“Was there a feral woman with you in your tent on Sunday, May, 8th at the campground at the historic, Sunrise Ferry Landing?”
No. That was snoring, not growling. I was surprised by a 10 P.M. visit by wife, Lois, daughter, Laura, and son-in-law and friend, Andy. Earlier, I had cancelled plans for Lois to come up to find me on Mother’s Day evening after feeling guilty about asking her to make the long drive on her special day. Nonetheless, after their postprandial slumber, they piled in the car and somehow located my tent – in the dark – off a trail – off the dead- end gravel road that leads to the Wisconsin landing. Impossible! I was astounded they found me and yes, it took awhile for it to register that the voices outside and flashlight beam on my tent were more than a dream. I fumbled about in the tent for about 15 minutes trying to wake up, wriggle my way out of the mummy bag (funky zipper) and get dressed enough to meet company. They attributed my lengthy tent exit to an extra-species liaison – as in “the feral woman.” The story has gotten out of hand and I hope that my explanation here puts that rumor to rest. And oh yes, the scratches across my back are healing nicely.
“Why did you paddle upstream on the St. Croix? Wouldn’t it have been easier to go downstream?”
I found this route described in James Taylor Dunn’s’ book, The St. Croix – Midwest Border River.
Henry Schoolcraft and Joseph Nicollet
both used St. Peter (now Mendota) as their launch point with Madeline Island their destination. Of course, travel over the centuries went both directions – it was a highway after all and the shortest water route between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi for this area. Both gentlemen left journals of their travels, in 1832 and 1837 respectively and both went south to north provisioning first at St. Peter and then paddling their way to Madeline. That just felt right to me as well.
Letting things warm up a bit by paddling south to north – I felt Superior would be best traveled with 30 days of Spring to warm the water up while I made my way towards it.
“urban to non-urban” – accepting that this wasn’t a wilderness journey but knowing there was still wild to be found.
I wanted to experience the industrialized Mississippi but for aesthetic reasons, I wanted to progress towards a more natural environ. For that reason, the Apostle Islands via the unfettered Bois Brule river seemed a better destination than St. Paul.
Since the Brule flows north and the St. Croix, south, there was no avoiding the fact that I would have to go up one and down another. Going up the St. Croix which has backwaters, lake-like conditions for miles and many opportunities to duck out of the current, was not as difficult as it may seem from the off-river perspective. Add to that the prevailing south winds that often make downstream travel on the St. Croix a surprisingly tough slog for many paddlers. Of course, I was blessed with a north wind in my face for much of May – go figure. The Bois Brule on the other hand flows fast with seemingly continuous rapids and though sprinkled with stretches of slower water, it is a formidable up-stream endeavor. I chose 164 miles of St. Croix upstream over 44 miles of Bois Brule upstream for all these reasons. I would like to try it in reverse however. Did I just say that out loud?
“You left on your trip May 1st and were out of contact until the following morning. On that same day, special forces found Osama bin Laden. Is there any connection between the two events?”
I’m sorry, but if I told you…..well…..you know. And this leads to the next question.
FAQ # 4
“What’s your next adventure?” – or sub-text at home – “Are you planning to look for a job?”
Well, many ideas incubating but none ready for hatching and, “yes”, respectively. I am fascinated by the Great Lakes and think about the paddle from Madeline Island to Sault Ste Marie and beyond again following Indian and Trader routes. Also, I just finished reading Sigurd Olsons’s, The Lonely Land, his account of a 5oo mile Canadian paddling adventure exploring a historic Hudson Bay Company trading route. That’s got me thinking, too.
Pertaining to the second question, I enjoyed three days of work with fantastic science teachers through the Center for Global Environmental Education at Hamline University in St. Paul, MN. Part of the Center’s mission is to develop and facilitate continuing education programs for school-room professionals combining outdoor classroom strategies and environmental education. We spent three of the loveliest Minnesota summer days imaginable exploring the St. Croix river at Interstate Park near Taylor’s Falls and at Afton State Park, downriver and about 25 miles east of St. Paul. It was a treat to spend three days with great staff, engaging content and the camaraderie of dedicated teachers committed to bringing the classroom outdoors. Oh, and here’s a must-read link for anyone, but particularly out-door leaning educators, to an abstract of an hilarious article in the New Yorker.
Hamline is offering a second Rivers Institute on the Mississippi at the end of July. Check it out. I’ll be involved in that as well. Beyond that, let me know if you have any openings.
“Corey, are you fully recovered from any effects of the trip? You are pretty darn old and we were concerned about you out there, all by yourself, and oh, did already I mention, your advanced years.“
Pretty much. Gained some weight back. My fingers on my right hand are again flailing away on the banjo and uke at pre-trip speed. My left shoulder which began complaining on day 16 still has a few choice words but we are on a much more friendly basis now. However, the effects of friendships deepened, challenges met and my wonder and excitement about the trail ahead are gladly, still lingering.
Thanks for checking in – Corey