Reporting in from Prescott, Wisconsin. WISCONSIN, WE SAID! We've finally made it out of the (beautiful, wonderful, idyllic) quagmire that is Minnesota. One state down, nine to go. Three weeks down, six to go. Somehow that math is a little daunting, but we promise it's going as scheduled. We're only a few days behind.
We left Brainerd with a heavy heart last week, having had the best of times there (Hi Kaitie, Dan, Juli, Jennie, and everybody!). Not only that, but we had to carry on without our dear friend Caleb, as well. Caleb had managed to part ways with Chicken, the goose, as well. The fellowship was separated, and we miss him already. Good luck, Caleb. See you in New Orleans.
The day was an interesting one after that, despite the late start. For miles we were floating next to Fort Ripley, hearing gunshots and tanks rolling by (we called and asked if they would mind us dropping in, but they weren't real keen on it). We found our way to Little Falls for the first portage, but some buoys were out and we were a little thrown when trying to locate the landing. Tempers were a bit high by the time we finally started hauling our gear out. Fortunately, this was diffused and done with thanks to "The Can Man," a local who was kind enough to drive all our gear and even the boat down to the put-in, which was a long ways away for three men and an enormous metal canoe. Relief in the form of the kindness of strangers has been a common theme up here in the American North.
Between this dam and the next, at Blanchard, it was slow water. Big, beautiful properties peered down at us as we made our way to the landing, where we made camp. We did not realize, though, that this public boat landing is a favorite for nighttime bow fishermen. If you've never seen a boat rigged for this particular activity, we assure you that it is sufficiently terrifying to wake up to in the middle of the night.
Blanchard Dam was by far the longest portage we had, but we lucked out again due do some help from a couple of fine gentlemen who were kind enough to lend us a hand in trucking our gear over before we walked our canoe to the put-in (Thanks again, fellas. Mum's the word.) We spent a good deal of the morning cutting all the equipment-weight we possibly could in an effort to up our speed in some small fashion. We had to ditch the fishing pole swords, but it would seem we were successful.
Lakes, dams, and pontoons were the order of the day on the long way to St. Cloud. We portaged the gear in (to Sartell, technically, thanks to a kind man and a bunch of local kids), set camp, and had dinner at the Riverboat Depot (thanks guys!) where a lovely woman in a blue shirt bought us all dinner. Lady, we didn't catch your name, but you have a postcard coming your way. Thank you so much.
Next up, we had a little town named Dayton in our sights, mostly for the photo op. After another resupply, another long portage, and a good day of paddling, we ended up just short of Dayton on a small island designated for scientific and wildlife research. We felt right at home. The resident beaver, however, did not care for us. Constant, consistent tail slaps make it difficult for a body to sleep through the night.
And finally, to the Twins. In spite of a solid day of paddling toward our goal, we found ourselves foiled by the closing of the Upper St. Anthony's lock (to defend againsy the spread of asian carp, a wildly invasive species). Luckily, our new friends at Above the Falls Sports helped us out with portage assistance and came out to pick up us and our behemoth, Calypso (They even let her sleep over at their shop!). We were even graciously given a place to stay and do laundry and clean up in general (Hi, Steph and Jess!). Minneapolis, would that we could have spent more time with you. You are a beautiful, grand place.
The next day, we scrambled to get our boat down to the water and get some miles in before camp. We faced our first lock, as well - the lockmaster of which offered us some great advice and pointers on what lay ahead. These locks are certainly a step up from portage around the dams behind us. That night was spent in the finest of company with Mike and Deb Venker, who not only picked us up and welcomed us into their beautiful home, but made us the first well-rounded meal we've had in weeks. We slept a whole lot better that night.
And now, almost suddenly, Wisconsin. We are so sad to seee Minnesota behind us, but so happy to be making progress. Wisconsin, Iowa, and all ahead -- we're happy to have you in our very near future.
Once again, as usual, I'd like to thank everybody for keeping us in mind during this journey. You're all the best.