Day 19, June 17.
Measurements: turbidity at Demmick Island: 53cm. Nitrate near Cloquet Island, downstream from confluence with the Crow River: 1. Nitrite: 0. River miles: only 15 miles.
Today has been by far my most laid back in a long time. That's because I made a decision last night to come into Minneapolis tomorrow, to give folks who are interested in paddling from the Coon Rapids Dam down into the city with me an opportunity to do so, on a Saturday. We'll see if anyone joins!
So I woke up around 8:30, had a leisurely and mostly bug-free breakfast (overnight oats again, with dried apples and cherries, raisins, coconut flakes, and peanut butter), packed up, and got underway at around 10:30. The river was still moving at a very healthy clip, and made good time to Elk River, about five river miles away.
Somehow I've buried my sunscreen somewhere unfindable (under the bike?), and it was nearly out anyway. So I stopped in Elk River, essentially under the Parrish Ave bride, and walked up to a Speedway a few blocks away for sunscreen, a soda, and a bag of chips.
Those few blocks felt more threatening and dangerous than today's whole paddle. The streetscape in at least that portion of Elk River is actively hostile to pedestrians. It's one of those places where you can only cross the busy road on one side of the street, but then when you get past the train tracks the only sidewalk is on the other side of the street. I said fuck it and walked on people's yards.
The river slowed and widened right downstream of Elk River, but then picked up speed again. This entire day, I have been paralleling both roads and train tracks, hearing a lot of car and truck and train noise. I've also seen a fair number of folks actively using the water: a couple of guys in an interesting setup that was part rowboat, part motorboat, who asked me where I was going and coming from ("Louisiana" and "Itasca" are the answers I shout to folks like this) and wish me a "safe and pleasant trip;" a couple young guys fishing, shirtless; a couple on a pontoon who mercifully slowed for me; a single older guy going up and down the river on a Jet Ski; a family right across the river from me now, playing around half in the water next to their motorboat.
I reached the confluence with the Crow not long after, and pulled into the Dayton, MN boat ramp. I tied up the boat (always, always tie up) and walked to the Dayton liquor store where I found a favorite beer (Big Doinks from Fair State), and headed back down.
I'll write much more about the Crow and its confluence in a later post. It was delightful, in many ways.
And then the scanty four miles down here to Cloquet Island, which is one of a pair of island campsites with Foster Island, which I can see right across the main stream from me (the island, not the campsite - the site is on the other side). The site is nice, up about ten feet from the water, definitely more overgrown than either of the past two sites. Not a palatial estate, but servicable. Relatively mosquito-lite, at least compared with everything above that horrible Stearns County site.
One other thing I should note about this site: the turkey. When I walked up into the site proper, I was... I think the word has to be confronted by a turkey. It made a lot of noise as I walked up near the picnic table, ran back and forth gobbling and squawking, actually did an entire circle around the site and me, part-flying for a bit of it, always making lots of noise. I then heard a fair amount of its gobbling and chuckling, with another persistent bird sound: a four-cheep call, very high. "Cheep cheep cheep cheep!" Over and over again. Intermixed with gobbles. Seems like it might have been its young? A turkeylet, or whatever you call young turkeys? I tried to reassure them that I mean them no harm - I don't even eat turkey - but either my Turkey is rusty or they don't believe me. They've since moved away, I think.
I haven't made dinner yet, but I'm thinking maybe something with the remaining potatoes?
Tomorrow, I have a real plan. Getting to the Coon Rapids dam by noon, leaving there a little after one with anyone who ends up joining, then paddling down to Boom Island by 5pm. Then to a friend's belated/rescheduled birthday party, then to my own actual house in St. Paul! To sleep in my own bed! Whoa.