October 12, 2011 – Day 34 – 24.5 miles
A thunderstorm of biblical proportions reminded me how little rain I’ve experience over the course of this past month. I raced and beat a barge for an hour to a lock only to find that it held precident over me and I’d have to wait an hour and a half in the rain for it to lock through before I got my turn. I spent that time at the obervation deck learning more about barges and the lock and dam system. If you’d like to learn more about these things you can do so here.
October 11, 2011 – Day 33 – 23 miles
A headwind is still present, but it’s under the “dangerous” rating, so I must be moving on. I slowly make my way down the river which is home to hundreds of islands and tributaries at this point. I often think about how fun it would have been to navigate this river before the dams were built.
As of today, I have officially left the state of Minnesota. It’s been a wonderful home for the past month, but I must be moving on. I said my goodbyes while eating a snack on the Minnesota/Iowa border and looking across the river to Wisconsin.
The near-full moon rose over a bluff across the river as I was cooking dinner. If every night were this beautiful I could stay on this island forever, but the river continues southward and I must be moving on.
October 10, 2011 – Day 32 – 17.5 miles
7:00 am – Awakened by my alarm just before sunrise. All is still, time to move.
10:00 am – Lock and Dam #7
11:00 am – LaCrosse, Wisconsin. Long walk to the grocery store. No time to tour the town as I must take advantage of the calm day.
12:00 pm – On an island. Forced to the shore by headwinds I can’t out paddle. Could rolled in and the temperature has significantly dropped.
3:30 pm – Paddling again. The wind has died down again, and this would be a horrible place to set up a tent.
5:00 pm – Brownsville, Minnesota. My sister has sent me a package to this post office. Going to have to wait until tomorrow to go into town.
6:30 pm – Eating dinner while perched atop a 100 foot tall sand dune on a horseshoe shaped island with a lagoon in it’s center. Popular boating destination (read: lots of trash).
8:00 pm – Good book. Warm sleeping bag. No worries.
October 9, 2011 – Day 31 – 0 miles
Inconceivable! My pride and the knowledge of forthcoming cold weather urge me to go on. However, white capped waves travelling upstream and the bending trunk of an oak tree serve as a warning against paddling today. Again, I most of the day in solitude on this sandy shore – alternating in between sun and shade, reading and exploring, swimming and sunbathing. The temperature must be over 80 degrees with wind gusts up to 40 mph. A great day to be outside, a bad day to be in a canoe.
October 8, 2011 – Day 30 – 0 miles
It took all the strength and nerve I could muster to cross the wind-ravaged river to reach the sandy shore I had been eyeing since yesterday morning. The wind is too fierce to consider gaining ground today, but I was eager enough to make it to a new camp with better terrain. The reward was well worth the risk as I enjoyed this sunny October day hammocking, reading, and intermittently cooling off in the river. When the sun was at it’s highest an airboat pulled up to the shore. I was definitely intruiged as this is the first time I had ever seen one in person. Tim and Carrie were enjoying one of the last warm Saturdays of the year on the river, and I’m glad that I got the chance to meet them. Noting my interest in the airboat, they offered to take me for a ride through the backwaters and wetlands. The ride was exhilarating beyond measure as it provided an extreme change of pace from my usual days on the water.
The unseasonably warm weather does not signal that we’re already in the month of October. That only adds to the fact that I have yet to hear the roar of a football stadium or taste a pumpkin-spice inspired recipe. I look forward to enjoying these things in the future, and know that this absence will only increase my appreciation for them.
October 7, 2011 – Day 29 – 6.5 miles
Coulds dotted the sky for the first time in a week this morning, but the day heated up quickly all the same. Southern winds increased their presence as the day when on. I spoke to my sister on the phone and she told me that this area is under a “severe weather watch” with wind speeds increasing to 40 mph at midday.
Upon hearing this news I headed directly to an island about a half a mile downstream. I set up camp, ate lunch, and walked the perimeter of this football field sized island all before noon. Without a sandy shore, and with it’s muddy interior, it’s not the best of places to spend a stranded afternoon, but it’s a place. The wind ripped through the trees all day, but I’ve found a well protected area near the center with spots of sunlight to enjoy. I am eager to get back to days where I can paddle more, but swimming in the river and drying off in the hot sun all day is a great substitute.
“If you unconsciously live a conscious life, you can never be poor.”
October 6, 2011 – Day 28 – 19 miles
I hear it snowed the other day in the North Carolina town where I attended college. Oddly enough we’ve been experiencing clear days with highs in the low 80′s on the Minnesota/Wisconsin border. I guess all that southern wind is bringing the warm weather along with it too. A lady standing on the shore asked why I was paddling upstream. No ma’am, that’s just the wind pushing the surface water hard enough to overcome the current.
I refuse to let the wind spoil my fun, so in the heat of the day I pulled over on a sunny island. I am in no means going for a speed record, and have plenty of time to get to New Orleans. I spent hours here and was reminded why it is that I am on this journey. I swam, sunbathed, drank tea, and read 1984 for hours in my hammock beneath two shady trees. I laughed at myself for all the frustration I’ve been feeling about the headwinds. I’m going to stop trying to fight the forces of nature, and allow them to help direct me.
“I don’t interfere with nature; I just watch it.” - Eric of the River