Day 17, June 15.
Measurements: turbidity at Stearns County Park: a very clear 58cm. River miles today: 25.
Today has been the most frightening and relief-filled day so far.
I'm feeling incredibly grateful at the moment. To be here, in this beautiful place. To have the time, resources, and (arguably) skills to do this. And for the amazing kindness of people, including my friends and family, but also including total strangers.
I made a conscious decision this morning to let myself sleep in a bit. It was raining, and the rain was supposed to let up around 11 (which it didn't do, but it did sort of taper off). I've been feeling tired, sore, overworked.
I finally got moving at around 10, got everything packed, went to put it in the canoe, and found something totally horrifying: the canoe was not there.
I lost it. Freaked out entirely. Called Sam, in tears. Ran around in the damned swamp where I stayed last night, trying to find a place where I could get a good view downstream. Nothing. Couldn't see it.
I had two theories. One: it had been stolen. But who would do something like that? Two: it hadn't been on the landing securely enough, and had been dislodged by the wake of someone's motorboat in the night or morning, and had drifted away downstream.
I had no idea what to do. I reported it to the Sheriff's office, who said they'd send a deputy in a bit. Like I said above, I called my partner Sam for moral support. And I reached out to the Mississippi Paddlers Facebook group. That last thing is what saved the day. A guy named Ron, based in Bemidji, reached out to someone he knew, Lee Bergstrom, who lives about nine river miles downstream of where I was.
The next hour or so was just awful. Pacing around, swatting mosquitoes, waiting for something to happen, feeling like a total fool - which was fair, because I'd been a total fool. I hadn't properly secured the boat, and it had drifted away. Possibly over the Sartell dam. Possibly sideways against a sweeper, turned over, sunk, gone forever.
Then I saw the most glorious sight imaginable: a motorboat with a single guy in it, towing Maddy upstream towards the boat launch. She was fine. Everything inside was fine. My trip, my life at this moment, went from being possibly over to saved, by the kindness of a stranger named Lee.
After thanking him profusely, gathering the rest of my gear, and starting out, I finally made it to the Sartell boat launch at around 3pm. Like I said, that was only nine miles, but I left very late after all these shenanigans, and also I was paddling on utterly still water.
Lee had asked me to stop by once I made it to the launch. Coincidentally, he lives directly next door to it. We talked in his driveway. I thanked him some more, he took a picture of my road rig, and he gave me advice about where to camp tonight.
I biked the six-ish miles into St. Cloud, past Sartell and Sauk Rapids. There were pretty nice bike facilities most of the way, mostly right along the river. I got a good look at Sauk Rapids, and they are not to be fucked with. Big rocks causing big rapids with lots and lots of water - it was wise to skip them.
I ate at the Pickled Loon in downtown St. Cloud, then biked down to the Beaver Island launch. As is so often the case below dams, the river was really moving. This was at about 7pm. I pushed it nine miles (!) and arrived at the site Lee had recommended, Boy Scout Point.
This is the best site I've been in since maybe Day 4. It's on a point in the river, very open, well maintained (mowed!), and though there are mosquitoes here, it's not a tragicomic cloud of them. I'm actually writing this outside.
Oh, and you had better fucking believe that the canoe is all the way out of the water, up on the beach, and also tied to a tree.
Today was pretty bad in a lot of ways. It could have been so much worse.
Tomorrow: onward, downriver. I'm not sure how far.