Friday, September 30, 2011

Mississippi River Day 38 (Island, 612.5 miles)

Another windy day. After yesterday I would have just stayed in bed and not deal with the wind again, but I had camped a bit to close to civilization. I was pretty close to a couple houses, so I figured I should get out before they start complaining. There was also a lock 2 miles in, and I was hoping that the wind might be a bit less after that, if the water level downstream was low enough to shelter me a bit. I spent that 2 miles turned sideways again, and just let myself drift with the wind. It wasn't worth fighting to stay pointed in the right direction, and I was still making progress.

Once I got to the dam I was told I'd have to wait awhile, as they had a barge going through. I decided to pull my canoe out of the water just upstream, stop at a gas station for hot food, and watch the barge. It was quite a process to get it through the lock. There was the tug and 12 barges stacked 3 wide and 4 long. That it longer than the lock itself, so they have to separate. The lock can fit 3 barges wide, which is why they move them like that. So the first 9 barges fit in the lock, and they sever the connection to the tug, which then backs off. The lock gate is closed, and the water comes in. Once the water is high enough the upper gate is opened and a cable is attached to the barges, which are then pulled out of the lock. The process repeats for the rear 3 barges and the tug, which are then re-attached. This whole thing probably took about an hour or so, and then I got to go down through the lock. Pretty interesting.

I spent some more time drifting sideways, then took a break for the afternoon. Even though I wasn't paddling for the most part, it is still mentally taxing to be dealing with the larger waves, especially when having little control over the direction you are facing. I started again at 4:30, and was able to make a little bit of headway, still being turned sideways by gusts, but mostly facing the right direction. I stopped just short of the next lock, since it was getting dark.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Mississippi River Day 37 (Island, 599 miles)

Today was a rough day. According to the weather channel there was 25-40 mph winds, with gusts up to 50, and a severe wind advisory. Not a fun day to be on the water. Luckily it was a tailwind, or I wouldn't have gotten anywhere. I would have stayed in camp, except that town was only 4 miles away, so I figured I would try for that. I spent those four miles turned sideways, and let the wind just blow me downstream. I could paddle towards either bank, but as soon as I tried to turn straight the wind pushed me back sideways. I barely made it to the town landing, but was able to pull the canoe up on the bank a bit to get out of the waves. Once onshore I met a motorcyclist who saw that I was getting tossed around, and said he was having the same problem, and with the same conclusion of spending time in town.

I spent some time wandering around town, but there wasn't really a whole lot there, so I just went to the library. I took the chance to do some research into towns downstream, and got photos uploaded, so the day wasn't a complete waste. The library closed at 5:00, so I left around 4:30 and went back to my canoe. It had also been raining a bit off and on, so I had to bail some water out before setting out. I mainly just wanted to get outside of town to set up camp, but the wind was still at my back, so I let it blow me downstream for awhile.

A long day for only 9 miles, but I didn't have to paddle most of the way.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Mississippi RIver Day 36 (Island, 590 miles)

I got an early start today, because I was still worried about wind on Lake Pepin. Fortunately, there wasn't any real wind to speak of, and the lake was relatively calm. It was actually quite nice to be paddling along on such a large body of water, and not have to worry about waves.

I stopped in to Lake City about halfway through the day for the library and supplies. Unfortunately trailjournals seemed to be having some problems, so I couldn't update my journal. I also stopped at Family Dollar to pick up another tupperware tub to keep everything waterproof. All of the large size were missing their lids, so I asked a clerk about it. Apparently all of the lids were damaged in transit, so they gave me a broken one for 50% off. All it needed was a bit of duct tape and it was as good as new. Now everything I have can be kept perfectly waterproof, which is quite nice on rainy days.

After I left town the wind picked up a bit, but not enough to cause any real problems. It was interested because there were a few sailboats out to enjoy the breeze, which I hadn't seen before.

One bad thing about Lake Pepin is there all the mileage markers disappeared, so I had no idea how far along I was. The shoreline was indistinct as well, so I was just guessing based on time how far along I was.

It was getting dark as I came to the end of the lake, but I pushed a bit later because I knew that tomorrow was forecast for severe wind, so I wanted to be off the lake if possible. I also had to cross to the far side, because there was a railroad right next to the near bank, which I knew would keep me up all night long. I found a nice spot on the far bank, and called it quits.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Mississippi River Day 35 (Lighthouse Island 569 miles)

This morning it sounded like rain, so I slept in a bit. Once I got going I realized that it was only 'tree rain' or the water falling off the trees in the wind. Then, about half an hour after I actually got going it really did start raining. Talk about bad timing.

I went through Lock #3 early in the day, and talked a bit with the lock tender about my trip. He had been thinking about something like this for awhile, but never really gave it serious thought. Also, he had looked on google maps for the headwaters, but could never find it, since he had been looking north of Bemidji. The headwaters is actually south, and travels north for the first 60 miles or so, making a big question mark.

I stopped in Red Wing for library and food, and got back on the river pretty quickly. Its interesting seeing the different libraries along the way. Some are pretty big and new, while others are very small town-y.

The past few days have been pretty nice. I'm in a very forested area, more-so than the headwaters region, or any other region since then. Once I finished with the weekend and got out of the city areas there hasn't been much boat traffic, and I have the river mostly to myself the entire day. Even when there are other boats on the river they don't bother me much, and the river is large enough that their wakes don't even cause any problems.

I finished today just before the rain set in, so I had my tarp set up and was able to stay dry. I did a few extra miles today to line up for Lake Pepin tomorrow. It is a 21 mile long lake, and if the wind is blowing right that can make for some big waves. Happily, the weather isn't supposed to be that windy tomorrow, but is the day after, so I want to be off the lake by tomorrow night.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Mississippi River Day 34 (Island, 546.5 miles)

It seemed windy this morning, so I stayed a bit longer in my hammock before getting out. I heard voices a few times on the water in the early morning, I'm assuming that it was just some fishermen, but I might be going crazy.

As soon as I finally started the wind actually died down, which was nice. I also got into a more sheltered portion of the river, so that helped as well. Then I hit Stump Lake, which is a large flooded section, and the wind picked up again. At the end of the lake there was another lock, so I decided to cut across a portion of the lake. The wind was actually at my back, but the waves kept turning me sideways, so it was still a battle.

When I got to the lock there was a barge and crane idling around it, so I kept my distance a bit. It was pretty hard with the tailwind, and the waves kicked up to 2 feet high. Eventually the lock tendered waved me around, and I cut in front of the barge. Apparently they were doing some construction, so it was just waiting there.

I stopped in to Hastings to use the library, and unfortunately it was 2 miles away from the waterfront. It gave me a nice break from the canoe though, but really ate into the hours of the day. I also forgot to bring food, so it was a long start to the afternoon.

Once I got back to the canoe it was really windy, so I took a lunch break in the park hoping it would die down. Unfortunately it didn't, so I just went for it. Fortunately, as soon as I got going I got back into a sheltered area, so it wasn't too bad. A rainy evening cut my miles a bit short, but I ended up camping on an island again. This one didn't have a name, but it was obvious that a lot of people used it for camping. There was a bunch of trashed tents and other garbage, but the island was pretty clear of undergrowth, so it was actually pretty nice.

Also, I posted some more pics to my flickr account, so take a look:

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Mississippi River Day 33 (Baldwin Island Camp, 531 miles)

I woke up early again today, and it was a nice calm day to start with. The first few miles were more wooded areas, and then I hit another industrial area. This area had concrete and steel walls, which made the boat wakes bounce off and hit me again from the other side. I also saw more boat traffic, and several barges. The boats are getting bigger as well, so the wakes can be pretty annoying. While passing through this area I hit a pretty low spot morale-wise, but I knew I had to keep going to get past it.

A few more miles and I came to another forested area, which was nice, even though it had barges docked all along the way. While in this area I got passed by a coast guard boat, so I was glad I got my boat properly registered before.

I decided to take a back route, cutting through Baldwin lake instead of the main channel of the Mississippi. That way I could avoid some of the boat traffic, and get a different view. This also took me by the island where I was to camp for the night. This campsite was lacking the typical amenities, like the privy and picnic table, but it did have several nice lawn chairs that I took advantage of.

As I was sitting there trying to decide if I wanted to keep going or not, the fire restarted itself. Apparently someone hadn't put it out well enough, and the wind kicked it back up. That decided it. I had a free fire, so I was staying. I ended up paying for the fire though, when my pot got too hot and burnt through my potholder, burning my thumb. It didn't hurt for a while, then it started throbbing, so I don't think that's good.

I also took advantage of the beach to start craft night. I had been thinking about turning the tarp I bought in Bemidji into some sort of spray skirt. That way it would keep out drips from the paddle, and a light rain. However, after cutting the tarp into shape it started raining, so I canceled the rest of the craft night, to be continued later.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Mississippi River Day 32 (Fort Snelling park, 509.5 miles)

I woke up early this morning, and found that I had camped right over a rather large dead fish. Oh well.
I hit a dam 4 miles into the day, the last portage on the river. It wasn't a bad portage, I'm not sure how long it was, but most of the way was grassy. There were a lot of fishermen along the way, since it was some sort of park type area, and they gave me some funny looks.

I tried to stop in town for the library, but my computer wouldn't connect for some reason. The library seemed weird anyways, there were security guards at the entrances and exits, which seemed overkill.

Right after I left the library I hit the first lock on the river. I had to wait for a bit, since they had a large tour boat coming in, so I paddled close to the shore to wait. Bad decision. The wake of the boat was relatively minor, but since I was already on the shoreline it ended up tipping me sideways, and I almost swamped the canoe. Instead I just got splashed a bit, and reminded to pay more attention.

I got into the lock after that, and pulled off my hat to see everything better. I forgot that my sunglasses were on top of my hat, and almost lost them in the river. Fortunately they don't sink that fast, and I was able to reach in the water and grab them.

The lock dropped about 50 feet in 10 minutes, which is a strange feeling to look up the walls afterwards. I talked a bit with the lock tender, and he actually expected that I was going the whole way. I guess they see a few canoe-ers come through every year. He was also nice enough to call down to the next lock and have them wait for me, since I'm a bit slower than the motor boats.

Then next couple of miles were very urban, but then I was pleasantly surprised to find the rest of the day going through a forested valley. Some of it was state parks and some of it was college land, but it was definitely better than what I was hoping for.

I passed through Lock #1, which is the third lock on the river, late in the day. Just downstream of the lock there was more park like areas, with lots of fishermen and dog walkers. The whole area had nice sandy banks, which was a change from the rock previously. I found a nice spot to camp for the night, and called it quits.

One portage, 3 locks , and 25.5 miles in one day, not bad.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Mississippi River Day 31 (Point Park, 484 miles)

Today was another longer day to take advantage of yet another nice day of weather. I saw a fox along the bank today, before it ran away from me. I'm also still seeing tons of herons, but for some reason today they were all out of the water. Maybe it is just as it gets colder or something. Previously they were all standing in water, but today it was all on trees or rocks.

Around lunch time I hit some relatively major traffic. There was a canoe, a kayak, and a motorboat, all at the same bend in the river. Compared to no traffic everywhere else, it felt crowded.

I was actually going to stop for the day at Clausset Island, at 23 miles, but I decided to keep going after looking at the maps for tomorrow. That would have left me right in the middle of a city tomorrow night, which I want to avoid. Instead, I kept going another 5 miles, and hit a town park, stopped for dinner, and continued on another mile. It was one of those parks that you can't camp at, so I just found somewhere a little bit further on. It was getting dark by then, so I just found the nearest trees and strung my hammock.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Mississippi River Day 30 (Montissippi County Park, 455.8 miles)

I woke up this morning to breakfast. My host, Peter, had made some wonderful bacon and eggs, and we made breakfast sandwiches with it. I quickly packed up everything so he wouldn't be late to class. He drove me down to the boat landing and helped me load everything back up. After a quick picture, I pushed off on my way. He was also nice enough to let me keep his bike lock, saying that I would probably need it further downstream. Thanks again.

Within the first few miles I saw a couple sleeping on the side of the river. It seemed more like a try at a romantic experience than a homeless couple, but it looked like it got colder than they expected last night. I also had a helicopter fly over me several times, I'm not sure what they were doing, but it was pretty loud.

The current is stronger today thanks to the dam, which is always nice to have a bit of a push. I found a butterfly floating in the water, which made for a nice picture, and then I rescued it out of the water.

I stopped by Clearwater outfitter, which was right on the river, mainly to see what they had. Apparently they were just opening up within the past few months, but they had some very nice boats. Quite pricey, but very nice. Its also nice to stop by an outfitter, in my experience they are much more interested in your trip than they are in selling you something. Stores generally don't care much about the trip, and are happy to sell something. Also, apparently the owner said that water levels have been dropping lately. I'm not sure if that is good for me or not, but its just interesting to note.

I got to camp, and it started to rain, then it got sunny again, which was nice. I had a nice fire going, which made the evening nice as well.

I'm starting to try and take advantage of nicer days like today, and push more miles. That way, when it is nasty I can avoid longer days, either with bad wind or rain, or even just cold. Hopefully a longer day like today will help later on. It wasn't even that bad, since the current was stronger. I'm also getting much more use to paddling, so it doesn't seem as bad.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Mississippi River Day 29 (St Cloud, 428 miles)

Today started off a bit windy, but this time the wind was a tailwind.

I hit the first dam at mile 10, which called for a 300 yard portage. This portage was nicer than the last, it was relatively flat, and grassy. The entire portage ran next to a city street, with a bike lane. I thought it was kind of interesting that there was the car lane, then a bike lane, and then a canoe lane. Even if the canoe lane was just the grass on the side of the road.

That portage only took about 45 minutes, as compared with the several hours for the same length yesterday.

Then, 6 miles later I had another dam to portage, again 300 yards. This one wasn't as nice. It was still mostly grassy, and mostly level. Some of it was uphill, but wasn't anywhere near as steep as at the Blanchard dam. It still seemed really long, especially as the second portage of the day, but I knew that once I got back in the water I was mostly done for the day. I think this one took about an hour or more, but I didn't pay careful attention, since I was getting closer to being done. I think there is only one more dam to portage around, and then they are all locks, so no more required portages for the rest of the trip.

Once I got back in the water I saw a guy on the opposite shore waving both arms at me. That must be Peter, my couchsurfing host. He brought a bike lock for the canoe, and I threw all my gear in the back of his pickup, and we took off to his apartment. He was a canoe-er himself, so he had some idea of what I needed. He offered laundry and shower right away, and then started making dinner. We discussed various adventures and lifestyles, given my current situation and his own. He's currently in grad school for Ecology, and has spent some significant time as a forest fire fighter, which is a cool gig. An interesting start to couchsurfing, definitely better than the previous two failed attempts.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Mississippi Rivver Day 28 (Stearns County Park, 412 miles)

Today I woke up and packed up my stuff dry, even though it had rained the night before. Then, right after I pushed off from shore I was blown right back into it. The next mile or so to the dam was a series of repeats, pushing off, paddling a bit as hard as I could, and still being blown sideways. Then it even started raining to top it off. If I didn't know that the portage was close I would have waited it out a bit. Instead I kept going, because I could do a hard portage even in the wind.

When I got to the portage I found a very rugged trail, with several steep parts, some of which hard wooden stairs. Other sections needed stairs, but didn't have any. I think it was probably longer than 300 yards, but it took several hours to make the portage anyway, which felt extremely long. I'm making several trips, one dragging the canoe, one for food, one for camping gear, and one for exploration of the portage. It felt like forever.

Downstream of the dam I made it a few miles before the wind picked up again, and I waited it out at a small campground. The campground had a few RVs, but I didn't see anyone. At 3:00 I started out again, knowing that I had to make more miles in the day in order to get to St Cloud on time. The wind died down a bit, enough so that I wasn't being blown sideways at least. It did start misting again a bit off and on, but nothing like the rain earlier in the day.

A couple more miles into the day and I had a strange occurrence, which reminded me of the Florida Trail. I was paddling near the shoreline to try to avoid some of the wind, and a dog started running after me. It even went so far as to jump in the water and try swimming after me, but not very fast. It eventually went back to its house, and I kept going.

One thing I'm noticing more and more recently is that some of the boats and the docks are being drawn up for the winter. A sure sign is it getting colder soon.

I found a nice campsite maintained by the county. It was getting dark by the time I got there, and the rain picked up a bit. I still got a fire going, and had a late dinner, then called it a night.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Mississippi River Day 27 (Blanchard Dam, 396 miles)

Today started off pretty hazy, but it was still for most of the morning which was nice. It feels a bit otherworldly paddling through the haze without being able to see anything, but it burned off pretty quick.

I stopped in to Little Falls at mile 13 for a quick resupply at the Family Dollar, and then stopped off at the library for email, journaling, etc. One important thing that I managed while online was to set up a couchsurfing stop in St. Cloud. Hopefully this one works out better than Brainerd.

The big thing riverwise in Little Falls is the Dam and portage. It is a 300 yard portage, through a town park. I moved my stuff bit by bit down to a level area, and then a middle age lady asked me if I needed help. She wasn't very physically able, but she did help to move the canoe across a small parking lot, which helped prevent some scraping. Once she helped with that I figured that was enough for her, so I thanked her and kept going. Then an older man walked up and started talking to me. He asked me how far I was going, and then mentioned that he had seen several other paddlers come through as well. Apparently him and his neighbor are the local public portage service. They are both retired, and if they see any canoers they help them out with the portage. One of them owns a gator, so I was able to throw all my stuff in the back, and then I just had to drag the canoe. He is known as the "Can Man" because he runs the local recycling, which is what he normally uses the gator for, collecting all the cans. He mentioned how the water level was pretty low, which seemed strange, considering that it had been high up until there, but it must be dropping. I gave him my trailjournal link, and he gave me links for several other paddlers. I don't know yet where they are in the river, but they are probably going faster than me, so I won't end up seeing them. Still nice to know there are other people on the river.

I stopped for dinner at Shay Island, which would have made an excellent camping spot for tenting, with nice flat areas with low grasses. I kept going after dinner, happy for the lack of wind, which had died out. I ended up stopping just short of the next dam, which also has a 300 yard portage, this one being cautioned as a rough portage. I found a nice pine forest berm that bordered a farmers field right on the water, and set up camp.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Mississippi RIver Day 26 (Island 37, 375 miles)

I woke up to a bit of rain, so I waited until it cleared up before I got going. It still managed to mist throughout the day. Not enough to feel like rain, but more than enough to leave you soaked. I ended up hanging my hammock for the first part of the afternoon while the mist turned into actual rain, and then kept going around 4:00.

The river seemed more active today, with more churning water and a bit of a faster current. It was a nice change to the river, especially with the mist obscuring the banks for a large portion of the day.

Towards evening it cleared up more, and I even ended up seeing the sun for a bit. The right hand bank changed between a military base and a wildlife refuge for most of the day, so I wasn't sure were I could camp without getting yelled at. Instead I managed to find my own private island for the night. On the map it was labeled as Island 37, but I'm not sure why. I don't know if they label them going upstream or down, or from what starting point. Anyhow, it was quite peaceful, especially knowing that absolutely no one would be waking me up, since there was no access to the island by land.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Mississippi River Day 25 (Baxter Canoe Campsite, 358 miles)

This morning was cold and windy, but I got an early start, which helped out. I had tried to contact a few hosts from couchsurfing about staying the night in Brainerd, so I was hopeful about getting in to town. Even still, with all the wind it took me until 3:00 to get in to town, and that was only 15 miles into the day. I stopped briefly at the library to check emails about the couchsurfing, but no luck. One host was traveling and not home, and the other didn't respond. Better luck next time. The library was closing shortly, so I didn't have time to update any journals or anything. I stopped briefly at Family Dollar for a quick resupply, and got back on the river.

I stopped at a park just outside of town for the wind to die down, and met two hunters getting the boat into the water. Apparently they hunt deer on the islands in the river, and they were just heading out to wait for dusk. They mentioned that it was supposed to rain later tonight and tomorrow, so I wanted to find a good campsite to stay dry in.

When I got to the actual Baxter campsite there was very loud music playing from somewhere nearby. I stopped to talk to a couple that was taking a walk in the campsite, and then kept going, looking for somewhere quieter. I went an extra mile or two, and was still able to hear them faintly. It was getting dark by then, so I had to stop anyway. Luckily the water noise drowned most of it out, so it wasn't a problem, and I found a good campsite to stay dry in for the coming storms.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Mississippi River Day 24 (Half Moon Campsite, 334 miles)

It was quite cold last night again. When I got going this morning I had to de-ice my paddle. I have been leaving it in the canoe at night, but I am starting to rethink that. Also, I'm thinking about getting a new sleeping bag. I got this bag in 2006, and it has been on too many trips. The zipper was broken before I even started the AT, so it is probably time to replace it.

I scared a lot of deer today, and some of them even startled me. Its an interesting experience to round a corner in the river and be staring at a deer, or hear a large crashing sound from the bank a few feet away.

I almost missed the campsite again tonight. There was even a warning sign, campsite 300 yards. The actual campsite sign was behind a bunch of trees, in a nice marshy area. The water levels are supposed to be relatively high, and I was still bottoming out trying to get to the camp. It was set back from the bank, behind a stagnant pool, and was directly on an ATV/snowmobile trail. I was worried about having ATVs show up again, but nothing happened, so I slept soundly.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Mississippi River Day 23 (Lone Pine Creek, 316.7 miles)

Last night was a cold night. I'm not liking that my toes are going numb, especially only in the middle of September. I stayed in my hammock this morning because it sounded like rain. Eventually I just gave up and got out, and it turns out that it wasn't rain, just the frost melting off the trees onto my hammock.

It was still most of the day, and I had lunch at the downstream side of the Aitkin diversion canal. After the canal the current seemed to pick up a bit, which was nice. Usually the current doesn't really help push me downstream at all, but it did a bit here. It eventually warmed up to around 65 degrees, and the best part was that there were no bugs because of the cold the night before.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Mississippi River Day 22 (Side of river, 301 miles)

Today I spent most of the morning around town, largely in the library. The librarian recognized me from the day before and asked me how long I was in town for. She also told me about a couple that was biking down the Mississippi, and had passed through town the day before. I guess I just missed them. They were talking about bigger days, since biking is easier, so I wouldn't see them for long anyway.

Then, about a half hour later, the librarian motioned a lady over towards me, and it turns out the couple was back in town. The husband apparently developed a heart condition, so the trip was canceled, and they never really left town anyway. I talked a bit with the lady about her travels, and biking in general. At some point I am thinking about some sort of cross country bike trip, but that is a ways off from now.

I stopped at the dollar store to see what kind of junk they were selling, and bought a $2 sweatshirt, to help with the cold nights. I also bought two dog chains, since they were only a dollar each. These dog chains are perfect for practicing poi, something that I had been planning on doing more practicing on my trip. Its nice not having to carry everything, it gives a chance to accumulate some random objects.
As I left town I also took care of one very important item of business. I finally registered my canoe. Now I'm official. Also, officially $24 poorer, but oh well. It might save me a $150 fine for an unregistered boat.

I left town in the early afternoon, but managed to get hit by some pretty good rain storms. I sat out the first few under the shelter of some overhanging trees, and looked for a spot to camp. Right after I found a nice spot to hang for the night, I got hit with a hail storm. Its too early for hail in my opinion, but the weather disagrees with me. Also, lots more wind, as per the usual.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Mississippi River Day 21 (Aitkin, 295 miles)

Today was another windy day. The first few hours of the day weren't bad, but then it really picked up. I still wanted to get to Aitkin so I could use the library, but it was a bit more strenuous than I had planned.

I stopped for lunch at the Aitkin diversion dam, which serves to protect the town from flooding. In times of high water, the excess flows over the dam into a canalway, which rejoins the river on the other side of town. This means that the water level of the river in town will ideally never go above the top of that dam, since the damway is a shorter path for the water to travel.

I got in to town around 4:30 and wandered around until I found the library, where I could upload some of my journals and pictures. Still having problems uploading some of the pictures to my flickr account, and it is taking forever to upload stuff. It will get up eventually though, so you will be able to see all the stuff I've seen. Some of them are already up, in no particular order though. Check them out if you are interested:

Went back to the river to spend the night, and its supposed to be a cold one tonight, people are talking about covering their plants to prepare for a frost. Cold and wind, not a good combination.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Mississippi River Day 20 (Willow River camp, 272 miles)

Last night I was woken up in the middle of the night by some sort of canine. I'm not sure if it was a wolf or a coyote, or maybe just a wild dog. Something walked pretty close to my hammock, and then scared itself off. It was a bright full moon, so I was able to see some of it running away.

Once I got on the river, I hit the town of Palisade five miles into the day. It was a nice small town, with two different diners. I chose the "old Palisade Cafe" which a lady had told me had large portions. Perfect for an active hiker/paddler like me. I decided on pancakes, because I had been having a craving for them for a few days, and sat to type some journals up, while charging electronics.

Once I got back on the river it was very windy. Some of the gusts even blew me into the banks of the river, which got pretty annoying. I stopped at Willow River camp to wait for the wind to die down, but it kept going all evening. I got a fire going pretty easily, and had a nice night.

Once good thing did happen to me from the wind. I ended up getting blown sideways into a bunch of driftwood. While I was waiting for the gusts to die out, I ended up finding a rubby ducky floating in the wood. He's going to be my new mascot for the trip. I'm also starting to see more trash washed up on the banks, including lumber and one very old trashed car. A bit weird.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Mississippi River Day 19 (Side of river, 259 miles)

I got a bit of a later start today, but didn't really have any big goals for the day, so it didn't matter much. I stopped at a nice campsite for lunch, but decided that 8 miles wasn't enough for the day, so I kept going after that.

Today was the first day that I saw any Canadian geese, which means its getting colder. I also saw a few dead geese floating in the river. I'm not sure what kind of animal would attack them and leave the bodies, but something killed them and didn't eat them.

There was a distinct change in the river today as well. There were huge piles of driftwood caught at various points in the river, and I also noticed a few rocky dams sticking out in the river. These dams seem natural, and only portion off a part of the river, so I can still easily pass, but they would be a bigger problem in lower water conditions. I also saw a few people fishing off of them. They make the river a bit more exciting for me, since it is almost like a mini section of rapids just downstream of them.

There are no landmarks near where I am camping, so I'm just calling it the side of the river for the destination.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Mississippi River Day 18 (Libby Township campsite, 240.8 miles)

As soon as I got on the water this morning I saw the campsite that I had thought I missed last night. I actually didn't pass it, but had instead stopped short by about 200 yards. And this time it wasn't even my fault. The DNR map had the campsite on the wrong side of a bend in the river, so after I made the bend, I thought I had passed it. Oh well.

Today I saw more wildlife, including two turtles, otters, and another water snake. At camp tonight there were gnats and flies, but somehow no mosquitoes, so I didn't get any new bites. I went for a swim in the afternoon, which felt good to cool off for a bit, and rinse off any sweat.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Mississippi River Day 17 (MS Keto campsite, 228 miles)

I went through Jacobson town early today, which was quite a disappointment. The only real thing in the town was a gas station bait shop, so I bought some little debbies and kept going.

It was a slow day, and I took my time. I stopped by a campsite for lunch, but it was too buggy, so I kept going. I had planned on staying there for the night, but there was a 300 yard stretch from the river to the camp that was marshy, so I decided against it.

As I was rounding a bend in the river I saw a huge turtle laying on the bank. At first I thought it was dead, but the eyes were still glistening, and when I splashed it it moved a bit. I think it was likely sick or dying, since there was a bunch of algae growing on its back, which can't be healthy. I also saw some sort of water snake, except this snake was sitting on top of the water, and seemed to move by water tension, rather than swimming.

I ended up missing the Ms. Keto campsite, and I didn't see any signs, so I just found a nicely forested area, and made camp for the night

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Mississippi River Day 16 (Jacobson campsite, 211 miles)

Today I got an early start, planning on a longer day. Even still, it seemed like an easy day, since there was no wind at all today. It was quite nice, especially after fighting with the wind for a while on previous days. The miles just seemed to flow by.

I was planning on stopping for lunch at Swimming Bear campsite, but there was no sign, and I was past the campsite before I realized that I missed it, so I just kept going, and had lunch on the river.

It was about 2:00 when I got to the actual Jacobson campsite, but I found out that it was a pay campground, so I just grabbed water and went on a little ways. About a mile further I found a nice pine forest, but it was up a steep bank. I ended up climbing up, and tying a rope to a tree so I could easily get up and down. I also found a nice sandy ledge to have a small cooking fire in, and I didn't even have to worry about burning down the forest.

Right after dinner I was looking down on my canoe from the top of the bank, and saw a big turtle swim right underneath the canoe. Unfortunately my camera was down in the canoe, so I knew if I went to grab it I would have scared away the turtle. A couple of bald eagles throughout the day rounded out my wildlife for the day.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Mississippi River Day 15 (Blackberry Campsite, 188 miles)

Today was a quite morning, and I took things nice and slow. It was a clear day, with no wind, which is always nice. I stopped for lunch at Herb's Beer Access, which I have to wonder how it got its name.

The campsite for the night is in a nice wooded area, on a high cliff bank. It was an early day, but I felt like enjoying the day and the nice campsite. This was the first campsite I've seen on the river that had a bear box, so I had to wonder about the wildlife. I put my entire tupperware tub in the box, rather than unpacking all of my food. It was rather convenient. Unfortunately, someone before me had decided to use the box as a garbage can. I burned what I could of the junk, and left the metal pieces.

In Grand Rapids I had bought a block of cheese yesterday, hoping that it would last through at least one day. It sort of did, but the entire block of cheddar was mush. I mixed it in with some ramen, and it seemed fine to me. Nothing much for the rest of the day, just reading and relaxing.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Mississippi River Day 14 (Prairie River, 175 miles)

It was a bit warmer today, which made the first few hours nicer. Today started in a wetlands area, and then changed more to a forest as the day went on.

I hit Blackwater Lake without even realizing it, because the entire lake was one big rice field. The channel was still open, but it was no wider than the normal river, nothing to indicate I was going through a lake. However, the distance to the trees indicated that the shore was further away, so I had a rough idea of where I was.

After the lake I hit Pokegama Dam for lunch, where there was a nice picnic area and a few campsites. I had planned on ending here today, but it was still early, so I finished the portage and kept going.

In the town of Grand Rapids the dam was a major problem, which was supposed to call for a 1200 yard portage through downtown streets. Luckily, the power company that owns the dam offers a free portage service. I just had to call the company, and they sent a truck with a canoe rack to pick me up and move my stuff for me. It saved me quite a bit of work, so I was quite happy.

While in town I did some quick grocery shopping, and managed to spend $42. It still feels strange to be able to stock up for longer term, instead of just the next 3 or 4 days. I also did a quick library stop for internet, and posted a few of my days journals. The internet was quite slow, so I didn't bother trying to upload any pictures yet, but they will be coming soon. I have to say, the Grand Rapids library was quite nice, it had a huge window out onto the river, and apparently had bike locks and fishing poles for checkout as well.

Then I got back on the river, so I could get back out of town quickly. I was hoping to make it to Sucher camp at 19 miles, but didnt quite make it before it got dark.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Mississippi River Day 13 (State Hwy 6, 158 miles)

Last night I was woken up at 11:30pm by two ATV'ers who shined their headlights right at my hammock. Their conversation, with their engines both going, went something like this: 
I think we're lost.
No, we're not lost, we're right next to the river, see the campsites.
Oh yeah, it looks like someone was camping here.
Oh wow, it looks like someone is still here!
(even louder) Sorry guy, we got a bit turned around!


Then at 1:30am I was woken up by a train, and again at 3:30am. What a night

This morning was very foggy, so I couldn't even see the shores of the river. I checked the temperature, and it was 37 degrees in the morning at 7:00. That was compared to 83 degrees at dusk at smiling joes, a few nights earlier. Hopefully the bugs are all dying, but I doubt it.

I stopped by Schoolcroft state park for lunch, and then missed the campsite that I was planning on staying at. I think it was in a marshy area off of the river, and I didn't see it. So I continued on, and ended up staying a few miles further, just past a road, in a very nice secluded spot.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Mississippi River Day 12 (Gamblers Point, 139 miles)

Today was a slow day. It was a bit windy, but nothing like the previous few days. As I was going down the river in a wooded area I was thinking about how the maps called for a bunch of beaver dams previously, but I didn't see any. This was probably due to the high water levels. Then as I looked around at the woods I saw a bunch of gnawed on trees. Right when I rounded a bend, I saw a rather large beaver, just sunning himself on the side of the river. Never say never I guess.

There were also a bunch of birds, but nothing really major. Its starting to get a bit cooler, I'm hoping it will kill off some of the bugs. It could just be a temporary thing though, so I don't really know.

As I was getting a fire going for dinner, I got hit with two sun showers, around 5:00. Bright sun, but pouring rain. The rain caught me off guard, as I had been drying a bunch of my stuff on the picnic tables. Oh well.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Mississippi River Day 11 (Crazy James Point, 125.83 miles)

Today was the second day on Lake Winnie, again a very windy day. Luckily I was already in a relatively sheltered portion of the lake, so it wasn't that bad, but the waves were still quite large.

The portage to get out of the lake was quite steep. I ended up having to grab at the grass on the side as I was pulling the canoe up, just to keep from slipping back down. There was a nice rec area on the downstream side, with a playground and shelter, and best of all, it had power outlets. I used the chance to type of several journal entries, and recharge my kindle before continuing. I got quite a few strange glances, sitting there next to my canoe with my laptop out. Oh well.

After the dam there was a definite twist in the river. Or rather, a lack of one. Up until now the river has meandered quite a bit. However, in this section the river was straightened, probably for logging. The oxbow sections of the river are still there, but they don't connect anymore.

Crazy james point is a very secluded campsite, sitting higher up on a hill looking out over the river. I had been planning on going further, but after fighting the wind on the lake I decided on a shorter day. Again, even though I only made 9.3 miles of progress, I actually traveled further, hugging the shoreline of the lake. It was even windy on the river, which was relatively wooded.

A nice quite evening, with a cooking fire for dinner and a bit of reading

Friday, September 2, 2011

Mississippi River Day 10 (Tamarac Point, 116.5 miles)

Today was another long Lake day. It was still very windy, and of course the wind wasnt going the same way I was. This was Lake Winnie, or Lake Winnibigoshish, which the guy on Lake Irving had warned me about. I had to go around the south side of the lake, which meant that even though I only made 13.8 miles of progress, I probably went more like 20 miles around the lake total.

However, it was still a very nice day. It seemed like every time I looked up there was another bald eagle flying around. At one point I stopped and saw 2 red headed woodpeckers, but didnt have my camera with me then. There were also a lot of sports boats and fishermen, but no one really came close enough to talk to.

I stopped for the night at Tamarac Point campground, which apparently is only open for the Spring months, so I had the whole place to myself. It faced west, so I was able to watch the sun set over the lake, which I had spent all day paddling around. I am definitly looking forward to more actual river tomorrow, but tonight I am falling asleep to the comforting sound of waves against the shore.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Mississippi River Day 9 (Smiling Joe, 102.7 miles)

Last night there was a bunch of thunder and lighting, with a lot of rain and wind, so I was glad I was sheltered a bit. It was a hazy morning, but not really threatening, so I wasnt too worried about more rain. Today was a lot of lakes, which meant open water, high waves and wind right in the face. When I got to Allen Bay, there was more thunder and lighting, so I pulled off on the shore for a while to wait it out. When it started to clear up a bit I made my way to Star Island, which is an island so big it has a lake inside of it. There were several people having a beach party at the portage to get to the inner lake, so I didnt stay very long. I decided to move further along the shore to a small campsite, and wait for the wind to die down there before I cut across the rest of Cass Lake. While I was waiting a runner and his girlfriend stopped and talked for a bit, and I mentioned that I had previously hiked the Appalachian Trail. Apparently he had been thinking about trail running it at some point in the next few years, so I gave him what advice I could.

When the wind died down a bit I cut across the lake for about 2 miles of open water, which was very peaceful. On the eastern shore I was supposed to portage around a dam, but enough water was flowing over it that I just floated right over. There was no drop on the downstream side, so I wasnt too worried about it. That was the first 12.5 miles of the day, and it took from roughly 9:30 to 5:00, due to the wind and the lakes. Often with the lakes you cant take the direct path, since it would put you in open water for too long, so I probably did a few more miles today than I was supposed to.

After the dam was 7 more miles of marsh, and then a small campsite waiting for me at the end. It started raining almost as soon as I got in to camp, which was right at sunset, prime time for mosquitoes. Then came more thunder and lighting, just to top off the long day.