Day 15, June 13. Brainerd to Fletcher Creek campsite. Measurements: turbidity at Brainerd 39.5cm. Nitrate and nitrite 0 just downstream of the confluence with the Crow Wing river. River miles traveled: 31.
Today has been a series of contrasts. I woke up in Brainerd, MN, in a motel room near a highway. Ate their free cereal, drank their free coffee and orange juice. Left a bit late, after 9:30. I ran a few errands in town - got myself a nighttime wrist thingy for carpal tunnel, to deal with some of the issues I've been having with numbness in my fingers, and a roll of duct tape to fix some holes in some dry bags (which had become, let's say, damp bags).
I had to bike across the river to get to the put in, a spot called Evergreen. The bridge was a highway bridge, which wasn't particularly friendly even though I was up on the sidewalk. I took a pic from the bridge, and then later another of its piers and arches, from the river.
It's so interesting and strange to go from what feels to me like suburban strip malls, down a few tens of feet into what can seem like almost untouched wilderness, depending on where you look and whether a truck is engine braking. The difference in mosquitoes alone is tremendous. In town there are almost none; at the river's edge there is a cloud, always.
The river in Brainerd is full of foam, from the dam upstream. I paddled through what looked like small icebergs of foam for a good mile at least.
For many miles today, the river was pretty sluggish. It's wide here, lots of water, clearly submerging a number of the islands along the way, so it seems like a line of trees is sprouting from the river itself. I passed the confluence with Buffalo Creek, and with the Crow Wing River, with its associated state park on the left bank.
But then the next contrast: in some places below the Crow Wing confluence, the river just flew. It was so fast it was a bit intimidating at times - it's a lot of water, now, too much to fight when it decides to really move like that. And then it would hit a wider place, often full of islands, and slow to a crawl. But even some of the islanded stretches remained fast, fast enough that I felt it prudent to avoid the narrowest channels between islands, because what if there was an unseen sweeper I couldn't avoid down the bend?
It was like that up until the campsite tonight, which is right on the river - but about a hundred yards from the put in, which I had to walk several times with various bags of gear.
I saw more turtles today than the entire trip so far. They were all sunning themselves on the low islands in the middle of the river. As I passed they would splash, en masse, into the water. I also saw more dragonflies today than any day so far, including some with very interesting yellow and black patterns. And another snake, this time swimming across the surface of the river, right past the canoe. Several deer, many herons and eagles and other birds. And a little frog, right where I put in, below but within Brainerd.
Tonight's dinner was miso soup. Pretty good, nothing special.