portfolio > gone on the river

day 28
day 28
June 26, 2022

Day 28, June 26
Measurements: turbidity just below Trempeleau Mountain: just about 60cm. Nitrate below Trempeleau, a good solid 2ppm. Miles (so far): 19.

Today has been the roughest, scariest day so far.

I woke up on that super-informal campsite of last resort early in the morning, and was on my way by around 8:30. I noticed with some satisfaction that the wind had changed, and was now behind me. I wove my way through islands to the main channel, on the left (Wisconsin) bank, right near the town of Trempeleau.

Here it became clear: the wind was not light, but very strong, blowing south-southwest. That's also where I wanted to go, but still, it gave me pause. But on the map, it looked like Lock #6, where I was headed right adjacent to the town, was in the lee of the wind.

No, it was not. I realized my mistake at basically the last second. I'd thought the lock pool was to my left; it was to the right, directly in the wind. I made a reflexive - and very bad - decision to continue on, almost more to not "lose my chance" than anything.

Once that decision was made, I was stuck. I couldn't fight that wind head on. It was whipping up waves that, when they met the concrete wall of the Lock, reflected back at me chaotically. And it was pushing me down into the Lock itself.

I tried to pull the cord, but was too afraid to really reach out and grab the ladder there, and flew past it. I was trapped, going into the lock without a lot of control, in the midst of large, chaotic waves, and without anyone knowing.

I started just shouting for help. Eventually they heard me, and one of the staff threw me a line. I was able to stay relatively secure, but I was all the way down in the area where the doors open. So they opened one door (the north one, the one where I wasn't) and I made my way into the relative safety of the Lock.

Altogether: terrifying. I absolutely came the closest to dumping the boat so far. The story that another lock employee had told for laughs was haunting me, as was Josh's advice about the locks being sketchy in the wind, which he gave me just yesterday.

After locking through, I pulled over to the Trempeleau marina and cried, and called Sam, and cried some more. I unloaded the boat, tipped out the gallons of water it had collected, and reloaded it. And with much more trepidation than usual, set back out on the river.

The tailwind has been a problem all day. It's a funny problem to have, I know, but it makes the boat unmanageable. I have it trimmed for a tailwind, but I think that the Duluth Pack is sticking up above the gunwales just enough to negate all of that. In any tailwind, she wants to turn broadside, on her way to being nose to the wind.

The next few miles were fine, uneventful, past Dakota on the MN side. But then I had to deal with another goddamned dam.

This was Lock and Dam 7, on the right (Minnesota) side. I had stayed on the right side as well. But the wind was still high, still behind me. Would want to push me into the lock. After this morning, I didn't want to do that again. So I tried to make my way to Upper Dike Landing, where the dike that extends from the dam meets the far left shore.

One major problem with that idea: I couldn't just get to the dike wall and follow along it, because there is a gap in it. A spillway. So I had to fight my way across the low end of Lake Onalaska with an unresponsive canoe, in very large waves. Much swearing ensued. I did clear the spillway, did make it to the dike wall (a 30 degree rip-rap wall), and was fighting my way along it when the waves pushed me into the rocks. I got everything out of the boat and onto shore, emptied the water out of the almost entirely swamped canoe, and carried everything up the unstable slope. Again, I cried. Again, I called Sam.

I then converted to road mode, loaded up, and set off. One last Murphy's Law bit of fuckery: the bollards blocking vehicular access were just too wide to allow the trailer through. I had to unload, pull the canoe off the trailer, redo everything.

From there it was a deeply unpleasant bike ride, mostly on four-lane roads with no bike facilities, down into La Crosse. That's where I am now. I got a beer and a servicable veggie burger with fries.

The pic today is of my forlorn stuff, essentially shipwrecked along Dam #7's dike.

Oh, and: I was trying to clean the water filter and part of it was blown into the water and promptly sank.

I feel like I'm falling apart. Like I'm getting worse. I'm certainly making less and less progress every day, and having more and more mishaps.

Tonight I'm going to try to find the first sandy spot, no matter how bad it looks. Tomorrow, I'm headed for Genoa, WI, by noon or so, to get food from Shaun. After that, I don't know.

Today has sucked.