Day 20, June 18
Measurements: turbidity at Cloquet Island: 33.5. Nitrate at the Minneapolis northern border: 1. Nitrite: 0.
Today was pretty wonderful, but of course leavened by some difficulty.
I woke earlier than the alarm I'd set for myself on Cloquet Island, ate my breakfast (overnight oats), packed up and got out on the water at around 8:30. The water was still moving where I put in, but I knew from past experience that I'd soon be in the still water above the Coon Rapids dam. Worse, it was clear that the wind was rising, and was against me.
The fight to the dam was hard. A slog. I tried to stay within feet of shore, where the waves were smaller. But eventually I had to cross the river (I was on the right bank for much of the morning, but knew that the portage at the dam is on the left). I faced my biggest waves since above Bemidji, 2-3 foot swells. Not fun, but manageable.
As I passed Anoka, I also passed the confluence with the Rum River. I went over to the left bank to check it out, but there wasn't much to see. The wind made it much harder to find the line between the Rum-In-Mississippi and the Miss-Proper. Also, it didn't seem like very much water was actually coming in from the Rum; but that's a hard thing to ascertain. The water certainly seemed clearer and darker after the confluence, but I'm not sure what accounts for that.
Right above the dam, I saw a very large fish - looked to be about three feet long, and seemed quite massive - jump all the way out of the water a ways away from me.
As I pulled up to the dam, my friend Ken came to meet me. We were joined in a bit by Jesse, and by Bri, who had brought her fold-up kayak to join me in the paddle from the dam down into Minneapolis, and had gotten a ride from Marc. It was difficult to find the put-in, because I was looking in the wrong place - it's on an island in the middle of the dam, not the east bank, where I was looking.
Bri and I pushed off just below the remnant of Coon Rapids - a string of rocks that stretches across the river below the dam. It was pretty fun to assemble two "transforming" watercraft of two very different types, side by side.
The wind was still against us, but we had a healthy current. The combination of the two created some interesting waves. We passed a park where a guy and his big black lab were playing fetch in the river, folks fishing, folks just sitting and watching the river roll by.
It was interesting having company on the river. It's really the first time I've had someone paddling alongside for any amount of time. I've had brief interactions with folks in motorboats ("how far ya goin?"), but having a friend along for miles is very different.
We met up with Wendy, Asher and Autumn in the shadow of the 694 bridge, and they joined us on our way downriver. Together we passed the City of Minneapolis drinking water facility on the left bank (a place I've toured a couple of times). We watched a train go across a bridge over the river, and marveled as different graffiti masterpieces rolled past, right to left.
And we saw the heron rookery, whcih was incredible. It's an island near the left bank, where every tree is just covered in the large nests of herons and, I think, egrets. The squawking and chattering was tremendous. Little heads poked out from some of the nests, with nearly full-grown adolescents in others. Incredible.
We put in at Boom Island, in the midst of a group of kayak paddlers who had also left from the 694 area. And on shore, I was met by a large group of friends. Brette, who broght me a beverage from his house a few blocks away. Timothy and Alice, who are thinking about doing a similar trip from Itasca to the Twin Cities sometime. Janne and Ethan, Matthew and his daughter Noelle, Erin and Tony, Becky, Marc and Julie. Bri and Wendy stuck around. And of course, my darlin' Sammy J. Marc had brought charcoal, and folks had brought grillables, and we had a nice little meal.
My goodness it was fun to see people, to chat about the Mississippi, mosquitoes, mice in people's houses, turtles, Northern Spark, being an election judge, high school German classes, and a thousand other things.
Folks slowly drifted away, one or two at a time, until there were just a few of us left. Matthew, Noelle, Janne, Ethan and I biked to the Hiawatha Trail (through the very busy Stone Arch bridge, where they were having a festival). We biked past a woman who pointed at me as I walked past and shouted "I'm following you!" referring to this blog, I think. (Hi! Hope you're well.)
I've been limping the tow-yoke of the canoe trailer along since my last time on the road, in St. Cloud. The weight and jostling has now defeated two different systems for securing the front end. Heavy twist ties worked well, until they broke. A velcro cinch thing worked well, until it broke. So I had to stop a number of times on the way to Jesse's house to fix it, which was irritating.
But finally we arrived at Jesse's house for his "makeup" birthday party. It was fun to see him again (he'd met us at the dam earlier in the day), Angela, Josh, and his parents and siblings. He was kind enough to let me leave the canoe in his garage.
And then Sam and I drove home. So odd to be in a car again! Also very fun to see the dogs, Penny and Fred.
Tomorrow, I will be staying in the Twin Cities, doing some errands, perfing out the rig.