Day 12, June 10
Measurements: turbidity at Palisade, MN, 43.5cm. Nitrate and nitrite just below confluence with Willow River below measurable amounts.
Well, today started okay. It was raining when I woke in Berglund County Park in Palisade, so I didn't immediately take everything down. I walked back up into town and had a lovely breakfast (stuffed hashbrowns again, and coffee and grapefruit juice) at the Palisade Cafe. I worked for awhile on updates on here, where I had access to wifi.
It was still raining when I walked back to the campsite and took everything down. The blissful pause in hot mosquito action from last night didn't last, unfortunately, and in the still and rain they were out in full force.
The first real problem for the day started right after I left Palisade. I couldn't find the map bag, with not just the map for today but all of the maps in it. I had to pull over and search the boat; turns out it was under the Duluth pack.
The morning and early afternoon on the river were pretty lovely. Overcast for once (it's been sunny almost all day every day of the trip so far), with the rain waning quickly after I got on the water. There were some lovely moments, especially the confluence with the Willow River.
But it was very, very still all day. Hardly a breath of wind. While this is good in some ways (no wind means no wind to fight), it also allows the mosquitoes out onto the river. Every other day, with very few exceptions, once I break free of the swarm in the morning, I'm free for the rest of the day, as long as I'm on the water. Once I pull into the bank, a welcoming committee rises to meet me. But not so today. There was a fairly constant presence around me most of the day. Not a swarm - singles, doubles, maybe trios. But not the peace I've gotten used to.
And then, in the deathly still air of early evening, I passed by the Aitkin Flood Diversion Channel Dam. (For more on this, I found the following explainer: https://www.johnweeks.com/river_mississippi/pages02/aitkindam.html). The Mississippi takes a little jog to the south in the Aitkin area. This crazy thing they built in the 1950s takes a bunch of water out of the river, puts it in a straight-line channel for tens of miles, and rejoins the main river considerably downstream.
After this dam, the current died. That meant eleven miles paddling not with the current I've come to expect, but on virtually flat water. At dusk. With no wind.
I paddled most of those miles with the headnet and gloves on, and still had mosquitoes break through my defenses. I finally arrived at the Aitkin campsite to find it basically in a swamp, right next to the wastewater treatment plant. Becalmed as we are, the mosquitoes followed me all the way into town.
Aitkin may be a perfectly nice place, but I don't think I ever want to come here again.
Tomorrow. Yikes. It's 15 river miles before the rest of the Mississippi rejoins the main flow. It's going to be a slog, and I'm not even going to make predictions about how far I'll make it.