portfolio > gone on the river

day 32
day 32
June 30, 2022

Day 32, June 30.
Measurements: turbidity just downstream of Prairie du Chien: 39.5. Nitrate in the same place: 2ppm. Miles today: around 21.

Today has been another grind. It's the third straight day facing a pretty hard headwind, and I am just totally beat.

I woke early, made myself breakfast (potatoes I boiled last night, plus garlic and onion and then scrambled eggs, and tea), and got out as quickly as I could, trying to beat the wind. One unexpected setback I had to handle: a hole in my air mattress. Dang. I patched it, and we'll see if the patch holds.

The wind was from the southwest, blowing hard much of the day. Some stretches of river I had no choice but to just face it. In other spots, I had to decide where and when to try to paddle hard across the river to pick up the lee from the opposite shore.

I saw some very interesting heavy industry right on the river just south of Clayton, IA. A gravel mine, maybe? They were moving barges around, loading a barge, and also clearly loading trains. At this spot I had a rare bit of help from the current, and clocked myself going around four and a half miles per hour. (I timed how long it took me to pass a barge, and it took thirty seconds, give or take. A barge is 195 feet long. Check my math!)

But there were other chunks of today when my progress was measured more in hours per mile than miles per hour.

At the inevitable next dam pool, I caught a bit of a break: the wind was coming from the southwest, but by hugging the right bank I could mostly stay out of the worst of it, with a couple of exceptions, all the way down into Guttenberg, IA. This particular human-made lake is very shallow and sandy, and I got hung up a few times, even with my very shallow draft. I was paddling Venice-style for some time, actually hitting the sandy bottom with my paddle on nearly every stroke.

I've been focusing on ergonomics during these days of hard paddling. Trying to use my core, my torso, not just my shoulders and arms. It seems to be working - I'm feeling much more powerful. I'm not sure why I didn't expect this, but I really didn't conceive of having to go the seven hundred miles between the Twin Cities and St. Louis almost entirely under my own power, with almost no help from the current.

At Guttenberg, I had to wait for a bit at Lock 10 for a barge to clear. I walked up the tall embankment (there are stairs) to see their riverside park, which they built as part of a flood control intervention in the 70s. I saw a plaque to that effect.

The lock wasn't awful, but the water on the far side was weirdly turbulent. The things are just not designed for people paddling to comfortably use them.

I stopped briefly in Guttenberg, which is a cute little river town. I went up to their brewery, which had pretty good beer, and then got back out on the river to fight the wind some more. I ended up on an island just above the little town of Cassville, WI.

Tonight's dinner was a bit of an accomplishment: bibimbap. Rice, with dehydrated veggie 'meat' (that I flavored with salt, sugar, and miso powder), mushrooms, greens, fresh onion, garlic, and ginger, homemade kimchi, and a fried egg. Pretty good, gotta say.

Tomorrow: gosh it would be nice to go further than twenty miles without feeling like I'd left it all on the field.