It’s 9pm on the second day of paddling and we are camped out on a hilltop. In between the pitter patter of raindrops on my tent, I occasionally hear someone gently snoozing nearby. I think we covered about 10-mi the first day, 14-mi today, and look to do 14 more tomorrow. Monday will likely be a rest day as snow is expected!! But, no complaints, for the weather so far has been superb (40s at night, overcast 60-ish during the day). Plus, rain immediately prior to our arrival raised the water level enough to make the going easier and more fun so far. The first day’s paddling was mostly fast water in narrow channels lined by trees, today was similar to that at first, (but perhaps more challenging – lots of downed trees and such to keep us alert) but ended with a gentle meander through marshland. We’ve seen several eagles, and today surprised a swan, which flapped its long wings and honked at us irritatedly while making a hasty exit. Special thanks to Elaine and Judi, whose contributions are too numerous to mention.
We stopped for lunch at this bridge and a local fellow ripping along in his 4-wheeler stopped to chat. He had some good advice about downstream campsites.
He’s an avid sportsman and said he’d love to accompany us. Laughingly, we said: “go get a canoe and c’mon”. But he has a wife and six kids at home ranging in age from 3 to 20. We had been constantly marveling at the beautiful terrain up north, but, given the cold and nasty conditions we’d seen in mid May, we also wondered what in the world the locals do all winter. After we shoved-off, Richard noted the fellow’s six kids, and mused that it appeared we’d answered THAT question.
Another stellar day today, but it didn’t necessarily start out that way. After posting last night’s entry, a check of the weather forecast showed rain all last night, all day today, all of tonight, and then Monday too – save it could change to snow on Monday. In my mind that meant calling time out, getting a hotel room and dipping our toes in the hot tub until things cleared. Fortunately saner heads prevailed. Dale said this morning that instead of the planned 12 miles today, we’d do 20 instead. What? Then he continued by saying the extra leg was through the notorious Bog section, where it’s easy to get lost – in which case we may have to sleep in our canoes for it’s too marshy to pitch a tent. So we packed up this morning, in the rain, and covered a quick 10 miles by noon, in heavier rain. But then the sun came out and it was a picture perfect afternoon of about 60 degrees with puffy clouds. But the real treat was when we reached our destination for the day around 4:30. We were back in civilization, but with no good camping spots. Then we saw a beautiful one across the river – a low hill covered in soft green grass and dotted with trees, but it was posted NO TRESPASSING. Dale, however, was unfazed (sound familiar?). He went over, approached the owner and received permission to camp amongst some outer buildings, with access to a cabin that has electricity (ie: we can charge our electronics and dry our gear). Right now I’m tapping out this update, at a kitchen table, listening to the buzz of the floor fan and the rain falling outside. We’re sleeping in our tents and there’s no running water or bathroom, but we couldn’t be more pleased with the arrangement. It’s a treat. Thank you Vance and Susie!
The Bog. I think those are wild rice, about six feet high. It was like a maze. To follow the main channel you follow the current, and when in doubt check the fronds under water to see which way they bend.
Dale, Richard and our river angel, Vance – at the little cabin on Vance’s property. Vance is a retired professor. He and his wife are very active in the local community, staging a fun event each summer to benefit kids.
The next morning the temp was in the 30s. It rained all night and into the morning. However, as we were shoving off, the sky started spitting snow – it lasted off and on all day – and we loved it. Snow in May!
The paddle into Bemidji was beautiful. Most of it through a hilly area with old-growth woodland – it was a little spooky, but in a good way. We saw eagles and deer.
The final stretch, though, called for crossing a lake about two miles across to gain access to Lake Bemidji – we would stay at a Hampton Inn there that night. As we pulled up to the first lake we were at the lee side (downwind) which meant the 25 mph wind we faced had the full width of the lake to develop its wrath. There were 3-ft to 4-ft whitecaps. When Richard pulled up next to me he took one look at it and said: “I don’t like the look of that”. This was sobering, as Richard hadn’t balked at any obstacle so far. But then the Adventureitus crew pulled up next to us, said they were going straight across and took off – with Dale and Richard in tow. I’m not saying the whitecaps were dangerous, but I’m pretty sure I saw some guys in wetsuits and surfboards out there.