Day 25, June 23. Measurements: turbidity at Sawdust Bar, right across from Bay City, WI: 29.5. Nitrate at confluence of Chippewa River with Mississippi: a good solid 2ppm. Miles today: 24. 9-ish on the water, 16-ish on road.
Well, do I not like Lake Pepin.
I woke rather early and got a pretty early start. Breakfast was leftovers from last night (veggie brat, potatoes).
I have been trying to psych myself up for Pepin for days. I knew it would be rough. Last night I looked at the topographical map on Google Maps, and decided to try to do some of the lake on the water, to avoid what looked like a substantial hill between Bay City and Maiden Rock, WI.
Pepin sucks, for a boat as small as a canoe. When I first got out on that big water, there was essentially no wind. That didn't mean no waves; it just meant that the waves came from everywhere. From the front, the back, abeam, everywhere. I made my way to the left (east) shore, and fought my way along it.
Eventually the wind did come up, from the south - the worst case scenario, for me - and large wind-driven waves battered me on the right side as I crawled along the shore. Eventually I got to a place marked on the map as "Warrentown," where I had hoped to put in. No such luck: there was absolutely no way up onto the road. Between the road and the water: two very active rail lines, with their embankments on both side, and then another steep embankment to the road. Just impossible.
So I continued on the water, very reluctantly. When I reached the sizable delta that marks the confluence with the Rush River (more on that later) I tried to go up that river to the road. No such luck: huge numbers of down trees across the river, up about half a mile.
I had to cross a little bay to the boat launch at the town of Maiden Rock, and that was probably the diciest part of the paddle. The wind had come up even more, and I was taking largish waves pretty much squarely on my right side. Maddy is a trooper, and rolled very ably the whole time. Still, I ended up swearing for much of that part of the journey. At Pepin, mostly. I made solemn vows never to see it again, etc.
The boat launch was just right, in the sense that I pulled up right next to a dead fish with no eyes. I walked up into town and got myself a soda and a snack, and then set about slowly transforming the boat to a bike-semi. I also cleaned out the broken glass and most of the olive oil.
On my way out of town, a woman crossing the street effectively laughed in my face. "That looks like a lot of work," she said.
She was right. I ended up getting off the bike and walking the whole rig up the hill out of Maiden Rock. And then at least once more, but maybe twice more. This was the hardest bike ride so far, by far.
I did get to see Maiden Rock, and the spot above where Fort Antoine was created by the French in the 1680s. The actual Maiden Rock is pretty far from the town that took it as its name. Or maybe it just took me a long time to get there.
Eventually, mercifully, the road started to flatten out a bit. The uphill portions went from brutal and impossible to difficult but doable. I stopped at the town of Stockholm, which seems surprisingly cool. In one store I got a soda and a water, and washed off a bit in the bathroom. I noticed a sign for a "funk forward" fermented food place, and was intrigued. There I got a beer from Rush River (callback!) and a loaf of bread from the bakery next door.
I biked through the town of Pepin, as well. It seems less cool. But I did get myself a new - plastic - bottle of olive oil.
I got back on the water not on the Mississippi, but on the Chippewa, at the river landing called "Tiffany" for some reason, where Hwy 35 crosses that river. It's about a mile upstream of the confluence with the Miss. An older guy came to check me out and chat. Bernie, a chiropractor in town. He gave me some good advice about a place to stay near the confluence, and was generally very pleasant.
At this moment, the Chippewa is pretty shallow, very sandy. I got hung up a few times, just dragging along sand. There are large sandbars all over the place.
I stayed on a beach right across from Read's Landing, a tiny little collection of houses on the Minnesota side. Unfortunately, the mosquitoes really came out at about dusk (which was about when I pulled in).
I basically collapsed, and slept for ten hours, 10pm-8am.