Entry # 1. July 6th 2008.
Preparation begins in earnest!
there are no pictures of the paddle to post yet, because Kev is still on the
Appalachian Trail, and I am still in Singapore, but I thought I'd
better make a start at this journal whilst I had the chance to figure
it out in comfort with a reliable internet connection!
is the big paddle... Roadwarriors 5 : Riverwarriors! Kevin finally
becomes one of the Roadwarriors, as we know them. Of course, he already
is a Roadwarrior-in-his-own-right, but you know what I mean..!
not likely that we will have regular internet connections, but I will
try to update as often as possible, and once I have any pix worth
posting, from Kev, me or from the river, they will be up here... I am
still testing out all the capabilities of my little Asus Eee PC, but I
hope I can also create and upload some Flash picture albums too...
So until the next post...
Entry #2. August 25th 2008.
Back in Minnesota... eventually!
"Have you ever been arrested?"...
the best first question to be asked by a customs officer, as you arrive
jet-lagged, cramped, sore and tired off a 12 hour flight on an ancient,
When it was followed by "Do you intend to seek
work here in the USA... No? Ok, go with this officer!" I knew it wasn't
about to get any better. So I sucked up all smart-ass answers I could
have come out with, and duly followed
Officer Velasquez,, carefully watching out for any rubber gloves being put on, into a back office.
there I got to take a number and sit n wait, luggage-less,
passport-less for half an hour until it was my turn for God-Knows
Once it was my turn
to be called, Officer Valasquez began to ask me just about the same
questions as the other guy, and again didn't seem to like the
answers he was getting... honest as they were.
it got even more interesting, as we went off to a further back room,
which contained various pieces of equipment, some of which had a
medical appearance, and another which I swear was a polygraph machine!
was there I was told that I appeared suspicious to Homeland Security
(no shit!?) and my recent travel activities were highly unusual and
again, highly suspicious... (eh? Are you kidding me?).
based on the answers to the following questions, they would determine
if I could return to the USA in the future, or never again, and if it
were either, I would be deported immediately. I asked if those same
determine if I could actually stay NOW... OK, so I knew it might be
pushing it, but I asked nicely... but nice is clearly irrelevant, as I
got the pointy-customs-man-finger, and was asked if I was being
smart-ass, and did I want to leave RIGHT NOW!? Oooh, bollocks... err,
So, sucking it up, and continuing to be as cool as a deep-frozen cucumber, we got into the questions:
Have I ever been arrested ?... No.
Am I seeking employment here ?... No.
Why did I get a visa, when NZ is part of the waiver programme ?... Cos I'm gonna be here for 4 months.
What do I do for work ?.... Scuba Instructor.
can I have enough money to come here again after being here only a few
months ago ?... EH? WTF? 10 months ago, and I worked my ass off for
those 10 months....!!
Ok, so I didn't say it quite like that,
but that was the general idea, but... I could be a millionaire...
and it was nearly a year ago I was here last! It isn't like it was 10
days ago... Strewth!
basic upshot of it all was that I had been here less than a year ago,
on another visa, and they didn't like the fact I was back so quick,
and on another visa for an even longer period of time. Things didn't
when I showed my PADI scuba instructor licence and he thought it was a
Kayaking Guide licence (even after much explaining as to who and what
PADI is)... He thought I was getting paid to guide the upcoming paddle
trip... so that took a lot of explaining too... even showing dive-trip
pictures I had in my phone... which had to then be promptly turned
After all this, I got to sit for a further 30
minutes whilst every single item of my gear was pawed through, and
Interpol was contacted, the NZ Police force, and the Singapore Police
force, just to make sure I wasn't a crook...
The $150 speeding
ticked I got in NZ in 2006, that I admitted to, (better be as honest as
possible!) turned out to be $155 ACTUALLY, but he would let me off the
And with that, I got everythig stamped, my stuff given back to me, and told "Welcome to America, have a nice day"
Yeah..? Bite my ass..!
day improved considerably though by being met by the most excellent
individual, Mr Tom Emme, and coming back to my home-from-home, and
catching up with the equally excellent, Mr Steve Emme...
I am going though my frantically-packed kit, and visiting REI to get
any last minute small items I might need, before heading up to Winnipeg
on Wednesday, to meet up with Vitamin-K.
I just hope leaving the USA goes smoother, as my top might not stay unblown a second time!
course, leaving is the easy bit... it'll be getting back in, with a
17-foot kayak under my arm, that'll be the really hard part!
So until the next entry, wish me luck!
Entry #3. August 29th 2008.
Gathering the Gear...
made it to Winnipeg! After a 12 hour Greyhound bus ride for me, and 12
hour train and 'plane ride for Kev, we arrived in Winnipeg a few days
ago, and checked in to the palace of a hotel that is the Howard Johnson
Airport Hotel... One word... Yuk!
Let's just say the internet
description and pictures did an amazing job at making it look good...
but the power-cuts, smokey corridoors, burnt carpets and pee-stink
stairwells are only too real once you are here.
once sealed in our room, (with the door that requires a kick to open or
close it), it is ok, and the TV and internet are 100%... so we can suck
it up. As long as you don't mind having a shower complete with a fully running
bath tap... As you can't shut one or the other off, you have to finely
balance the temperature, otherwise you scald your feet and have a
freezing shower from above, or stand in ice water and get a full
body-scald... Once the temperature is set to something tolerable, it
stall alternates from a bit too cold, to a bit too hot, so you end up
doing the hokey-hokey... you put your whole body in, you put your whole
body out... in out, in out, you shake it all about...!!
But other than that, Winnipeg is great, and we spent the past few days seeking out and purchasing our gear.
weather has been bloody awesome, and although it is drier and colder
than I'm used to (so I have to keep applying lip-balm like mad) it has
been 23-25 degrees, clear and sunny.
We have got most of our gear from the most excellent and amazing guys at The Wilderness Supply Company who have TOTALLY looked after us, and today will be dropping us and our gear down at the river to begin the big adventure.So,
right now I am gonna have to add a few pix, and then upload all of
this, as we have to head out for breakfast, check out of this wonderful
place, and then head to the shop to finish stuffing the gear into the
kayaks and head of to the river.
I don't know when the next update will be posted on the web, but hopefully within a week or so...
Keep watching this space!
Entry #4. September 2nd 2008.Gumbo, Gumbo, and more bloody Gumbo!OK,
for those of you who don't know what gumbo is, don't worry, there are
pix below to show you exactly what it is... so read on!Well, we
left 4 days ago on a slightly windy, but gloriously sunny Saturday
lunchtime. The excellent guys from Wilderness Supplies (WS) looked after us
again by giving Kev and I, plus all our gear, a ride to the river...
we actually started about 3 miles up the Assiniboine River, and
followed it down to the Red River, thus beginning the journey proper. We
were seen of by Dawn from WS, who had given us the ride, as well as a
reporter and photographer from the local Winnipeg Free Press, to
whom we had just given an interview, which was pretty cool.The
paddling was great, even when we turned to face the current of the Red,
and although a bit gusty in places, the wind wasn't too bad. It wasn't
until mid afternoon though, that we began to wonder quite where we were
going to stop for the night... the lack of areas to pull in was
becoming somewhat noticable and concerning...We
were aiming to make camp around 5 pm, and so when by 6pm we still
hadn't seen anywhere remotely like a place to pull up, we started to
wonder quite what the heck we were going to do, as all the river bank,
for as far as you could see, were 6 feet high and mucky black mud.Just
as were were cursing ourselves, we saw a small rocky jetty with a boat
on it, and a nice small level patch of land behind the boat. Up beyond
the jetty was a house with a couple sitting on their
back deck watching the world go by, and after a wave from Kev, and a
wave back, we thought we might try our luck and see if they'd take pity
on us, and allow us to pitch tents on the patch of ground above the
few knocks at the door brought the guy, Rick, to answer it, and after
hearing our plight, he was only to happy to let us set up camp at the
rivers edge on his land... what a solid fella!Rick warned us
about the mosquitos, and he wasn't wrong, as once the sun dipped down
behind the tress, it was game on for blood-sucking, so Kev and I beat a
hasty and tired retreat to our tents for a well earned
first-days-paddle sleep. It wasn't exactly the most restful
nights of sleep for either of us though, because no matter what
position we lay in, our arms were throbbing!! Both of us also suffered
from numb fingers and hands... but that was nothing compared to the
howling gale, gusting up to 70 knots, that hammered at our tents,
ripping out my tent pegs twice. The soft clay ground wasn't exactly the
best stuff to anchor to, but I do have the best pegs that there is...
MSR Groundhogs... so I knew it was gonna be a rough night. Once I
re-pegged my tent, and lowered it right to the ground for better wind
resistsnce, I managed to get a bit of sleep... but after all the dramas
and discomfort, it was almost a relief to have to get up the following
morningThe first days mileage was 16.18 miles of paddling, but
as we have quickly learnt, river-miles, and every-day miles, are two
different things. The linear distance from where we started to our camp
for the ight was only 8 miles, but with all the zigging and zagging
around the bends in the river, it ended up beig a lot further.The
next day we got up and broke camp as quickly as possible, as the last
nights mozzies were still out to play, so after a banana and a few
museli bars, we kitted up and pushed off again, to continue the winding
paddle south.Once we had warmed up the muscles a bit, and got
into the swing of things, we managed to knock out a decent 10 miles by
lunchtime. The sun was shining, and the wind, aqlthough a bit gusty,
was sometimes even at our backs (mostly due to the winding nature of
the river, but still... )Stopping for lunch at a small fishing
spot by the flood gates, I nosed my kayak up to the bank, deliberately
"beached" it, for want of a better term, popped my spray skirt, and
hopped out ready to pull the kayak up a bit further... and that was
when I discovered the true meaning of river gumbo!MUCK! Stinky,
sticky, soft, gooey black clay... I sank almost up to my knees. After
much cursing, wobbling, flailing of arms and laughter (from Kevin) I
managed to not fall over, and hauled myself out onto slightly more
solid ground where I could pull the boat up a bit. Kevin had the joy of
being pulled in by me, so he avoided gumboification...I
particularly liked the small dead fish stuck to the inside of my right
foot... a nice touch... though it was better than the fish hook I got
through my big toe a few days later, but I'll get to that... I
pulled Kev in as I kinda felt he deserved a break too, as he was having a few issues with
how his kayak tracked... it should track in a straight line, especially
with the skeg down... ( a skeg is a small blade under the boat that can
be lowered up and down... up for easy turning using the paddle, and
down to keep a straight line when paddling along).Either way,
up or down, his boat kept drifting left and so he was giving himself a
very sore neck from having to sweep-stroke his paddle on the left side
a lot, to get himself back on course...I, on the other had,
have a rudder, and so with a simple press of my right toe, I go
right... a press of the left, and I go left... I might not be the
'purist' paddler that Kevin is, but I don't care. Unfortunately for
him, he was suffering (as he put it), "rudder-envy"..!Once we'd
had lunch, off we pushed again, zigging and zagging along the river,
until yet again, we started to wonder quite where we were going to stop
for the night, as banks of gumbo rose 6 to 10 feet up, all around us...Rounding
what turned out to be our final bend of the day, we saw, like the
previous night, a rocky, gumbo-free outcropping, with what appeared to
be tractor tracks leading up to corn fields. We landed the
boats, and after seeing a farm house a way down the fields, Kev went
a-knocking, and returned with the great news that we were good to pitch
out tents again... and this time in a nice grassy field, with a ton of
huge trees and hedges to shelter us from the still present, and
ever increasing wind.Unfortunately, it also sheltered the
mozzies too, so we decided once we were set up, we'd wash up and eat a
hot feed down at the river where the wind was less, but still present,
so we enjoyed a mozzie-free dinner, before getting a much needed better
sleep, having knockeed out another 16-odd miles of river. Our little campiste was right about.... HEREOur
3rd day of paddling, was again, starting out much the same as the other
two, although the 3 bald eagles we saw made for a magnificent change,
as well as seeing 2 foxes...
far, we have seen a fair bit of
wildlife along the river... the eagles and the foxes, as well as a
number of deer, Great Blue Herons, Canadian Geese, and tons of leaping
fish... as well as quite a few not-so-leaping-but-very-smelly-and-dead
ones too!)The end of the day came with a bit of a slap in the
face though... The weather had been growing somewhat gloomier, with
intermittent spots of light rain causing us to wonder on whether to out
on our paddle jackets or not. Given that it was light rain, and on and off,
we decided to leave the jackets packed until at about 5 pm when all of a sudden, with a
huge bolt of lightning and a clap of thunder, and ice-cold storm
suddenly nailed us. Visibility went to 20m in seconds, and being the
highest object on the surface of the water (in a lightning storm)
suddenly became a very bad thing.We made a frantic,
cold-aching-muscles dash for a section of bank that had some rocks, and
attempted to get ashore. I managed to keep my kayak steady, but
whilst getting out, it drifted out slightly, and I ended up in the river to my chest. Kevin, who had been
shirtless in the previous sunshine made a better exit, but was also as
wet as I was. Whilst I balanced shoeless on the rocks, watching the boats,
Kevin did the dash to see what he could see... which was nothing much
in the way of anywhere to stop or even shelter. However, he saw a guy
that said there was a camp spot just beyond the bridge a few hundred
yards down river... Of course, as usual, that information was
completely incorrect, so cold, shivering and cursing, (although with
paddle-jackets now on to protect us a bit from the wind) we slogged
on... paddling onward to what was the longest, and most exhausting day
so far (and hopefully in all!). It
was almost 8 pm, and almost 25 river miles paddled, when we saw a very
unlikely, but really ONLY option... a steep, slippery bank of gumbo, up
to the back of someones property. Still shivering, we somehow managed
to haul the seemingly-QE2-like kayaks up the bank, where we dug out our
gear and made a wet fast camp... but beforehand, Kev did the right
thing and went up to the house to ask permission, but as no-one was
home, we ended up leaving a note. As it turned out, it looked like
no-one came home that night anyway... and if they did, we certainly
didn't see anyone. I seriously doubt anyone would be bothered trudging
though thick gumbo to see us anyway!
Google Mpas isn't currently displaying the are correctly in map view,
the satelite view shows the river just fine... and we camped, right...
next morning, we repeated the mucky process in reverse order, although
by now I could't care how gumboified I got, as it was all over
everything still anyway, so we pretty much slipped and slid ourselvess and our boats back into the water, and headed off.
after consulting my GPS, we do a bit of rough bush-math, to figure out
how the linear miles (from where we are to where I move the pointer on
the GPS) calculate out to river miles, and we've got a pretty good
method. If it is as winding as it has been, 5 linear miles are near to
being 10 padling river miles... So on day 4, it was nice to see
some much straighter sections of river on the GPS screen... and with
the linear miles being just around 7 to the town of Morris, we figured
we were looking at about 9 to 10 miles of paddling... and coming in at bang on 9 miles, we were pretty accurate.
Kevin had done some
pre-empting on the town of Morris, and we understood there was a boat
ramp there, so with that info, and a shorter, straighter paddle-day
ahead of us, we were feeling pretty good... until at around 2 pm, we got to the 'boat
It looked like it either had once been a decent boat
ramp, or they were trying to make a new boat ramp... but either way, it
looked like a pile of gumbo covered broken concrete and re-bar...
managed to paddle up alongside the section that was on a 30-odd degree
slope into the water, and get out kind of ok, but then bagan my
Torville & Dean act by sliding none-too-gracefully all over the
damn gumbo-covered ramp... I somehow got my kayak to sit on the edge of
the ramp and not go anywhere, and then turned to help Kev get in.
avoiding a serious dunking, concrete-bashing, or both, I managed to get
off the ramp and onto the slightly more stable rock-filled gumbo bank on
the side of the ramp where I grabbed Kevs bow as he hopped out. Between
us, we hauled his boat up onto the level bit of the boat ramp, but as
we went to do the same with mine, that was when I discovered the nice
fish hook someone had left... and I discovered it with my right big
toe... and it still hurts, although not as much as when I had to dig
out the rusty barb. I did wonder why the hook came back out so easily
at the time...!
lugged the 2 kayaks up the ramp, and across a recreation field to a
good hedge where we set up the tents in the lee of the hedge, nicely
sheltered from the still howling wind.
We had purchased a
set of folding cart wheels to roll the kayaks around on (we were going
to stack the kayaks atop each other), but I did have doubts about the
carry-capacity of the cart... but we didn't get to test it due to the
fact that the day earlier, one of the wheels had exploded on us! We had
just rafted up together for a break when there was an almighty bang and
a puff of white 'smoke' as the innertube gave up the battle of
containing the increasing air pressure: the tyre had been inflated a
tad too much, and after 7 hours on my deck in the sun, pressure had
grown too great to handle... we though someone was taking pot-shots at
us with a rifle! It certainly got the adranalin pumping for a few
Anyway, after setting up the tents, and beginning to
sort out the gear, I phoned the guys at WS, and Kat said she'd get a
spare wheel and another cart, come down with her husband Mike,
stay the night, and also take Kevins kayak out for a check-out paddle,
as he's been suffering the left-drift a lot, and see what she thought.
after an afternoon of cleaning, sorting gear, and a recce of town, Kat
and Mike arrived that evening, so we lit up a camp-fire on the rocky
area of the river, ate pop-corn and washed it down with hot chocolate,
and had a great evening.
next day, a planned rest day, it was time to get stuff done again. With
an empty kayak, Kat took it for a paddle, as did Kev, and with it
unloaded, found that it tracked just fine, so feeling kinda relieved,
Kev has realised he has to try to pack it a bit differently, and since
has found it tracks much better with a little less weight up front.
Kat and Mike took off, I headed into town to do the laundry, as well as
post a bunch of stuff that I have realised I don't need, back to Tom.
Once I got back, Kev took off to do some post, as well as grab some
supplies from the not-so-Supermarket. That evening we had a good dinner
of pasta and sauce in the little shelter near our tents.
Fully stocked with food, but lighter for the gear we ditched, we got all packed and ready for the off the next day.
far we are both holding up fairly well, although the shoulders and
hands are a bit numb and sore each morning. Kev has had a sore left
neck, mostly due to the left drift he was experiencing, and I have had
a sore lower back, mostly due to not getting a decent sleep most
nights... my supposed -5 degree C sleepig bag is no way that good... I
think 15 degrees would be about as low as you could go comfortably with
it... so I need to get a decent liner or a new bag...
Well, until the next update...
Entry #5. September 7th 2008
USA! USA! USA!
are back in the U-S-of-A... we crossed the border, (an amazingly easy
process we are VERY pleased to say), and have stopped for another rest
day here in Pembina, North Dakota.So to recap the past few days...Leaving
Morris, pushing off from the quality boat ramp was made easier for 3
reasons: We each has working carts to wheel the kayaks right up the the
top of the ramp, the kayaks were lighter due to gear being sent back,
and lastly, Kev had done some good work scraping a lot of the gumbo off
the ramp the day before, so it was dry and grippy.
got away at a decent hour to try and make some miles on the river as
soon as possible, because the weather wasn't looking all that special.
Although the sunrise was nice, crisp and dry, and the paddling started dry, the rain began drizzling
fairly constantly by the time we were a few miles down the river.
Due to the below-par weather, especially the increasing wind, we didn't make
the best of time in the end... although much of this section of the
river was considerably straighter, which is nice for covering North to
South ground, it also means that if there is a headwind, you
spend much of the time with no shelter, paddling right into the
This is what we faced, so by 3 pm, when we
spotted a huge, concrete, clean, accessible boatramp, we were pretty
chuffed... plus my GPS had just earlier shown us a campsite a short way back down the river,
(although at that point, it appeared inaccessible) so we were really
hoping we could get back to it.
Sure enough, there was a short
road at the top of the boat ramp that lead right back to the campsite,
so with the carts strapped on, we had a very easy time wheeling the the
boats right on in to set up out tents.
Our high spirits were
elevated to almost euphoric levels when we discovered that there was
not only a pretty decent bathroom, but that it had a shower with HOT
WATER! We both spent at least 30 minutes each under the hot water
cleaning gumbo out of everywhere... it was awesome!
were set up under a lot of large trees so we had a good amount of
shelter from the wind and the rain, and with a covered picnic area, we
had dinner like kings, complete with watching comedy shows on this
little computer! Roughing it smoothly, for sure.
the stellar boatramp made leaving the next day a much easier process,
but somehow, even though we were up early, we ended up getting a late
start. I think the ease of getting in mage us a little too relaxed, and
we took it too easy... plus Kev wanted to try and wash off his wheels,
so by the time he got back, and we got floating, it was almost 10 am.
day was glorious though, with very little wind, if at all, and the
river was glassy in most places. I say most, because we hit our first
major sets of fast water... 3 in total for the day.
there, the river narrows, sometimes at a bend, or where a sand (mud)
bar has built up, so the water funnels through, suddenly gathering
speed and turbulence, so as you approach, you have to avoid any rocks,
and paddle like mad to punch through the fast flowing areas, whilst
trying to not get spun around by the whirlpools... our first fast water
run was only about 30 minutes into the day, and it was quite a warm up
to be sure... we had to stop for 5 after to get any feeling back into
our arms, as well as scoff a power-bar!
stopping for lunch on a convenient rocky-gumbo-bar, we paddled on,
bantering away as we do... we've found that we seem to really cover
some ground when we chat as we paddle, especially playing word or
Also, we talk a load of rubbish too, quote lines
from films, burp, yell, make silly noises, and do anything that keeps
At one point, Kev was waffling on again about some
kind of general silliness, to do with the odds of a beaver coming out
and gnawing on his kayak to get his food... I replied that I found that
highly unlikely, especially given that we may have seen a few otters,
but there had been no beavers. I even offered the opinion that that
there were better odds of finding troupe of naked cheerleaders on the
bank around the next bend...
Right at that moment, (as if on
cue) with a loud crashing of bushes, a huge beaver came barrelling
right down the bank and took a huge leap, landing with an enormous splash into the river about 6 feet from us...! HOLY BEAVER BATMAN! Where did that come from!!?
Needless to say, we had a huge laugh at that, and I had to eat humble pie...!
we paddled on, Kev decided he needed to answer the call of nature, and
with no places to beach the kayaks, chanced upon a dead tree stump,
roots n all, sticking up out of the water.
Putting great faith in
his gymnastic ability, but not thinking about the stability of the
tree, he proceeded to STAND one foot in his kayak, the other on the
tree, and with a bit of jiggling and wiggling, managed to pee... Until
the tree decided to roll over.
I of course had my camera at the
ready, because even if there was no falling in (and with standing up in
a kayak, I suspected there might be), I had to get a photo regardless...
with a surprising amount of grace, and avoiding a tree root in an
awkward place, Kev plopped into the water, just managing to keep his
kayak right way up, but not before filling the cockpit about 1/3 full
At least we know the pump works well!
pumped out his kayak, mopped up the last bits of water with the sponges
we have, and then got to practice a rafted kayaks rescue, which went
perfectly, ending with Kev back in the pilot seat, high, but not so dry.
we had still yet to see a decent-looking place to stop for the night,
we checked out what was ahead on the GPS. As there was a bridge ahead,
with what appeared to be a town next to it, we figured that might be a
good place to try.
Approaching the bridge, the source of a long
heard noise became apparent... under the bridge there was a 2 foot
wier, with the river blasting down the drop over rocks, and through a
fairly narrow channel formed by the legs of the bridge.
no choice but to get out there anyway, so once we'd managed to secure
the kayaks at the rocks to the right of the bridge, Kev went up to see
what was about.
At first look, there didn't appear to be much
around... there was a farm, and 2 houses, but no-one was home at
either, so we decided to get the boats up to the road, and see what was
over the bridge.
Hauling the kayaks up and over the rocks and
gumbo at the bridge legs, whilst getting chowed on by mozzies was
bloody hard work, but once we got to decent ground, on went the wheels
again, and life was easier again.
Just as we got to the road,
the owners of the farm turned up, and after a bit of chatting, they
amazingly kindly offered us the use of their barn to store the kayaks,
and their son said we were welcome to stay at his house; he had a spare
room and a large couch, and although he was going to a concert in town
that night, would have a beer with us beforehand... The kindness of
people who get the whole genuine traveller thing is so cool, and it was
a total pleasure to meet the Houle family, and have them look after us.
it turns out, had we gone across the bridge to see what my GPS was
showing us (it appeared to be an un-named town) would have been a bad
idea, as it is an Indian Reservation, and they wouldn't have taken
kindly to 2 stangers, white ones at that, wandering onto their land...
fair enough I guess, but we were glad we didn't cause any problems, or
receive any hassles...
After haveing a good chat, and a few
more beers with the Houles, it turns out that they have seen quite a
few paddlers, and have had quite a few stay... Both Kev and I
hope to return the favour one day, somewhere, sometime... So this is a
big huge shout out to the Houles for being bloody awesome! Cheers!!
next morning, we got up early (it is a working farm after all!) and got
on the river, paddles wet by 0800. Unfortunately, I somehow managed to
lose my fingerless gloves as we were getting the boats in the water, so
I was a bit miffed...
5 minutes later, I suddenly couldn't
steer, and after a quick examination of my boats rear-end by Dr Kev, it
turned out my rudder had become un-bolted... bugger. I was waiting for
my third problem, but so far, I seem to OK!
I had to spend the
rest of the day using correct paddle techniques to keep my boat going
where I wanted it to... it's got a different keel to Kevs, so it has a
tendency to wander a lot without the rudder down, so I was steering,
trying to stay in a straight line, just as much as paddling forward...
Oh well, it was good practice I guess.
We arrived at the border
to the USA, and found, much to our joy, a rock-solid, super-clean BOAT
RAMP..! Kev did his usual recce, and we then wheel the boats over to
Canadian Customs where we were told by a very helpful customs officer,
that we could leave them next to their impound lot, and proceed to the
USA on foot... If the USA guys didn't have any objections, we could
come back into Canada for a few hundred meters, to re-use the boat ramp
After speaking with the USA customs officers, one
of whom (quite luckily we believe) was the guy Kevin had already spoken
to on the phone about this a few weeks ago, we got cleared to enter the
USA (well, really I did, as it shouldn't be an issue for Kev), we
re-entered Canada, and went right back to where we exited the river,
and pushed off for the last 3 miles paddle to Pembina, North Dakota,
where we are now.
Almost exstatic with joy, we pulled the
kayaks up Pembinas glorious boatramp and into town where Kev had
secured us a sweet deal at the Red Roost Motel.
checked in, we started to unload our kayaks, and stick the gear in out
room... at which point a border patrol guard arrived!
reported seeing us paddle along the river and through the unmarked
border into the USA. Good to hear someone is paying attention I guess!
was very cool, and looked at both our passports before heading back to
base. Once unloaded, we got to put the boats down in the basement,
(after giving them a good clean out on the front lawn) and after we got
all washed up, headed to the local bar for a much need cold Bud and 14
inch pizza! Mmmmm!
Pembina wasn't quite the up-to-date
metropolis we thought it might be, although it is a nice little town.
There is 1 motel, 2 bars, 1 (very well stocked we were pleased to find)
supermarket, 1 water tower, and 2 gas stations just off the main
interstate... but that's about it... enough for a town of 500 I guess.
was spent cleaning the carts, shoes and clothes, as well as a small bit
of shopping for food. Kev got his customary chocolate ice-cream (4
pints!) so we attacked that a bit this arvo. The other thing that got
done was web updates! Kev spent a good 2 hours typing, as have I, but
as there is no internet access in town, this will sit in the computer
for at least another few days to a week, until we find somewhere with
OK, time to save this, and head off for another
bar pizza... There isn't exactly much choice, and it was bloody good
last night, so what the hell...
Entry #6. September 10th 2008Drayton, North Dakota... a friendly town!
what a hard few days! The wind has been blowing in our face for the
past 3 days, but yesterday and today were nuts... it was gusting at
over 30 knots, so both of us look like spanked arses... RED! Yesterday
we ended up paddling for nearly 11 hours, covering almost 28 miles. It
wasn't the plan at the start of the day though. We intended doing about
21 miles having got an early start, paddles wet at 0755. The constant
wind combined with the increased river flow made paddling very tough,
and as we reached Catfish Haven campsite's location (according to the
map) we found it was no longer there; We've since learnt that it was washed away in the earlier
seasons storms. So, faced with not many options, we chose to paddle on
into the darkness (we did get to see an amazing sunset though)
eventually reaching a boatramp at Drayton Dam, where we crashed, hard,
for the night.
I am bumming some free internet at the mo, so will
have to keep the rest of this very brief, and get the upload done, but
just a quick update to say we are well, if not tired, but are heading
down to Grand Forks, ND and should be there in about 6 days. We hope to
take a full rest day there and get some serious updates and uploads
done, as well as some more emails.
Entry #7. September 14th 2008
Oslo, Minnesota, another very friendly town!
Drayton certainly was a very friendly town, and as we discovered
last night, so is Oslo, MN... But lets go back a few days.
morning we left Pembina, it was a bit overcast, but otherwise, not too
bad. We stopped at Mikes Hardware to pick up a 3/16th allen-key to
screw my rudder back on, (Of course, we made sure we parked the boats correctly at the hardware store... ) then rolled on down to the boatramp.
in was easy, what with the wonderful ramp, but we both noticed an
increase in the flow of the river, so we were having to haul a bit
harder than before. Luckily, the ind was low, and remained quite low
all day, so we were paddling along a mostly glassy surface.
always, finding a spot to camp for the night was becoming a priority by
around 6pm, but there were steep banks rising high all around us. We
managed to find one section that had a reasonable grassy slope we could
pull the kayaks up, but there was no flat areas to pitch tents, so Kev
went bushwacking, and found, as he named it, "The Grotto"... a great
spot of flat ground surrounded by trees and high grass. We discovered
it was also home to a few million slugs too, as they stuck to anything
and everything, but with a good amount of finger-flicking, we cleared
them off the gear the next morning.
morning river mist made for an atmospheric start as we paddled off into
the day that was to become the longest slogging day ever.
start of the day was calm, but as we paddled on, stopping for lunch
around 12, the wind started to blow good and hard down the river, right
at us, so it was another hard fought afternoon. Breaking it up was the
magnificent Bald Eagles soaring overhead, as well as sighting a few
more huge beavers. As mentioned above, it ended up being nearly an 11
hour day covering almost 28 miles before we rolled into Drayton Dam at
8pm in the dark, where, guided by our trusty Petzl headlamps, we set up
the tents in a clearing at the side of the boatramp.
After paddling for almost 11 hours the day before, we certainly felt we had earned, as well as needed, the half day off.
did his usual run and recce of the town whilst I strapped our boats
onto their wheels. He returned with not much to report in the way of
excitement, ie: Motels, fast food or such like, so we just
deceided we may as well trundle through town, pick up some groceries on
the way at the small, (but well stocked) supermarket, then head to
Schumacher Park, where there was camping allowed.
diner looked quite inviting as we got to Main Street, but on closer
inspection, we were disapppointed to find it was closed, so it was back
to the supermarket plan.
2 brightly coloured kayaks
being wheeled through a small town is bound to draw some looks or the
odd comment, ( We've hard that "they work much better in the water" a
few times... ) but we'd not been in Drayton for more than 5 minuted
we met 3 great guys: David, who told us about Vietnam, and (we
assume this was the reason to the story) his Kiwi comrade in arms who
got one 'right between the eyes'... Larry, who ran almost everything to
do with the town management it seemed, including the local paper, and
who wanted to do a story on our trip, and then Ron, who promptly
invited us to visit at the Senior Citizens community hall, and join him
for a spot of lunch! Bloody great!!
We thoroughly enjoyed
chatting with the folks there, learning about the town, as well as
regailing them with the stories of our current, and past, adventures.
The mashed spuds, Salisbury steak and veggies went down a treat
Once we were set up over at the park (after stocking up at
the supermarket that is), I went off to do the web update that you'll
have already seen above, before returning so Kev could go and do the
We had heard that Andys diner was open, and it was 2 for 1
special that night on a basket of Tater-tots and Cheeseburgers, so we
couldn't pass that up. Washed down with a few cold Pepsis and some
chocolate ice cream, we were quite satisfied with the days events in
Drayton. The night was capped off by sitting in the power-equipped
picnic shelter at the park, and watching some comedy on this little
Oh, I nearly forgot... the campsite even had a hot shower, so we were smelling a lot better too!
we enjoyed an easy start to the day with a decent boatramp into the
water, and to our joy, we even had a tail wind, albeit a mild one, but
it certainly made quite a difference to the days paddling... even
prompting us to discuss the potential options for making a sail... but
then discussing the ethics of such a device, and would it be considered
cheating...? We figured the average taken from battling headwinds to
being blown along by a sail would make a fair balance to being fair and
even... but we have yet to actually create a sail!
We both agree
that this was one of the best, if not THE best day on the river so far,
as it was a sunny day, we got some great video, and when it came to the
usual hunt for a campsite, there was no need to hunt, as a perfect spot
appropriated itself, right at the side of the river, and for the first
time, we spent the night on the Minnesota side of the river.
pulled the kayakys up a whole 10 feet onto a great little flat dirt
bank, which was just big enough for 2 boats and 2 tents. Getting to set
up right next to the kayak, minimising movement of gear was great, and
as there was a ton of bone-dry driftwood around, we had a superb
campfire as darkness fell, keeping the mozzies well away. The only
thing missing, as usual, was the marshmallows!
as we called it, was a quick and easy affair, involving a quick shove
and plop into the water... sweet! We meandered along the river enjoying
the nice weather, but I statrted to notice that there was a lot less
land and wet mud on show. Kev agreed that it appeared that the river
had risen somewhat, and that the current was running a bit harder
again... plus our shoulders were noticing the extra effort too!
day was a pretty normal kind of day, with nothing hugely remarkable
happening until yet again, it came to find a campsite for the night...
the riverbanks had been high and steep for most of the day, so our
concerns for a campsite were reasonably high... and in the end, it
ended up beign whatever we could get, which wasn't much. There ws just
enough space to haul the boats up and out of the river, at which point
the mozzies went to town on us. The only marginal patch of ground to
pitch on was boggy and wet, so we found a grassy area, but it was on a
slope. Figuring it's be quicker and easier to work together, we pitched
my 2-man tent Kev is using to share it for the night, scoffed down a
quick cold tin of soup each, then dived for cover into the tent. The
floor was totally uneven, so again, it ended up being a rough nights
sleep each. We'd decided to get up at 0600 to make a good crack at the
day so we could cover the 23-odd miles to get to Oslo by mid to late
Breakfast was a very rushed affair as the previous
nights mosquitos clearly felt the all-you-can-eat human buffet was
still open, and were nailing us as soon as we crawled out of the tent.
We quickly stuffed everything into the hatches, then literally threw
the boats into the river, jumping in almost at the same time, and
started paddling like madmen to get away from the little buggers.
we'd noticed the day before, the river had risen, and appeared to have
risen further again, which meant the current was running harder yet.
the pain aside (I write that with glib ease and offhandedness... the
reality was we were sucking it up hard!) we carried on, both trying to
not notice the incredible windings of the river, which took us back on
ourselves on more than one occasion.
As said, we were aiming
for Oslo, and (frustratingly so) at one stage, we were less than 2
miles from Oslo, as a bend in the river passed by a county road on the
outskirts of town... for us though, it meant another 8.5 miles of river
to cover before we reached the town boatramp.
As if to test our
mettle, the weather decided to chime in with making things difficult
too. It started out as a bit overcast at 8 miles, then went to light
rain by 6 miles, but within half a mile, the remaining 5.5 miles were
spent in the pouring rain... It HOSED down, and neither of us had the
time, nor could be bothered to put on our paddle jackets... we got so
wet, so quick, it didn't seem worth it.
The Oslo boatramp was, as
always, a welcome sight, even more so in that is was small, gentle and
clean. By the time we were land-bound, the rain let up, so we stripped
off, dried-off and got changed into dry warm clothes, strapped on the
wheels (to the kayaks that is), and rolled into town.
Not that we needed much, but we
thought we'd check out the local supermarket for any snacks, or maybe
the nights meal, if they did hot food. We got there at 6.02 pm, just in
time to see the lights going out, so the only other option was the
rapidly-filling bar... Dressed like dorks, in daggy track-pants and
muddy shoes, we decided to avoid the potential shame, and went to find the town park and pitch tents.
we were leaving the main street for the park, a local guy drove past
and said hi, and as always, local small-town hospitality shone through
as within 30 seconds, we'd both been invited to a birthday party just
outside of town! Kind as the offer was, we both declined as we were
pretty tired... and it was starting to rain again.
We found the
park, and the locked bathrooms, so that was a bit of a drawback... it
looked like the morning ablutions would be over the rail-tracks in the
bushes... damn, and we were so looking forward to the batchrooms!
we were set up, and having spoken French and Spanish, (as well as "Kiwi
and Aussie" for fun), with some of the local inquisitive kids (they were
checking out the boats and asking where we were from etc, in both
English and Spanish, so we ended up gaving a kind of "what can you
speak" game) I went to the picnic area to set up this MacAsus to watch
some comedy whilst Kev went to the bar to get pizza.
were fine, but we were a little dubious about leaving everything to
goto the bar whilst it was light, and there were the little tykes out
Kev returned bearing hot delicious pizza and cold
cokes, so we sat down to dinner and a movie, (well, a half-hour comedy
show) but the wind and rain started to make it a bit of a cold, wet and
Given that the pizza was so damn good, the
weather was so damn bad, and the kids had gone home, we grabbed our
valuables and opted for the warmth and hot pizza number 2 of the bar.
not been in the bar 20 seconds when you could hear the words "kayakers,
kayakers, kayaks, paddling, kayakers..." bouncing around the place, and
within a minute, we'd had a cold Budweiser each shoved into our
grateful hands by a great guy called Mark, and were in animated
introductions to his wife Dawn and their friends (and actually their
English teacher from back in school) Joanne and her husband Bud.
a great evening! We had a great time chatting with Joanne, Bud, Dawn
and Mark, showed them pics of our travels, learnt about the local area,
and had more Budweiser bought for us... the kindness and generosity was
awesome, and by 2300, both just able to stand (from tiredness, not
beer), we bagan to make our exit... but not before Bud and Joanne had
invited us to breakfast the next morning!
After having a few
beers, we both expected to get a decent nights sleep, but
unfortunately, the howling wind and driving rain kept us both awake for
a lot of the night. We turned in at about 2345, and I was asleep soon
after, but when I woke up (seemingly hours later) and saw it was only
0100, I knew it was gonna be a rough night.
Getting up at 0700,
we broke camp fairly fast, as there was no sleepiness to overcome...
we'd not really slept... but the promise of a cooked breakfast had us
pretty damn excited.
what a breakfast!!! Joanne is a master of the kitchen without a
doubt... we enjoyed a fantastic feed of bacon, eggs, BBQ sausages,
waffles, home-made apple sauce, and home-baked cinnamon rolls, washed
down with big glasses of cold OJ...
Bloody awesome is all I can say!
the boatramp, we thought we might be in foir a fairly stiff days
paddling as the boatramp appeared to have shrunk in size by a good
foot... the river was right up high due to the torrential rain that had
been falling south of our location.
Luckily, the howling wind that
had plagued us all night was now in our favour as it was blowing out of
the north... a tail wind at last!!
Also, we covered some serious
ground heading south as for the next 28-odd miles we had a much
straighter run. We even managed to catch a few waves! There was a good
1-mile long section that was straight as an arrow... the wind was
blasting down it creating a good 2 foot swell against the opposing
current, so we found if you paddle like mad on the first or second
wave, the third in the set opicked up our boats and gave us a sweet
50-60 yard ride at quite a pace! I was having an easier time of it with
my flatter-bottomed boat and rudder, but although a bit of zigging and
zagging went on, Kev caught a few nice ones too. It certainly made the
paddle more fun for a while, but really gave the abs a serious work out
The campsite for the night was another grotto-style site,
again with some serious boat and gear hauling, as well as the slugs,
but it was sheltered from the wind, and flat ground, so we both had a
pretty good sleep, although during the night we did get woken by
animals crunching and crashing through the brush down near the kayaks,
as well as the distinctive iffy whiffs of a wandering skunk.
we knew we were in to Grand Forks the next day, we were aiming to get
up early and make a good bash at getting to town for around lunchtime,
to maximise rest time in town... and we certainly did that!
Entry #8. September 17th 2008Grand Forks, North Dakota.As
planned, we were up before 0600, and were on the river, paddles wet by
just after 0700. It felt good to be up that early and covering ground
when we were often still drawing Z's or packing up.
The wind was
low, and the river fairly straight, so feeling good, we took a bunch of
pictures of the high waters, as well as some daft video for fun.
advised by a friendly local in Oslo, we had the number of the local TV
station in Grand Forks, so gave them a call for a local interest story.
By 1100, we arrived at the planned boatramp to portage the dam,
and where we were met by David Schwab, the reporter (and cameraman
too... multitasking!) where we were filmed getting out and carting-up
the boats, followed by portaging around the dam.
We were interviewed
once we were back in our boats, before passing back the radio-mic and
paddling on into Grand Forks. David also went into town and onto one of
the bridges we were paddling under to get some extra shots, so we were
pretty happy about the coverage.
Checking into a motel for a
much needed wash or everything, we got to see ourselves on the local
6.30 pm news, although Kev was the star of the show for sure... !
The article can be found on line here. (Article now removed, unfortunately)
have spent a day gathering what we needed, mostly groceries, although
we did also get a few items like a fold-up cooler for some cold-cuts,
cheese etc, as well as a foam pad to give me better insulation when I
Kev has introduced me to the amazing creation that is
the Dairy Queen Extreme Blizzard Double-Chocolate Ice Cream... quite a
feast! We have also gorged ourselves on Taco Bell, another craving that
was much in need of satisfying over the past week or so.
We decided to stay at the Plaza Motel, just over the river in East Grand Forks,
MN, which was a great choice. The place is a real find, and the GM
here, T.J, has been awesome. A really cool, helpful and friendly
dude who's local info was 110% spot on... We can't thank him enough for
totally looking after us with rags and washing stuff to clean our gear,
as well as being really cool about storing the boats in our room... A
room that is just about 17 feet 1 inch wide!
are going to stay one more day, making a total of 2 full days off, as
we both really felt the need to rest up out bodies. As a mate of Kevins
pointed out, we are pretty much spending 8-10 hours a day doing the
equivalent of about 15,000 to 20,000 reps in a gym... and you
wouldn't do that without taking a break every now and then, eh?
that note, we reckon we will have done tens of millions of paddle
strokes by the time we have finished... the full stats will be posted
at some time in the future!
time to save this and get it uploaded... As you may have noticed, there
are a few links added in now... most are links to the Google Map page
recorded using our GPS coordinates at most places we stopped. When I
get a chance, I will add all of the stops in, but for now, there's
about half of them on here...
The next upload will probably be
from Fargo in aboit a weeks time, unless we find that Halstad (about 4
days away) has internet, which, given the luck so far, is unlikely...
but we'll see.
Until next time!
Entry #9. September 18th 2008
A well fought day in the wind.
were up and at 'em at 0700 this morning, as we had to at the boatramp
to see the newspaper reporter by 0830, and the boats had to be shimmied
out of the motel room and loaded up first.
The motel is also
currently occupied by a bunch of out of town contractors who, like most
contractors, are not known for being small and dainty... So at
0600, when they get up, they make a bit of noise. In their steel
toecapped boots. Above our room. It was either that, or a herd of
marauding elephants were passing through, as we get woken an hour
earlier than we'd have liked...
Anyway, we got up, had a good
brekky of yoghurt, bananas and OJ, then after
and-behing-the-bathroom-door check was carried out, we wheeled off to
the boatramp, both of us cursing thenhowling south-easterly gale that
was blasting along the river at us. Typically, yesterday, on our day
off, the wind was blowing from the north... how does that work I have
Well, we met the journo and the photog from the local
paper, and answered a bunch of their very good questions before
saddling up (left over bike talk... you know what I mean) gumbo
free on the concrete boatramp, and paddling off into a 20 mile hard
fought blasting headwind day.
though we had a slightly later then normal start, and even though the
wind was doing its best to royally piss us off and wear us out, by
around 1700, we had knocked out the 20, and were looking for a place to
Due to the current drop in the river level, by a
good 4 feet, we had our old friend back... well, more his cousin... Not
Gumbo exactly, but slippery wet mud. Mr Mud doesn't quite have the
sticking factor that Mr Gumbo has, but never-the-less, his presence was
(and is) strongly felt and long lasting...
So with a fast
paddle-stroke, and a war cry for gusto, we aimed at a low slope of
bank, and splatted our kayaks up on to it. Kev did his usual friendly
American, (not an odd sounding foreigner) recce up to the house, where
yet again, we were very graciously given easy permission to set up camp
at the river.
lady who owned the land, Georgia Eglan even popped
down with her grand-daughter and 2 poochies (dogs) to say Hi, and see
if we needed anything... and very kindly gave us a bottle of much
needed, 98% deet mozzie repellant, as they were dire. Kevs repellant
was OK, but this stuff blows 'em away... just don't get it on your
watch or sunnies... it'll melt the plastic!
we set up, we both had our paddle jackets, hats, long pants and
head-nets on... there was a constant drone from the little buggers, so
once we were set up, dinner was had seperately in each or our tents; a
cold tin of soup... which never tasted so good! Well, our first day
back on the river was a tough one, and we both reckoned on having some
sore muscles the next day... and we were right!
Entry #10. September 19th 2008
The Day of the Beaver!
a stark contrast to yesterday... well, most of the day was anyway.
Getting up in the morning was a very rushed manic affair, and any
concerns about getting in our boats covered in mud were soon thrown to
the (now much less) wind, as yet again, paddlers-ass was on the
breakfast menu for the bloody mosquitos. Going to the 'bathroom' was
also a mad affair... rush to the bushes, dig a hole, drop trou, wave
hand around butt to prevent being bitten, do what you have to do etc,
then up trou and fill earth back into hole... the days of a lazy sit n
read the paper session are far away. 30 seconds start to finish! And I
still managed to get 3 bites on my apparently appetizing ass... aggh!
morning ablutions aside, as I was saying, we damn-near threw the kayaks
into the water, jumped in covered up to our mid-shins in mud, and
paddled away like nutters, trying to avoid more bites.
were safely mid river, and about a mile up stream, we found an old tree
sticking up out of the water to hang on to, and stopped for a
Kobie-patented leg wash and breakfast. The leg wash consists of keeping
your butt in the seat, but gymnastically pulling your legs out of the
cockpit and draping them over the sides of the kayak and washing off
your feet etc... whilst maintaining poise and balance... After that, 2
museli bars, 1 banana, and some Tang later, and a quick wash and
de-robe of gear, we began the days paddle proper, just as the sun
started to peek up over the trees.
From then, the day became a
glorious one, with zero wind at all, and blazing sunshine. It also
became officially The Day of the Beaver... we saw at least 7 that day,
some in the water, some on the banks, (and usualy then SPLASH!... in
the water) as well as a Dad, Mum and baby beaver all exiting their
dwelling together. I have tried to get a picture, but it's fair to say
that they are a lot faster than me... seeing daddy beaver go under with
a huge WHACK of his tail on the surface of the water as he dives was
very cool though.
Around 12, we broke for lunch, and again, had
to hunt for somewhere to stop... what appeared to be a dry-ish bank
turned out to be just missing the 2 girls in bikinis... 6 inch deep
sloppy mud, all the way. As we'd beached, or rather splatted the kayas
there anyway, and I was shin deep in mud already too, we deceided to
just sit on out boats and eat there... Normally, if I drop food, "it's
still good" and I'll eat it... this time, the mud beat me to it. Oh
The rest of the afternoon was quite the same as the
morning, with beavers being sighted again, as well as bald eagles
circling overhead, deer bouncing along the bank, and Canadian Geese
honking and taking flight as we approached.
By now, pleasant as
the arvo was, and tanned as were were getting, shirts off, the aches
and pains were creeping back in, and like Kev had the first week, I
have started to get a huge knot in my lower left neck/shoulder area...
by the time we were pulling in at Belmont Park, our planned (and on the
map, and actually still there too) campsite for the night, my back was
feeling like I had someone kneeling on it... but a knee the size of a
golf-ball... ramming deep into my muscles.
The campsite had a
boatramp, so we were looking forward to an easy exit, but as I had
suspected earlier in the day, the receeding water-levels had done what
I was worried about... and left a 20 foot long, 10 inch deep covering
of good old Mr Mud. By then I couldn't actually give a toss, so just
hopped out of my boat and began to try to pull it up... hahahaha, yeah,
good one! I slipped down as much as I pulled up, so rather than fight a
losing battle, I grabbed my safety throw rope, tied one end to the
front of my boat, and gingerly slipped and slopped my way to the top of
the ramp where it was dry concrete, the proceeded to haul my kayak up
through the mud, now glad that it was so slippery.
Kev, never one to let a good idea go to waste, did the same thing, and we eventually got the lot up and into the campsite.
Peterson, the County Commissioner dropped by to say howdy and shake our
hands... he is in charge of the campsite, and quite a lot else in the
surrounding area, and having seen the article in the local paper,
figured we might be stopping by. It was great to meet him and hear
about the history of the local area. As often is the casd, we also hear
about the flood of 97, and Ron told us that where we were currenly
standing (in the campsite, some 20+ feet above the current river level,
and probably 10 feet above the top of the bank) was over 18 feet
underwater in the flood... quite amazing! He very kindly gave us the
camping FOC too, which was awesome, so a big cheers to Ron...!
Ron left, we got set up, dried out the wet gear from the damp morning,
washed up, and whilst I was sorting out some kit, preparing dinner etc,
Kev went to the picnic shelter, and power-points, to get some of his
updates typed up.
It was there that he got to 'meet' the other
side of the people-you-meet coin... He was sat typing when some other
campers arrived back at their site (which was a mess, so we should
maybe have figured what they were like).
They were about 20 feet
the other side of the picnic shelter, so about 50 feet from Kev. Kev
waved a Hi, but got no response other than some kind of grunt, so
deceided it'd be best to ignore them. Then, Dad, drunk as a skunk said
"What's that clown doing over there", shortly followed by walking over
with his axe, and banging it back and forth for a few moments on the
side of the shelter. What colour are cooked lobsters...? And what holds your head to your shoulders...? Yep, that was this family to a tee...
wisely, still ignored him, and a while later (after much abuse to the
dog, and discussing the merits of alcohol, drugs and intoxication with
his kids) I walked over to see Kev, and we got "Look at those pussies
with their hair-nets"... referring to the mozzie head net Kev was
wearing... and I wasn't!
Wisely again, Kev advised I didn't say
or do anything, and we walked back to our side of the park.... I did
feel like asking the idiot "How's your sister then?" but I think it
might have gone over his inbred head.
Fortunately for us, we
had a fantastic end to the night, as a chap, Wayne, and his wife Sharon were
in their motor-home near us, and we were very kindly invited to a
bloody awesome dinner of BBQ chicken and fried potatoes!! WOW! To eat
like a king when you are 'roughing it' is a real treat, so we both send
a huge HI and thank you again to those guys...!
very satisfied from a great dinner and some great conversation, we bid
a goodnight to our fellow travellers, and headed off to our tents.
night was quite crisp, but surprisingly dry, so we woke to completely
dry gear, and luckily, were up early enough (at 0600) to avoid any
After a quick pack-up and a lugging the
boats to the boat ramp session, we got to enjoy a somewhat new and
novel way of entering the water. In the spirit of a boat launching...
"I name this ship", but minus the breaking of champagne, we plopped our
boats into the mud at the top of the ramp, and proceeded to glide with
great grace and poise straight down into the river. Great fun!
you may have noticed, I comment on the weather and the river conditions
quite a lot... and that's mainly because that's what we pay most
attention to. Anything else is a sometime welcome, sometimes not,
So, the day started out still quite crisp, so we
paddled in gloves and jackets for an hour or so until the air warmed up
enough to shed layers. As the day progressed, the warmth
increased, but so did the wind. We've started to see more little
islands in the river, which break up the day a bit. Mostly because the
river currents swirl and change around them, so you have to be on your
game and paying attention because if not, you can suddenly get swept
off sideways. It is fun to have to suddenly paddle like buggery to get
where you want to go... yes, it is... really!
We both agree,
doing this trip solo would probably drive you nuts, as although it
sounds very adventurous, (and yeah, it is) and although we are
actually having fun, it can also get a bit boring and tiresome...
paddling into the current, often with a head wind is tiring, but seeing
the same mud banks, with very little new scenery is a bit tedious.
So to have some swirly water give you a good shove is kinda fun.
also enjoy spotting the odd deer and eagle still, and as I said
earlier, yesterday was The Day of the Beaver, without a doubt.
on with the day... We stopped for lunch at one of the swirly-water
islands, as it had a small rock beach area to easily stop at, and as we
had some special stuff for lunch, this was a much anticipared and
Avocado, fresh tomato, mayo, cheese and
garlic bologna sandwiches! All freshly made sitting there watching the
river run by... bloody magic!
Yes, lunchtime is looked forward to right about 10 minutes after paddles get wet for the first time that day...!
sat and pondered on stuff for a while whilst lunch settled, then pushed
off for the afternoons 12 miles, making a total of 23 for the day.
the way we saw a new bit of wildlife for a change; wild turkeys. I
managed to be more successful with a pic of them (below left) than I
have the beaver, but then they are much slower and don't tend to dive
We also saw another unusual sight... a boat in
the river! Well, if it had been a boat the right way up, that would
have been something, as we have seen NOTHING for days, but this was
even better... I think the pic below right says it all!
that's the bow hull of an overturned small boat... that won't be going
anywhere anytime soon! Our other source of amusement fr the afternoon
was getting to see Kevin on TV, river-crap style: The
nights campsite was back to basics again, and back to mozzie-death too.
We found a decent beach to stop at, hauled the boats up into the long
grass, and then covered up to stop being dinner...
unpacked all we needed, we beat a path up through the grass to the
trees, where we found a sweet bit of level ground to pitch on. The
light was fading, so we threw on the headlamps and set up, and I went
off to dig my 'bathroom' hole ready for the morning... it's a new thing
I've taken to do to avoid any unneccessary mozzie exposure time... It's
the little things that make it amusing!
Once set and ready, and
fed up with the usual insects, we crashed into our tents and had a cold
dinner right out of the tin... and chicken n dumplings never tated
finer! Being under the trees made for a fairly warm and sheltered
night, and we were going to call this campsite "Grotto 3", but as that was a bit un-original and lame, Kev has
re-named it "The Zoo" for good reason;
During the night we had a
regular animal orchestra of sound... Chipmonks squeaking, deer
grunting, geese honking, turkeys gobbling, sheep baa-ing and coyotes howling... quite
impressive, IF I WASN'T TRYING TO SLEEP!! We couldn't really blame the
deer for grunting at us though, as we had pretty much set up camp on
his path through the woods to his drinking hole.
Cool to hear the coyotes though, but next time, make it a bit later than 0300 please guys!
Entry #11. September 21st 2008
The good, the bad and the plain stupid... and the bloody awesome too!
1) The Good.
We got a great early start, and
although we had experienced all the noises during the night, were
feeling pretty good and were up at 0530, paddles wet and moving by
0630. The fast pack up was partly due to practice, but also due to
necessity, as the mozzies were thick and fast.
Mozzies aside, it
was a great early morning on the river, it was calm and peaceful, and
by 0730, we'd stripped off the gloves and paddle-jackets and were
enjoying the easy paddling in the rising sunlight.
we rounded a bend to pass under a bridge we came across a huge crane on
a pontoon, where they were constructing a new bridge to replace the old
one. Taking the opportunity, we rafted up at some logs and had
breakfast, whilst watching the eagles soar overhead.
The rest of the morning passed surprisingly easily and quickly, and we were pretty pleased to have covered 12 miles by 12 noon.
dry ground now that the river is even lower is a bit of a mission, but
by 1230, we were sat, slightly muddy footed, up on a bank having
gourmet sangers again... adding mayo and avocado really make a
sandwich! So lunch was a nice, sunny affair, and I even caught a few
Zzz's for 20 minutes...
2) The Bad.
we set off from lunch, I noticed Kev had lost a shoe... As they are
covered in mud, he leaves them on the back deck of the kayaks, where,
normally, they sit fine. Unfortunately, whilst rocking his boat to get
it free of the muddy bank, it seems one shoe made a break for freedom,
and after a quick search, was no-where to be found... It is
probably back in Grand Forks by now.
Somewhat miffed, but also
pragmatic about it, Kev pushed on with me, and we paddled on south...
and as we rounded the next bend, the wind, our old invisible nemesis,
came back right in our faces to make the afternoon a lot less
pleasurable than the morning.
The remaining 7 miles to Halstad
boat-ramp felt like 70... shoulders, arms and hands were numb and
burning, all at the same time, as well as us both having red wind-burnt
Once arriving at the nice clean, easily accesible ramp, a
small ray of light in an otherwise dark afternoon, we discovered that
the supposed camping was in fact not allowed... so we were unsure as to
what to do. Fortunatley, we met Randy, who is a total legend... but
I'll get back to him shortly, because I have to briefly mention...
3) The Plain Stupid.
Kev and I were setting up our tents and unpacking our kit, a guy came
wandering over, and neither kev nor I were getting a good vibe...
especially as he kept nosing around the boats, trying to look into the
tents, and asking what gear we have with us. We also wern't so keen on
the statement "Don't worry if ytou hear noises here at 0400, it's just
me... I come for a walk here before work every day".
eventually, he left as Kev went to go into town, but not before
offering the best bit of dumb-ass advice we've heard in quite a
while... (and bear in mind, he'd just been checking out the kayaks so could see just how big thay are..!)
"When you get to Fargo, you know the buses yeah?
You know the thing on the front for bikes? You could put your kayaks on
that to get around the city"
For those of you that don't
understand due to lack of local info, not stupidness, here's the deal:
Public buses often have fold- down racks on the front and back of them
to put bicycles on. 2 bikes on the front, 2 on the back. Most buses are about
8 to 10 feet wide, so a bike sits plenty inside of that width.
Our kayaks are 17 feet wide. Anyone see the problem here?
a good chuckle about that afterwards... we have't decided if it's
better or worse than our previous winner. We were asked "Aren't you
guys scared about kayaking in the river..? What about sharks?"... You
4) The bloody awesome.
mentioned earlier, Kev and I were fortunate enough to meet Randy, just
as we were wondering what to do and where to camp. Randy popped down
the ramp as he was out and about on his quad, checking stuff out, and
came over to say Hi.
Within 5 minutes, after running Kev over to
where there IS camping (near the bridge, but very rough and rocky) he
was back and said he'd speak to the mayor, and we'd be OK to camp at
the boatramp for the night.
Then he asked if we needed anything (Kev
promptly said chocolate ice-cream... and Randy delivered too!), and
before we knew it, he loaned us a spare truck, offered us the use of
his shower, his hot tub, and even food from the pantry !!
did the run to town for food, and to have a wash as I watched the gear,
but due to time, and the fact I don't have a valid drivers licence, I
opted out of the wash. It was getting dark too, and after Stupids
visit, plus a few other dudes mooching about, we didn't want to leave
just one of us alone watching the gear at night. Kev certainly looked
and smelled better though, so I was happy for him. Plus he brought back
a huge sub sammy, Mountain Dew, and even freshly baked cookies straight
from the oven!
Randy and Kevin
Randy, you are a gentleman and a scholar, and we thank you and your family for your amazing generosity and kindness!
We were 2 very happy campers that evening, I can tell you!
our happy full bodies were rudely awakened at 0030 when the lightning
storm hit and continued to nail us through the night until about 0630
when it finally let up. So we didn't feel too clever this morning after
2 hours sleep...
So now, after a fairly short day day of 16 odd
miles, we are sat in our tents, having been brutally punished all
morning by 50 mph winds, tired, sore and ready to get some sleep... The
afernoon wasn't so bad, as the river got winding again, so we had
places to shelter, but the long southbound straights we paddled down
this morning had already done the damage.
I'm gonna save this now, and turn in...
Oh, and by the way, we've named this campsite Mosquito Hill. Need I say any more?
Entry #12. September 25th 2008Feelin' fine in FargoOH! MY! GOD! Wow...
we are feelin' a heck of a lot better! We have made it to Fargo, ND,
have got ourselves full of Taco Bell, and are washed, shaved, and ready
to hit the spa!
But to recap the past few days...
night spent at Mosquito Hill was unfortunately, another rough one...
mostly for me at least... Kev got some reasonable sleep, but the
roaring wind in the trees was so darn noisy, I couldn't fall
asleep much. I got probably about 2 hours sleep again, which really wasn't enough by a long shot.
get away good and early, paddles wet at 0620... 3 guesses as to
why we didn't take a leisurely breakfast. Little blood sucking ba#@ards!
morning wasn't too bad, but as lunch approached, my aches and pains
were increasing at the same rate as my tiredness. I was almost nodding
off whilst paddling... I must have actually zonked out fully once (but
my arms were still paddling) cos I suddenly came to and was
headingstraight for the riverbank..!
4-odd hours sleep
over the past 2 days just isn't enough to rest joints and muscles, as
well as accidental injuries:
Kev was paddling in to beach his kayak
next to mine as we were finding a place to rest (2 attempts before we
settled on Mosquito Hill)... I was already beached, ready to get ouit
and inspect the area, and wasn't paying attention to where Kev was. He
had some pace, and was looking at where to put his paddle to steer in,
but came in quicker than he expected, and I ended up with the nose of
his kayak punching me in the ribs, knocking me 6 inches forward out of
my seat... so by lunchtime the next day, my left shoulders old injury
was aching and in a huge knot, and my old reliable power stroke on the
right side was not happening either due to my bruised ribs.
I think Kev felt as bad about it as I did, but in an emotional way...!
I limped forward at a mediocre 2.8 mph rather than the normal 3.5-4 mph
we have built up to, but the iPod is a great friend to keep you ticking
along, until we'd knocked out a respectable, even for long slow tired
day, 23.5 miles.
We were aiming for a primitive campsite (no
bathrooms, water etc) for the night, but as we got near there, huge
rifle-shots rang out, so we started to have doubts about pitching in
in at a rocky jetty, Kev did his usual recce up to the farm house the
other side of the cow pasture that the river bordered.
with the good news that the farmer was cool for us to camp anywhere we
liked... as long as we were't scared of cows! Hauling the kayaks up and
out of the river was a bit of a mission, but once we were up the top,
we pitched next to some sheds and began to settle down for the night.
usual deal is we pitch tents, get out bed stuff ready, then sit and
yarn, go over the day, write up thoughts, heat up some food and maybe
take pics of the sunset, camp-site, whatever.
The past few campsites
have been so mosquito infested, and this one was the same, that once
the tents are pitched (whilst wearing long pants, jackets and
mozzie-head-nets, sweating like mad) we throw any needed gear in the
tents, then jump in after it, zip up and begin mozzie-check. Once any
and ALL mozzies in the tent are squished, then it's time to settle
in... I usually have a cat-wash, get my bed ready, then eat.
All was going to bad-mozzie-spot plan when like flicking a switch, we got NAILED by a storm squall... totally NAILED!
mph winds just blasted us, almost flattening the tents. We jumped
out to see what the heck was going on as big fat rain-drops began
to fall. About a mile away, and closing fast, was the rain proper.
did the dash to the farmhouse and asked the farmer if it'd be OK to
re-pitch in the shelter of one of the buildings, and he said we could
just go in the barn if we wanted... which we did!
emptying and bundling up madly-flapping tents, we legged-it to the
shelter of the barn. The night was spent on a level hard floor, much
quieter than the previous nights, and aside from a visit from the farm
cat, we were undisturbed, so got a pretty good amount of Zzzz's.
we got up early (well, when you go to sleep before 9pm, it's not that
hard to do!) at 0530 and were off to do the same thing again by 0645...
Getting the boats back down to the river was easier than getting them
out, but it still took a while as we had to get them across the cow
After September 11, the US government made it law
that every place in the US have a proper address, so this farm actually
had a road number... it was 1492, so this campsite was named 1492:
Cowpasture of Paradise. If you don't get it, you don't follow history or watch many
movies I guess... I'll let you figure it out anyway...
off we paddled, again into the rising sun, enjoying the now still
morning, and looking forward to just one more sleep till Fargo. Which
prompted a short round of singing "One-More. Sleep. Till Fargo" to the
tune of (yeah, pretty obvious) the Beastie Boys "No Sleep till
river was running slower, the wind was non-existent and having had a
fair bit more sleep that night, we had a pretty damn good day, knocking
out a solid 25 miles.
Along the way, we've seen our fair share
of machinery parts, car parts, even whole cars... but for some reason,
I just really liked these old white-walls sticking up out of a pile of
found another camp-spot and called it 'Fargo Peninsular", but then we
realised we were actually in Minnesota... (Fargo is in North Dakota,
the other side of the river)... so now it is "NOT Fargo Peninsular".
we'd put in the miles the day before, getting into Fargo was an easy 12
miles today. For the first time, we also saw an official "Red River of
the North" mile marker sign... very worth a picture:
met the local TV station WDAY, at one of the boatramps we had to use to
portage around one of 2 dams and had an interview there... 5 hours
later, we saw ourselves on the 5 o'clock news... kinda cool!
we reached Linderman Park, where there was carry-in (or in our case,
carry-out) access, we got the boats land-lubbed, on wheels, and began
to roll into town.
We'd not got 200m through suburbia when we
passed a great lady, Maureen, at her garage, who said hi, and
naturally, asked what we were up to, and why we were wheeling kayaks
down the street.
We got chatting with her, telling her our
story, and within 10 minutes she'd had our kayaks stored in her garden,
and was running us into town! We found a motel, a Taco Bell and a DQ,
and by 1600, were all set. We walked back to Maureens and had another
good yarn for 20 minutes before getting the rest of the stuff we needed
(laundry mainly), and again, she was wonderful enough to drive us back
to the motel.
So now, having just soaked ourselves in the very
hot spa (39C/100F approx!!) we are ready to crash hard... but first I
have to add pictures to this and upload it...
Tomorrow we'll be checking out the 'Go and hitting WallyWorld (Walmart) hard for stuff we need...
gonna get a small voice recorder like Kevs so I can give myself small
voice memos as I paddle along like Kev does... that way I might
remember more stuff to write here at the end of the day!
OK, gotta go...
Bye for now!
Entry #13. October 2nd 2008Things lost and found...The 2 rest days in Fargo were just what we needed, and we used them as wisely as we could;
goes without saying that he spa got some serious use each day, and also
Taco Bell was visited more than once too... it was just over the road
Well, the first day we caught the public bus to
Walmart, which turned out to be a long way out... the bus was only $1,
but we had to go all the way to one side of town to change the first
bus for a second, which took us all the way to the other side of town
where Walmart was... at least we got to see what was where... and we
then knew we might have to taxi back, as Wayne and Sharon had called
and were very kind to offer to take us out for dinner.
had most of what we needed, so after getting some cheap groceries, my
voice recorder (which I amusing to great effect right now!) and a pair
of fleece sleep pants for me, we had some lunch at a new place (for me
at least) called Schlotzki's. "Funny Name, Great Sandwiches" is their
logo, and it was correct. The Roast Beef was bloody awesome.
had also hit Sportsmans Mountain for the small bit of gear we needed
(new headnet for Kev, as he's lost his first one, and an insulating
liner for my sleeping bag) but although at first excited by the ghuge
store, we quickly became disappointed by what they actually had when it
came to what we wanted... There were no liners for me, and the head-net
Kev got was so opaque he could barely see through it.
enquiring about any other outfitters, we found the mega-store that is
Scheels. 2 huge floors of everything outdoors... Kayaks, mountain
bikes, rifles, pistols, bows, knives, tents, soccer gear, hockey gear,
golf, fishing rods, fishing boats... you name it, they have it. And
they had my liner, so I was stoked.
As we were leaving to head
back to the motel, we got a call from Wayne, who was almost in town, so
we met them back at Walmart, and as Wayne piloted the wagon thru town,
Sharon navigated us through the traffic to yet another first for me on
this trip... TGI Friday!
It was great to see the guys again,
and we had a great evening chatting about travel and adventures ands
the like over an awesome dinner, so again, Kevin and I say a HUGE thank
you to 2 great folk... Wayne and Sharon, as we say down under...
"You're (both) a bloody legend!"
Me, Wayne, Sharon and Kevin.
a great feed, we pretty much slept like logs, and enjoyed a lazy 0800
breakfast before doing what was really needed... Laundry! Some of the
wet clothes were reeking like ammonia, so it was VERY good to get them
washed, clean and dry.
After that was done, and some more hard-core
spa-action, we felt the need for a feed, so headed off to get some
'Zaa... That's Pizza to the non-New Yorkers out there.
the pizza, although a bargain at $7 all-you-can-eat, was a bit of a let
down, and left us both feeling a bit odd, so we figured the best course
of action was to go to DQ again, and have another huge chocolate ice
cream... but again, we were to be let down, as it was more like a runny
chocolate shake, without all the good bits of brownies in it.
than end the night on a low, we resorted back to the old faithful and
my new favourite, the Stuft (yes, that's how it is spelt) Grilled Burrito from Taco Bell. I dunno how
much weight I am actually gonna lose on this trip after all... but they taste so darn goooood!
morning, after waffles for breakfast, we headed out of the motel and on
up to Maureens place to load up the kayaks. That's when we realised
we'd left the sandwich meat and pâté at the motel... 25 minutes walk
back... grrrr. So they were the first items 'lost'. Gutted!
Maureen came out to say hi and goodbye, and we cannot thank her enough again for looking after our boats... what a star!
to the river, we stopped at the carry in access to give an interview to
the local paper... the article can be seen HERE. (Article no longer
we had said our bit, and had some pix taken, we dropped into the river
only to realise our arms had suddenly been raplaced by lumps of lead...
or at least that was how it felt! Holy Moly, we ached like heck... and
true to form, the day was totally different to the previous day. The
sun was shining, the weather was all fine with a nice northerly breeze
at our backs... on our day off. Which of course meant we were paddling
into a stiff cold southerly on an overcast 12 degree morning! Strewth!
we got to the next dam, and another (fortunately short and paved)
portage, it became time for shiftin' timber, as there was a bunch of
driftwood laying across the boatramp, so Kev hopped out to clear the
path for us.
was had at another boatramp, but although the wind was still against
us, the sun was out at last. The mornings paddle, although a bit
chilly, had some new scenery too: all the wonderfully manicured lawns
of the huge houses of South Fargo, ND! Almost picture perfect,,
complete with stripes, colourful flower-beds and the odd, palacial
tree-house. Being Sunday, the noise of sit-on lawnmowers and the great
smell of fresh-cut grass filled the air.
We had summer-sausage sandwiches instead of the planned feast of pâté or
cold-cuts, but it was still tasty, and as always, the avocado, and the
mayo (taken from DQ!) made it even better... After the feeding, the
re-packing was done, as in the rush to get to Maureens, then get to the
river in time to meet the paper, we'd pretty mush stuffed, squashed and
shoved our gear into the boats any which way possible, so
reorganisation was much needed.
Arriving in camp and not having
what you need right to hand is not the best plan, especially if it
decides to rain. Plus you are too darn tired to search for stuff, so it
needs to be in the right spot...Once that was done, we pushed off
again, easily thanks to the boat ramp.
were slightly less than usual, probebly due to the cold night and crisp
morning air, so we were reasonably pleased. There were a few people out
boating too, so that also made a change to the river-scenery, although
there was one pillock who clearly didn't think kayaks were worthy river
traffic, as he didn't slow his speed as he passed us, so we had to kake
sure we turned into the wake and rode it out as he blasted past.
next guy was much more considerate dropping his revs, and his boat-nose
down to a slow chug to pass us, complete with a nice friendly wave and
howdy... good man!
For some reason, today seemed to be the day
for seeing tables and chairs along the river... some are most likely
kids being silly, as they look to have been removed from outside a fast
food joint or similar, but others are probably someones favourite
fishing spot. Either way, it was something worthy of a picture, just
for the basic oddity of it!
Unfortunately, around mid-afternoon, I had the (so far) best balls-up of the trip... by completely capsizing my kayak!
the best of my efforts, to say the least, and as I said to Kev at the
time (well, later once I caught up with him...) no matter how many
times you do it, practicing or otherwise, it's still not much fun at
all, and can be a bit scary..!
I was paddling along, a ways
behind Kevin, as I'd been stopping to take pictures, plus his kayak
cuts a bit better than mine (although mine does turn easier, but that
has already been mentioned!).
I heard a bit of a clunk from the
stern, and found I couldn't steer, so peering around behind me, I saw a
tree branch had somehow come up under my kayak and wedged around my
rudders main pivot pin, preventing it turning properly. I tried
wiggling it loose and raising the blade, but wasn't having much luck...
and whilst doing so, hadn't watched where I was going. Which was
straight into a low overhanging tree.
I turned to get a face
full of leaves, I tried laying back and limbo-ing under, but a wayward
branch (another one!) managed to snag in the shoulder strap of my PFD
(personal flotation device for those that are not 'down' with the
paddle-lingo), resulting in me getting dragged up and back, causing the
to tip over to the port-side. (That's the left, OK?!)
usually, we would (and some may say should) be wearing our
spray-skirts, and although I am sure there are some paddlers out there
who will berate us for this, due to it being calm and flat, and a hot
day, we were paddling 'sans spray-skirt'. So the river just flooded in
to my cockpit, flipping me over like a burger on a grill. As if my
unceremonious dunking wasn't bad enough, my new Platypus water bottle
came loose and began to sail back towards Fargo.
As the cockpit
was flooded, although I could roll the boat back right-side-up, it was
too full and therefore the boat too heavy to float with me on it. If I
had been wearing the spray skirt, once upside down, I would have
released it and me to do a 'wet-exit' leaving an air-bubble in the cockpit,
so when righted, with a swift and careful flick, there would be minimal
water in there so I could re-board and pump/mop out whatever there was
and get back on paddling.
Having no choice but to pump it out
whilst staying in the water, I decided to swim and tow the boat into
the nearby bank, all whilst watching my water bottle make its break for
Once knee deep in river mud again, I pumped like a
mad-man then mopped up the rest with my boat-sponge, re-entered my
vessel, and dashed off to re-capture the Platypus.
back into the current, I began a somewhat soggy (but due to the lovely
sunshine) though warm paddle to find Kevin. He was waiting a mile or so
down river, wondering where I was, and was quite shocked and surprised
to hear of my escapdes. We have since made sure we don't get out
of sight of each other for more than about 10 minutes. Also, that
should keep us within hearing distance of our whistles, because when I
capsized Kev didn't hear my 3 blasts to let him know of a problem, and
I didn't hear his single long blasts to say 'turn on your
walkie-talkie'... so as neither of us heard the blasts we blew, it
was time to be more particular... lessons
I didn't get off with just a wash either, as at some point
during the whole debacle, I must have kicked something underwater, as I
have a nice gouge across the top of my left foot. It's not going troppo
on me (Aussie term for gooey, infected, green, yukky... you get the
drift) but it does sting somewhat... But Kev and I will use it as a
learning and adapting tool, much like everything we experience, good
and bad, along this journey!
around 1700, we passed the Wild Rice River outlet, and began looking
for a place to camp. The riverbanks on the Minnesota side of the river
were low and well wooded, and only a few hundred yards past the
river outlet, we spotted a nice small clearing and a very easy access
low bank, and decided to call it a day. I had dried off quite a bit,
but, probably quite understandably, was feeling pretty spent and ready
to stop. Kev could dig it for sure, so we made camp quickly and easily,
although then I had the joy of cleaning out and attempting to dry out
all that needed it. My bulkhead was still leaking a bit, so a bunch of
groceries were a bit soggy, but given that they were just some veggies,
they were easily recscued. And thank goodness for being picky about
dry-bagging everything, as it meant all my nice new fleece sleep-wear
stuff was still clean and dry.
Once all was as dry as possible,
bathroom-hole pre-dug (very important!) and dinner was had (tin of soup again), I cleaned up and bandaged my
foot, before settling in for the night.
The night was pretty brisk,
getting down to 5 degrees, but thanks to my fleece top, new pants,
thick socks and Reactor liner I didn't need my thermals, although I'm
sure I did look like a giant maggot, what with the hood cinched tight
around my face!
Kev noticed the drop too, but again, the bag he
has of mine is pretty decent right down to 0, but like me, he was in
his sleep gear too. If it gets much colder, I will be adding my
thermals under the fleece gear though.
Either that, or I might get
the sleeping bag Tom has, the Mountain Hardware Phantom 32, which he
rates very highly... we'll see if he spots it on offer first!
next morning, brisk and cold as it was at 9 degrees, there were no
mosquitos and no problems launching the boats into a slightly
misty-river morning, just as the light began to creep into the day.
jacketed and gloved up, all was going well until I realised (about 8
miles too late) that I'd forgotten my little braided rope and 2
carabiners... I'd used it as a clothes line to try and dry stuff the
previous evening, and in the darkness of the morning, had totally
missed it, so I was somewhat miffed... first my gloves, then a
carabiner (I dropped it into the river accidently a while ago), my
sit-pad, (then the lunch meat), and now my rope and 2 more 'biners. I
don't think I have ever lost or misplaced so many items on a trip
before! One thing I had found, or rediscovered if you like, was a
drippy cold nose! I've not felt that in ages, but it isn't exactly
something I missed!!
One section of the river we came upon was
so full of driftwood and fallen trees that at first it looked like we
were going to be getting out to portage, but luckily, as we got closer,
a small, zig-zagging navigable channel was discovered.
We had 2
portages we DID have to do though, both at dams. On the map we have, it
says in big letters NO IDENTIFIABLE PORTAGE! so it meant we had to wing
The first dam had a decent rocky beach, so we were able to get
out and up n around the dam fairly easily... fairly meaning with a load
of heaving, grunting and hard physical exertion to lift and carry 2
60-odd kilo each kayaks up and over an 8m bank! Once up there we decided it
was as good a spot as any for lunch, before having to use some fancy
climbing and rappelling-style techniques to get the boats, and
ourselves back into the water.
The bank was atill about 3 m above
the water, and on a good 45-50 degree slope, although we found a
slightly shallower 'V' in the bank that we lowered the boats, on rope,
down and into the water.
We then ran the rope around a convenient
tree, and using the now floating boats as anchors, 'rappelled' down the
other end of the rope to the waterline and gingerly got ourselves
seated. Then all we had to do was unhook each others rope from the nose
of the kayaks, pull the ropes up and around the tree and coil them back
into the bag.
Pretty neat and safe! I was happy...!
second dam of the day was right at the end of the paddle, and our
planned stop for the night, although once we got out and did a recce,
the "POSTED: NO TRESPASSING" sign was a bit of a downer. Kev ran up the
road a bit, and managed to get cell-phone reception, call directory
enquiries, and get the number of the owner of the farm, but he appeared
to not be home so we couldn't ask his permission.
As we still
had to get past the dam anyway, and given that we were pretty darn
tired, we unloaded the boats making a few trips up and down until they
were pretty empty, and much easier to lug up through the pebbles and
sand, the dirt, leaves and twigs, and finally the grass, up to the
trees and the path there.
Kev then ran a bit further up the road
to a house to discover the son of the property owner lived there, and
we were given full permission to camp! Sweet! It was cold, but
wonderfully quiet, and the sunset was fantastic. Ignoring the
plummeting temperature, we stood and watched the light fade out of the
day, taking umpteen photos of it. I also managed to get Tom on the
phone, so had a great chat to him, discussing his recent hike, and our
thoughts on the tenst we have (we have the same new tents) as well as
new gear we are using, and kinda testing, for the PCT next year.
But back to the sunset... well... see for yourself!
thing we have both noticed, somewhat happily, is that (as you may have
noticed earlier), there isn't much mention of old Mr Gumbo anymore...
Yep, he's been left behind, replaced for the most part by Simple Sand.
Much less sticky and lasting!
As is the way of the paddle, we have lots
of time to ponder on things, and I am reckoning that we are down to
less than 5% gumbo. To begin with, without doubt, 100% gumbo. Sticky,
messy, and un-washable. Then we got a bit of mud on the scene, and the
gumbo-mud combo was easier to wash, but still hung around.
It did dry out a bit moire though, and could be brushed off... gumbo took something like 4 weeks to dry...
we had muddy sand... it was a bit sticky and built up, but it dried
quick and flaked off well, as well as washed off easily.
on easy street... the mostly sand mix hardly sticks on, doesn't build
up, and if you so much as shake a water bottle at it, it pretty much
falls off you... so yeah, we're happy. And yeah, we have too much time
to think about this kind if thing!!
OK, well, this is a pretty
large update, and as we are now in Wahpeton, ND, I am gonna save
this and upload it so you have something new to read, then get on and
write up the rest of the past few days tomorrow...
Looking forward to any feedback or Hiyas from anyone out there too... don't forget you can email me or leave your mark
at my websites 'Visitors Mark' which is another way of saying
Gue#*B**k... but you can't say that or else get spammed to hell...!
Aggh, spam death! No thanks...
Entry #14. October 3rd 2008
The start of the Bois de Sioux...
said, we have made it to the end of the Red River, at last... We are in
Wahpeton, ND. As we pulled some hard paddle-miles and got here 1 day
ahead of schedule, we have taken 2 days off here too. Kev has had his
PC posted here, so we are making the most of the time and wifi to get
our updates written up and posted.
But to recap the past few days...
was 5 degrees BC (bloody cold!) when we left Christine Dam at 0600,
with just enough light creeping into the day to see what we were doing
through the clouds of fog we were breathing out. A less than graceful
shove down a bank, again roped on to the bow, got the kayaks
water-bound again. After that, more careful balancing and stratchig got
us seated and we began to paddle southwards. I had my watch strapped to
the deck to get a decent temperature reading, and by 0700, it had risen
to a balmy 13 degrees... still dripping-nose territory, but an
improvement over 5 anyway.
Rounding a bend, we became aware of a
presence from above... and I looked up to see a large horse peering
down at us from the bank above, a rather bemused expression on his long
face. It must have been something new, fun and different for him
though, as he got all excited and gallopped around and along the bank
for a while following us... quite fun for me too!
covered again by the same ghostly spectral mist we have seen on the
past few mornings, and it lingered longer than usual as although it was
much lighter by now, the thick white blanket of cloud was keeping the
sun from burning it away. It wasn't until around lunchtime, much to our
joy, that the sun finally broke through and the clouds cleared.
turned out to be the Day of the Wrecked Car... we have seen a fair
amount of old cars, trucks, farm machinery, sinks, boats and
goodness-knows what else in the river and on the banks, but today
really was quite the mother-load!
we figure in some cases, the land
at the back end of the property (where old stuff would, or apparently
does, get dumped) finally slides into the eroding river, especially on
the outside bends. Plus there are probably the odd people who just
plain old push it in... either way, there were some old classics given
way to rust, wreck and ruin...
Entry #16. October 5th 2008
of the afternoon was a pretty nice paddle, sans-shirt at a (seriously
now) balmy 25 degrees...quite a difference to the start of the day for
sure... but as the evening drew closer, fatigue was creeping in,
shoulders and hands were complaining a bit, so by the time the boat
ramp at Fort Abercrombie came into view, we were more than ready to pull up and pitch tents for the night.
light was fading, the sun being 2 fingers up off the horizon, so we
wheeled up to the picnic area and began the recce of the Fort... which
was now closed for the season unfortunately.
Whilst Kev did the
1 mile trot into Abercrombie town, I watched the gear and got some more
sunset photos (can you ever really have too many..? I don't think
so...) and then got chatting to a local fella named Larry who filled us
in on some of the local history which was cool, and as he works at the
Fort during the summer, we had his official OK to camp there which is
always good to have.
short while later, having set up the tents and had a gourmet dinner of
(wait for it....) cold tin-o-soup again, we had the cops do 3 drive-bys
before pulling in to see us. As it turned out, it was cop singular, and
he was just doing a regular check on the Fort, as some of the local
dip-shit kids sem to think it's "rad" and "cool" to vandalise stuff...
and not the new visitor centre either... oh no, much better... they
vandalise the hostoric artifacts and buildings... Idiots.
Mr Poh-Leese-Man had a chat with us, and after we told him what we were
doing etc, his words were "Well, I don't have a problem with that" so
we had 2 verbal passes to camp... solid!
It was a late turn in,
hitting the pillow by 2100, and the night was VERY crisp and clear, so
again, we maggotted-up cocoon-like in our sleeping bags, and started
Wednesday morning, another early start with tons
of river mist... "Spectral ghostly shapes, eminating from the silky
smooth surfave of the inky dark water" as I waxed lyrically to my voice
Kev was a shadowy figure ahead of me in the morning
mist, albeit a slightly smurfy-shadowy-figure what with his pointy
beany n all, but it was still a pretty cool sight, with the first
pinkish colours of the day creeping in above the banks.
the sun had got a bit higher in the cloudless sky, it began to warm up
a lot quicker than the day before, and it wasn't long before we began
'temperature management protocol'.
This is a highly advanced technique for keeping yourself at optimum operating temperature.
warm? Remove hat. Too warm still? Roll up sleeves/remove gloves. Cold?
Put back on gloves/hat. Getting sweaty? remove paddle jacket. Stop for
break and get cold? Replace paddle jacket.
It takes some
thinking about, but you get the hang of it after a while... and it's
another one of the things that we get to occupy our brains with as we
paddle along. That and how coldour toes have been getting, so a pair of
aqua-socks or similar are probably in our future.
Not that we
are not enjoying it, but there are the odd times the cry of "Boring!"
or actually in the more Andy Pipkin style of "Bharrh-rinn!" gets yelled
out, but then that in itself makes it silly, and therefore more
interesting... yes, we do have a loit of time to ponder on dumb stuff...
back to the river. The sun was now up over the far banks and
lancinggreat beans of golden light down onto the river, cutting through
the departing mist, making for some awesome sights... One such sight
inspired me to take a photo for a mate of mine and his lovely new
wifey...(he knows who he is... and he'd better be bloody reading this
Here's one of the pix, although not their one, as I am saving it just for them... but this one is almost as nice.
noticed certain parts of the river were beginning to get a bit
shallower, the water cutting around the bends a bit faster, so paddling
was having to become a bit more aggressive in places. Sometimes it
almost felt like the water had turned to tar, as the paddle blades
seemed to be having little effect. Slowly but surely though, me made it
happen, and the miles ebbed by. The glorious sunshine certainly made it
all more pleasant though.
That was until the river got much shallower again in more places... then in started to get a bit old a lot quick!
boats don't have a huge draft (the depth of water from the surface to
the bottom, or keel, of the boat) but we do need at least about 6
inches of water to not run aground.
Also, the deeper the water, the
better we can get a fully-wet paddle blade, because slapping the
surface of the water with the edge of a blade really doesn't do much.
Well, it does a lot actually, but nothing productive.
wrecks your arms as you slam rocks, and burrs up your paddle blades
too. Plus it causes you to get really tired and annoyed, but it
certainly doesn't propel you forward!
The hour leading up to
lunch was spent paddle-slapping far too much, but that was nothing to
what we encountered after as we knocked out the last 12 miles to the
headwaters in Wahpeton. (Headwater is where the river officially
For the remaining 12 miles, about every 1 to 1.5 miles
we hit the shallow, weir-like rocky spots, often running totally
aground. Arms and paddles flailing like mad, with a whole 3 inches of
water for the paddles to bite into, we looked a right mess... I had the
image of Bambi on ice... wearing greased rollerskates... in a pool of
Often we had no choice but to use our sexy and expensive
carbon fibre paddles as a punt, like the boats in Venice, to stab into
the river bed and push our way forward against the shallow, but very
fast and strong water.
It became incredibly tiring... the end of the
day was drawing near, and even by normal paddle standards, after 24+
miles, we woukd be getting quite tired, but having to unleash explosive
energy every mile or so, trying to run through the deepest part of the
fast-running shallow spots, was exhausting:
Imaging running a
marathon, but after the halfway point, having to sprint all-out, as
hard and fast as you can for 100 to 200 meters every mile until the
finish. That's pretty much what we were doing... with our arms.
nothing broke; us, our boats, or our paddles, but the muscles were
really getting to the end if usefulness. I had my good old Hitsumitsu
heat patch on my left shoulderblade, and it was doing a valiant job of
keeping me the right side of agony, but only just.
I did ponder and
comment to Kev that if they made it in rolls, I might have to get a big
one and mummify myself with the stuff! That gave us a giggle, and so we
pushed on to the last dam of this river, just at the north end of
We understood we needed to portage to the left of the
dam, but there wasn't any clear path, so having stopped at a boatramp
on the right about 200m back to take a pic of the giant catfish, we
headed back there, hoping to portage right instead.
up in the campsite that was above the dam, the vantage point we had
offered us a before unseen path around the left of the dam after all...
we just had to slide ourselves in our kayaks under a tree that was
blocking our earlier view of the path.
The light was fading fast,
the sun being only 3 fingers high from the horizon, so we beat feet,
boats in tow, back to the ramp, and paddled back round to the dam.
under the tree was again limbo-tastic, sucessfully this time though,
and Kev hopped out first onto some broken up concrete that was behind a
small sheltering breakwater wall, keeping the rushing water away from
Much to his surprise, the huge chunk of concrete snapped in
half, but ever-cat-like, he hopped up and away, to safety on the more
solild area and pulled my boat in to solid ground too. We hauled the
kayaks up out of the water and then did a recce to see how and where we
could get in on the other side of the dam.
The path through the
trees was undefined and thick with vines, so we didn't fancy that much.
Right on the edge of the dam there was an old dead tree and some
boulders, so grabbing a low branch in one hand, and Kev with the other,
we both pulled (he pulling me from the better purchase of the dry
ground he was on... I was ankle deep in fast running water) we snapped
the branch back out of the way, giving us better access to clear the
boulders. (They were free range boulders too Tom, you'd have like
Pumped up on adrenalin, we grabbed an end of my kayak
each and pretty much hurdled the boulders, hauling the kayak at the
same time to get over to the bank beyond the top of the dam, and
repeated the process with Kevs boat. Within 10 minutes of arriving at
the dam, we had got out, checked out the options, cleared a path, moved
the boats and were back in, paddling away... by far the quickest
portage we've done yet, and probably one of the more challenging.
Adrenalin, and the desire to be finished is a strong motivator!
we finally reached the headwaters, where the Otter Tail River and the
Bois de Sioux River end and meet to form the Red River of the North.
have heard some good pronounciations of the Bois de Sioux too... We
reckon maybe the name probably came from French-Canadian settlers, and
it means "Woods of Sioux", as in the Sioux Indians. It should be said
"Bwaah duh Soo" but we have heard the local version a lot: "Boys dee
Soo", although my personal favourite was "Boys dee Sooks".
It was 2000 when we finally pulled up at the boatramp,
and after a quick chat with some local fishermen, and being told that
'most people go the other way' for about the 100th time, Kev did his
running recce into town whilst I put the boats on their wheels and
pulled them up into the car park.
There we saw the obelisk that
marks the headwater officially, so before heading down to the becking
light of Pizza Hut down the street (in Breckenridge, MN), we had to get
the knackered-but-feeling-happy-with-ourselves picture;
2 kayaks in the Pizza Hut parking lot got a couple of looks, but we
didn't care. The restaurant was warm, the beer was cold, and the pasta
n pizza went down a treat. Unfortunately, after our feast, we were
faced with the less-than-fun prospect of wheeling back to the boatramp
and over the Otter Tail to the town park, were we intended camping for
the bleedin'-freezin' night.
As we arrived at the park, and
dog-in-a-circle-like wandered to select our pitch spot, out of the
sodium lights glare, a car came roaring around the park, then screeched
to a halt 50 feet from us, killed its lights then sat there motor
running, movie-psycho like. Feeling somewhat uneasy about this, and by
then, both of us had 'tooled up/were carrying, Esse' just incase, we
figured the best course of action was to wheel through town to the
hotel, and see what luck we'd have there. Getting into a motel at
2230 doesn't exactly give you much bargaining power, and we still
didn't know what we could or would do with the 2 17 foot long plastic
vessels we were wheeling either.
But it was better than waiting to
see what nut-job was gonna do. As I said to Kev, he might just be
having an argument with his other half, but as Kev said, he might be
calling his buddies to come and mess with us. We'll never know,
As predicted, wheeling through town garnered more
looks and even prompted some beer-filled bar patrons to spill out onto
the street, probably wondering quite how much they'd had, and did they
REALLY just see what they thought they saw. Ignoring the heckling and
lewd invitations, we plodded on, only to draw the attention of 2
cops... and how it took them 8 blocks to finally get to us, we don't
know... but they were fun, we had a chat and a laugh, and then went on
our way to where we are now. Anothert Rodeway Inn, where the great
owner was very helpful and accomodating, giving usa very good rate on
the biggest damn single motel room I have ever seen. He gave us rags to
wipe down the boats and even helped us carry some of our gear in. And
with a bit of lifting and twisting, the kayaks have also enjoyed a
great nights sleep in plush warm comfort... Kevs kayak even got to
share his enormous bed!
again it is time to get this all uploaded, and pack and prepare for the
next few days on the Boys Dee Sooks, paddling (hopefully) down to Browns Valley where we have our 5 mile portage through the valley to Big Stone Lake, and the start of the Minnesota River.
say paddle hopefully, bacause there is a good chance that the water
levels might be so low we can't paddle and may have to walk some or
most of the 30+ miles to Lake Traverse, which by then should be deep enough to paddle into Browns Valley. We will see!
Either way, we should only be 3-4 days from Big Stone Lake, and there we will no longer be fighting the current... Yeehar!
I doubt I'll post much else until then, but I think this lot should have been enough for the immediate future...
So until next time...
Entry #15. October 4th 2008
Shallow Water Haven.
Well, we're back in the paddle again, to misuse a phrase, and feeling OK.
was a very lazy wake up, rolling out of bed for waffles at nearly 9
o'clock this morning, but what the hey... The waffles and bagels were
great too, and so feeling fine and full, we hefted the boats back out
into the cold crisp air of the parking lot and began the loading
By about 1130, we were ready to roll, literally, and
so off we went back through town, drawing more odd looks and
double-takes from the passers-by. An important stop was made... well, 2
actually. The first was at the post office to send off soem thank-you
notes to a few people, and the second was at SubWay to get ourselves a
good sandwich to go, for a late lunch on the river.
boatramp showed the lowered water levels which didn't bode well for us,
as we knew the Bois de Sioux was a small river to begin with. The
howling southerly wind didn't make us too happy eithet, but "it'll be
what it'll be" is kinda how we take things we can't control, so we
pushed off to start the new rivers journey south.
To begin with,
the paddle was a bit rough as the wind really was blowing right at us,
but once we got a few bends between us and town, the shelter they
provided made for much nicer conditions, and as the current was almost
negligable, to our pleasant surprise, by the time we stopped for lunch
around 1400, we had knocked out 6.5 miles in just around 2 hours.
SubWay sammies went down a real treat, and sitting in the sun against a
log watching the golden leaves drifting onto the river, all was well
with the world.
(and I know I seem to say that a lot, but...) it all kinda went to crap
a short while after lunch... like the last day into Wahpeton, less than
6 inches of water makes for a hard time paddling. At least the Bois de
Sioux is much sandier than the Red... but it was even shallower,
so we ende4d up having to get out repeatedly to walk our boats like
unwilling dogs, along the river for 100 yards here, 100 yards there...
paddle, get stuck, get out, walk, get back in, paddle, get stuck, get
out, walk, get back in, paddle, get stuck.... you get the idea.
this continued for about an hour and a half, and although we knocked
out a respectable 12 miles in 4 and a half hours, the last 4 or 5 miles
were not the most fun... Well, it'd be fun once in a while, but
it was just getting real old, real fast. The highway just across the
field to our left in Minnesota was quite tempting, and if this shallow
water business continues, we may have to wheel the boats for 15 odd miles until we get to the lake...
We will see, but for now, Kev found a nice little copse of trees next to a corn field, so we have set up here for the night.
I am gonna add some pix to this now, hit save, hit 'shut down' then shut down myself, cos I'm ready for some sleep!
More to follow soon...
Walkin' wet 'n walkin' flat...
Oooooooh.... not our best day, that's for sure. A grand total of 8.8 miles down.
Shallow Water Haven, as we dubbed it, was a fairly easy affair, and
even though the night had been pleasantly warm at almost 14 degrees,
the mozzies weren't too bad. I'd slept quite well, although I did have
to unzip my sleeping bag a bit as it was warmer than expected, but Kev
didn't get the best nights sleep, mostly due to a slightly unlevel
pitch of his tent.
We slid the boats down into the chilly water,
and as per most of yesterday afternoon, had to begin the day with a
bracing walk through the shallow water for a few hundred yards until we
had knee-deep water to paddle in.
Kev had just received his surf
booties from home (they were posted to Wahpeton), so he wasn't doing
too badly in the cold-foot department, but my water-shoes are mostly
water shoes cos they drain and dry well, and have none of
the insulating properties of neoprene boots.
My interest in
more walking the boats was waning as fast as the blood supply to my
toes. As it was, we were walking about as much as we were paddling,
alternating the two every 400 meters roughly. Plus it started to rain a
decent amount, with thunder rumbling in the distance. Fortunately, the
rumbling didn't last long, and we saw only one flash of lighting, so we
were grateful for that small mercy.
After 2 odd hours of
alternating walking and paddling, and having first bright pink feet,
then white feet with blue toes, I'd really had enough. Realising his feet were getting rather cold, and so mine
must really be bloody cold, Kev recced the bank on the ND side, and
knowing there was a road up there we elected to get out of the river as
we really were not making any time. It had taken us over 2.5 hours to
cover 2.5 miles. Strike one.
we were up on the gravel road
with now dry and beginning-to-thaw-in-warm-socks feet, I began to feel
a bit better, and after we were all geared up in jackets, beanies,
etc, we put on the harnesses we'd made and started the walk along the
gravel road, aiming for a main country road about 1 mile over. Once at
the road, which was also gravel, we turned left to head south. The wind
was blowing hard and cold from the south-east, with a decent amount of
rain driving in at us, testing the capabilities of the fancy hiking
jackets we had on.
the wind did its best to slow us, we made pretty OK time in a straight
line, covering 2 miles in a little under an hour whilst hauling 50-odd
we were continuing in a straight line, as we crossed a cross-roads, the
continuing road ahead of us changed from a sandy gravel surface to
plain old dirt. Wet dirt. That was when the second strike was laid against us.
dirt, when dry, wound't have been so bad to roll on... not as good as
the gravel, but still useable. But the rain was making it quite sodden.
So dirt was becoming mud...Which was actually kinda similar to an old
nemesis... You know it... GUMBO!!
Yes, The Gumbo Strikes Back. Return of the Gumbo. Gumbo 2: This time it's personal. A Nightmare on Gumbo Street.
Gumbo the 13th...
Ok, you get the picture, but to really give you the idea... get this picture:
Pull boat... until you can't move. Look around. Realise you've covered about 30m. Scrape mud off wheels.
Repeat the above. Many, many times...
3/4 of the way, the side of the road grew into a large-enough grass
verge to pull along, so with clog-free wheels, but almost broken backs,
we pulled the boats through the grass.
here in ND, they
keep it pretty simple... the roads are mostly arrow-straight, and cross
at right angles, dividing the countryside up into 1 mile square fields.
It took us an hour and a half to cover the mile to the next
cross-roads! An hour and a half to walk one mile!!! Luckily, thank
freakin' goodness, there was a gravel road running across
left to right. We took it.
Just after pulling right to head west
on the new gravel road, we stopped to give the wheels a good clean off
to enjoy the better rolling offered by the gravel. It was then that I
noticed a persistant 'lump of mud' that wouldn't come off my wheel. I
had a better look, and shock-horror, realised it was the innertube
bulging out of a huge tear in my tyre.
nothing that could be done, and hoping for the best (that being, that
we'd make the last 2 miles into the small town of Fairmount) we pulled
on... for about 100 m. Flat as a pancake. Strike 3.
what felt like a Mack Truck, I plodded on, one foot, other foot, next
foot, next foot... Kev assisted as best as poss, and limping
into town dragging a lop-sided cart with the wind and the rain
really make their prescence even more felt, we got just across the rail
tracks when a local retired farmer Francis stopped to ask "what they
After explaing our story, he took Kev for a recce of the
river a bit further down, and whilst I waited for them to return,
another local, a farmer named Jack, (with a vice-like handshake of iron
I might add!) came to say Hi, and offered for me to wait in his nice,
dry warm truck. He turned out to be Francis' neighbour... and after Kev
and Francis returned with a prognosis-negative, they both set about
sorting me out with a new temporary wheel for my cart.
always, the help and assistance of the local folk is amazing, humbling
and wonderfully received. They came up with a pretty-damn good working
wheel, and it might not last forever, but it will do the job for the
immediate future. Jack and Francis, you're both legends, and we thank
you to the highest order!
set up our tents in the shelter of some bushes near the local park and
baseball diamond, and after Jack had run Kev to the local Cenex (Gas
station/convenience store) and back for hot food, we began to prepare
to bunk down for the night, making sure we were as well-sheltered as
possible and the tents were as tightly piched as they could be. There
was a storm brewing after all.
About 5 minutes into setting up
our mattresses, sleep gear etc, a vehicle pulled up, and as a pair of
boots appeared under my tent fly, a familiar voice said, "Anyone home?".
was Jack, and he had come back to say we were more than welcome to bunk
doen in his heated machine shed if we wanted, as the storm was gonna be
a doozie! Well, what could we say?
He also offered to drive us
back the 14 miles to Wahpeton in the morning, to get a new wheel, tyre
or both for my cart, so that's what we are gonna do... Again, what a
So now we are sat in heated comfort, iPod
pumping out some tunes, both typing away frantically getting these
updates done before hitting the sack...
Hopefully, we will get
something worked out, or a new tyre fitted at the very least, so we can
roll on another 14-odd miles south to where Mud Lake starts, just after
White Rock dam. We are reliably told that there most definitely is more
than 6 inches of water there, and so once we get there, we should have
a decent straight shot at getting from Mud Lake to Lake Traverse and
down to Browns Valley. We hope.
Entry #17. October 8th 2008The Long Walk and the Long LakesQuite
and interesting past few days to say the least! We have beat feet to no
end, as well as paddled in white-capped waves and through thick
marshes... So to start back where I left off...
We had a stellar
sleep in Jacks tool shed, and about 5 minutes after getting up and
turning on the light around 0730, Jack came in and asked if we'd like
some breakfast. We most certainly did, and we had the chance to meet
his other, possibly better half, Corrine, who was wonderful too. We had
some cereal and fantastic home made apple fritters washed down with
good old OJ.
After that, Jack gave us a ride back up to
Wahpeton, which very surreally only took just over 10 minutes! 2 days
travel for us, and we were back there in less time than it takes to
boil 5 eggs... (Consecutively..!)
took us to the farm supply
shop, where the guys there got right into it, and within half an hour,
I had 2 spanking new, and much tougher-looking, tyres for my cart, all
fitted and pumped up on the rims. Very relieved! My old tyre was
totally wrecked too, so that went in the bin, but not before a pic was
After a quick
stop at Walmart for some cheap, throw-away rain pants ( we ended up
with $1 ponchos, as the rain pants were heavy and $20!), we drove back
to Jacks place, learning a heck of a lot about the surrounding crops
and what they do with them... pretty cool stuff, for sure. Both Kev and
I were impressed and surprised by quite a few things, not least of
which that the less-than-knee-high stubby brown plants in the fields
that looked like stalks from harvested crops were infact Soy-Beans, now
ready for harvest. A very low to the ground combine blade setting
is required, and we could see why.
Corrine came out when we got
back to check out our gear and the boats, as well as bring us some
magazines for the journey, and THE MOST AMAZINGLY TASTY home-made
rice-crispy, toffee and chocolate bars!! OH MY GOODNESS... if only Kev
and I had bigger kayaks, we could take an extra 100 of them with us...
EACH! Obviously we loved them, and if Corrine would post some
nationally and internationally, we'd be stoked! Haha...
Kev, Corrine, Jack and Me.
we were all set, loaded up, wheels strapped on, we bid a fond farewell
to out most gracious hosts Jack and Corrine, and started rolling South.
a quick stop at the Cenex for pizza n soda, we pulled onto the paved
highway for smooth rolling south. The weather was pretty decent for the
first 4 miles or so, although the wind was persisting.
though, the rain began, and stayed with us for most of the way to the
South Dakota border. Before reaching the border however, we were
invited in for a break from the wind and rain by another friendly local
farmer named Wayne... and Hunter the dog!
Out of the (now lashing
down) rain and wind, we sat for a chat with Wayne, Hunter, (well, a
belly-rub and scratch-behind-the-ears for Hunter) and Waynes dad,
After a phone call from the house to the barn, we were
invited in for lunch with them and Waynes mum Eleanor, which was a real
treat. Well, Hunter had to stay outside, but he was having fun out
there with the pet ducks anyway...
Again, we got to learn so
much about the current local area, the ways of the farm, and the
history of the land. We also were sent away with a great big bag of
delicious home-grown tomatos, carrots and apples, fresh from the farm.
Lunch-time has been so much better!
Like Jack had earlier, Wayne very kindly offered to
load up our boats on his truck and drive us to Mud Lake, but as we
explained, we have to make all southward progress under our own steam,
and so with hoods cinched down around our faces, we pulled out of the
farm and carried on rolling, heading towards the ND/SD border about 2
more miles down the road.
Just as we reached the border
crossing, Wayne came alongside again, and met us at the NS/SD state
line where we got some pix which was great, as we'd forgotten to get
Wayne, Kev and Me entering South Dakota.
not long after entering SD, the hills started to roll, and the miles
seemed to grow a little longer. However, the weather improved
almost as soon as we crossed the line too, with a spot of sunshine
showing through the blanket of cloud. The best part was that the wind
died to a gentle breeze, but we had to make sure we kept up a good pace
or else the mozzies could land.
glad to have our wheels, no matter how many odd looks we got we rolled
further south into SD. The balance of my kayak was slightly off now
though, as I had moved some stuff around after digging out a snack. I
stopped to re-distribute some weight and alter my harness as my kakak
was bouncing a bit on my shoulders and making a squeaking nouse that,
now the wind was down, I could hear only too well. It was driving my
nuts, and iPod time was becoming a possibility.
Kev had gone on
ahead, even at a run on a short down-hill section, and had stopped up
at the top of a hill to chat with some of the local Hudderite colony
guys who had stopped to look in amazement at the strange sight of a
kayak on wheels in the middle of corn fields! We all chatted for a
while, and even in slightly unusual German (Kev is fluent, and the
Hudderite guys are of partly German descent, and speak a strange
version of it...).
By now, the feet and legs were getting weary,
but we had to get to White Rock dam where there was a campsite one side
and Mud Lake the other. The light was getting dusky so I strapped a
strobe to the rudder of my boat so incoming cars could spot us easier.
Dam Road was almost within sight, and we expected to have another 2
miles to the campsite, but were somewhat disappointed to see the sign
say it was actually 3.
The sun had dropped below the horizon and the
mercury was falling as fast. Just to really test Roadwarrior mettle,
the wind picked up again, and the light drizzle grew into a steady
It was by now pitch black, and even though the
cars were few on the road, there were still enough to worry about. The
strobe was letting them see us easily enough, but they were still
coming past a bit too close and fast. I strapped my Petzl headlamp on
backwards and set the switch to flashing red LED, and wow, what a
difference. Kev said I looked like a cop-car, and I must have because
most cars that passed us afterwards came in plenty slow and wide!
were getting very weary, wet and cold, so when Kevs left cart tyre went
bang, complete with puff of white smoke, Kevs cry of " Man! Can't we
catch a break?!" really summed it up. Luckily, we'd kept the
"Jack n Francis Special Spare", and by the light of his headlamp,
Kev had it changed and we were rolling again 5 minutes later. As I said
to my voice recorder at the time "We pushed on, undeterred,
Roadwarriors-True" to which Kev yelled out "Riverwarriors baby!!"... In
to the darkness to the noise of a clanky wheel and the night-song of
18 miles and 8.5 hours later, we finally made
it to the camping and picnic area to see the "No Camping Permitted"
sign...! Dammit! Well, it was raining, dark and getting VERY cold, so
we figured we'd be gone before anyone knew we were there... I was
tempted to just sleep in the toilet though. It was dry and fairly warm,
but we ended up just pitching Kevs tent and sharing that. Just as we
were drifting off though, a car pulled in... Knowing we weren't
technically meant to camp there, we lay like field mice,
quietly listening for footsteps, but other than a radio playing
and what might have been reverse lights or a torch, we were not
disturbed. The car pulled out a few minutes later, and after waiting
for another few minutes, Kev went out to do a quick check... Nothing.
We wondered if it was one of our recent new friends coming to check we'd made it there OK, but we may never know!
morning we woke to begin paddling again, looking forward to something
different than a mud-banked river, and we certainly got something new
Mud Lake was wonderfully calm first thing as we paddled
out through the marshes, complete with geese, ducks and coots. The lack
of current was immediately noticeable as we carved through the reeds at
a decent 4.5 mph with no effort. It was also noticable for the pong of
rotting leaves and the like built up here and there too. Oh well...
that was taken care of, the need for a feed became priority. There was
a diner across the road, so we wheeled over to that where a local,
Elaine, stopped to ask quite what we were doing. We told her of our
trip and general adventures prompting her to be quite amazed, and offer
us $5 to help with the trip. We politely declined, but as we were going
in the diner, she insisted she could at least pay for our lunch... very
kind, and we had a great patty-melt, with tater-tots. Awesome! (A
patty-melt is a juicy big hamburger with cheese on top, gruilled and
served in toasted bread with onions and pickles... kinda like a burger,
but somehow better!) Once
we emerged from the marshes, the lake really opened up and the wind had
a chance to whip the water to small white-capped waves. With waves
breaking over the bow, we punched on through them, sometimes getting a
wet slap in the face too!
The other end of Mud Lake was back
into winding through the marshes and on to another dam seperating Mud
Lake from Lake Traverse... which according to the locals here isn't
pronounced "Trah-verse" but more like "Travvus".
We made the
picnic area look like an outback laundry, by draping all the previous
nights wet gear out over each and every table, bench and most of the
rocks. With the gusting wind and welcome sun, it was all dry a few
sandwiches later so we packed up and hauled the boats up and over the
dam, putting in right under the road-bridge where it was calm. Two Army
Corp Engineers arrived to check on the dam, and said nothing was
opening tonight, so we were ok to put in tight there, so we did.
bigger than Mud Lake, Traverse had plenty of reach for the wind to whip
up the water even more, but fortunately it was mostly at our backs,
even if at a slight angle... We might not have been "in the tube" or
"hangin' 10", but with the decent swell, we were catching some pretty
sweet waves and zipping along at a nice 5-6 mph.
As the evening
drew near, the wind began to drop, and in the shelter of some of the
islands on the lake we stopped for a snack or two to decide quite where
to stop for the night.
Kev was checking out one of the islands, I noticed some clear open
green areas over the other dide of the lake, as well as a caravan
sitting there. From where Kev was he could see a picnic shelter, so
with my GPS showing a boat ramp access, we decided it was worth the
half-mile paddle over.
nearer it was obvious it was a proper campsite, so we were happy to pay
the $8 for the Traverse County Park flat green tent areas and regular
dunnies, complete with dunnie-roll... it beats digging a hole and
getting your bum bitten by mozzies for sure!
Well, it is getting
late again, and we have now made it to Ortonville where we have done
laundry and DQ, as well as shopping for groceries.
well, but I really have to get this uploaded and get to sleep, so the
paddle from Traverse, through Browns Valley, across Big Stone Lake
to here will be written up from the river in the next few days or so.
We are out of here in the morning, on to the Minnesota River where we
are fully with the current and paddling on strong. We just hope the
forecast wind and rain doesn't materialise too heavily...!
will leave this update with one of my favourite pix of the trip so
far... sunset on Big Stone Lake at the State Park... Awesome!
Entry #18. October 13th 2008
Feelin' great in Granite Falls
last, we are making some good miles now we have the river running with
us, but it took a bit of doing to get that way, involving getting lost
Going back a few days to recap though...
got down to a pretty chilly 6 degrees, but the pine trees we camped
under kept a lot of morning condensation off of the tents and the boats.
left Traverse County Park at a decent hour... so at about 0730, using
the nice sandy beach we had a dry and easy entry into the lake. The
wind was mild, and having changed direction overnight was blowing with
us now, so it was looking to be a good mornings paddle. As we
motored along at a reasonable 4 mph, we saw quite a few decoy ducks
planted near the lakes edge, as well as duck-blinds, behind which (we
presumed) there was a person with a 12-gauge shotgun waiting for
unsuspecting incoming ducks to shoot... Yep, hunting seaon for
quackers had started, and not wanting to be in the firing line, we
paddle on a bit faster. Both of us were surprised that on such a
populated and recreational lake, hunting was allowed, but apparently,
it is. Goose season isn't far away, nor is deer season, so we may have
to start wearing blaze-orange hats so we don't get mistaken for a deer
in a kayak..!
As we got to the far end of the lake, the waves
calmed to almost flat, but the weather looked to be brewing a storm, so
we made as fast as possible an exit up the boat-ramp. Our wheels have
taken quite a beating, especially with all the mud and grit grinding
away in them, so we have both been utilising old soda bottles by
cutting strips of platic out of them to wrap around the wheel axles...
pretty effective. For once, pleased that there is a littering problem
here, we found a couple more bottles to re-do the wheel sleeves before
rolling the 2-odd miles into Browns Valley. I had to stop a few times
though, as the balace of my boat was just off enough to drive me
slightly nuts as it bounced along on my shoulders. After re-rigging my
harness and movign a few items around to change the weight
distribution, it was much better, so the rest of the walk into town was
We'd met a local pair of hunters at the boat ramp, and
they'd reckoned that the Little Minnesota River was running enough to
get us to Big Stone Lake. As we got to town, we saw them again, and
they'd good enough to go down to the river and said again it was
running OK for sure, so that was good to hear!
Kev stopped at a local tyre shop to get the new spare tube we had fitted into his rim with my
old (still ok) tyre. Frankentyre! The guy there, Lonny, was a great
chap, and had it all fitted and injflated in 5 minutes, all for
free.What a solid dude!
the time we were halfway through our lunch, we were talking to pretty
much everyone in the diner who wanted to know all about who we were,
what we were doing and where we were going, so it was fun to share our
stories, and again, to hear the local tales of the area from the
and watered, we headed out of town to the river. Unfortunatley, the
hunters thoughts on 'deep enough' and ours must be a tad different, as
the river was still sand-bar-city. Still, we certainly appreciate their
help. It was then we met another colourful local, Denny, who gave us the full low
down on a lot of the local river antics and passers-by before also
giving us some pretty solid directions on where to go to get to deeper
off we went, hauling the boats another mile or so along a
prairie-trail, seeing some small ribbon snakes in the grass... some
alive, some run over...and into some farmland where we arrived at the
deeper river. There was the odd sand-bar we had to walk the boats over,
and even a barbed-wire fence they were floated under, but only for a
couple of times before the outer-bends were consistently deep enough to
paddle between. The river was a fair bit clearer than previous waters,
and we could see all the little trails the fresh water clams leave
across the muddy-sandy bottom... a little maze of muddy-paths
criss-crossing the river bed.
got to see a very tiny local resident of the
river, a small painted turtle out sunning himself, and then an
awesome twisted set of washed up and dried out tree roots, before we
through the reeds at the head of Big Stone Lake.
Stone Lake was big, but not so stoney, although the odd boulder did
show itself at the shallower edges of the lake. There was a farily
stiff North-Westerly wind blowing, whipping the water into small
white-capped waves, so as we were heading mostly South-East we got a
good shove in the rear, covering almost 9 miles in 3 hours. I managed
to even hit 7 mph at one point, paddling like a mad-man off the face of
a decent rolling wave.
My GPS was showing a boat-ramp, and as
I got nearer to the bank at about 5 pm, my eyes confirmed it was really
there. We pulled up and as there was some nice evening sun still
shining, lay out any and all the wet gear to dry in the still-stiff
wind and dying warm rays.
we had hauled the boats up to a little patch of trees and set up the
tents, we sat down on the jetty to watch the colour fill the sky as we
was pretty awesome watching the colour grow, but as it grew, the
temperature fell, so by about 7.30, it was time to retreat to the
comparative warmth of our tents and get some kip.
The cows on the
otherside of the lake must have been wanting food, or it was feeding
time, as they were in fine voice most of the evening, mooing for
hours... and hours and hours! Waking at 0300, I could also hear coyotes
howling, as well as the cows mooing, (perhaps the coyotes were why the
cows were mooing), but as it was far away, I managed to drift off again.
campsite under the trees gave us a decent amount of shelter for the
night... I wouldn't have wanted to be out in a more exposed position as
the night was crisp, clear and cold. we woke dry and fairly warm, so
got packed up fast and down to the boat-ramp by 0700. The wind was
still blowing so we both got a bit swamped, rocking and rolling as we
tried to make a graceful entry into our boats and the lake... staying
reasonably dry, but both boats now covered in green lake algae, we
pushed south towards Ortonville at the end of the lake, some 18 miles
away. The paddle was a fair bit of fun, as the wind was now directly
behind us, so we spent most of the time catching waves again and
covered the distance in 5 hours, arriving just after midday. Not too
shabby! Getting out at the boat ramp though, the helpful wind now
became a freezing-my-nuts-off annoyance, so we both stripped off wet
gear and rugged up in fleece, trackies, beanies and gloves before
Ortonville was a great little town, and aside from
the usual looks, and one very confused elderly lady who asked me
"Whaaaaa? Do yah der-ive those thangs? Ahhrnt they meant to
fer-loa-utt?", we arrived without any problems at the supermarket to
stock up on food before heading to the motel to wash and rest. It was
at the supermarket we caused a bit of a local stir, with more than a
few shoppers asking what we were up to, then the staff all talking
about getting the local newspaper down to interview us...The store
manager also asked us "Do you guys eat meat?" to which we carefully
replied yes... and so we scored a free chicken too, which was a great
bonus... (yeah, a dead, roasted one), so that made a great lunch.
we'd done almost a full days paddle by lunch, we figured a motel was in
order, so we rolled on up to the main highway to find one. There wasn't
laundry, but as there was solid internet, we hit the EconoLodge. The
great staff there actually did all our washing for free for us in their
commercial washer though, so we were well happy. We left our boats next
door at the local car dealers where a great dude named Dustin said we
could leave them in the garage out the back, no problem... a very solid
bloke, Cheers Dustin! After a big typing and updating session, we hot
the DQ for the ususal before heading back where I got to have a good
video chat with my mate Guy in Singapore, which was a laugh, and then
after, see and chat with my lovely-lady Paigey too... always good for
After resting up
for the night and having a fairly leisurely breakfast the next morning,
we met the local newspaper guy, Mike, at the Minnesota River, where we
were hoping to begin the easy paddle south...
that sign does say 2130 miles! So at least we knew the distance ahead
of us for sure! We did the interview kinda as we rolled to the river
and as we found access and slid the boats (quite masterfully, looking like experts
we thought) into the water.
Kev and I were both busting for a pee, but neither of us felt like
asking Mike to point his Canon the other way so grinning and bearing
it, we paddled-up, sat for pictures, and set off south again.
about a mile. That was when things started to go awry. We'd hit a few
snags and underwater obstacles, as well as some minor (water down the
plug-hole) standard 'rapids' when we hit what was almost a dam across
the river. We slid and shuffled over only to be hit with sandbars
again, so it was back to freezing cold blue toes as we walked the boats
a bit, then paddled a bit, then walked again... We did this for about
half a mile before I thought to glance at my GPS... and realised we
were no longer on the Minnesota River. Bugger.
I did a recce up
through the reeds and found what the GPS was telling me was a road.
Actually, more of a tractor path through the edge of a grassy field,
but it was rollable.
We hauled, humped and heaved the kayaks through the reeds, into the grass and onto the wheels to do some more rolling...
the GPS more closely this time, we arrived at a small carpark where
earthmoving gear was parked. As we were debating what to do, a DNR
(Department of Natural Resources) truck rolled up and 2 helpful fellas
got out and gave us the lowdown:
Where we'd gone over the 'dam' , that blockage was actually put in to try and divert
the river 90 degrees left to follow the correct path the river should
take. Obviously, it wasn't working! They gave us some info as to where
to go, and where best to get into the river, far enough south to avoid
We'd also realised that part of the next lake we were
due to reach in a day or so, was closed off for goose nesting season.
The DNR guys were fisheries guys, but they called the wildlife guys to
get us permission to paddle though... Although we didn't have it on
paper, we were unofficially told to just get it done, quick and quiet,
and we'd be OK. So we set off rolling again, looking forward to
clear, deep paddling!
One construction guy came past in his
digger, and having seen the kayaks and knowing the river is full of
dead trees yelled out "Ya shudduh brought yer chain-saw..! HAHAHAHA"...
Yeah, laugh riot!
Stopping for lunch, the DNR guys came past again, and took Kev for a quick ride up the road to where we could put in for sure.
Kev got back and we finished lunch, about 2 miles from where we made
our first error, we got to where the DNR guys had just recommended.
After lifting the boats over a locked gate, we put in at another new
dam that wasn't on any of our maps.
Standing up on the new
dam, we had a pretty good view of the surrounding wetlands, and it was
easy to see that all the recent changes, both natually occurring as
well as man-made, meant our maps were quite far off the mark.
Nevertheless, we set off, and the river did begin to go back to how it
should be, with my GPS eventually tracing a more accurate set of dots
along the river.
The paddle was a great way to end the
afternoon, because although cold, (nose still runing like a tap!) it
was dry and not too windy. We came across a local resident too... Mr
Pelican. The whole area we were paddling through is a wildlike
management area, so it's possible that he'd never seen anyone before...
he just sat there looking slightly bemused as we sat there
taking photos of him. Very cool..!
sun tried peeking out a bit, but the clouds won over. After about 6
miles of paddling along, we arrived at the 'low-flow' dam, or Odessa
Dam as it seems to be known, where we got out and wheeled over and down
to the small parking lot and picnic area on the other side of the dam.
were a few young local guys hangingout and fishing at the downstream
side of the dam, so we stopped to say G'day, and admire the larhe
Walleye fish one of them had just caught. After yarning with them for a
few minutes, we headed on over to the small copse of trees to recce a
camp-spot for the night. The wind was blowing abit, so we wanted some
decent shelter, but the thick undergrowth and dead wood wasn't looking
like a good spot to pitch.
I'd already spent a night in a toilet
on the CDT trip in 03, so I was fine with doing the same again... Kev
however wasn't sure if he was prepared to admit to anything so weird.
After assuring how it is totally OK and assuring him it is all in the
spirit of adapting and making the most of what there is to offer, he
started to see the plus side of it.
So yeah, we spent the night in
the ladies! Well heck, the mens was really smelly, so we weren't gonna
stay there... I DO have SOME standards you know!
actually retired for the ight though, we sat outside and heated up some
food, kinda waiting for the carpark to clear out, so we could relax and
bunk down... but as the food was just coming to the boil, 3 other cars
The local guys had called their mates to brag about the
fish (understandably, as it was a beauty!) a,d so the mates had come to
see for themselves as (again understandably) they didn't belive them!
Also, they had heard about the 2 crazy kayakers, so wanted to see us
At the time, both Kev and I were somewhat on-guard as it
was dark, and suddenly we had 8 or 9 local dudes crowding around us...
Ready to rumble, we started to chat a bit with the guys, but it was
soon apparent that they were a good bunch, just out for a Friday fish n
beer evening, complete with tall fish--(and kayaker) tales. We even had
a beer with them, as well as some of the best home made deer-jerky I
have ever had... it was bloody awesome!
After having a good yarn for
an hour or so, particularly with Alex, who was corpus mentus,
and Spanks (don't ask) who was corpus pissedus, the guys headed
off back to the Retreat Bar in Odessa. We were much-invited, with
inebriated offers of lashing the kayaks to the roof or towing them
behind...and although the promises of cold beer and warm women were
tempting (for Kevin, not me , so Paige, don't worry!!... Well, the cold
beer part was tempting but....) we were pretty knackered, so politely,
repeatedly, declined. Hopefully the guys will also learn the wise
benefit of always having a designated driver, as we would like to see
them all again one day..!
With the boats tied up around the
back, we set up in the loo, quite comfortable out of the wind and
potential rain and started to doze off... I was just slumbering, and
Kev was in a coma, when I became aware that the noise I was growing
aware of wasn't coming from Kev... it was from a truck outside. As I
woke Kev, both of us back on DefCom 5, we heard "Hey! You guys asleep
or what?!" It was Alex, back from the bar with Spanks and 2 other guys
who wanted to meet us... And a 24 crate of Budweiser and a bag of
picked pork sausages for us! HOLY MOLY! We were both very pleasantly
surprised, if not shocked by such generosity!
We stood out in
the freezing cold trying not to feel daft in our sleep wear and socks,
and had another good yarn with the guys... Spanks and one of the guys
headed back to the truck early, but Alex and Bob, or the B-O-B as he
referred to himself, stayed to chat for about 30 minutes or so before
heading back to the bar. We had to politely insist that Alex take 12 of
the beers back with him though as we really couldn't take the weight
nor had the space for them, ut it was a very cool and kind gesture, and
we have both really enjoyed a cold one to wash down the sausages at the
end of each day since! A real treat, so... going out to Alex Johnson of
Ortonville... CHEERS DUDE!
most of the night, the toilet held some of the days warmth for a while,
but as the morning came, the air outside warmed up quicker than the loo
so once we were awake, we packed up fast and got out to load up the
Hoping to have a dry day, we were a bit miffed to see black
thunderclouds all around, as well as the first fat drops of rain
beginning to fall. We knew the next mile or so of river was choked with
dead wood and fallen trees, so wheeled along the top of the dam and a
mile up the road to the new high-flow dam and a nice 50m wide channel
which fed into the main Minnesota River.
zig-zagging through the dead wood slalom-like, there were numerous
shotgun blasts riging out around us, so making joke-quacking noises
might not have been the wisest choice. We saw the distinctive blaze
orange hats and vest of a few hunters as we paddled, but ensuring we
made a bit of noise, we didn't have any problems. Every now and then,
spotted what looked to be a drifting stick, poking up out of the
surface ofthe water, but as I drew closer, the stick was blinking and
nostrils flaring, a turtle would suck uin a last breath of air before
diving back under the surface. We also saw cormorants repeatedly
diving, one in particular diving then surfacing 20 m or so ahead of us,
and repeating the procedure for ages as we paddled along... repeating
it right until we went to try and get some video when they decided to
swim underwater the other way and pop up behind us... typical! Kev
tried geting some pix, but other than a selction of cormorants asses,
he didn't do that well.
After getting no consideration by a
couple of duck-hunting rednecks who blew past in their camo-duck-boat
at a great rate of knots, we paddled on into and across Marsh Lake with
no problems, the route on my GPS now bwing spot on with what we had to
We stopped at the next dam for lunch on the
downstream side again to get someshelter from the chilly wind and got
to speak with John, the DNR guy the fisheries guy had spoken to the day
before. We got the official unofficial OK to paddle through Lac Qui
Parle reserve that afternoon, so that was a 10 mile walk we now didn't
have to do.
The 12 odd fishermen we gave plenty of berth to
looked at us like we were mad to be out paddling in the cold... as they
stood there fishing in the cold! They were possibly fishing for carp,
as there were plenty in the river... we had loads jumping and feeding
around us as we pulled away.
Paddling down the river for about 6 or
7 miles was another easy affair, and as we passed under the 'twin
bridges', we reached the lake, and were treated to a new experience...
total flat dead calm! Very surreal and as Kev said, serene.
Blue Bridge came into view fairly soon, but took ages to actually get
to... We could see it from 6 miles away, but maddeningly never seemed
to get any closer. Eventually though, after about 90 minutes, we got
there and took a break before going hard out to get across the reserve
All was well, and paddling out under the blue bridge we
had kids calling out Hi and waving, as well as fishermen asking where
we were from n going... and goggling at the reply as usual... my stiff
shoulder was now heat-patched up and my iPod pumping out the
tunes. It wasn't until about 3 miles from the end of the lake
when the previously threatening thunderstorm unleashed itself upon us.
Luckliy there was no wind, but there was plenty of thunder, rain and
lightning. Which is Kevs least favourite thing.
With the river
winding in ways it shouldn't, the maps were not much use to follow. My
GPS was a bit more accurate, and following what I could see in real
life, I was aiming for the far bank... Kevs map showed something else
(totally incorrect we now know) and wanting to be out of the storm, he
was bookin' the other way. After a quick discussion as to where to go,
we ended up following his map as my GPS showed the same info also, and
rounding a bend, his fears were only too confirmed as we saw a burning
tree, having just been struck by lightning.
After another 30
minutes or so, after searching the dark banks by torchlight for any
access to the supposed nearby park, a truck drove by through the park
above us, giving us a clear target to aim for. Kev found the very basic
and small carry-in access, so whilst doing his recce to the park, I
hauled both boats up and out or the river and 30 minutes later, we were
set up in a campsite for the night. The ranger stopped by having been
told by John the DNR guy, that we were coming, so he was making sure
we'd made it OK.
The rain finally had let up, so I heated up some
spaghetti and meatballs before retiring to my tent for a sausage and a
beer, and a good hard sleep!
The night was strangely warm, only dropping to 14 degrees, so with that and a belly full of beer, I slept quite well.
the donkey-braying laugh of some jack-ass drunk hunter at 0300 woke us,
but with the numbing effects of beer and warmth, I managed to drift off
The morning was still surprisingly warm with a
nice southerly breeze bringing a gentle but warm start to the day,
which was probably why the water felt that much colder that morning.
After unceremonously launching the boats, sans champagne, and paddling
for 30 minutes we reached the large LQP dam and portaged around it
fairly quickly. As we paddled along, bald eagles soared around us
again, waiting, as we're told, to see if we disturb any potential prey
as we float by. Although very hard to photograph well, I managed to get
a reasonable, if somewhat sillhouetted snap as we were observed from up
fans would have been possibly creeped out by the constant observation,
and what with the huge flocks of swirling, swooping swifts making a
raucious din in the trees, it certainly had the feel of a classic horror movie.Periodic
light aftrenoon rain had us wondering whether to suit up, but it never
really came to much, and with the river flowing with us, the pace was a
much faster and steadier 4-5 mph. We ended up doing our biggest day
het, clocking in 33 miles into Granite Falls, a picturesque little town
on the river, full of the wonderful colours of the fall.
got in around 1900, and after portaging at a dedicated canoe access, a
pleasant surprise, we rolled through the small downtown area, pleased
to see (and smell) Jimmys Pizza delivered their wares.
the main road, we managed to check into Super Motel, where our kayaks
were passed through the window into a downstairs room that can't be let
out due to a broken flyscreen... a benefit for us for sure. We have had
a royal feed of Jimmys, dining over there both for lunch and (just
having had it delivered) for dinner. Stuffed full of pizza and beer,
pretty happy with ourselves, but have to now lug our asses out into the
cold night and across the road to the supermarket and do the shopping
for the next few days ahead...
Well, I hope to manage more
regular updates as we paddle, but it all depends on how we do...
getting in late as we have, there's just enough energy to set up tents,
eat, then crash... but today was a good day to sit here in comfort to
update as it was rather cold outside!
OK, well, I think that is all the happenings since my last ramblings, so I hope you liked reading it!
Until next time...
Entry #19. October 20th 2008
An amazing weekend..!
and I have just had an absolutely fantastic weekend, having been
TOTALLY looked after by a most amazing couple, Phil and Margie
Slingsby... Fed, watered, and completely rested both physically,
mentally and spiritually, we are back on the river, paddling on towards
the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St Pauls.
As I have done previously though, I will go back a few days to catch up on what we have been up to since we left Granite Falls.
the shopping, we got back to the room, did some more internet and email
stuff, then hit the sack... Waking at 0720 was a bit of a lie-in, but we still
made good time getting out of town...We passed the boats back out the
window of the motel, loaded up in the early warming rays of sun, and
with clouds of breath billowing in the air, headed off. Leaving
town, we had high hopes for the day, as the sun was out and the skies
were deep blue.
Just as we got to Memorial Park, where we were
putting in at the boat ramp, we spotted the monument to the "Worlds
Oldest Rock"... Igneous rock, that is found all around the area, and
what we had been, (and were to be) paddling past. At 3,800,000,000 years
old, I guess it is pretty past its sell-by date.
that can't fathom the zeros, that is 3.8 billion years old.. Or to put
it another way, 3 billion, 8 hundred million years old... Don't worry,
I had trouble writing it: I had to ask Kev to be sure... Being from
Wall Street, and good with figures, he had it sorted out. Of course, if
I'd have just looked at my photo first, it might have been easier...!
miles down the river it was time to get out again, as we'd reached
another dam. This was quite a decent sized one, dropping a good 6 or 7
meters. We slid up the bank and through the grass to the road there,
and wheeled on up the hill past the dam, only to find the put-in area
was in fact a private beach and part of someones home. Kev knocked to
ask permission, and just as he was leaving unanswered, a truck pulled
in, and we got to speak to the owner. It turns out that the maps are
still wrong, after years of him having people portage on the wrong side
of the river. We, like everyone before, had portaged left, as the maps
says to. Right is the correct side, but he kindly said it was no
problem for us to roll on down to the beach and be on our way south.
sun was still glorious, and as we never know when we will see it again,
if at all, Kev was sans shirt in no time. I wasn't quite ready for
that, so we paddled on, just one of us developing an even better
After stopping to take pix of some big fat white
geese (it made a change from seeing the Candian variety) we found a
great lunch spot at a campsite overlooking the river. Complete with
benches and boat-racks, it would have been a great place to stop for
the night, but beuing only 1300 hrs, we really had to paddle on. The
falling maple leaves were ablaze with colour as we sat having lunch,
and other than 1 car the briefly pulled through, it was a very peaceful
and quiet lunch spot.
Heading along the river during the
afternoon, we got to run a series of small, supposedly Class-1, but probably closer to Class-2 rapids
sometimes quite fun, sometimes a bit hairy... Class-2 might seem pretty
nothing really, but we are not in kayaks designed for running
anything much more than a rough ocean or perhaps just handling a
boulder-free Class-2... but these rapids were full of big boulders
willy-nilly all over the show, as well as underwater, so running them
was kinda like being a pinball in a machine, bouncing left, right, up
and down off the rocks with a disconcerting thud... Getting over some
parts kinda felt like trying to clear hurdles, but catching your foot
all the time... just staying upright was a close call on more than one
Looking at the Wikipedia classifications, both Kev and I
agreed that these rapids were a bit more than a 1, but maybe not quite
a 2... so we're calling them a 1.5 to be safe...
Give me a clear shute to run down, and that'd be fine! We
were just glad we opted for the plastic kayaks, so they bounce quite
if the rapids were not fun enough, paddling along a few more miles, we
reached another hazard we'd been warned about: a huge log jam. We were
told by the DNR guys that it had built up, but that a path had been cut
with a chainsaw a few months prior. of course, whether that psth was
still clear remained to be seen. Edging closer, and trying to sight a
path through, we bagan the task of delicately maneuvering our 17 foot
long plastic tubs through. Not an easy task when the previously welcome
current just slams and jams you into the underside of a fallen tree,
and pins you there quite well to say the least.
With a lot of hip
flicking, twisting, wiggling and shoving, we slowly made our way
through, round and over various sized logs and tree trunks to emerge
out the other side... The jam was only about 50 m wide, but it took a
good 10 minutes to get through, both of us narrowly avoiding getting
very stuck, or having our gear caught and pulled off the backs of our
found a pretty good campsite overlooking the river in Renville County
Park #1, and although the traffic from the bridge was still within
earshot, it was infrequent and not a bother. Complete with bench and
bin, we had dinner then turned in for the night. I was out by about
2100, but yet again, my POS sleeping bag didn't do much at all, soafter
waking at 0200, I spent 5 cold hours laying there in multiple layers,
trying to get warm, waiting for the sun to come up.
I can't wait to meet up with Tom and Steve and get my new bag delivered!!
wasn't having the best start to the day, with a bad tummy causing some
discomfort during the night and most of the morning. A banana and some
dry bread started to make him feel a bit better by the fatrenoon
though, so that was a relief for him.
The river had a good amount of
current again, and with the northerly wind blowing fairly consistently
and hard at our backs, in 4 hours we'd knocked out an easy 20 miles...
not too bad.
The wind was welcome at assisting us along, but during
lunchtime it was a cold reminder that winter is fast approaching, so we
need to get south soon! Of course, we have to paddle north through
The day got even nicer during the
afternoon though, as although the wind stayed with us, the sun made a
strong afternoon appearance. We also have saved a few miles due to the
river taking a more direct route here and there. As the river flows, it
erodes some of the banks, sometimes in such a way that it cuts through
the previous neck of an oxbox, leaving us a little 'slice' of a
shortcut... as with most of what we do, a lot of the game is
psychological, and when you get that little 'bonus' of a shortcut,
especially on a oxbow that would normally bring you almost back to
where you started, it is a real boost. Google Maps has a great aerial shot of
an old, now dry bend in the river that we paddled straight past... And
if you look around on this area, (or click the link just below) you can
see how the water winds back and forth through a deeper channel,
leaving sandbars exposed everywhere.
Currently, we have a bit more water than when these images
were taken, but we still have to try to 'read' the water... running
aground on sandbars is a pain in the butt, so we try to make sure we
follow the deeper water channel... as you can see, it means zigging and
zagging along quite a bit, but it is better than being stuck!
'reading' the water to make sure there are no underwater logs or
boulders is a bit oif a goiodtrick to master too, although we don't
always get it right... we've both been stuck wibble-wobbling atop a
rock or log a few times... it certainly makes you jump when it happens!
what with all the differing river bends and differences between my GPS
map and Kevs printed map, we had a bit of confusion as to what was
where... we were aiming for another Renville CP, this one number 4, but
my map showed it was miles back, Kevs map made us seem like we should
have reached it and the winding, changing river made us appear
somewhere else again. As my GPS showed "park" around the next bend, we
paddled on towards it, and discovered that we were all kinda right...
So RCP#4 was our stop for the night.
There was a nice porta-loo
at the park, and as it is now the off-season, it appeared clean and
unused... but someone had used it for another purpose: target practice!
There was a bird-shot blast across most of the door, and at least 10
.22 bullet holes as well as another half-dozen higher calibre holes
right through the whole thing, one having blown apart the toilet-paper
holder! I just wish I'd thought to get a pic of it all...
There was also a discarded boat toilet sat in the aprk, so I thought it'd be funny to pose for a pic or two...
did remember to get a shot of our boats land-lubbed at the leaf-strewn
campspot we picked... and we are very glad we chose to pitch there in
the trees, as they offered a lot of shelter from the wind and the cold
that came that night. The
day was quite a long one, but we were pleased to have officially
knocked out over 40 miles! Our longest day so far. Just as we were
settling in for the night, we heard the roaring of a car engine as some
yee-hars came barrelling into the park. They were belting around
burning out donuts in the turning loop at the emd of the road.
Fortunately, we'd wheeled down a grass track a few hundred yards, so
were quite well hidden... I reckon Billy-Bob n his mates never knew we
were there... and thank goodness they didn't start shooting anything!
Well, as said earlier, it got a lot cold in the night... My watch said it was 0.8 C in my tent... that would be in the
FF" category... So again even dressed in multiple layers of full
thermals, full fleece, thick socks, beanie and liner, my pancake thin
sleeping bag still didn't offer any additional protection, so I spent
another cold night day (or rather night) dreaming wide awake from 0230,
of my new warm bag!
The morning frost showed we had infact
reached slightly sub-zero temperatures during the night, and it was
something I haven't seen in quite some time, and although I am not a
fan of the cold, it was quite nice to see the fresh crisp ice on all
under shelter, we had some stiff icy spray skirts to uncomfortably
wriggle into, and fully rugged up, we slid our boats down the bank, and
as carefully as possible, hopped in keeping our feet dry so we could
wrap up in socks too. The river was covered again in a wonderful thick
mist that although cold, was great to paddle through as the early rays
of the sun began to thaw everything out.
some reason the river wasn't running as fast as it had been, but the
sky was now blue and the sun was blazing so we were both down to just
long-sleeve T-shirts before lunch. A huge sandbar was a great spot to
stop, not just because it was a sunny place to dry out my damp sleeping
crap-sack, but also because it came complete with picnic table...
although i thunk the river has come up a bit since the tabel was last
used by someone!
the chilly numb-fingers start to the day we had, neither of us imagined
we'd spend most of the afternoon shirtless, paddling in the warm
afternoon sun, and as it turned out, bith of us getting a bit sunburnt,
especially on our faces. As both of us were (naturally) wearing
sunnies, we both had a pretty good racoon-tan going on!
the way, we paddled past a somewhat unusual signpost for Bo-Bo's
Hole... who Bo-Bo is, and what or where his hole is located is still
not yet certain, but it was worth a pic nonetheless!
We were heading for the Germany-esque town of New Ulm, and as we approached the town, we had multiple "slicer" action, with many of the oxbows cut right through at the neck, saving us quite a distance in paddling.
of our maps showed the boatramp to be closer than it was, but being
glad we paddled on another half-mile to where it was, we had an easy
exit out of the river, and once we were set up on the wheels, we rolled
on into town.
Kev is never a hard-sell when it come to getting a
motel, having never done this much tent camping on a cross-country trip
before, and as I had had some cold sleepless nights, and the nights
forecast was due to be -3 or -4, I didn't feel like another freezing
We stopped at the Super 8 where the manager looked after us very well, having our kayaks sit in the reception against the wall.
were being much told about the strong German heritage of the town, and
the excellent German restaraunt there was in the old downtown area, so
as Kev was so excited about it (like a dog with 2 tails !), we wandered
(nearly 2 miles !) off towards the eatery, where we stuffed ourselves
with the house sampler platter... 2 kinds of huge fat sausage, tender
pork ribs, picked cabbage, potato salad, and the most amazing
sauerkraut with pulled pork mixed through it. That feast, washed down
with a cold beer made the 30 minute walk back to motel a very good
warm full nights sleep was fantastic, and I aired out my empty sack of
white fluff (my sleeping bag) as best as possible, for what it was
worth. Bagels, cereal and waffles made for a solid breakfast before we
made the almost-1-mile walk, boats in tow, back to the boat ramp.
Unfortunately, the rain was falling, so we weren't off to the best of
starts weather wise...The
rain continued to fall, and although it wasn't that heavy, it was
consistent and persistent, staying light all morning. Again, we had
Bald Eagles soaring overhead quite a bit, and as we ran a few more
slaloms of dead trees, at one point both Kev and I attempted to hurdle
one big log only to get hooked up atop another large tree-trunk, just
submerged under the surface... not enough to easily be 'read' but
enough that when stuck atop it, we were sitting high and semi-dry,
wriggling and hip-thrusting ourselves to get free and float away.
a mid-paddle snack, I had a PowerBar ready, but whilst trying to eat
it, due to the cold, the damn thing was so tough and solid I mused to
myself that I was probably using as much energy just to chew it as it
We stopped for a F1-style into-the-pits late lunch
around 3pm, the solid breakky having seen us mostly through that far...
plus it was pretty miserable, with a cold northerly blowing the still
light but present rain at us all day. I had taken to wearing my thermal
leggings under my shorts, and although Kev is still concerened about
the fashion police objecting, I couldn't give a toss how I look, as
long as I feel warm... so quickly nosing the boats up onto a
muddy/sandy bank, we sat on a large rock and scoffed down a couple of
spam n cheese wraps, the cold wind being bearable thanks to modern
synthetics, before making the final 8 mile push to Mankato. Of course,
my favourite item of clothing is my New Zealand Icebreaker, a Merino
Wool thermal shirt Tom bought for me... After days and nights of
constant wear, it still doesn't small, so I will hopefully upgrade the
poly-pro leggings to Icebreakers too sometime..!
pushing off from the quick-feed-break, we were paddling though a more
thickly wooded area when a magnificant, huge Bald Eagle came swooping
low over us and into the trees to the left, ahead of us. He stayed
there until Kev drew quite near before flying across the river to sit
and watch us from slightly further afar. As I slowly drifted past, I
managed to get some great video of him looking at me looking at him...
and then remembered to try and get a pic, so quickly swapping cameras,
and by then, almost past him, I leant over backwards, limbo like, and
managed to get 2 pretty OK shots;
This is a screengrab from the video too... The video will look better once I get home and get it into my Mac of course! As
we neared Mankato, the big flood wall grew around us, as did the
sandbars we'd been navigating around, so reading the murky river well
was in high order lest we get stuck just before the home straight.
Fortunately, just as it seemd we were going to have a hard time getting
out of the water, we spotted an opening in the flood wall, and access
from a footpath into the town. OPulling up, deliberately this time, to
a sandbar, we slid the boats up and out of the water, and bagan to haul
them up the stony bank to the footpath.
Right on the other side of
the floodwall, a welcome sight greeted us: the Holiday Inn! But the joy
was short lived, as contrary to Kevins belief that there is no need to
phone ahead on a Friday, there turned out to be a huge Hockey game on
that night, plus it was parents weekend for the (very big) college
in town. Everything was pretty much booked out, or at over $120/night,
Kev contacted Sheels, the sports store that had
his new shiny and (hopefully) straight Kayak waiting for him, and a
great guy called Phil came down in the company truck to collect us. We
were aiming to leave the boats at the store, as they guys there said it
was no problem to keep them there for a night or two, then find a motel.
were very glad for the ride as it was getting cold, and Sheels was
right up the other end of town, a good 3 to 4 miloes away, and up what
seemed to be the biggest steepest hill in Minnesota. After much phoning
around, and lots of help from the great staff at Scheels, we found that
there was still no room at the inn... any of them!
The chap that
picked us up, Phil, who was the Scheels GM, (but took a 'break' and
decided to just take it easy as the Assistant GM..!) said he'd spoken
to Margie, his other (possibly better?!?) half, and we were welcome to
stay with them...! Wow, a fantastic offer, one which we snapped up for
And what a bloody awesome time we had, staying with Margie
and Phil. They have an amazing, straight-off-the
-TV-show-designer-cool-house, and we can't thank them enough for having
us stay. Tom and Steve also came to stay the next night, and I had the
honour or cooking up a huge storm in the magnificently appointed
kitchen with Margie. I made carbonara, and she smoked and
grilled-to-perfection some juicy great steaks, as well as made a roast
chicken and potatoes... And as if that wasn't enough, then served
home-made brownies with home-made ice-cream! All the weight I'd lost
over the past 7 weeks just went back on in one weekend!
The spa in
the back garden can comfortably seat at least 8, and so that got some
serious use, taking away all the aches and pains of the paddle.
to watch Sunday Football on the HD TV was superb, and at Margies
insistence that we try it, we even got to take her crazy-cool Audi TT
3.2 sports car out for a spin around the block. Both Kev and I
probably embarrassed ourselves at how tamely we drove it, but it
was still great fun!
forward to catching up with them again sometime, and I hope that when I
et back to MN, either at the end of this year, or next year for the PCT
(maybe even both) that I can make it back down to Mankato to catch
A huge thanks again to Margie n Phil! Cheers guys!!
and Steve had brought along all the gear Kev and I had ordered, so
whilst we were both sad to be leaving the wonderful hospitality of our
new family in Mankato, we were also excited to be out on the river
again, with new and hopefully better gear.
I had my new thicker,
fancier (and more expensive) sleeping bag and insulated ground mat, and
kev had his new bag and new tent as well... not to mention a kayak that
had a straight keel.
With all the new kit packed an loaded, Phil
and Margie halped us to the river, and saw us off as we began the
(comparatively) short paddle north to Minnepaolis and St Pauls... The
Entry #20. October 23rd 2008.
Mississippi in sight!
Hi again all...
here I go again, with another update... After the great weekend in
Mankato, neither Kev and I did any updates, or laundry for that matter!
So now I have the chance to sit and type, I am gonna get back up to
date and get this all posted on line.
Well, we have stopped here
in Chaska, about 1 days paddle south of St Pauls and Minneapolis, where
we will be joining into the grand old Mississippi.
here mostly due to the need for laundry (Margie did kindly offer for us
to do it there, and kindly remind us... twice... but we were having too
much fun to remember things like laundry!) and also because the weather
has turned pretty ugly... Waking up to sub-zero temperatures followed
by a day of rain and high winds, and coming into town after being
soaking wet, blue and shivering, both of us decided to stop and dry
out. Also, my gear choice might not have been conservative enough, as I
am still cold at night... so anyway... let's go back to leaving
Mankato, and get up to date, pix n all...
As said, about 1030
Monday morning, we set paddle (not sail) out of Mankato, waved off by
Phil and Margie, and had a shortish day up to St Peter, some 16 miles
away. The day stayed quite sunny, and as we paddled along, I managed to
get a decent picture of a Great Blue Heron at last, as he sat on top of
a fallen tree...
Can you see the Great Blue heron?
had a photographer that Phil had arranged from the local press snap
some pix of us along the way, as well as meet us at St Peter boat ramp,
and by 1530, we were setting up in camp, pleased to find bathrooms and
powered picnic sites available.
In the mad-pack we did when leaving,
none of our gear was where it should be, hence the reason to get an
early-into-camp day, so whilst Kev went into town to post some
un-needed stuff back home, I sorted through and rearranged my kit. He
was very pleased with his new tent, and it went up quickly and easily,
standing good and strong and looking very worthy of its name: The
I was so excited about my new sleeping pad and bag
I had a bit of a stupid moment, and didn't really put much thought into
quite where I was pitching my
tent... I should have pitched like Kev, under the edge of the trees,
but as I found a level spot of grass, I pitched right there totally
open to the sky... and boy, did I feel it, and didn't it show the next
So after some comedy on the computer, and a bit of a photo-editing session, we turned in for the night.
forward to a toasty nights sleep in my new $270 bag, I just wore my
fleece gear inside my liner... and I froze my ass off again. Man, it
really, REALLY sux to wake up at 0200 and feel COLD! I added a vest Tom
had loaned me, but I was still cold, and as the morning grew lighter, I
realised the whole inside of my tent was frozen solid. Crawling out
wasn't that bad as it wasn't as if I was super warm to begin with, and
as I exited my tent, I could see my kayak was pretty frozen up too... I
wasn't a happy camper!
I'd packed up, I shook my tent to get the ice off it, and managed to
gather 3-4 snowballs worth of the white stuff inside the fly-screen!
Kev found his head-scarf/hankerchief was also more like cardboard... We can't wait to get further south!
do however like my blaze-orange "Don't-shoot-at-me-I'm-not-a-deer"
beanie... Hopefully it'll keep my head warm and intact ! Deer season is
imminent after all...
Kev was very pleased with the comfort and
performance of his new gear, and although I chose poorly in tent
location and was cold, I was pleased for the better
performance of my new bag and significant insulation of my new pad...
but I still am having doubts as to whether the bag is warm enough, as I
am a cold sleeper... and after living for the best part of the last 10
years in the tropics, it's not surprising I am finding this pretty darn
Just as we were about to out in, packing up our wheel,
Kev noticed an only-too-familiar and ominous bump on his wheels, and
after closer inspection, yep, the tyre was beginning to give out like
mine had... Cursing his earlier choice not to get new ones when I did,
he shot back into town in the hope that maybe the local service station
or hardware store would have some spare wheels, but after a frantic
search, he returned with the same rubber... Trusting to good luck that
the wheels will hold out a bit longer, and that also, we won't have to
sue them as much, we set paddle again.
Seeing Kev frantically
digging through his deck-bag, I wondered what was up... his phone was
ringing, but unable to dig it out in time, he ended up getting a
message and calling back... and it was another contact from Phil and
Margie, the local news station from Mankato, KEYC-TV. Stopping at La
Seuer, we met the journalist, Jennifer, at the boat ramp, and like the
seasoned pros we are becoming, gave another interview.
has emailed me to say that we were featured well, and it was cool, so
that was good to hear! However, having just watched it online, we both
got a wry laugh at the fact that Kevin "Ker-Neiling" is now a "Wall St Tycoon", and I barely registered a mention... plus they spelt my name wrong... Oh well.
filming better than KEYC-TV, I was lucky enough to get some great
footage of a cool, non-plussed beaver paddling along the river next to
us for quite some time, so that made my day, as so far they have been
completely elusive when it comes to being filmed.
The river featured
many "slicers" so we made quite good ground, (or rather, water) north,
pulling in at a great little covered area about 27 miles north of the
start of the day. This left us with less than 70 miles to the
Mississippi, so we were hoping for a decent days paddle again in the
morning, to close that distance a fair chunk.
Given that the
campsite (dubbed KCC... Kobie's Cool Campsite, as I found it and liked
it a lot!) was well sheltered with overhanging trees, waking up cold
AGAIN was very disappointing... Kev was toasty, so I know it is most
probably me, but therefore I need a bag that is rated much lower than
the conditions say you'd need... But at a zero C/32F rating, I would
have expected the bag to be warm enough... So maybe I need a -7C / 20F
And as we were getting up, just to make the lack of
sleep even more fun, the rain started. Light at first, but it increased
to a solid rain... Maybe not a downpour, but heavy enough to be more
than a shower. Combined with the stiff cold northerly wind, the
temperature was a fair bit lower than the projected 7 degrees... my
watch was strapped to the deck of my boat for accuracy, and showed a
decidedly unpleasant 5 degrees.
After paddling in the wind and
rain for hours, we didn't really want to have to get out of the
comparative warmth of our cockpits, but both of us had the hunger pains
of running on empty. By 1400, we pulled in under a bridge which whilst
keeping the rain of us, gave no protection from the driving wind.
shivering and blue-fingered, we scoffed down 2 bolagna bagels before
quickly adding some dryer layers, re-gloving and pushing off again.
the rain bagan to ease by 1600, and by 1700, just as the towns church
rang out 5 bells, we pulled up onto the boat ramp at Chaska... right
under the Best Western Motel!
So after a good hot shower, and
laundering everything we have (running to the laundry in just a hotel
towel!) we are again, ready to battle with the elements. Sure, we could
have sucked it up and pitched tents, but why suffer if we don't have
to? And if we had done that, you wouldn't be getting this update, eh?
Justification enough, I reckon!
Well, I am going to speak to my bro Tom, try and sort out my sleeping bag warmth rating and choices, and then hit the spa.
The next update should have some Mississsippi Miles behind it, so until then...
Entry #21. October 29th 2008.A Cold Day in Hell n High Water...A
rough time on the water is putting it mildly..! We have seen some
seriously bad weather, and fortunately, survived to tell the tale...
but as usual, lets go back a few days.
Due to staying up too
late to watch a movie and subsequently oversleping until 0830, and then
the feast of sausages, eggs, muffins, bagels, yoghurts and juice for
brekky at the hotel, we didn't hit the water until almost 10am. Loading
up the boats took a while too, as we had to get them out of the
basement garage, but at least the weather appeared to be a lot better
than the day we arrived. The flags outside were not even twitching, so
that cold cutting wind we had grown to hate was not around.
along at a bit of a plod, both of us were lamenting the aches and pains
we had built up, especially in the shoulders... "Arms like lead pipes"
as I said... Kev felt his were even heavier.
last years terrible collapse of the 35W bridge in Minneapolis, Tom and
I saw many bridges undergoing inspection, but most were of the
man-on-a-rope simple variety... or perhaps clambering around
underneath, but this year, Kev and I saw a pretty clever
inspection truck as we paddled along...
passed another bridge which had collapsed... an old railway bridge
which were doing a great job of collecting driftwood, but fortunatley
not so bad we couldn't paddle past.
we made our way ever closer to the Twin Cities, we started to pass
under more substantial and still standing bridges, and I began to notice some red and
green lights we hadn't seen before. It wasn't long until we found the
reason: barges. The lights are for navigation, and so we noted that we
were no longer as alone on the river as before.
Not that there
were any problems, but we made sure we kept well aware of what was
ahead and behind us, as the barges are darn huge and slow to move...
and it'd be us having to avoid them, not the other way around.
paddling past a few of the barges and the factories they supplied, we
found a decent spot for lunch, and although the sun wasn't blazing, the
lack of wind meant sitting for food in 12 degrees wasn't too bad.
well as all the usual gulls, ducks and geeses, there are a growing
number of cormorants, and one tree in particular caught my attention,
as it was covered in them.
1730, I gave Tom a call to see what the dealio with my sleeping was...
As I was still suffering, and having chatted with him about it, we both
agreed, me especially, that I could use a 20F bag at least.
Unfortunately, the first place wouldn't agree to returning my bag for
another, so I am having to suck up a loss and probably sell it on eBay
or Craigslist... I ended up having Tom order me the 20F/-7C Western
Mountaineering Ultralite... so I was hoping it'd be arriving at his
place by Friday (that evening) night.
I was outta luck, because even though he's placed the order and paid
for express shipping, the order was yet to be processed, so we weren't
sure as and when it'd arrive...
With the facts
at hand, we wanted to make sure we got a decent campspot with as much
shelter as possible. Fort Snelling State park, just on the outskirts of
Minneapolis-St Paul airport was just the place... even if it was a bit
noisy from all the air traffic... I just hoped that the pilots wouldn't
mistake Kevs new tent for a landing beacon whilst he sat inside typing!
wishing to take any chances, I pitched my tent close under a low leafy
tree, rugged right the heck up for the night in double thermals,
fleece, socks, beanie and special-loaner-from-Tom Quantum-Pertex vest... and although I was feeling somewhat
like the Stay-Puff Marshmallow Man, I was at least quite warm
that night. The low of 6 degrees wasn't too nasty either, and after a
good sleep, we got going the next morning, all excited that after only
1 mile or so of paddling, we would be entering into the Mississippi!
it was, entering into 'Old Man River' was a bit of a let down, due to
the fact that it looked and felt exactly the same as the Minnesota
River... We weren't expecting fireworks or neon signs, but a small
regular sign would have been cool. Oh well.
The bridges had begun to get bigger, and more industry noises and sights were appearing, indicating the proximity to the city.
A few miles further
along, as the cold wind really bagan to whip up a good chop from behind
us, we started to see the big buildings of Saint Paul, as well as a few
other people out on the water, who like us, had cherry red noses and
cheeks as they paddled hard in the cold air. All the others were moving
a lot faster too, as they were in the straight-line racing style
singles, doubles and fours of the high-society local boating clubs.
along the south side of the river were a large variety of bigger boats,
particlarly a number of paddle steamers, and one fun-named tug-boat!
we made our way through the city area, and around towards the south
east side of town, the barges and industrial areas grew, not just in
sight and sound, but in smell as well. The variety was quite
impressive, with my olefactory senses picking up the less than great
smell of cows, the pretty good smell of cut timber, and for quite a
nice long time, the wonderful smell of fresh baking...mmmmmm. I even
picked up from somewhere, the small of beef flavoured chips (crisps)
which was odd, but also good! I began to wonder on the journal entry
title... perhaps "Lock, Stock, and 2 dripping Paddles", but after the
Lake Pepin day, it became the "Cold Day in Hell and High Water"
title... read on, you will see why!
As we made our way more south, we
came across a few small marinas tucked away behind the islands either
side of the main channel. Most it seemed were preparing for winter with
many of the smaller boats already up out of the water. Some of the
bigger boats were still floating, but many had been covered and
shrunk-wrapped for protection... pretty clever I thought!
was another fantastic affair of gourmet sandwiches complete with
avocado and mayo on a sunny beach, sheltered from the prevailing wind.
I got hold of Tom again, to see what the latest deal was with my new
bag, and was a bit dissapointed, as was Tom, to find out that the $30
I'd spent on express shipping was only on business days... so my bag
wasn't gonna arrive until Monday! Aggh!
At least it did mean we
didn't have to wonder and worry as and where to meet Tom that eveing
again. So knowing again we needed some good shelter, we finished lunch
and headed off to get further south and away from the larger areas of
the river we had to cross that afternoon.
Pigs Eye Lake was a
more definitive indicator that we were now on the Mississippi... it is
still the river, it just gets HUGE! And we still had Lake Pepin to get
across... With a decent chop, and getting swished around a fair bit, we
knucked down and paddled hard to get past the big water and back to the
more narrow section of the river down at our first Lock and Dam,
L&D number 2 (#1 was further north than where we joined the Miss).
the lock, Kev got to use his Marine Radio at last. He called in and
ID'd us, and we were told to "Stand by, we're making it all ready for
you" which was great!
Once the lock gates were opened and we got the
green light, we paddled into the huge concrete channel that forms the
lock, and for 2 tiny kayaks, had 3 million 600 thousand gallons of
water drained out to allow us to paddle on out, about 10 feet
lower than when we entered!
There were a number of
rubber-neckers gathered at the downstream side of the the lock, waiting
to see what was coming out. They were kinda surprised, and perhaps
disappointed to see it was just us..! We got a laugh out of it though.
through and past Hastings, we found what we thought would be a nice
sheltered area to make camp, somethere that appeared to be no-ones
land, backgargen or anything. Pulling up the boats we bagan the usual
recce to find a good place to pitch, but the yelling and waving from a
house across the river caught our reluctant attention. It was hard to
say if the dudes over there were directing the yelling and waving at
us, but as they seemed a bit rowdy, the drive way had 4 pick-ups parked
in it, and we reckoned they knew the area and could find us if they
wanted to be a pain, we decided to leave and find somewhere else...
along the river, we did find and even better spot on the backside of
Prescott Island... it was pretty nice, and far enough from the
ever-present train tracks to give a reasonably quiet nights sleep. As
Tom also knows only too well, the BNSF (Burlington Northern Santa Fe)
railway runs regularly, all day and all night... but this night was far
enough away to not disturb.
next morning, we were treated to a wonderful sunrise, but although
beautiful, I did wonder the potential of the old proverb..."Red sky at
night, shepherds delight, red sky in the morning, shepherds warning"...
and unfortunately, it proved to be very true...
per yesterday, the wind was still pretty stiff and the sky was cloudy
for the start of the day, so it was a bit brisk to begin with, but it
wasn't long before the day began to look better with the clouds getting
pushed south ahead of us and the sun making a welcome warming
appearance... well, kinda welcome. Due to the time of the year, and the
direction we are paddling, we do have a low sun shining right at us for
a lot of the morning until about 1100... a peaked cap helps, but the
reflection off the water is hard to deal with. Sun-block is still
Paddling through the small islands that dot the river,
we saw what could be either a hunting camp or a makeshift home, but
either way they were apparenty armed and potentially stupid or
dangerous, or both... Right as we went past, a huge gunshot rang out,
seemingly for our benefit, so we just made sure we paddled on
quick-smart and didn't look back.
We also came across our first
huge barge passing us, but with such a slow speed and shallow draft, it
really didn't make any wake. It is more the small speedboats and
fishing craft that cause a rolling wake for us to deal with. With the
wind still ringing in our ears, we decided it was time to "pod-it" for
a while, so we set off paddling to tunes again.
As we approached
Lock and Dam #3, the wind was whipping itself up into a frenzy, and
taking the more direct route to the dam proved to be a not-so-wise
choice, as we were left totally unprotected. We'd have been better off
ftaying closer to the MN side of the river and within the slightly
better shelter of the land.
Hoping to not wreck my iPod, (and
wishing I'd put it away earlier) and wrestling the paddle as we were
tossed around on decent 2-3 foot waves, we approached the Lock. Kev was
also wrestling with his paddle ike me, so was unable to take a hand off
to get his marine radio out. I tried to paddle into the lock to pull
the cord to signal the lockmaster, but was getting slammed against the
concrete wall, so had to back-paddle as hard as I could. As I managed
to clear the wall, the wind and waves spun me and I ended up getting
pushed in broadside onto the rocks. Even though I tried, bloody hard, I
couldn't paddle out, so deciding to bail as gracefully as possible, I
popped my spray-skirt and hopped out, pulling my now swamped boat up
Kev decided to come in to where I was, but managed to have a straight run in where I pulled him up and out...
By now, we were both soaked and freezing, and just to make it even more fun, it began to snow. SNOW!
Shivering and miserable, Kev radioed in to the lock, and asked if there was anyway to portage around.
lockmaster radioed back that yes there was, but he was surprised we
didn't lock through, as he'd sat there watching us and wondering what
we were doing... AGGGGGHH! Why not open the bloody gates you idiot!? We
were not very happy... but sucking it up as ever, we wheeled the boats
around the lock and after a hurried cold sandwich in the relative
shelter of a stone wall, we put back in to the slightly calmer river
whilst still the snow fell.
The calmness of the lower river
didn't last that long though. Once we paddled out past the last of the
small islands, the river opened up into the 22 mile long, 3 mile
wide Lake Pepin. That was when things got really nasty.
We began by
following the man shipping channel, as it took us closer to the land,
and hopefully through calmer waters... The waves were a decent size,
about 4 feet, but messy. They weren't good rolling waves with a single
direction, but more like random rolling waves that pushed from any and
all directions. As we left the last of any beachable areas, we began to
paddle towards (what we since learnt was called) Point No-Point. named
because it never seems to arrive... as you continue towards it, you
expect to find the end and round the point to find shelter, but due to
the very gradual curve of the peninsular, the point actually never
arrives... for around 2 hours, we paddled to the best of our ability
and strength, the waves growing and growing and tossing us arounfdmore
and more. Water was breaking over the bow, the stern, washing over our
laps and swamping us almost to chest-level at times. It was like riding
a very drunk horse... whilst drunk. Or as Kev said, like being in a
No bravado here, it was not much fun at all, and I was somewhat scared at times... Looking back on
it, if we'd have realised how bad it was, we would never have gone
out there, but the fact that 2 lockmasters had both said "Oh, you don't want to
be on lake Pepin in this" should really have stuck harder in our minds. The main problem was though, that once we were
out there, we had to finish it, as there was nowhere else to go...
as we FINALLY rounded Point No-Point and in its shelter the waves began
to subside, we paddled over to the bank to ask a guy we saw walking
there if there was anywhere to camp. He was very knowledgeable, and
gave us some good local info, confirming some thoughts I had already...
We ended up pushing on for another hour or so around another point and
across some more messy water (although not quite as bad as earlier,
still a hard-fought rolling hours paddle) to arrive at the wonderfully
calm area right at Lake City.
Tom and I had stayed here in nicer weather just over a year ago during the TNT ride, so I was feeling good about our options.
Kev and I paddled the half-mile into the shore where Kev said " Is that the same guy as earlier?"... and it was.
guy we'd spoken to earlier, Jamie, had come over from where we saw him
5 miles ago at Frontenac SP, to find us. He'd been up to the marina,
down to the campsite, and then spotted us pulling in where we were at
the north end of town.
He invited us back to his place with the
promise of hot home-made chicken soup that his wife Jane was currently
making on the stove. Given that it was a fantastic and kind offer, and
that we were both wrecked, and bordering on frostbitten appendages, how
could we refuse?!
Neither of us had any pictures of the
horrendous paddling conditions, bceause, no surprise, there was no way
we could or would get our cameras out... I do wish I had the little
waterproof stunt-cam I'd thought od buying though...
But I did
manage to take a shaky, slightly blurry pic of my freshly de-gloved wet
cold hand... white whithered knuckes and fingertips galore...zombie
a bit of running around to borrow a neighbours truck, and getting
timber to lay in the back, he loaded up our boats with us, and brought
us back to his wonderful late 18-hundreds old house.
in a wonderful area, one of only 2 areas in all of MN, where there are
period houses from before the civil war. We got to spend a great
evening relaxing in the beautiful house infront of a blazing log fire,
full of Janes home made chicken soup and Jamies home-brewed stout beer.
The next day, Jane and Jamie were at work, and again we
were extended the most amazing and generous hospitality by having the
use of the house where we did laundry and got all our gear dried out.
and I took a walk up though the fall colours in Frontenac State Park
and took a bunch of pictures before heading back home to meet Jamie so
we could pop to the supermarket for groceries...
was cooking my special carbonara again! It went down a treat with some
freshly baked bread and some of Jamies home made red wine, and just as
we finished, Tom my most fantastic buddy came down 2 hours from his
place north of Minneapolis to bring me my new (bloody AWESOME!) Western
Mountaineering sleeping bag. He was already fed n watered, so we
wrapped up dinner, and giving Jane some quiet-time, the boys all
'retired' to the garage. Jamie had a fire roaring in the hearth out
there, and with the arrival of Mikkel, Jamies neighbour, we had a solid
(and my first) game of darts. Great fun!
Tom had to make tracks
back home, so after bidding him a fond faredy-well, we went over to
Mikkels place where he showed us a most amazing creation in his back
yard: not just any old treehouse, but a geodessic dome!
cool. You get up to it using some peices of (my favourite
toys) climbing gear... but given that it was late and cold, we
just admired the view from the ground!
very well rested and looked after, we hit the sack, ready to hit the
water again the next day. Not just ready for the amazing rest we'd had,
but fortunately, also for the fact the weather forecast was for pretty
damn nice conditions.
Entry #22. November 3rd 2008.Crossing into Iowa!
are now as far south as Iowa, having left Minnesota yesterday.
Wisconsin is still to the left though, and that is where we are now, in
the town of Prairie du Chien.
Things are going pretty well, and my
new, new sleeping bag is outstanding, having kept me more than warm enough in
sub zero temperatures... It got down to almost -6C a few days back! The days have been warm, and the nights mostly
cold, but it is all good...
We have seen an amazing amount of bald eagles, and so I just have to get at least a couple of them uploaded now...
wifi-less here, so are gonna head out for food to a place that has
internet access, so I am gonna get the latest uploaded for the
faithful, then carry on with the off-line updates...
I have also managed to upload a web-album of earlier pix... click HERE to go to it.
we get to another place where I can sit in comfort and warmth, and with
a reliable internet connection, I'll upload a few more. I just have to
go through, select and label the pix, then create the album...
More will come soon!
November 4th... The Last Entry..!
But a new page begins...
it is time to end this page, as it is getting a little too long, not
just for you loading and reading it on the web, but also for this
little PC... The typing is getting slower and slower to respond
and keep up with me, so I am continuing the updates in a new page... To
continue, just click HERE.