Sunday Sep 3  Drive Day

Mary and I woke up at 7:00 and were up by 8:00.  More conversation was had while everyone planned for their day.  Mike and Aaron are working in the morning at the St. Louis Park shop.

Mary and I hit the road at 1:00, stopping at the Parks along the Mississippi to view the Chain of Rocks and Dam 27.  We decided to drive up through MO, IA and MN arriving at my house about 10:00 and Mary’s about 11:00.

Post phase notes:  I have decided to postpone the remainder of my adventure to give me time to better plan and prepare for the challenges the bottom of the journey will present.

 

DAY 44 Saturday Sep 2  Stopped at mile marker 202, Lock 26, Alton/St. Louis, MO. Paddled 28 miles today.

Waking up on my last day of paddling for this phase of my adventure, there is a fog bank on the north side of the island/sandbar.  To the south, though, it is clear and ready to go. The alarm went off and naturally I hit the snooze button for an hour, until 7:00.  Since I knew I only had 28 miles to paddle today, I took my time and didn’t hit the water until 9:00.

The lock must have reopened because three barges had gone north since, one at 7:00 and two just before 9:00.  The flying carp were active in this back channel all night, having heard the never ending series of splashing as they hit the water upon reentry.

My arms and shoulders are shot.  I have very little energy.  My butt is sore.  Yesterday’s 53 miles took everything I had I guess.  A light wind in my face just added to the day’s challenge.  The other major challenge today – even though I only have 28 miles to go – is that it is Saturday of Labor Day weekend and the recreation boat traffic will be brutal.

Another barge was heading north about seven miles into today’s journey.  I can’t keep a steady paddle going – I need to change paddling positions often as everything is sore.

I made it to Grafton, where Matt and Ellen live, at about noon.  Most of the islands that I’ve been passing all day have great sand beaches and most have multiple boats and parties going on them.

Beginning at Grafton, with fifteen miles to go to Lock 26 – the Mel Price Lock – the effects of the lock being closed for 4 days have become evident.  Barges are everywhere!  There are six 15 x 3 barges that line the Illinois side of the river.  A few miles further down river, just south of Portage des Sioux, MO where “Our Lady of the River”shrine resides, there are two barges at the bend.  A few more miles down river after the next bend there are nine more, some doubled up, against the shoreline as I come into Alton, IL and the Alton Marina.  I can’t imagine how many more barges there were before the lock began operating again about 20 hours ago.

Upon arriving at the marina, 4:00 pm, and talking with the marina manager, I was able to shower – a God send – so I bought a real late lunch and some mountain dew and some orange juice.  I was feeling a bit dehydrated.

Mary arrived at the marina at about 6:00 pm.  I was just pulling the canoe around from the marina to the ramp dock.  While we began loading, someone pulled up to pull out two huge canoes.  It was a representative from Big Muddy Adventures, an outfitter that Mary and I have been talking with over the last week for help navigating around and through the Chain of Rocks.  Mike Clark, Big Muddy Mike, the founder was going to help me.  He actually showed up to take out the two canoes, one that held 14 people and one that held 9.  It was nice to meet him.  He invited Mary and I to back to the Kanu House for a dinner barbecue.  He had two others that would be guests at the house coming as well.  Aaron Carotta, who last year canoed the Missouri and Mississippi to the gulf and then east to the Atlantic (5000 miles).  He has a movie coming out on the Outdoor channel this fall of his journey.  I believe the name of the movie is “Finding the Current”. Also there was Janet Sullens Moreland.  Janet has solo kayaked/canoed not only the Mississippi and Missouri rivers source to sea but also the Yukon giving her the distinction of being the first women to navigate all three major North American rivers solo.  Michael, himself, has so many credits that it hard to list them and easier just to let you google him.

We ate after Mike grilled and Mary and Janet prepared dinner.  Aaron and I kept the bond fire going.  A great evening of friendship, sharing stories and creating memories. Thank you all!  We ended the evening at about 2:00 am.

 

DAY 43 Friday Sep 1  Stopped at mile marker 230.  Paddled 53 miles today.

My alarm went off at 5:15.  Surprisingly I feel well rested on my six hours of sleep.  There was no fog being a little warmer than the past few mornings – that was key to meeting my goal today.  There was a slight wind flowing across my path but very manageable.  I was in the water by 7:15, paddling across the glass-like surface of the yet undisturbed water.  However, I could not seem to find the path of the current.  In any case, the positives were more prevalent and I was ten miles into my day and through the first lock with no problems or waiting by 9:30.

On the way to the first lock I noticed that the bluffs which had magically reappeared again above Hannibal – only on the Missouri side – have now below Louisiana disappeared again.

I found out at Lock 24, the first lock today, that Lock 26 – the Mel Price Lock – has been shut down for the last three days.  That explains why I haven’t seen any barges in a while, moving up or down the river.  Coincidentally, I think I have only seen a couple of any type of boat on the river in the last two pools.

The wind picked up below the lock so paddling was harder but I could find the current a little better.  I lost cell coverage yet again after going through the lock.  Just after leaving the lock I heard a barge captain requesting south lockage.  He was about five miles above the lock.  Given averages, we should have gotten to Lock 25 at the same time.  Since I needed to get through the lock first so I wouldn’t have any down time today, I paddled hard to stay ahead of the barge.  The barge must not have been going normal speed because I made it to the next lock, 31 miles, by 4:00 and the barge was not yet in sight.  It must be taking its time given that the Mel Price Lock is closed and it can’t go any further anyway.

I couldn’t raise the lock on the radio, so I went to the pull station but there was no cord.  I tried to call via phone but I still had no service.  I frustratingly changed batteries in my marine radio only to see no difference.  I finally got someone’s attention and they got the ball rolling, however it was 5:00 by the time I got through.

I’m still sitting o.k. to meet my goal today of 50 miles.  Surprisingly, just as before, there are now bluffs again – but only on the Illinois side.  I had only seven miles to go before I would meet my goal.  Now, knowing that it was all up to me since I’m through Lock 25, I relaxed a bit and enjoyed the last few miles.  I saw a huge sand bar behind an island so I headed there and set up camp – first making sure that I had cell coverage.  Two yearling deer greeted me on the north side of the sandbar as I passed to go further down.

Just before making the turn to cut behind the island, a speed boat pulled up and asked to take a pic.  we talked a bit but with the current, I had to go so that I could still make the trek behind the island to the sandbar.  We saw each other again on the sandbar as they needed to let their dog get to shore.  They had gone all the way around the channel side of the island and back up the back side.  They couldn’t go through the top due to a wing across the whole opening.

Matt and Ellen live in Grafton.  Originally she is from Champaign and he is from Chicago. She used to work in Mpls. at Dayton-Hudson Corp. as a buyer.  He for Ingersol, if I remember correctly.  That is how they got here, a job move for Matt.  Now, she owns her own clothing line and they both work to that end.  Their daughter is on the professional ski circuit currently in New Zealand.

 

DAY 42 Thursday Aug 31  Stopped at mile marker 283.  Paddled 33 miles today.

I got up early enough, 6:00 alarm – up by 7:00.  I then spent time making notes of yesterday which took longer than I thought and all of a sudden it was 8:00 and I didn’t get on the water until 9:40.  Seven miles from Hannibal and fifteen miles from the lock with a stiff wind and waves in my face – not looking good for today!

I did o.k. paddling wise this morning.  A little better than 4 mph and I was in Hannibal, MO – the childhood home of Mark Twain, Samuel Clemens – by 11:10.  I took some time from paddling to explore and take pics of Mark’s childhood home and others, the whole setting for the basis of the Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn and Becky Thatcher characters.

I was back on the water by noon.  Unfortunately, a barge was going by southbound as I was leaving the dock.  I kept it in site for all but the last couple miles before the next lock. The wind was still in my face but I was making really good time – the current must be deceiving.  By 1:30 I was at the lock.  A good 5+ mph clip.

The barge was having issues with locking through: I didn’t get through the lock until 4:00 – the longest wait yet.  The wind is stronger now.  The sky is getting to the point that it will be overcast soon.  I’m not going to make it to mile marker 273 as planned for today.  I’ll be lucky if I get to Louisiana, MO and the campsite at Two Rivers Marina that Mary put time in arranging for me.  Eighteen miles to go to get there with only three hours and fifteen minutes of sunlight left.  Somehow I made it.  The only barge I saw on the river today, not counting the one early this morning before 7:00 am, and it delayed and disrupted my schedule.  Oh well.

Edward at Two Rivers Marina is a great guy.  I was able to do laundry, shower, and get a couple supplies after hours – he came back down to the marina just to get me settled.  I set up camp with the intent of getting an early start tomorrow morning.

 

DAY 41 Wednesday Aug 30  Stopped at mile marker 316, just 7 miles north of Hannibal, MO. Paddled 47 miles today.

I was up at a little after 5:00 am this morning.  The Southside Boat Club is in an industrial area so all night I listened to trains switching and bells and whistles going off at an area facility of some type.  Surprisingly, though, I feel refreshed.  There was no fog so I broke camp and just threw the tent in the canoe still wet from the dew. My alarm went off at 6:00 but I was almost ready to go already.  The goal for today is 45 miles – 40 plus 5 to make up for today’s shortage – but I would like to get a 50 mile day.  I left Keokuk at 7:24 and Iowa about ten minutes later.

The first stretch went real well.  Twenty miles to the first lock of the day.  I made it by 11:20.  I thought I was going so slow, but paddled to go slightly over 5 mph.  I did see a couple bald eagles on the way but mainly I saw turkey vultures.  About six miles before the lock, a 26′ SeaRay Sundancer pulled up beside me.  It was  a couple that I briefly talked to yesterday in Fort Madison, just outside the marina there.  It turned out that they live in Ramsey, MN.  Dan and Mary just wondered about the whole 800 mile marker “thing” and decided to just take off to see where it took them if they followed it to zero.  That’s a little simplistic as they did do some followup homework and figured which route they would take to the gulf and the logistics for the trip.  Ultimately they plan to get to the gulf through Mississippi State via the Tenn-Tom waterway.  We talked a short while but since they just passed a barge not too far back, I moved on so that I could possible make it to the next lock before the barge.  About two miles later I could see the barge coming up fast.  I just paddled all the faster.  I finally made it around the bend, about a mile and a half above the lock and I could see Dan and Mary’s boat and the barge that they were waiting to completely get through the lock.  An hour and a half later we were through the lock.

As I took my time getting to Dan and Mary’s boat, trying to raise them on the marine radio to see if they wanted to raft up while we waited, I experienced the flying carp, Asian Carp, for the first time.  About two feet from me at the end of my paddle one flew about two and a half feet into the air.  If that would hit me it could tip me or even knock me out of my canoe.  The carp was about 24 inches long and had about a 16 to 20 inch girth.  While talking with Dan and Mary I turned because I thought that I heard a boat coming but it was actually fish jumping out of the water in mass.  Weirdest thing – just like a feeding frenzy, like it churns the water.  It was a couple hundred yards away, but …

Now an hour and a half behind schedule I start the next eighteen mile stretch to the second lock of the day in Quincy.  I can’t believe that I made it just before 4:00 –  that means that I was paddling at six mph.  I must have been paddling faster subconciously.  This bodes well, however, there are two southbound and one northbound barge ahead of me after the paddlewheel clears the lock.  The Lockmaster said that he would fit me in after the northbound barge which should be in about an hour.  I decided to go that route and wait rather than portaging a couple miles.  I should have portaged since the lock had problems and I didn’t get through the lock until 6:00.  Two more hours behind.  (while waiting, 3 or 4 more flying carp jumped near me – seems to happen just above locks and dams)

With only an hour and a half of daylight left, I can’t make my 50 mile goal.  However, I still tried.  I did get nine of the remaining twelve miles as I pulled up on a less than desirable campsite as the sun was setting and called it a day.

I’m working on meeting Mary in St. Louis at Big Muddy Adventures on Sunday.  My shoulders and butt are getting so sore that I need to take a break from the river for a while again.

 

DAY 40 Tuesday Aug 29  Stopped at mile marker 363, Keokuk, IA.  Paddled 35 miles today.

My last day in Iowa.  Tomorrow, a mile and a half down stream, is Missouri.  Fog was thick again this morning.  I was ready to go at 7:30 but I had to wait until 9:00 for the fog to lift enough to shove off.  It was a beautiful day: an overcast morning, a sunny afternoon, and the water was like glass most of the day.  I only met one barge and one paddlewheel, Queen of the Mississippi, going north all day.  I made good progress in the morning at four and a half mph but the river widened in the afternoon and I just couldn’t consistently find the current.

I saw a lone eagle today, unlike the last couple days having seen two pair each day. Pelicans and herons are common place in the national nature preserves along the Mississippi.  I also continue to see those turkey vultures, if that is what they truly are.

Last night, going through Burlington brought back some higher bluffs on the IA side but a mile out of town it was back to the new normal again.  Today I continued to see nothing but gently rolling slopes to the river, if I can even tell that there is a slope.  Fort Madison brought back a 15 minute break at about noon – 14 miles in slightly less than three hours.  There was a double decker toll bridge just like we used to have by my marina, Twin City Marina, except this one has the train tracks on the bottom and the auto traffic on top.  It had the same swing style construction.

The river, being straighter, brings long stretches of never ending paddling.  I finally made it to Lock 19 at Keokuk  It’s 5:00 and I’m in good shape to make the last six miles planned to make 42 for the day, however, the lock had plans of its own.  The lock had a little trouble so it took forty minutes to get me into the lock and it was about a quarter after six by the time I got out.  The dam is huge.  It is a mile wide and also has a power generation station as well as being the anchor freeway supports follow immediately within feet.  If that wasn’t enough, the lock itself is double the size in length.  It will hold the tug pushing a 5 x 3 plus one on its side for a total of 16 barges.  The drop from the top of the lock to the bottom was 35.5 feet today but only took as long to drop as a traditional size lock dropping about ten feet.  One other different feature was that the upper gait travels up and down, not the normal “double door” style operation that they had on the lower gait.

Since it took so long to go through the lock, the odds of me getting to my planned destination before dark was iffy so I decided I would take Southside Boat Club up on their generous offer, thanks to Mary for arranging, of of a free place to set up my tent and access to the restroom facilities not to mention a place to slip my canoe.  I can easily make up the 5 miles that I will be short today tomorrow if there is no fog – I can only hope.  Louie is the gentleman that Mary arranged this whole awesome night’s stay.  The club is private so it was no small feat.  I also met Mike, the club president, and Tanya, the bar keep, plus a number of club members such as Charles, a retired science teacher with whom I talked to for a good while.  After ordering a pizza and some Mountain Dews, I set up camp and called it a day.

 

DAY 39 Monday Aug 28  Stopped at mile marker 398.  Paddled 41 miles today.

Up at 8:00 to get an early start, but the fog was so thick I could not even see my canoe which was 10 feet away.  I thought that today was going to be a bust, but all of a sudden at 8:30 the fog cleared.  I needed a good vision field right away as I was only two miles from the next dam and needed to cross in front of it to get to the lock.  I was in the water by 9:00 and at the lock in 30 or 40 minutes.  Having watched a northbound barge go by as I shoved off from my campsite, I thought the lock would be clear, but luckily I got there when I did because I locked right through with not only one northbound barge about a mile south of the lock but two more right behind with another two barges about two miles further down river.  Had I not made it to the lock when I did I’d still probably be there at Lock 17.  I made real good time today.  The current was good and a light breeze was at my back.  I averaged four and a half mph during the first four hours today and through the lock.  A light sprinkle was refreshing and all was good until about 4:00 pm. A storm front that was spawning tornadoes came through.  The wind changed from being at my back to being in my face – it was yesterday all over again.  Thankfully, in an hour and two miles it was over, but I could have done without it.  I was still trying to make up for miles fallen behind yesterday so I kept on going strong but it now seems I’m paddling against the current.

I made it through another lock, Lock 18, without a wait with only seven miles to go to get to Burlington, IA, where I stopped to grab some Mountain Dew at a convenience store only a block from the river.  A barge was approaching from the south so the challenge was to get to the store and back before the barge’s wake wipes by boat out while tied to the public doc.

Only six miles to go to get t the new sand pile at mile marker 398.  Getting there a little after 7:00, I set up camp, cleaned the island of a bunch of litter and cans, made supper and made a phone call with what little battery life I had left.  I tried to blog but did not have a good enough connection.  As I write this, three full 5 x 3 barges passed going north in the last fifteen minutes.  These were in addition to two others that preceded them while I was setting up camp.  With my need to get up early tomorrow, I turned in early after coordinating some with Mary as she was in contact with Big Muddy Adventures in St. Louis trying to negotiate my travels in and around St. Louis.

Yet another north bound barge.

 

DAY 38 Sunday Aug 27  Stopped at mile marker 439.  Paddled 22 miles today.

My alarm went off at 5 am and I was up by 6:30.  I had a good breakfast by 8:00 and then sat down and looked critically at the navigation charts, assessed how well I was holding up, and the prospects of completing the journey in this phase not even yet accounting for what is happening in the gulf region currently.  I also talked and did a little planning with Mary concerning exit strategies if I decide that there will be a phase three to this journey.  I finally started paddling at noon, still mulling over the balance of the journey. It didn’t rain last night as expected, only sprinkles this morning from 5:00 to 7:00.  It’s overcast but clearing.

Only two pair of eagles were seen today.  No other wildlife seen at all. ??

So much for the skies clearing, the lock was only four miles away and it started raining as I was just getting to it.  A short 30 minute wait for the lock to clear and I was in and out only to have it start raining harder.  It was pouring now and the wind was in my face at a brutal 15 – 20 mph.  For the next five miles it was my worst time on the river during this second phase.  The rain eventually stopped, however, it never really stopped sprinkling.  Knowing that my goal for the day is nowhere in reach now and that it is getting dark, I settled on a hammock campsite and called it a day.  Thinking more and more of my goal for this phase of my journey down the Mississippi.

 

DAY 37 Saturday Aug 26  Stopped at mile marker 461.  Paddled 31 miles today.

A great night at the Illiniwek.  A short day yesterday and a good night’s sleep.  I got up early, 7:00 am, and made breakfast and uploaded some older blog posts.  I should have done more because I never know about connectivity and whether I’ll be able to have access in the future.  Cleaning up took forever with only one working shower.  I returned the shower key and started breaking camp.  I spent some time shoring up the portaging wheels.  It works well now and hit the water again at 11:00.

It was a slow 10 miles to the next lock.  Because of the short distance between locks, the current was slow from the get-go.  I made it to the lock which allowed me to tuck in right behind the lock wall so an anhydrous ammonia barge could pull up to the main lock so that I could sneak behind her to gain access to the auxiliary lock, hence no waiting.

Just like in pool fourteen, the section of river between locks thirteen and fourteen, today there was more recreational boating than I had seen since the La Crosse, WI  area.  It reminded of home, seeing a group of five or six boats rafted together and two or three other spots of ten plus boats on shore enjoying the nice weather today.  Today started out overcast, but by 3:00 it had totally cleared up and the sun was shining brightly.

The quad cities were not impressive except for the building next to the US Bank building.  I think it was the casino access to the riverboat.  It looked pretty cool.

The bluffs are gone: the hills diminishing.  I look off in the distance at the upcoming shoreline and it reminds me of the sameness of the miles of river bottom land in northern Minnesota.  Not that it is low, just how continuously the same it is becoming.

Paddling has been easier after the lock and it made my goal of 30 miles today possible.  I found a nice sand beach to camp on by 7:00 pm.  Michael, the Muscatine fire department water rescue trainer and his friend Jason were on the beach, ending their day of enjoying the beautiful weather.  We talked for a while before they left for the night.

It was late and getting dark so I set up camp and called it a day.

 

DAY 36 Friday Aug 25  Stopped at mile marker 492, Illiniwek State Park.  Paddled 15 miles today – 16 if you count coming back into the main channel from the back channel campground.

After waking up at about 7:00 am I started breaking camp. High on the list was showering in the facilities that the state park offered after falling asleep before getting to do so.

The sound of sprint cars and the associated noise and ruckus could be heard from the track two or three miles away.  I spent some time talking to Darrell and Lloyd, cousins from Clinton, IA, who were on their annual pilgrimage.  They were in the campsite next to mine and they helped me get my canoe on shore last night. Darrell was preparing to have heart surgery in the coming weeks.

The day was very uneventful.  A planned short day to hopefully catch up with blogging and rest my shoulder.  The blogging did not get caught up since the connection was not as good as advertised.

Skies were cloudy in the morning with a light east wind which eventually increased as the clouds disappeared.  Paddling went well as I covered fourteen miles in less than three hours and got to the lock by 2:30 pm and to the campsite by 3:00.  Not bad for not hitting the water until 11:00.

I used my portage wheels for the first time today.  It was interesting putting them on at a ramp that didn’t have any docks due to the earlier flooding.  I met Mark and Monique – from a small town near Chicago.  He fishes all over MN, WI, IA, and IL.  They have children in the west metro of Minneapolis.  He offered to help but thought better of it after I told him he would have to get in the water waist deep.  He laughed as did I, knowing it was too much to ask and expect.

The portage wheels worked, however, they will need additional bracing for any future use.  The roar of the rushing water through the nearby dam provides the backdrop as I  write this, but will serve as the perfect ‘white noise’ to fall asleep to tonight.

 

DAY 35 Thursday Aug 24  Stopped at mile marker 507.  Paddled 34 miles today.

Another beautiful morning. The sky is clear.  The wind is calm.  The water is like glass. Up at 7:00 this morning and paddling away at 9:00.  The quietness is numbing at times. Then a train whistle or barge blast brings back the more common side of reality.  There were only a couple fisherman in the first ten miles.  I met my only barge today at about mile 15 along with a paddle boat passing through the lake area above Lock and Dam 13. It was easy going through the vastly wide area of the river above the dam without a lot of wind.  Averaging over 4 mph, I’ve paddled better than 18 miles and I’m through the lock and it’s only 2:00.

South of Savanna, IL I saw 34 birds soaring high above.  I was originally thinking that they were eagles, an unusual sight that was similar only once before, way up north. Typically eagles are in pairs and have huge territories.  I should have trusted the laws of nature as I determined a short period later that the birds were turkey vultures.

I made it to a back channel campground called Rock Creek.  The showers were good but the WiFi was far from acceptable.  At least I feel refreshed.

 

DAY 34 Wednesday Aug 23 Stopped at mile marker 541.  Paddled 28 miles today.

The nice bluffs along the river disappeared along the way by Guttenburg, IA giving way to rolling hills.  In turn, the big rolling hills are now disappearing as well.

A gentle breeze greeted me this morning.  I woke up at seven o’clock and read a little.  By the time the tent dried from the dew, I didn’t hit the water until 11:15 again.  It wasn’t going to matter though because two southbound barges passed between 7:00 and 9:00. With only twelve miles to the lock, I was there by 2:00.  I made good time, however, it didn’t matter – paraphrasing a line from a Bruce Willis movie – the Lockmaster had barges et al “racked and stacked”.  There were two southbound barges,, two northbound barges, and a southbound paddlewheel, all waiting.  Thankfully, the Lockmaster squeezed me inbetween barges so I only had downtime until 4:30, a two and a half hour wait.  Back on the water, I paddled until 7:45.  It’s getting dark so much earlier these days.

I’ve seen so many fewer eagles the last couple of days, but the campsites that I’ve been able to find have been great.  Another long day ahead tomorrow with 17 miles before the next lock.

 

DAY 33 Tuesday Aug 22 Stopped at mile marker 569. Paddled 29 miles today.

Woke up at 6:00 am but finally got up at 7:00. Breakfast at 8:00 and started breaking camp at 8:30.  Fifteen miles to Lock 11 in Dubuque.  Hopefully a repeat of yesterday. Plenty of islands in the twenty to thirty mile range just south of Dubuque and back to cell coverage, I  hope.

Ended up reading a little so I didn’t hit the water until 11:15. The wind was wicked all day, but at least it was at my back most of the time. The  problem is that it sometimes takes more energy to battle the waves even if they are going with you.

A pretty uneventful day. It seemed like it was taking forever,  but I was making the same 4 mph as yesterday. The wind, with gusts up to 25 mph were brutal: swells were nine to sixteen inches. The paddle boat America passed through Lock 11 and I met it a mile above the lock. Its wake long with the wind quickly made the swells 3 feet. It was a trying last mile as the waves just kept bouncing off the narrowing shores but I made it to the lock before a north bound barge got there to go through.

It’s 3:00, through the lock, 15 miles down, in Dubuque, IA with cell coverage. A win all the way around. I tried to get as far as I could today because I have a military depot coming up and won’t be able to camp on shore for at least a twenty mile stretch – I need to time it right. It was just before 7:00 pm and I could have gone farther but I  came across a great campsite so I called it a day. I have learned not to pass up these good sites for just a few more miles – however,  there could be a better one just around the bend. How lucky do I feel?

With camp set up for the night, I will try make calls in the morning as cell coverage is sketchy again.

 

DAY 32 Monday Aug 21 Stopped at mile marker 598. Paddled 31 miles today.

I awoke at 7:00 am., packed up camp by 8:30, and was paddling by 9:15.  Early by my river standards lately.  Having already seen two barges pass downstream and one up, I was not holding out any hope of a fast lock-through today, however,  15 miles and three and a half hours later I sailed right through Lock 10. Averaging four mph it could be a good day.   I was facing a light wind until I got to Ferry Slough, beginning five or six miles above the lock.  Swells were a foot high and the wind in the open area was a bit brisk.

Just south of Clayton was a limestone quarry with tunnels into the bluffs that were huge. At first I thought it was totally underground,  but later I could see that the tunnels went through the bluff to the back area where the quarry could be seen.

Below the lock and dam the water was much more wicked. I heard the Corps was letting a little more water through which was churning the water up for about a half mile or better. Everything calmed down eventually and it was a smooth afternoon of paddling. I took a break at Cassville, WI at about 3:00 pm. I walked downtown but most stores were closed Monday to Wednesday except the bars. I found one with Wi-Fi and tried to make some calls. Cassville still has an operating ferry. It looks like it goes back and forth all day long.

Yet another day of seeing an eagle snatch it’s dinner from the river – it just never gets old. I also say my first two dear on the river-bank, two yearnings. Awesome.

With the sky clouding up and threatening rain and with the forecast of a lightening show tonight, I  found a great weathering campsite – protected, high and Sandy. I pulled off the river at 6:30, set up camp and took a shower – so refreshing – just in time for the rain to start as I finished buttoning up the canoe and zipping closed the tent. It brought back memories of the early portion of the trip with Paul as I could hear the coyotes bark as the rain began. Both the tent and I weathered the storm well. It didn’t turn out to be much of one, just a little rain with a bunch of lightening off in the distance. The tent kept me perfectly dry – I am pleased.

 

DAY 31 Sunday Aug 20 Stopped at mile marker 629. Paddled 4 miles today.

Mary will dropped me back at my canoe at John’s in-laws cabin.  John and Barb were gracious to allow me to keep my canoe in their slip while I took a break from the river.   We toured McGregor taking in the damage done by the two tornadoes that hit the town at the end of July. After sharing a parting picnic, I was back on the river again at 7:00 pm.

It was late, but I wanted to get a little closer to the next lock for Monday’s paddling.  I found a suitable,  but not ideal campsiteright at four miles.  With the sun fading fast, I pulled up, made camp and went straight to sleep. Vowing to get an early start in the morning.

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I took a respite from the river for a few days. Brady and I helped Mary’s brother John at his appliance store on Thursday.  Friday brought going to the farm with BRADY and Mary’s dad Albert to mow, to do a little four wheeling, and to get a tour of Albert’s toys. A collection ranging from the 6×6 military truck, to the caterpillar,  John’s 4040, and other miscellaneous items. A stop at Mary’s brother Steve’s farm ended with lunch at the local establishment in Castellia. The afternoon was spent back at the appliance store.  Mary came down Friday evening as Brady went back. Saturday was spent at an auction in the morning and early afternoon with her dad, lunch with her parents, then back at the store with John. Sunday was spent with Mary and her parents: church, lunch, packing to leave, etc…  A quick stop by John’s house to say goodbye and Mary and I are on our way to get me back on the river in McGregor.

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Day 30 Wednesday Aug 16 Stopped at McGregor, IA at mile marker 633.  I paddled 3 miles today.

I got up at 8:30 and hit the water at 10:30.  I was in McGregor by 11:30, paddling into a light wind. My shoulders could tell I went 26 miles today. Mary’s brother John (and his in-laws) have a cabin in McGregor so I stopped in town at the city launch access and contacted Mary’s son Brady. Brady was already in route to pick me up as he had driven down from Hudson, WI earlier in the day.  I had to go and find Wi-Fi to make this call; that was accomplished by finding the local library.  It sucks to not have broader access with T-Mobile.

Brady finally got to the library and when it was time to go, his truck wouldn’t start.  There were no mechanics in town available to work on the truck nor was there a hardware store to get items to work on the truck.  We figured out that the trouble was the starter wire, but in trying to put a temporary fix to that, it ultimately needed a starter.  Brady called his uncle John who picked up a starter and headed over and replaced it, with a side trip to Prairie du Chien for parts.

We finished with the truck about 4:00 and paddled to the cabin about 4:10.  After thanking John and his dad we all left for Clermont.  Had a pizza dinner with Mary’s parents,  sister Sue and her boys and John and Brady.  After much discussion, got to bed about midnight.

 

DAY 29 Tuesday Aug 15 Stopped at Marquette, IA at mile marker 636.  I paddled 27 miles today.

After a great night’s sleep, I woke up at 8:30 am and broke camp, hitting the water at 10:40.  I said good bye and thanked Bob again for the hospitality and the excitement he afforded me during my stay.

It was supposed to be cloudy – which it was – but there was no wind, a bonus.  Cool and no wind.  Fifteen miles of water like glass.  I was able to paddle about four and a half mph and was at the lock by 2:10 and through it by 2:30.  The Lock Master at Lock 9, Brian (se..) was the prior Lock Master at one of the St Anthony Falls lock in Minneapolis before they closed last year.  I had a great conversation with him as canoeing the length is also on his bucket list.

I stopped  just below the lock at an access dock and rested a bit.  I had another great conversation with Wayne Schwartzkopf, from WI, who drives about 30 minutes every day to fish here.

The wind has picked up a little but I am still fairly protected in the valley.  I just kept paddling and found myself at mile marker 636 by 6:30 pm.  I put up the hammock and turned in for the night only a couple miles from McGregor, IA, my destination by tomorrow noon.

 

DAY 28 Monday Aug 14 Stopped at Lansing, IA at mile marker 663.  Paddled 22 miles today.

Woke up at 6: 30 without an alarm. Not a huge feat since I didn’t sleep more than two hours at a time throughout the night. It started sprinkling about 2:00 a.m. and has continued on and off since. It’s 7:30 now and I’m beginning to break camp.

Paddling by 8:30 – seemed like a nice day until I came from around the shelter of the North side of the island where I camped.  The wind was just as strong as yesterday.  The sprinkling and light rain has stopped for the most part, but it’s still spitting a bit.  In order to get going so early, I just threw my wet tent et al into the front of my canoe and will have to deal with it later tonight.

It was a long haul through and across Coon Slough immediately above Lock 8.  It took me two and a half hours to go the last six miles and getting through the lock.  The lock master even held the south bound lock for me before he put through a north bound barge if I hurried.  Needless to say I paddled like hell to get there so I did not have to sit and wait for two and a half hours for the next south bound lock through.

Passing the island that I thought that I would have been camping at last night made me sad.  There were so many perfect campsite spots – oh well.  The river straightens alot here.  Fewer bends and long straight stretches.  Barges are all three by five now and more numerous.  The wind let up about 2:00 pm for a while so I was able to make good progress during that time, but not enough to get to where I wanted to go.

I landed at Lansing, IA at about 4:00 pm.  With no cell coverage, I thought it best to deal with getting in contact with Mary somehow to let her know all is well.  The marina was closed and there was no city dock.  I asked a gentleman who was just standing in his yard as I passed by if there were any public docks and he said no and then not only offered a spot on his dock for the night but also a spot for me to pitch my tent.  That is how I met Bob and Jan.  Bob explained that there were no further really suitable campsite spots from there to the next lock – 15 miles – is any, they would be like the poor East Island campsite that I had.  I thanked them both for the kind offer.  Bob is retired and Jan owns the town’s flower shop.

Lansing only has about 1,000 in population.  I walked the few blocks to downtown and got what I needed – a couple snickers bars and some Mountain Dew.  I met Rick, who owns the Farm & Home in town, and he let me use his cell phone to call Mary – How awesome is that.  While at Farm and Home, Rick had a couple calls, one was an emergency as he is a paramedic.  He had to go to a call as there had been a car accident. After stopping at the Main Channel restaurant to see if they had WiFi, which they did, I returned to Bob and Jan’s to set up camp for the night.  Upon arriving, Bob told me about a woman that had just drove into the river on the north side of his property – which would have been very hard to do without damaging anything, which she really didn’t. She got out of the car and made it to shore.  Bob helped her out of the river to the dock and that is what all the calls to Rick were about.

I got the tent set up and went back to the Main Channel to WiFi call Mary and get tech help from T-Mobile for my coverage.  Phone calls to Mary went well but tech support had no good news for me.  They have no coverage in this area until Dubuque.  Should be interesting until then.

Tomorrow is Tuesday with plans to get through the lock, 15 miles, and another seven or eight miles more so that I can reach McGregor by early to midday Wednesday to meet up with Brady, Mary’s son.  Mary’s family lives in the area so I will see them for a day or two.

All the excitement ended about midnight with the pulling of the car out of the river right next where I camped on Bob’s private ramp.  So now it’s time for sleep.

 

DAY 27 Sunday Aug 13 Stopped at mile marker 685, East Island.   Paddled 19 miles today.

My alarm went off at 5:30 for the planned long day, however, I just rolled over and went back to sleep. I was just too tired. I woke back up at 7:00 to the drone of a south bound barge which meant that there was then no real hurry as it would take two to three hours for the barge to get through the lock. Slowly started packing and eating breakfast.

Called my brother Brian to wish him a Happy Birthday today.

Finally hit the river at 12:30 after breaking camp and bailing out my canoe of two inches of water that because of waves hitting it and water getting up and under the cover’s edge. The wind and waves were brutal today.  No extra effort today – would not pay. I saw another eagle snatch it’s dinner from the river today: almost getting common to see daily but I will not get bored of seeing it. If only it would happen when I have my camara out.

The wind eventually died down at about 6:00. Unfortunately not early enough for me to get through the second lock today. At about 7:00 I stopped at the last island before the lock – about six miles from the lock. At best I wouldn’t have gotten to the lock before dark, let alone get to the island a few more miles further. I had passed the first useable cut-out I have seen since I started my adventure. We used to have three or four above Lock 2 alone.

Tomorrow will be a new day. It is supposed to rain tonight through Wednesday. We’ll see what happens.

 

DAY 26 Saturday Aug 12 Stopped at mile marker 704. Paddled 21 miles today.

Enjoyed an unexpected evening with Mary in Win one last night. She came down and enjoyed a late dinner and music.

Back on the river at 12:30 I have 11 miles to the next lock. Since a barge passed me as I left the marina, I knew there was no use in paddling hard. I caught the barge at the lock and still had to wait a couple hours because it had to wait for a north bound barge itself.

The boat traffic on the river today has been heavy and for the most part not too enjoyable – a weekend and sunny.  Only a few courteous boaters actually accounted for me being on the river.

Paddling went well but slow, as the days are catching up with me.  A lot of the picturesque landscapes have past.  The sun is waning and I am pulling up to Dresbach Island to camp for the night.

Plan for tomorrow is an early start to get to mm 678, going through two locks.  We’ll see.

 

DAY 25 Friday Aug 11 Stopped at mile marker 725. Paddled 23 miles today.

Today’s goal is ambitious – 2 locks and 23 miles to Winona with the stretch another 11 to Trempeleau if all goes well at the locks.  The day didn’t start well as I left camp about an eighty minutes later than planned.  This put me at odds with the barge traffic as I raced trying to keep ahead of a southbound barge.  About 10 miles to the first lock and ten in between the  two.  The wind was picking up but at least it was at my back but that benefit was mitigated by the dredging operations in the first 10 miles having to deal with a constant parade of sand barges racing from the filling site to the offload, each creating huge swells and waves.

As I got beyond the dredging, a mile or so above the first lock I had to pick up speed as I could hear the barge captain radioing the lock.  The channel opened up to a lake just north of Lock 5 and the wind was making navigation difficult.  I persevered natures assault and made it to the lock ahead of the barge with the gates open and ready for me.  The most unusual lockage as even when the gates closed, the wave action in the lock continued until the lower gates opened.

I have about two and a half hours to get to the next lock before the barge gets there.  I stopped at Fountain City for a rest and a bite to eat.  Made small talk with a city employee at the city dock.  What a nice, quaint little town.

Made it through the lock after a forty minute wait for a barge coming north to finish getting through.  Finally a little relax time for a mile or so.  Talking to Mary she found out that the Trempeleau Marina was closed so the call was made to meet her at the Winona Marina and stay in town with Mary tonight.

Carol, the marina manager, and I talked a while as she got me set for the canoe’s nights stay.  Ray, a fellow boater with a Carver, and I talked for quite a while as I waited at the marina.  He lives near Stevens Point and comes every weekend.  Coincidently, he used to slip at the Trempeleau Marina until it closed two years ago.

Mary and I did a little last minute shopping and then grabbed a bite to eat at the Accoustic Café.  Having had a long day we called it a day and went to sleep about midnight.

 

DAY 24 Thursday Aug 10 Stopped at mile marker 748. Paddled 25 miles today.

Woke up at 7:00 – got a decent night’s sleep at the motel. Beat a night on a park bench but definitely more expensive. However, I was able to charge all my electronics and battery packs.

Left the marina at 10:00 am. Again, the wind was 10 mph but at least it was partially at my back. The wind was o.k. at first, but it soon increased so I was battling staying on course with 18 inch swells. Only 8 miles to the bottom of the lake, but it took forever. I think I averaged only 2 1/2 mph.  If that wasn’t enough two barges passed me with about a mile and a half to get to the channel again.  The waves from the wakes just intensified the already breaking waves since the wind had picked up noticeably.

Finally pausing for a minute to take a pic back at Pepin, a weird thing happened.  The only boats around were three small fishing boats either just drifting or anchored but just a single breaking wave about 12 inches high (looked like a mini surfing wave) was coming at me.  I only saw it as I began to pay attention again, luckily, as I finished with the pic.  I have no idea where or what it came from.  It was only a single wave, no set or series – just plain weird.  I have a theory but you’ll have to ask me about it sometime.

Now in the channel, I think I was averaging four and a half to five mph again as the water rushed out of the lake.  I rested a few minutes at Wabasha, then continued on to Alma.

The skies were overcast all day until now the sun is beginning to peak through.  I got to Alma and surprisingly, but unfortunately, caught up with the barges that passed me coming out of Pepin.  I had to wait more than two hours as the last one made it through the lock.  It was a total of three hours of wasted time until I got through the lock .

As if waiting wasn’t punishment enough, it started sprinkling while I waited.  There was, however, a show that made it all worth while.  A full grown bald eagle, having eyed its prey, plucked its dinner no more than twenty feet away from me.  An incredible site to see so close as I could see the eagle’s talons grab the decent size fish.  There are now passing showers as remnant rain clouds pass over as I leave the lock.

For miles down river I set up camp right across from a mini channel coming from a backwater harbor.  It is the same site that Paul and Micki had beached a few years back.  They have now added sand from dredging to the island.

 

 

DAY 23 Wednesday Aug 9 Stopped at mile marker 773, Lake City MN. Paddled 17 miles today.

After a good night’s rest, I was up at 8:30 and breaking camp after a quick call to Mary. The sky is overcast with threatening thunderstorms this afternoon and tonight.

The day was pretty uneventful. A 10 mph SW wind kept me challenged all day.  Five miles to Lake Pepin and I can feel the rise and fall of the lake already.  The only wildlife today have been eagles, sea gulls, and pelicans.

Point no point, still haven’t found it.

The lake was relatively calm given the wind. I kept cutting the bays, trying to keep relatively close to shore but minimizing  the distance having to paddle. It started raining about 1:00, on and off, sprinkling to downpours. Hopes to make it through the lake began to fade as the wind picked up and the whitecaps started to show on Pepin. Having past Hok-So-La and in the next little bay, I decided to make it to the Lake City Marina. The waves are now about 18 inch swells so it’s good I’m pulling into port.

With the canoe put away in a slip for the night, I’m getting cleaned up and looking for a campsite or hotel for the night. Would prefer camping, but we will see how that works out.  Got to Lake City at 4 and going to take a walk now that it is 8.

I’ll keep you posted.

 

 

DAY 22 Tuesday Aug 8 Stopped at mile marker 790, just south of Red Wing MN. Paddled 20 miles today.

Without my phone being charged, it failed to wake me. Since I was dead dog tired having gotten zero quality sleep, I did not get up until 11. Very late for where I wanted to get to today.  I broke camp, put my phone on the charger,  and started down the river. A minor 3 and a half mph wind out of the southwest played against me but staying in the channel helped me overcome that and I averaged four mph today.  I robbed an eagle of its morning breakfast as I passed 50 feet below its perch and a 2 foot fish jumped out of the water a couple feet from the canoe.  The eagle looked so disappointed.

Met Bill and Joann Walker from Mobile AL. Discussed the option of switching to the TimTom river as an option to the Mississippi below Cairo IL.

Went through lock three and stopped to see Cindy and Jim at the Red Wing Marina. I waited for Cindy to get back from an unexpected work function as she had to go get one of their rental boats off a sandbar. It was late by the time they got back so quickly said hi and filled up with water and headed a mile further downriver to set up camp. It is late, 8:15 and I’m just setting up camp. A quick meal and updating my blog will get me to an earlier than usual bedtime tonight.

 

DAY 21 Monday Aug 7 Stopped at mile marker 810, just south of Prescott WI. Paddled 20 miles today.

Back on the river and shoved off from the Wacota bridge landing with the help of Mary who went above and beyond, who in business attire waded in up to her knees to make it happen.  The wind from the north today helped the paddling for the first half of the day. This is my home boating territory so nothing is new to me here, as will be the case for the next few days.

The normal waterfowl were present, however I just don’t remember there being so many eagles. I quit counting after 20 and that was just in the  first five miles. The really cool thing was that there are now two pair of golden eagles that have joined all the bald eagles.

Going through the lock in the canoe was a first for me. One of many on this adventure.  Only having to wait for 10 minutes while they filled the lock back up to the up-river level was a blessing as it was getting late and I needed to get another 4 miles. I only paddled about three and one half miles an hour, so with the lock-through time I only got to a mile south of Prescott by 7:30.

I camped on a small island that was sheltered away from the main channel on the back side. I quickly put up the hammock (thanks Nordquists), through what I thought was all that I was going to need in and jumped in and sealed the bug netting up.  As it worked out, I forgot the battery pack to charge my phone and tablet so I decided to just go to sleep as I was beat. With trains blowing their whistle every 30 minutes at Prescott I barely got any quality sleep.

 

DAY 20 Sunday Aug 6 Down day for repairs and seriously thinking about going back to the kayak as opposed to the more romantic version of canoeing the river.  The final decision will be made when the canoe goes into testing later today.  Testing went well – not a drop. Ready to go back in tomorrow.  Good day to be off the river anyway as it poured on and off all day anyway.

 

DAY 19 Saturday Aug 5 Stopped at mile marker 830 Twin City Marina.  Paddled 18 miles today.

It has been a long time coming.  I’m back on the river for the remainder of the trek toward New Orleans.  With help from my brother Brad, Mary and I put in just below the Ford Dam in Highland Park, MN with the rain just beginning to fall.  With the race on to get to the marina before the main cells of the storm hit the cities, we paddled consistently and were rewarded with one hour of rain-free padding on the four and one half hour trip to the day’s stopping point.  Shortly after putting in,  we met our friends Tom and Kathy on TomKat (their houseboat) heading north as we paddled south.  We waved and continued on.  Since we knew they would be heading back to the marina, our challenge was now to beat them there.

We saw much of the typical waterfowl wildlife on today’s journey.  The two most memorable were seeing a very large golden eagle that led us from perch to perch along the way between Lilydale and West St. Paul and watching a bald eagle snatch its dinner from the river mid flight.

The last hour of the day was spent paddling through downpours and navigating boat wakes from those power boaters wanting to get off the river.  As we pulled into the marina, Tom and Kathy pulled up right behind us.

The one real challenge of the day was keeping the water out of the canoe.  There was more water that I bailed out than the rain water we were taking on so tomorrow I will be down for repairs looking for leaks and resealing seams.

It feels so good to be on the river again and especially good since I was able to do at least this section with Mary.

 

DAY 18 Wednesday May 17  Stopped at mile marker 848.  Paddled 18 miles today.

My last day of the first leg of my journey.  I should be to Fort Snelling by mid afternoon if all goes well.  I got up at 7:15.  It was so great sleeping out of the rain at Paul and Micki’s home.  With a good breakfast under my belt, Paul got me back on the river at the end of the Coon Rapids dam portage and underway by 9:45.

The day is overcast and the sky is trying to hold back its moisture but its not doing a good job.  The mist and sprinkling is enough to make me stop and put on my raingear.  The familiar landmarks made the trip seem to go faster – the 610, 694, 42nd Ave, Lowry and Broadway bridges; the waterworks facilities; metal reclamation site; and Psycho Suzi’s.

Coming up to the St. Anthony Falls dams there are signs with conflicting information.  I approached Hennepin Ave cautiously.  As I crossed under the last railroad bridge the current picked up abruptly.  I could not see the planned portage site, however, I could see the dam and nonfunctioning lock so I turned back toward Broadway.  The extra half mile of portaging would not hurt me.  My niece, Shallyn, who works just blocks from the portage site came down and being lunch time brought me a sandwich, chips, water, and banana for lunch.  It hit the spot and allowed me to take a break.  It was good to see her and catch up on things.

Finishing the portage around both dams, I started for the next portage five miles down river, the Ford dam.  I have been I contact with Mike, a friend of Mary’s from Scouting, who will be helping me portage this one.  There is no official portage site yet as they just closed the lock and haven’t really developed one yet – from what I was able to find.

Having been raining off and on now most of the day the ground is wet and slippery.  Mike had scouted out exit and re-entry points.  The exit point was a challenge but with Mike’s help I made it up and off the river.  The first ten to twenty yards was at a 30 – 45 degree angle uphill while the path still at a downward slope as we traversed the hill on a one foot wide foot path.  After that though, the path  opened up nicely and went fairly well.  With the extra energy and time expended on both of the portages, I was now running late to get to the planned exit point three miles further down river and get home in time to clean up to get to Mary’s son’s confirmation – a surprise.  So with the help of Mike, I called the first leg completed and will put back in at either Minnehaha or Hidden Falls when I start the next phase of my journey.  He gave me a ride home, just a few miles, so that I could stay on schedule for the surprise – much appreciated!!  It was the right call too, as it started to rain as soon as we got the kayak loaded and as soon as we pulled into my driveway it was a twenty minute downpour.

I will be working through pics from throughout the adventure and getting them posted as soon I can if you care to come back and check them out.  Otherwise, I will pick up again with the blog of my journey beginning July 1st.

 

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 quit 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 and I 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.  Of course, being in the city proper now, the riverbanks are fully developed except for the public park lands.

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.

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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.