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.
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.
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.
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.