Day 255 (Followup post from Uncle Jake)
Start: 9:00 AM - Kaukauna, WI
Finish 6:30 PM - Menasha, WI
Time: 9:30 hours
Daily dist: 15 miles
Total dist: 5000+
Companions: Mark, Terry, Tim, Jeff
Weather: Mostly clear skies, 70’s, SW wind 15-20
Notes: Seven portages in fifteen miles.
However, if things had been different… if I still had my boat full of eighty pounds of gear, if I hadn’t been able to pre scout the portages in my friend’s car, if I had camped on the hard ground the last few nights, if my cousin and her daughter hadn’t seen me off in the morning, if my brother and his family hadn’t met me along the way even with a burger for lunch, and (most importantly) if I hadn’t had three friends join me on the water and another to help carry at the last four portages… without a doubt, I wouldn’t have had as much fun.
This may sound strange, but after eight months and 5000 miles I have developed a sort of connection to my boat, almost to the point where we have become partners in the effort to complete this loop. After so much time spent looking after the kayak, I feel a sort of separation anxiety every time I leave it behind and travel into a town. It would be unimaginable for me to have the Ikkuma hauled ahead of me around an obstacle, such as a mile long portage, while I walked empty handed. Or at the finish line for me to leave the Ikkuma at the end of the Fox River while I walk the last two miles across town to where I started on the Wisconsin last December. We’ve done the entire route together so far so I intend to make sure that we do every inch together all the way back to where we started.
It is with that spirit that I passed on the opportunity to do the sensible thing and start the day by driving around the non-operating lock and paper mill that blocked the river this morning. Instead I rolled my kayak for a mile around the facility on the wheels I’ve carried on the entire route. My gear however, I was very grateful to have hauled around in my brother’s Jeep.
The last lock I would come to is actually still in operation so Luke and I carefully planned to have his family there when I finally locked through rather than carry around. This lock was the end of the road for my paddling partners so I bid them farewell before entering the lock chamber. I figured my nephew Noah would get a kick out of just seeing the lock operate. However, the lockmaster made Noah’s day when he let Noah push the crank bar to open the lock gate himself. He then topped that off by letting Noah open the adjacent draw bridge as well. What a thrill for a five year old.
A few miles past the lock I met up with Luke and his crew one last time at a boat ramp where we loaded my boat onto his Jeep and drove out to his in-laws’ house where we spent the night. It had been quite some time since I’d visited with Nancy and Vern and it was great to see them again. They’ve been following the trip since the beginning and had noticed that a frequently mentioned underlying theme to many of my posts was food, so they did all they could to stuff me full with an awesome home cooked meal before sending me back out on the water. Before I left Nancy was sure to show me the project she has planned for finishing off their basement a project she’d like me to do and a reminder that the real world is catching up