September 9, 2011 – Day 1 – 5 miles
The bus arrived two hours behind schedule, making me all the more anxious to begin my paddling expedition. However, there were a few things that needed to be done first. Jeff picked me up in Walker, Minnesota, and we dropped by his house to pick up the canoe before heading towards the headwaters. On the way we stopped to get a paddle, food for a few days, and visited the Park Rapids Enterprise to interview with one of Jeff’s friends, a reporter who wanted to run an article about my journey.
At 3:30 pm I was able to put the canoe into Lake Itasca and begin the first of tens of thousands of paddles. There were about 25 people visiting the headwaters that day, and before long all of them had figured out what I was doing. The Mississippi River is barely a trickle at its source, therefore, it’s not a desireable canoeing destination. As I set off from the headwaters, children helped push my boat down the shallow stream, fathers asked me questions about my trip, and mothers scowled at me for inspiring their children to be so adventurous/irresponsible.
I’m not afraid to say that not a lot of paddling was done on that first day. I knew that the river would be small, and lots of walking is sometimes the norm. I walked a fair bit of those first five miles to the Wanagan Landing campsite. I’m hoping for more miles per day in the future (at this rate I would reach New Orleans in 510 days), but a late start and scarcity of campsites made this what I hope to be my shortest paddling day of the trip.
Forty-four hours on a bus can wreck a person’s sleep schedule. I decided not to set an alarm and let my body wake itself up. I slept like a stone for 12 hours; not a single worry on my mind.
“There are two mistakes one can make along the road to truth…not going all the way, and not starting.” — Siddhartha