get packed and organized to to say goodbye to Marc and Jen and their hospitality which sent us off today with a frenchtoast,  sausage,  and potato breakfast. I can’t say enough of my appreciation for their hospitality- lodging, chauffering, meals,  laundry use, etc…

Marc and Cam, Marc’s oldest son, brought Paul and I down to the portage site below Blandin Paper Company for the beginning of Paul’s final day of his journey. We started paddling about 9:30 with the plan to meet Micki for his ride home 15 miles down river.

The river changed below Grand Rapids. It is now a more defined channel and wider, approximately 40 – 50 yards. There was very little wildlife to the boat ramp – a couple pair of geese, some ducks,  and a muskrat. The current has increased as well. With the tributaries beginning to take affect, the largest so far being the Prairie River, just east of Grand Rapids.  Paul and I saw our first cultivated field today, a further sign that we were are back into civilization.

As Paul and Micki left and I proceeded down river,  I headed for a camp only about two miles south of the landing where Paul finished. Keeping a keen eye out for it, as I know we have either missed them in the past or the signs have been damaged and/or are no longer visible. There was no sign and the next marker, a boat ramp came and went, so off to the next camp ‘Swimming Bear Camp’ , not crazy about it but the next camp from there is another 9 miles – way too many for today.

My journey, now alone, didn’t start too smoothly. First, the bugs got bad. In slapping them I grabbed my hat forgetting that my sunglasses were above the bill and in the water they went. I thought I was wearing them but still had my readers on from looking at the map. They were floating so I maneuvered to recover them. I then realized that I was about to hit a fallen tree so I  abandoned glasses rescue mission and saved me from disaster instead.  I never saw the glasses again.

During this stretch of the river I did see 3 yearling deer run the river’s bank for about a quarter mile before they crossed on a bend in front of me.

I found the next camp about 5:30 – its sign prominently placed near the campsite. My first campsite setup alone was up in about 45 minutes. I ate and was in bed for a blogging attempt by 7: 30 or 8:00.

 

DAY 7: May 6 Stopped at mile marker 1179,Blanding Paper Company. Paddled 20 miles today.

Today started about 7. Marc had OJ ready and prepared a pancake sausage breakfast. It was awesome. Thanks Marc.

Wow, did it feel good to shower and sleep in a real !bed. We didn’t have to pack all of our gear as Marc and Jen’s graciously offered to accommodate us another night. They brought us back to Schoolcraft State Park to launch for our day’s journey. They are going to take a hike themselves while there. Upon arriving and unloading the kayaks, I realized that I had forgotten the river map. Marc assured us that we would have no problem following the channel.  Marc was correct as we were even able to take advantage of the high water and cut corners in the meandering channel to reduce the distance and save some time allowing us to complete our day early at 4:50 at the Blandin Paper Company.

It was an easy day paddling with only a few times when the wind presented a challenge. We stopped to meet Marc’s son Luke and his buddies who we inspired to kayak from their homes on Bass Lake to Florio’s where we grabbed a appetizer for lunch.

We had a very brisk paddle to the Grand Rapids Recreational Facilities portage around the damn right after lunch. The portage was quick and we were right back into the water within minutes. The current increased below the damn and again we were able to save time and distance. Marc is picking us up at the landing to avoid the 1200 yard portage around Blandin PaperCompany. Much appreciated since he is working this in between family functions and his daughter’s prom. They are cooking smoked prime rib for dinner tonight. We look forward to appreciate very much their hospitality for another evening, not to mention all the extra shuttling they have provided around our schedule.

 

DAY 6: May 5 Stopped at mile marker 1199, Schoolcraft State Park. Paddled 28 miles today.

Typical morning camp experience, everything has become routine. Broke camp and started paddling at 10:30 after seeing the recent paw print on the river’s bank where we launched (see coming pic). Once again a mile further down river we came to the campsite we thought we bypassed the night before. We believe the spot we picked was actually better though.

The river is starting to straighten  – the switchbacks are not as tight and are lengthening making keeping up momentum easier and allowing us to be more efficient and faster.

We saw the biggest beaver as we approached midday. It swam right beneath both of us. Paul originally thought it was a log it was so big but it began to move and he realized what it was. We saw three garden snakes crossing the river and a mink and two turtles sunning themselves. About 2:30 the wind started picking up. This made progress slow tremendously due to fighting not only the wind but also the whitecaps it created.

We made a quick stopp for lunch at 3:00 at Gambler’s Point Camp hoping that the wind would let up but it never did. With 13 miles to go we launched back into the winds. While battling the wind we were passing a house being remodeled and added on to. A woman was on the dock calling us over. We stopped.  Inquiring of our plans she told us that they have been hosts to many from around the world who attempt “doing the river ”  so many so that they have built a bunkhouse for their lodging, allowing free room and board and showers for the night. Sandy is interested in following all the groups that make the attempt. They are located at about mm1201 just a couple hundred yards north of highways 3&18. She offered us a place to stay the night and dinner. We would have taken her up on her offer but we already had plans to stay at Paul’s good friend Marc’s home for the night.

We proceeded to the Schoolcraft State Park at mm1199 an Marc met us us with his trailer and we proceeded to dinner at Florio’s sports bar in Cohasset and watched some hockey. Marc’s wife Jen joined later. At Marc and Jen’s we cleaned up, watched more hockey, and visited until 1 am. I am so appreciative of their hospitality allowing us to stay at their home and chauffeur us from portage to portage.

 

DAY 5: May 4 Camped at mile marker 1227. Paddled 20 miles today.

A relaxing morning around campus after our hellish day yesterday. All of our clothes is dry – for the most part anyway. We had a hygienic cleansing in the lake at about 40 degrees. It was exhilarating when that cold water poured over your head.

Repacked and on our way across Winnibigoshish at 1:00 pm. With a light breeze and minimal waves for the first hour and a half and a sprinkle passed – didn’t even put on rain gear. The wind subsided and over the course of the next hour the lake settled and became like a mirror.

Winnibigoshish is so large that it is hard to set realistic milestones to keep your spirits and morale up for this 16 – 18 miles trek across the lake. The weather today was a gift. Only a couple days a year does the lake get like this so say the locals that you can take a kayak out across the lake. The monotony, however, of making what seemed to be such little headway was the challenge we battled all day.

On the way portage get out of the lake we saw a red fox and family – six new pups no more than a month old. It was interesting as an eagle was watching from its perch high above. We assume it was waiting for its opportunity. A challenging portage up a steep hill with no path and then across a road.

Finally the last five miles to camp. Done for the night. Made a makeshift camp as once again couldn’t find official campsite. As we closed everything up for the night the howls of a lone wolf went unanswered in the cool moonlit evening.

 

DAY 4: May 3 Camped at mile marker 1247. Paddled 29 miles today.

Today was tough at best. It started out great. Hauling all the gear back down the hill was just about as much fun as bringing it up the night before. We left camp at 9:20 on to what we originally planned to be a short day to take time to catch up blogging. We made such good time that we arrive at our goal at 2:00 – way too early to quit for the day so pushed on with some reservation. But, before I get to far ahead of myself – back to the beginning of the day on the river.

Within a mile of camp we encountered approximately 200 yards of fairly aggressive rapids which was fun to go through but the highlight was watching the eleven bald eagles on the rapids and in the surrounding trees taking flight over the rapids in search of fish. All were on the rocks or within feet over the rapids. After all that enjoyment we were back to the aggravation of bogs and wetlands.

We stopped to have some granola on Wolf Lake and a pair of loons popped up within ten yards and didn’t seem to mind that we were there. We enjoyed their company for at least five minutes.

Coming out of Wolf Lake we got back to a regular channel and started to make good time again with little wind and calm waters. We cut diagonally across Lake Andrusia saving us a little time finally entering Cass Lake. The waves were only six inches as the wind started to pick up. We started crossing along the north side of a long reed bed island which gave us protection from the increasing wind and surf. Working from point to point we managed to get to the northwest point of State Island with the help of 15 – 18 inch trailing waves and a brisk southwest wind. Had the wind been from any other direction our day would have been over. Starting across to O’Neil Point, trying to outrace the building rain clouds to the west. We made the decision to hug the shoreline and it was the right decision because the winds picked up and it started to sprinkle. By the time we reached the point there were two foot swells with a cross wind so we took shelter on the leeward side of the island point but that didn’t save us from the hour cold downpour with no camp to shelter in as we couldn’t find the entrance – it had nothing to do with my misreading the map. The storm cleared,  the sun came out and the lake was calm so we had no choice but to push on not being able to find camp. We picked a line to cross the rest of Cass Lake which went smoothly.

Making it to the damn on the out-side of the lake we talked to a local cabin owner who tried to talk us into staying at the Damn Campground. He discouraged us from staying at either of the two camps between there and Winnibigoshish due to the local influence. We ultimately paddled the the final three hours to Winnibigoshish arriving a Governor’s Point at about 10:00 pm.

Had we not had access to satellite imaging, you wouldn’t be hearing about any of this. Word of caution: the maps may be technically correct but should not be used for navigation due to the ever changing weed and cattail growth and bogs that do not show on the map.

Having gotten drizzled on again during this last stretch has pushed us past ?? our limits. Writing this on Thursday morning brings new perspective on the previous day – deciding it was worth pushing through to Winnibigoshish. Our campsite is respectable although we don’t think we are quite on the official site. A nice hotel dinner of chicken and rice and lasagna cooked in the tent at around midnight was delicious. Don’t believe all the bad press about how bad freeze dried food is. With a line set up, everything we have is out drying. A beautiful morning looking across the lake.

 

DAY 3:  May 3 Camped at mile marker 1276. Paddled for 32 miles today.

Had a great night at camp. The snow ended up just being flurries. It was cold waking up. The plan is to only go eighteen miles today so we took our time breaking camp and left around 10:00.

As we paddled this morning,  we realized that we were out of the arduous bogs and wetlands and we were making great time. We reached our goal for the day by 2:30 so we made the command decision to push on and to try get back on our original schedule to get through Lake Bemidji, which we did. After a 200 plus yard portage we landed at camp. We passed up a camp just before the portage so that we could go another three miles only to find that the Island Point Camp has a rocky landing and sits atop a 75 foot switchbacks retaining wall stairway. Being in a hurry, and in the dark I learned to always take off your spray skirts when you’re out of your kayak lest you trip about a quarter of the up the stairs and find yourself back at the river’s edge. Nothing hurt but ego, but could have been much worse.  Had we not arrived at 9:30 in the dark we would have realized that there was another access point thirty yards away with a nice gentle trail leading to camp.

We had a very interesting time going through about four miles of downed trees. Beautiful, but!! It was nice finally getting out of the bogs and wetlands and being able to kayak at what we thought our normal pace would be.

It was intriguing to see to see the the riverbed change from swampy bogs silt, to peace gravel with clams , to the hardwoods which brought back the silt, then after the portage it changed to complete rock. Unfortunately, the water depth was only about 12 – 18 inches and it was getting so dark dodging the submerged rocks was very challenging.

We saw many more varieties of waterfowl today due to the change in vegetation to wild rice beds. We saw costs, mallards, common merganzer, blue bills, buffleheads, teel, pelicans, and loons and trumpeter swans which allowed us to approach – within fifteen feet of the loons and thirty yards of the swans. Each pair basically had no concern with us as neither took flight and kept right on  doing what they were doing prior to our presence.

We stopped in Bemidji and picked up some water at the Doubletree Resort. Paul’s not sure if there kindness of fulfilling his request was because they really support kayakers or because they just wanted to have him leave their five star lobby. They were very kind and receptive to our request and we appreciated it tremendously.

Our goal for tomorrow is to get through Cass Lake as close to Lake Winnibigoshish as possible.

 

DAY 2: May 2  Camped at mile marker 1308. Paddled for 22 miles today.

We write this at the end of the day as it is beginning to snow with the wind blowing at about 30 mph.

We broke camp at 7:30 after a half hour hitting the snooze button and another half hour of packing and teardown. We still have high hopes of reaching Lake Irving Campground just south of Bemidji  (mm 1291) by nightfall.

Paddling this stretch of the river has been unexpectedly slow due to the switchbacks and slow current through the bogs and wetlands.  We paddled through some hardwoods and Rapids today but mostly just winded our way through the bogs and wetlands.

We saw more wildlife today: four or five deer crossed the river in front of us, a porcupine was about forty feet up in a tree, multiple families of trumpeter swans which appeared to be nesting  (when they took flight they would continue to circle back as if chasing us or leading us away from their nest, hundreds of ducks of many varieties , and many eagles. We also saw a couple of beaver and a muskrat that nearly startled Paul right out of his kayak.

Due to the lack of signage and landmarks it is easy to second guess on how far you have traveled, or not. When we finally figured out where we were, we were pleasantly surprised even though we did not meet our expected destination. We stopped for lunch at a wayside. We made the best scrambled eggs, sausage,  and hashbrown freeze dried meal you could ever want.

Having maneuvered through two sets of rapids and over several beaver damns today we were ready to camp. We camped at Pine Point Landing with all the amenities – a picnic table,  fire ring,  outhouse with a single working hinged door, and a 6 x 10 three sided shelter. A bonus to the campsite was that there was firewood provided.

 

DAY 1: April 30  Camped at mile marker 1330, only managed 12 river miles today,

The day is finally here. The first stage of my journey begins. My good friend Paul is joining me for the first week.  We start from the headwaters of the Mississippi River in Itasca State Park.  We had a good time riding up with Mary and Micki. Thank you!! Thank you Mary for driving and supporting my adventure. We had some nice together time at the Headwaters Center as they both saw us off to what I’m sure they feel is our certain death.

Rough start today – got a late start , within the first two miles I got caught between a rock and a tree limb and took on about two gallons of water. Should have taken the time to put on the splash skirt instead of deciding to wait until the first Rapids, but we were only in 9 inches of water.  Lesson well learned – always use your skirt. Then, within the next mile my paddle got caught between  two rocks and snapped – thank goodness for all the planning we had done I had brought an extra. Further down river we had to portage around a downed tree which came right after a planned waterfalls portage so between the two we lost at least an hour and a half of paddling time.  Within three hours of camp but the sun is down and we need to find the best the spot spot nearby to set up camp.

We saw multiple eagles the last two hours of paddling as well as six or eight deer, lots of fish, and many people spear fishing in the shallows.

There has been no sign of civilization since the park except one cabin.

Today we had two and one half hours of challenging Rapids and dodging rocks and downed trees.

Day 1 pictures

I will do my best to describe the pictures above in the following paragraphs.

At 11:30 pm on Saturday, April 29th, I had my kayak loaded on Mary’s car and ready to head to Paul’s house.  I was still needed to grab a few things from the house, vacuum the floors and then finally leave. It was after midnight when we left and we arrived after 1 am  Paul’s home in Ramsey, MN. Yes, a long day. I feel prepared and excited.

I had a good rest that night and was ready to start the trip. Paul and I finished packing him up in the morning and loaded his kayak on Mary’s car. We all enjoyed oatmeal and fresh strawberries before we drove towards Itasca State Park.  Our snacks on the drive up included brownies and monster cookies – all very healthy (ha-ha) but gave us energy for the trip.

When we arrived at Itasca State Park (1:30 pm), we walked out to the headwaters and captured a few fun shots for historical purposes. It was a beautiful day and we also saw people spear fishing, eagles and just took in the beauty of the day. We still saw snow on a few banks in a few places around the park.

We returned to the car and took the kayaks and gear out of the car and prepped for the launch. We actually got on the water by 3:30 pm. You can see from the pictures that we were loaded down good but so excited for the journey.

As we put our kayaks in the water we found a small token canoe in the river. This is now our mascot for the trip…we named it Wilson (Tom Hanks inspired from the movie – “Castaway”).  What a unique find — now to see if it makes the entire journey with us. See the picture with the little canoe on the front of Paul’s green kayak.

The final pictures are of us getting into the kayaks and starting our paddling journey. We did not put our water skirts on right away and within 1 mile of the start we had both taken on water. The river is narrow and there is debris to navigate and well…we took on water. We had to stop, sponge out the water and we then put on the water skirts. The girls were driving out of the park and came upon us so were able to stop and chat again as well as help Paul get his skirt on. We started again and continued into the evening.

The girls shared that they stopped at St. Catherine’s church just outside the park and said a prayer/blessing for us to have a safe trip.

I will share more thoughts later, it is time to get some sleep.