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the Crow
the Crow
June 17, 2022

This is the Crow River, looking upstream from its confluence with the Mississippi.

This is meaningful to me, because I have been here before, several times. Actually, I think the exact number is three times.

I have done a trip now, three times, where I bike out the Luce Line trail to a tiny town called Watertown, on the south fork of the Crow River. There, the rig transforms to become a water creature, and we proceed some forty-ish river miles (if I remember correctly) to the confluence with the Mississippi, then back down into Minneapolis.

The first time I did this trip was with my then-partner, now ex. The second time was in 2020, I believe. It was kind of a 'makeup' trip for one that I had planned to take to the Boundary Waters in June, but couldn't take because I had to be there for the unrest after the murder of George Floyd. I think it may have been something like September, but I'm not sure. The last trip I remember very well, because it was just last November, just days after the election in which I essentially lost my job. It was also memorable because I forgot to bring my damn sleeping bag, and the first night was pretty brutally cold, under whatever clothing I could repurpose as a blanket. I bought an actual blanket the next day, from a dollar store just feet from the river, and everything after that was fine.

It's so interesting to go from the Mississippi as a fresh new experience, something I've never seen before, to a stretch of the Mississippi that I now know pretty well.

The 2020 trip etched itself on my understanding of this part of the river. That's because as I left the confluence, I realized a terrible truth: the wind was blowing very hard, and it was blowing directly against me. I fought for hours, literally hours, to get three miles. I didn't get out of Dayton. I remember a father and his daughter walking along the shore, just feet from me, at let's just say a very leisurely pace, and outpacing me badly. I remember getting completely stuck in the narrow channel between a small island and the shore, where the wind was enough to keep me from going downstream, but the current was enough to keep me from going back upstream. It was just horrible.

The photo for this entry is from the place where I gave up. It's called Elsie Stephens Park. I pulled into the rocky shore (which, interestingly, is now entirely covered by the river) and called Sam to rescue me in her car. We ended up leaving the canoe there in the park overnight, and in the morning some guys who looked like they were maybe sixteen, who were working on cutting brush in the park, had moved it - and seemed a bit disappointed when I showed up to claim it. Yes, I have almost lost this canoe more than once.

It's amazing. I once spent literally three hours to go less than three miles, and then gave up. Today, I think I did those same three miles in less than one blissful hour, hardly paddling at all.

The differences between the last trip and this one are also striking, especially the water level. The landing at Dayton had a whole sandy shelf that I pulled the boat up on, seven months ago. It is now so far underwater I couldn't feel it with my paddle.

I'm hopeful that this will mean a more pleasant journey to the Coon Rapids Dam tomorrow morning. I remember it being a real slog in November, with the river hardly moving at all. I also remember being able to see the bottom, and the water being very clear until I hit the dam pool. At this moment I have no idea where the bottom is, and the water is a sort of silty tan.

I'm going to do the Crow again, I know it. I now have the route and the campsites firmly lodged in my mind. It would be fun to do it with other people.