portfolio > gone on the river

day 6
day 6
June 04, 2022

Measurement offshore of Reese landing on Winnibigoshish: turbidity >61cm

(Photo is from Crazy James' Point campsite.)

Woke up at Reese landing, and got out of there as quickly as possible - which, given that I woke up at 8:30, was not as early as I'd hoped. The mosquitos hounded me out.

I did take a trip out onto the lake in Maddy alone, just the two of us and the turbidity tube. I was amazed (and it seemed like she was too) by her responsiveness, unloaded. Like a completely different boat. Like an easily frightened horse, skittish and reactive to my every motion.

Breakfast was some dried apples and trail mix at the side of County Road 91. Had some trouble with the rear gearshift of the bike, and worked on that for a bit in the relatively bug-free road environment. Then off on my 20-mile trek to the other side of Lake Winnie!

About the biking itself, there's not much to say. Everything feels like it's uphill. By the time I make it to a particular spot, I feel like I should be hundreds of feet higher than I really am. My knees hurt, and my left calf. And my hips. I have older, more sedentary legs than I used to, and I'm hoping this trip helps with that some. My legs are getting the worst of it in some ways, because the rest of the time they're folded more or less uncomfortably in the boat beneath me while my arms and torso do the real work. I do use them while paddling, to connect my body to the boat, to translate the force of my paddling to the hull. But it's not very active work.

I stopped in the little town of Bena (which also had a longer Ojibwe name) at the Big Winnie Bar and Cafe. I'm glad I did. It was charming, and the food was pretty good. I ordered a pepsi - for the hydration, caffeine, and sugar - and "stuffed hashbrowns" which meant hashbrowns with onions, peppers and mushrooms. They successfully held the cheese. The server was lovely, wished me well on my journey, liked the fact that I was reading a "real book," filled my water bottle not just with water, but with ice water.

The second bike trip was slower and even less pleasant than the first. And when I reached Winnie Dam, after two hours that felt like much more, I made a disappointing discovery: my hat is gone. I have a backup, a fishing hat from my grandfather, but I'm still bummed. I have also managed to lose the knife that Sam's mom gave her, and the Life Straw water bottle. Let's hope I don't lose anything else, for crying out loud.

The difference between the dam at Winnie and the earlier dam from Stump Lake is enormous. The river has at least doubled, from what I could see. Very powerful, even dangerous-looking, right at the dam. The paddle from there to my spot for the night - "Crazy James' Point" was mostly uneventful. I saw another squad of storks, more ducks and mergansers, more eagles (including a juvenile), more herons. This stretch of river started fast and clear and pretty deep, and has slowed a bit. There is marsh alongside, but very different from before. The river has built up largish banks with grass and a few trees on them, and then there are pools - oxbows and the like - behind that. It's starting to look like a prairie river, rather than a mostly marsh-river.

Tonight's meal was a pretty delicious lentil soup with millet, greens, parsnip carrot and beet mix, the last baked potato, and herbs and a bit of tomato paste. Very good. Made too much, will have to eat the rest for dinner tomorrow as well.

This site is very beautiful, but I don't feel like I can really enjoy it. It's up on a rise (the stairs were hard on my poor legs and knees) above the quick-running river and a little oxbow pond. The tent site is under some lovely tall pines, and the fire grate is right at the edge of the hill. But it's just too buggy, I've had to retreat to the tent to eat, etc. I've taken to getting naked in the tent pretty quickly, to search for ticks, but also to give the ticks not yet attached to me some nice warm bait, in the form of my body. They all come crawling out, I feel them or see them, and I've become very adept at cutting them in half with my pocketknife. I'm not sure why, but I'm having a different psychological reaction to them than in the past. Much more matter-of-fact. "Oh, there you are, let's handle you." Is it because I'm alone, and don't have anyone else's reaction to worry about, or to have color my own, or to perform for? Weirdly, I am much more bothered by the mosquitos. They're more numerous, more aggressive, always in my face.

As I've been writing this, a heron took off from the trees above me, squawking in that dinosaur-like way of theirs. And a bit later, a raccoon came pretty unstealthily through the brush into the camp. I welcomed him, and he lit out. And just now, a big splash down by the river.

Tomorrow I'm going to try to make it at least to Schoolcraft State Park, if not further. We'll see!