Mississippi River Quest - Page 2
Today was a day of rest for me. I camped at a questionable site in Cohasset last night.
There was a sign that clearly said no overnight camping, but I couldn't see it from my
tent and that makes it perfectly OK.
I was on the water by 8:00 this morning and paddled the 10 miles from Cohasset to
Grand Rapids with a one mile side trip because I went down the wrong finger of a lake
and had to go back to find the channel.
There is a dam in Grand Rapids that requires a six block portage - far too great a
distance to carry a boat and all my gear, especially when I know someone in town with a
car and a roof rack.
I called Aaron and he came to pick me up. We went back to his house where his wife
cooked me a wonderful breakfast of french toast. After breakfast I decided to take the
day off. We all went fishing in Aaron's canoe. The lake was beautiful and the fish were
full. Aaron caught one small northern. I didn't even get a nibble. The scenery was worth
After the big fishing trip we tried our hand at mushroom hunting. Also a bust. Thank
God for grocery stores!
A short drive later we found ourselves at Cub Foods where I found everything I needed
to resupply for the trip. Then it was back to Aaron's for a fine dinner.
Tonight I will lay my freshly showered head on a real pillow atop a real bed. What luxury!
Tomorrow will be a sleeping bag and my rolled up coat for a pillow. Life is good.
I would like to start out by thanking Aaron and Teresa for their wonderful hospitality.
They invited me into their home, fed me, washed me, and gave me a warm place to
sleep. I am eternally grateful for the hospitality.
I got on the water about 9:30. This morning it was cold out. There was frost on my boat
when I woke up. I am finally out of the marshes although the river is still extremely
windy - picture small intestines - there is an obvious channel and the water is moving at
about 1.5 mph.
The tall marsh grasses and pine trees have been replaced by the maple trees I am
used to seeing in the river valleys back home. I am also seeing cattle grazing along the
river as well as once majestic old barns and concrete silos.
I saw two otters playing in a backwater today and this made me happy. I love otters.
As I was paddling through God's splendor today, I was ruminating on how there has to
be a grand design to the world. Random chemical reaction could never have created a
tree, an otter, a duck, or a child. As I was reflecting on all of this I rounded a bend and
there I saw a man in an old fishing boat who looked exactly like my father before he got
sick, the way he looked when we used to go fishing together. The same blue
sweatshirt, blue jeans, and brown farmers hat.
This made me cry. I waved as I passed and he returned the gesture. We didn't speak.
Is this my guardian angel? I believe it was important.
I covered 55 miles today - my best day yet.
Dustin's mother passed away last night and this has weighed heavily on my mind. I
wish I was there for him. Some of his family turned against him just as mine did to me
after my father's passing. I know this makes things much more difficult. Hang in there;
it gets better. There are an awful lot of people who care about you. Even one who's
hundreds of miles away in the woods. Cherish the kindness you receive and find peace
in the knowledge of who your true friends are.
As I write this, my tent is covered in mosquitoes. Perhaps the frost they predict for
tonight will be a good thing.
Kent, the thumping noise we heard at Itasca was a grouse. Apparently this is a small
chicken-like bird that makes that noise by thumping its wings on its breast. Knowledge
Today finds me one week into my epic journey. I have covered 280 miles. Not bad
considering the river here looks like a well done piece of spaghetti thrown against the
wall. I know now that I am physically capable of making it to New Orleans, but mentally,
life on the river is tough. I miss my friends, my dog, and my warm comfy house.
Everything and more importantly, every one that I miss will be there when I return. I'll
I just took a break from my writing to check out the splashing outside my tent. It was an
otter playing in the river not 20 feet away. I watched it for 10 minutes. That is why this
trip is worth it.
The river has gotten much bigger. Today paddling is becoming much easier. The
scenery is still maple and birch trees broken up by occasional houses and fields.
The highlight of my day came in the early afternoon. I rounded a bend and saw a large
brown animal swimming across the river. A moose! I thought of Donna and her love of
all things moose as I grabbed my camera and paddled as fast as I could towards it.
I soon realized this was no moose, but rather, a bear. I snapped one picture of it
swimming and two of it on land. When I looked to the other side I saw its tiny cub
standing on its hind legs. Unfortunately the cub disappeared before I could snap a
picture. It was wonderful.
I walked into the town of Palisade for a late lunch and to mail a letter today, and
although I haven't seen myself in the mirror for a few days I must be getting fairly tan.
This must come as quite a shock to these pasty northerners as I was asked twice what
it was I had been doing to be cooked to such a shade.
Today was beautiful and tomorrow should be more blue skies and warm sunshine.
Today was sunny and 80 degrees, but with a 30 mph wind from the south. The river
meanders so much that the wind hit me from every direction. I found this random wind
to be far more physically demanding that a straight headwind. I still managed to make
The only high point of the day was that I stopped into the town of Aitkin for a heaping
helping of hash browns, scrambled eggs, and sausage links. I think I'll try to eat out at
least every couple of days. It's good for my spirits.
I should be out of the headwaters in three days. A week and a half of paddling and 500
miles will mark my first milestone of the river. Then I can leave Minneapolis behind and
look forward to Cairo, Illinois - the beginning of the lower Mississippi.
Throughout my journey I will try to explain what it is that has driven me to paddle the
Mississippi and why it is I prefer nature to people. I would like the truth to be revealed.
A lot of good and bad things have happened in my life. Some were of my own doing;
some beyond my control. I will bear witness and confess my sins at this electronic
I have always hated school. I was a gifted child and was always bored with the snails
pace the others learned at. In my boredom I acted out. I was the class clown. A smart
ass. I spent most of my formative years in various corners, hallways, and offices. In the
fourth grade I had my IQ tested. I remember spending most of the day with two men in
an office at the school putting together puzzles, doing math problems, and that sort of
thing. They found my IQ to be 180.
It was decided that I would skip the 6th grade. In that year I would have to adjust to a
new set of peers, find out my mother was dying, and my dad got a girl friend. None of
these would turn out to be good things.
At the rate I am going I am worried I will be in the middle of the cities at about 7 pm on
Friday. I paddled from 8 this morning until 8 tonight to try to make some miles.
Unfortunately, I fought a strong headwind most of the day and had two tough portages.
I only made 65 miles.
I plan on going strong all day tomorrow and hopefully that will give me a good window
to make it through town. If not, I may have to take a short day on Friday to get a little
closer. I hate big cities and I'm not looking forward to paddling through one. Tomorrow
is going to be tough, so this is all I will write for today.