Start: 8:30 AM - Wyalusing State Park, WI
Finish 5:45 PM - East Dubuque, IL
time: 9:15 hours
Daily dist: 52 miles
Total dist: 5200+
Weather: Mostly cloudy - rain off and on, 80’s, SW winds 15+
Notes: Big miles on a big river
Yee ha, 52 miles in one day! I had forgotten how fun this river is to paddle.
With twelve days allotted to reach Grafton (near St. Louis), I had figured that I’d need to average about 38 miles per day in order to make it on time. The lower half of the Mississippi, the section I paddled last winter, flows free from St. Louis all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. Not only does it not have dams and locks in the way, the lower half of the river just plane flows fast. My pace down there last winter was well above six miles per hour. If I could maintain that pace I could pound out fifty mile days easily and reach Grafton in just eight days.
However, the upper half of the Mississippi is quite a bit different than the lower half. Up here the Army Corps of Engineers has built a series of dams with locks to create what they call pools in order to maintain a navigable depth of water for boat and barge traffic. With all of these impoundments I couldn’t use my old river pace to calculate how long it’d take me to reach Grafton because I had no idea just what kind of pace I could average in the slack water in the pools and faster flowing water below the dams.
Mike and Scott in this John boat ended up locking thru with me. They are on their way back from La Crosse where they spent the weekend for Scott's birthday.
After my parents dropped me off at the boat ramp at Wyalusing this morning, I set out for what was my first full day on the Upper Mississippi, anxious to see what sort of pace I could set. Well… after logging a 52 mile day, even with a later than normal start, I’m fairly sure I’ll be able to reach Grafton by the 11th. I didn’t necessarily want to go 52 miles. But the end of my standard 8 hours of paddling put me right at Lock 11. Once through the lock I was hoping to see nice sandy islands on which to camp like I’d seen up above but there were none. Instead I paddled a bit further on before settling for what turned out to be a great camp on a wooded island below Dubuque.
Rainy day on the Mississippi
It was a rainy and windy day on the water but I had fun just the same, and now that I know I can set the needed pace, I can relax and plan my next two weeks of paddling with more confidence.
Start: 2:15 AM - Boscabel, WI
Finish 7:15 PM - Wyalusing State Park, WI
Time: 5:00 hours
Daily dist: 27 miles
Total dist: 5200+
Weather: Partly cloudy, 80’s, SW winds 10+
Notes: Many memories of last winter and my first time through here.
If you’ve been following along with this blog since the beginning, you are probably well aware that there is a bit of a gap in the loop that’s the result of being chased south by an early winter storm last year. Like I said in the last post that Portage always was and still is the town I consider the finish line of this trip. The fact remains, however, that I have a little unfinished work to do in order to make it official.
It may not mean anything to many other people, but I have a burning need to close up that gap and know better than to think that I can take my time and paddle those miles some other day. For that reason, the day after reaching Portage (still tired from all the celebrating), I am back at it.
Boscabel was the place where my parents found me at the end of the third day of paddling last fall at a canoe launch with a half foot of snow on the ground. By the next day more snow had fallen along with the temperature and the river was clogged with huge rafts of snow and ice. As a result, my parents and I were left with no prudent choice but to jump south to warmer weather and an unfrozen river.
Today was a different story. With the temperature in the 80’s, clear skies, and a pleasant wind, it was an absolutely glorious day. Watching the river flow past the put-in (finally in the direction I was going once again) I was giddy with excitement to be getting back on the very river I grew up on.
A little warmer than the last time I saw it.
With the river pushing me at two miles per hour and my added three, I made awesome time heading downstream toward my destination for the day, Wyalusing State Park. Wyalusing lies at the confluence of the Wisconsin river where it meets the Mississippi. I’d paddled this section of river once before, about eleven years ago as my brother and I finished paddling the entire length of the Wisconsin River. With my mind swimming with memories of last winter and eleven years ago, I drank in the beauty of the steep hills that flank the river dripping in lush green vegetation.
With a late start (we did have to drive four hours to the put-in) it was nearly dark by the time I reached the take out at the boat ramp in the State Park. The road to the boat ramp was closed for construction so I locked the Ikkuma to a kayak rack nearby and walked out with my gear to my parents waiting in my truck. This being our last night together for a while, we went into town to enjoy a meal at a restaurant then returned to camp for a campfire. Knowing that we’d be saying good by once again in the morning, all three of us were uncommonly silent as we sat watching the flames dancing in the fire. Alas, sometimes the only way to have someone return is to let them go.
I made it!
Pulling out right where I put in last December
It was a day of surprises and moments I’ll remember forever. Thank you everyone that came to see my return (by water) to the very spot on the Wisconsin River where it all started last December. It was overwhelming to see all the friends and family that showed up to wish me well.
It’s been a long trail and I couldn’t have done it without the help and encouragement everyone has given me throughout the last nine months. It has also been a very long day so please forgive me for forcing you to wait a bit to hear more details.
Start: 10:00 AM - Governor’s Bend, WI
Finish 1:45 PM - Riverside Park - PORTAGE, WI !
Time: 4:45 hours
Daily dist: 6 miles
Total dist: 5200+
Companions: John, Tom, Elizabeth, Dad, Aaron, Dave, Margie
Weather: Clear skies, 80’s, SW winds 10+
Notes: Arrived at Indian Agency House at 12:00 noon
After getting sorted out at the campground our group of five paddlers which included (my brother Aaron, Dad, Cousin Dan, and friend Margie) headed out for Governor’s Bend where I left off yesterday. Waiting for me there was the first major surprise of the day. My good friend Dave Lindo had flown in all the way from Oklahoma City to see me cross the finish line. So he wouldn’t have to wait around for me to arrive, Dave and I drove back to the Indian Trails Campground to borrow a kayak so he could join me on the water. By the time we returned my mom’s cousin Tom and his daughter Colleen had also joined our group. Right on schedule at 10:00 we all launched into the Fox River and two hours later (after carrying around the only fallen tree that blocks the narrow river) we reached the Portage canal and the end of the Fox River for this trip.
The group leads the way to the finish line.
Waiting for us at the Indian Agency House was two dozen onlookers there to see the arrival back in Portage. There to greet us as well was the very same gentleman that escorted me out of town on his SUP board last winter. Portage Doug (as he’s known in our family) had paddled the length of the canal from his apartment on the other side of town. It was an unexpected surprise but suddenly I was shown a means to get across town to the start point on the Wisconsin River that didn’t involve walking which is what I thought I’d be doing. So it was, after many hugs, hellos, and a quick interview with the press, that I dropped the Ikkuma into the canal and paddled it across town. There wasn’t much water in the canal but it was just enough to float my boat.
The canal isn't what it once was but it's still better than walking.
Doug jumped ahead with a ride from his friend Paul and caught up with me where there was a low head dam that I’d have to portage. Once back on the water I could see some folks on the lawn next to the next bridge one of those folks ended up being the second big surprise of the day. There waiting to greet me was my friend Neil (whom I met up with in Fort Lauderdale last February). After a quick hello, Doug and I continued under the bridge and on to the very end of the canal just past the refurbished canal lock. Neil and others had followed along on foot and were there to help Doug and I carry over the flood control embankment back out onto the Wisconsin River.
Rod, Mark, and Neil greet me on the canal
From that last carry it was a very quick run downstream to exactly where it all started early last December. On top of the bank was at least three dozen people cheering me on to the finish line. With their cheers of encouragement, I touched the bank, officially back where it all started, at 2:45. In the park shelter nearby was a huge spread of potluck items to feed all the masses.
Quite a crowd gathered at the finish line
I regret not having the energy or ware-with-all to give a speech at the picnic. It would have been the perfect opportunity to thank, first hand, many of the people that helped me make it back. So if you were there, or only wish you could have been, please know that I truly feel blessed to have been surrounded by so many great people thorough this trip and I thank you.
It has taken a lot of work but the blog and e-mail access I’ve had throughout this trip has allowed me to share the adventure with you. In return your kind words of encouragement have helped me all along the way. I couldn’t have done it without you and in many ways it felt like we made it back to Portage together.
If you’re like many people at the picnic that told me that reading the blog has become such a habit that they don’t know what they’re going to do now that I’ve reached Portage, you don’t need to despair. Tomorrow I’m going to be right back at it on the Wisconsin River where I left off last winter. Follow along as I close up the gap over the next thirteen days on my way to Grafton Illinois.
Start: 10:00 AM - Endeavor, WI
Finish 1:45 PM - Governor’s Bend, WI
Time: 3:45 hours
Daily dist: 10 miles
Total dist: 5200+
Weather: Clear skies, 80’s, SW winds 10+
Notes: River getting small and crooked
The paddle today was a rather straightforward and pleasant endeavor with the highlight being when we spooked a nice sized buck out of some high grass along shore. Starting out over two hundred feet wide, the river twisted and turned more and more loosing a little width and a little depth with each bend. By the time we neared the take out I had to slide over three different downed trees that blocked clear passage of the river.
The river is getting smaller allowing trees to block the entire river.
After paddling John and I collected my truck from the put-in where we left it in Endeavor then returned to the Indian Trails campground where my family was beginning to rally from points far and wide. With only a couple hours to go before I was scheduled to do a slideshow at the campground, I quickly updated my slides by adding the Great Lakes and Fox River stories. By show time at 5:00 a group of about twenty people had assembled in the campground dancehall. Even the owners of the campground Dave and Myrna (who was celebrating what I think was her 34th birthday) made time to hear the stories of the trip.
For dinner our crew made our way into town and ended up at the very same restaurant where we had breakfast last December on launch day. I have to say it was a little spooky to be back there eight months later on the eve of the last day of paddling into Portage. While we ate we made plans for the paddle and picnic celebration tomorrow then finally returned to the campground for a campfire.
Start: 3:00 PM - Montello, WI
Finish 7:00 PM - Endeavor, WI
Time: 4:00 hours
Daily dist: 11 miles
Total dist: 5200+
Companions: John and Tim
Weather: Clear skies, 80’s, SW winds 10+
Notes: Seemed to take forever to work the shuttle with cars.
At the rate it took the three of us to meet up, run a shuttle, paddle 11 miles, and get back to the campground it would taken two years to paddle as far as I have on this trip. It didn’t help that road construction had us detouring all over to reach Endeavor nor did it help that for a short while we weren’t 100% sure where our take out was.
Much like my efforts with shuttling with a bicycle yesterday, car shuttles for paddling trips tend to be riddles of a higher order that are often run on faith rather than full understanding. In fact when I explained the plan to Tim (while taking his boat off his car to put it on my truck along with the two others) he understood as far as the first stop but quickly got lost in what went where and why. Finally as he shook his head and waved his arms to ward off confusion he simply said, “I’ll just follow you.” It truly does require faith… just don’t forget your car keys.
Buffalo Lake - long, narrow, and weedy
With all three boats on my truck, and Tim following along in his empty car, we left the campground in route to the town of Endeavor. A fairly quick drive got us to the outskirts of town where a “Road Closed to Thru Traffic” sign blocked our access to the put in. Undeterred we detoured to another highway (the only other access to town) and quickly discovered another identical sign on the other side of town. Apparently Endeavor, much like an island, had been completely shut off from the rest of the world during most of the summer road construction season. We cautiously drove around the barricades into town and onto the take-out wondering how the local species may have evolved during their brief geographic isolation.
When we reached the town boat ramp we found a man on shore with a small mud splashed flat bottomed boat. He was there paddling the clumsy craft with a kid sized canoe paddle through weed choked water, not to go fishing or bird watching, but to pick up credit cards that were discarded by some unknown thief. Apparently the ancient dented craft the man had employed had a fairly fast leak. He explained that he had to paddle around as quickly as he could to pick up the cards then head back to shore to empty the boat of water and put the cancelled cards in his truck. More interested in the water than who this man was or how he came to be responsible for collecting the wayward cards, we scanned the several hundred yards of thick vegetation that separated the ramp from the open river channel and asked if there was another access point that had more direct access to open water. The man directed us to another boat ramp nearby which is where we left Tim’s car.
The weed cutters and some of the weeds they battle
From Endeavor it was a quick drive to the put-in in Montello where I ended my day yesterday. Once on the water we were greeted by a fairly stiff head wind that slowed our progress down the nine mile long and half mile wide Buffalo Lake. The very shallow lake is overgrown with thick mats of vegetation. About half way down we came across the huge aquatic weed mowers that keep three lanes clear for navigation, one along each shore with connector channels that allow lakeside homeowners to reach the third main channel down the middle. None of the channels provided passage that allowed us to hide from the wind. As we paddled on enjoying each others company and conversation it came to light that both John and I had read that the lake got its name from the last free ranging bison to live in Wisconsin. Apparently the hapless (and I guess lonely) animal fell into the lake and drown…
I wonder where those credit cards came from.
Three hours after starting out we reached a point where we knew we should be nearing the take-out. Somehow, however, the water didn’t look anything like where we had left Tim’s car. A half hour of investigating (which involved slogging through hundreds of yards of thick weeds to shore) revealed that we were as far as the first boat ramp we’d found and that the other ramp where we left the car had to be further upstream. The only thing we had to do was figure out where exactly, in the weed choked water. upstream was. There actually was a clear channel where the deeper flowing river prevented weeds from growing. We just had a hard time accepting the fact that the very twisty channel would indeed lead back to the western shore (where we knew we had to be) as it wound its way east and north toward the opposite shore of the mile wide marshy valley the upper end of the lake was morphing into.
Just before sunset we finally reached our destination and, with mosquitoes taking blood samples from our legs, quickly loaded Tim’s boat on his car and locked the other two to trees. We then drove back to the Montello to retrieve my truck and picked up the other two boats on the way back to the campground.
Start: 12:30 PM - Marquette, WI
Finish 3:30 PM - Montello, WI
Time: 3:00 hours
Daily dist: 11 miles
Total dist: 5200+
Weather: Clear skies, 70’s, calm winds - nice
Notes: Ran the route as a day trip using a bicycle to work a solo shuttle.
When I first got started in paddle sports more than twelve years ago it was with open canoes on the rivers around Wausau and later Sparta Wisconsin when I lived a summer down there. At that time I could never seem to find anybody to go along with me, so I often went alone. To avoid having to paddle upstream on out and back trips, I worked my own shuttles by using a bicycle to ride back to where I’d leave my truck at the put-in. Sometimes I would lock my bike at the take-out if it was on the way to the put-in. Other times I’d simply put the bike in the canoe with me. Either way, when I reached the take out I’d lock the canoe to a tree then ride back to where I left my truck and pick up the canoe on my way home.
Now, you may remember that my goal for this trip was to paddle a continuous loop of water around the eastern US while seeing what there is to see and meeting folks along the way, with the only rule being that I had to start each day on the water where I left of the day before. I had no rules regarding who carries my gear or where I stay at night. That being said, at this point in the game I’ve honestly had my fill of sleeping on the ground and am very happy to take advantage of any civilization that comes my way. Of course I’ve been doing that all along anyway, so no surprise there. With just a few very short days of paddling left on the way in to Portage I’ve decided to go the lazy man’s route and set up a base camp to day trip the last miles to the finish line.
Day tripping on a one way water route, of course, involves a shuttle to be able to return to camp each night. Seems how I was running solo today, I figured I’d dust off my old bike and work a shuttle like I did when I was paddling around home twelve years ago. Shuttles are always a bit of a brain twister to figure out and are often more complicated “on paper” than they are in reality, add a bicycle to the mix and it just seems worse. When I explained my plan for today to my brother Luke (a high school math teacher) he had trouble following the logical sequence of [drop bike - drive truck - paddle boat - ride bike - drive truck - pick up boat - go home] and asked “Geeze man, is it worth the trouble?” I thought so, for old time’s sake at the very least, and arriving in my truck from Wausau (pop up camper in tow) I set about finding a place to lock my bike in Montello which was my water borne destination for the day.
A secure spot for bike and boat
The drop spot for the bike had to be secure because ultimately my boat would be locked there while I rode back for my truck. The canoe trail take-out at the dam in Montello was crawling with people fishing from shore and had few suitable trees or poles onto which to lock the bike/boat anyway. Searching for the right spot, my attention was drawn to the Rendezvous Paddle & Sports shop across the bridge just a hundred yards away. After explaining my situation Charlotte from “Charlotte’s Café” (which is part of the business along with a bait shop, canoe/kayak sales, and canoe/kayak/tube rentals on the river) she said it’d be no problem for me to lock my bike up to a tree behind the store. Conveniently there was a low floating dock nearby in a quiet backwater of the Montello river (connected just downstream to the Fox) where I would be able to take out later on. Before I departed in my truck (with the lunch rush filling the counter in the café) I gave Charlotte one of my trip flyers and promised to explain more fully what I am up to when I returned.
With my bicycle securely cabled to a tree I jumped into my truck and poked the boat ramp in Marquette as my destination into my navigator. It was then that I once again realized how a bit more pre-planning could have made my life a bit easier on this trip. Normally, by the twisty nature of rivers and straight nature of roads, the distance covered by a day of paddling can be retraced by a bicycle in a comparatively short time. If I’d looked ahead last Sunday when I selected my pull out spot for the day, and picked a location on the north shore of Lake Puckaway, that would have been true. However, I didn’t look that close at my maps, nor think that far ahead, and simply picked a convenient spot on the south shore of the lake.
What my navigator revealed to me (and what was plane to see on my maps when I finally focused on the roads instead of the water) is that on the south shore of the lake between Montello and Marquette is a large wetland through which no roads cross. Instead the highway skirts way south then way east and finally back to north before it returns to the shore of the lake. This roundabout route creates a rare instance where the bike ride is more than twice as long as the paddle (25 miles vs. 10 miles in fact.) Later in the day when I was talking to the folks at the Rendezvous store I learned that they don’t run their shuttle pickup trips to Marquette for that very reason… smart…very smart.
As I drove to the put-in in Marquette…and drove… and drove… and drove… I realized that I’d have my work cut out for my (eight-months-in-a-kayak spindly legs) when it came time to ride back to pick up my truck. The plan was set and, I was committed either way, so it didn’t pay to worry about it until the time came. Making great time in an empty boat in ideal conditions I covered the ten water miles in about three hours. The most interesting thing I saw along the way was what appeared to be a cable ferry designed for livestock. It was set up just upstream from the lake to apparently move animals from the south shore to an “island” in the marsh to the north. In 5000 miles of paddling this was the first time I’d seen such a contraption.
After pulling out at the Rendezvous dock, securing my kayak, and switching into biking mode, I stopped into the store long enough to have a quick bight to eat where I had a chance to visit more with the owners. With a belly full lunch I hopped on my bike to begin what turned out to be a pleasant ride back to my truck. The ride was nice but my underused legs protested the sudden work load all the way.
In my truck I motored back to my boat loaded it on to the rack and headed south to the Indian Trails Campground outside of Portage where I’ll be base camping for the next few nights. The campground owners Dave and Myrna (who were in Portage on launch day and have followed along with the entire trip) were expecting me and took time out of their busy schedules to visit for a bit and make me feel at home.
Off the water
With less than 40 miles to go to Portage (and the celebration we have planned this coming Sunday Aug. 29th) I needed to slow down before I reached town too soon. With time to burn I figured it’d be a good chance to get back up to my parent’s house in Wausau to re-group and, of course, enjoy some of my mom‘s cooking. These three days off gave me a chance to sort through my equipment boxes to find replacements for some of the gear that has begun to fall apart after months of use. In addition I had the opportunity to concentrate on plans for what is to come after reaching Portage. Plans are now coming together for a twelve day “closing the gap” run from Boscabel, WI to St. Louis, as well as the “long walk in the desert” that I’ve been telling people I’m looking forward to (after so much time on the water) when this trip is over.
My Nephews Noah and Ty with their catch
Of course being home also gave me time to spend with family. On Tuesday my brother Luke asked my dad and I if we’d like to go fishing with him and his two sons. This wasn’t so much an invite to a day of fishing as a request for extra hands to help tie hooks an pull lines out of snags for the two energetic young fishermen. The outing was a success and the boys had a great time even taking home a few fish for dinner.
Our group in downtown Wausau nearing the top of the white water course
Wednesday had me running around taking care of non-trip errands such as new tires for my truck. I did finally have time to get out and visit my grandmother who will be turning 96 in October. I’m looking forward to being at her birthday party for the first time in ten years. Late in the day I took the opportunity to join a group of paddlers for an evening paddle here in Wausau. About nine of us put in at Schofield Park on the west side of town and enjoyed an hour on the water which took us down stream to the top of the whitewater course then back up and around some of the islands above Gilbert Park. It was a beautiful late summer evening and I had a great time meeting folks on what will once again be my home waters when I return from the end of the end of the trip next month.
Above Glibert Park in Wausau
Start: 7:00 AM - Princeton, WI
Finish 1:00 PM - Marquette, WI
Time: 7:00 hours
Daily dist: 15 miles
Total dist: 5000+
Companions: Mark and my brother Aaron
Weather: Clear skies, 80’s, calm winds - amazingly beautiful
Notes: The first “real” paddle with my brother Aaron.
It’s interesting, after such a long trip seeing so many amazing places, the simple and sometimes silly things that stand out in my memory… The first sunrise over the Gulf of Mexico, a cormorant trying to swallow a fish so big his neck wasn’t strong enough to lift it, the smell of frying bacon wafting from the windows of passing tow boat kitchens when I paddled down the cold lonely Mississippi last winter…
Aaron approaching on Lake Puckaway
As simple as the day was, early this afternoon as I watched my brother Aaron approaching in his kayak, I knew it would be one of those I will long remember. I’ve been on the water with Aaron three times before this. The first was Neil’s bachelor party in Florida which was a quick outing on West Lake during which I spent my time rescuing multiple guys from capsizes in the mucky shallows. The second was an hour long session on an overgrown farm pond of a lake where I gave Aaron a rolling lesson. The third was aboard a dragon boat for the annual YMCA dragon boat races in Manitowoc. Despite those other times on the water, today was the first time I ever really paddled with Aaron where we were actually paddling somewhere with a purpose.
After putting out a last minute call for people to join me on the water today, I got three takers. Mark (who has now paddled with me six of the last eight days), my mom’s cousin’s husband Tom, and my brother Aaron (who was coming down to pick me up at the end of the day). The storms that passed through two days ago had the river pushed up and flowing a little faster than normal. So, instead of driving to Princeton to paddle all the way upstream with me, the plan was for everyone to put in at the take out in Marinette and paddle along Lake Puckaway until crossing paths and paddling back.
Foggy morning with floodwaters up into the trees
Ultimately, the very same storms that drove the river back up had knocked down a bunch of branches in Tom’s yard so he got stuck doing clean up and couldn’t join us. That left Mark and Aaron trying to join me today. Mark got an earlier start and caught up with me at about noon. Aaron was about a half hour behind and found us at 12:30. Making very good time on the tranquil (flat calm) lake, it took us only a half hour to make it back to the boat landing. It was just a short half hour but it was great to be able to share the water once again with a new friend and for the first of what I know will be many times with my brother Aaron.
Aaron and Mark enjoying the calm water on Lake Puckaway
At the boat landing we loaded my gear and kayak on my truck and I drove Aaron back to where his truck was waiting in Green Bay. From there Aaron went home and I continued on to my parent’s house in Wausau. The plan now is for me to take the next three days off to rest up a bit and get myself and my gear organized before the last four day push into Portage.
Start: 6:45 AM - Eureka Lock, WI
Finish 3:35 PM - Princeton, WI
Time: 8:45 hours
Daily dist: 20 miles
Total dist: 5000+
Weather: Mostly cloudy skies becoming clear late, 80’s, calm winds
Notes: I can now say I've been to Princeton
The mosquitoes that chased me into my tent last night were hungry and waiting for me to emerge this morning. I waited in bed as long as I could but the call of nature pulled me out of the tent into the gauntlet of tiny stingers. Thankfully my bug suit protected me from most of the attackers and I was able to dive back into the tent without letting too many back in with me. The bugs were the only troubling thing I had to deal with today, even the slightly higher river flow from the overnight rains didn’t do too much to slow my progress upstream.
Fall colors already
The only real obstacle that made for some work was a portage around the remains of the Eureka lock and dam. The old and weathered lock gates are still there but the dam has eroded into a pile of rubble and a rapids. This I was able to portage by way of a short carry down a grassy path on the SE side of the old dam. A few miles upstream from the dam I passed by Berlin Wisconsin and, much like Omro, it too had beautiful riverside parkspace that seemed to go on forever. Unlike Omro, however, I didn’t stop for a break today and instead continued on all day along the winding rain swollen river until I reached my destination in Princeton, WI.
Old railroad bridge below Princeton
My first order of business upon reaching my camp spot was to dry out all the gear that got wet from last nights storm, which mainly included my tent, raincoat, and tarp. Afterward I made a foray into town in search of a store that sells hunting licenses. My brother Luke was sure to inform me that bonus deer permits went on sale at noon today and that if I could I should get one. It took a little asking and a fair amount of walking, but I finally did find a gas station that could help me out. With a license in hand, as well as two fresh apples, I headed back to the river and called it a day.
Start: 8:30 AM - Oshkosh, WI
Break: Noon to 3:45
Finish 5:45 PM - Eureka Lock, WI
Time: 5:30 hours
Daily dist: 17 miles
Total dist: 5000+
Weather: Mostly cloudy skies, 80’s, passing storms (some strong)
Notes: From big lakes to a small river.
We had planned on getting a leisurely start to the day, but Bob and I were both up early so I decided to pack up and head for the water sooner than later. True to the rules of the game Bob took me right back to the boat ramps were we pulled off the water two days ago and watched as I once again made four bags of gear disappear into the hatches of the Ikkuma. With promises to paddle together again some day, I bid farewell to Bob and headed out across the last large lake I’ll see on my run to Portage. With the morning haze obscuring the view of the far end of Lake Butte des Morts about seven miles away it made it seem even bigger than it is. The mouth of the Fox river lie only five miles up and I soon made that and entered a river only half the size of what I’d paddled from Green Bay to here.
Probably one of my last views of a watery horizon on this trip.
With record amounts of rain fall this summer the current is still flowing as it would be in early summer which means a bit more work for me, but with fair winds and comfortable temps it was smooth sailing. At about noon I came into the town of Omro which had beautiful waterfront parks that seemed to stretch on forever. With lots of time and not too far to go, I decided to take a break at the boat ramp on the west end of town and take advantage of a good cell connection to get caught up on e-mails and blog posts. While I was typing away on my computer a SUV (with kayak racks on top) rolled by very slowly then stopped when the driver saw my boat. The driver then got out and took a closer look at the boat then finally noticed me sitting a few hundred feet away under a park gazebo.
Hey aunt Bev your niece Pam says hello
It turned out that the driver of the car was a local paddler named Pam. She’d been tipped off about the trip by her aunt Bev who lives on the Wisconsin River up in Rhinelander. Both are kayakers and have been following the trip for a while. After a nice visit, Pam drove home and I finished checking my e-mails with the sound of thunder rolling continuously my way. Any thoughts of getting back on the water had to wait as I quickly re-stowed my gear in the Ikkuma and pulled it a bit further up the boat ramp as the winds began to whip the river into a frenzy. Just as I pulled my rain coat on the skies opened with loud cracks of thunder and I retreated back to the shelter of the gazebo I’d been in before. As quickly as the storm arrived it passed leaving broken clouds and some sunshine in its wake.
Figuring the coast was clear I put back on the river and enjoyed another couple of hours of fine paddling. However, with only a half mile of river between me and the camp I was headed toward, I got chased off the river by yet another even more lively storm. Fortunately I was able to pull out on a gravel beach next to two huge oak trees. Once again I battened the hatches on kayak but this time, instead of a nice park shelter, I was forced to rely on my rain coat while I crouched behind one of the massive trees as monsoon like rain fell and winds blew hard enough to rock my fully loaded kayak sitting on the ground next to me. The worst of the storm lasted only a half hour or so but the rain persisted for a half hour more. By the time it all let up it was getting dark so I decided to make camp where I was. With darkness descending it became a race to get the tent set up so I could escape the swarms of mosquitoes attacking from all sides.