Reporting in from Brainerd, MN, taking some shelter from the storm. We've been moving along nicely, but maybe not as quickly as we'd hoped. The people of Minnesota have been almost too nice, to the point that we feel in danger of being like the Lotus Eaters anytime we stop in town. It's hard to get back on the river early in the morning when folks in town are this kind to you. Still, go on we must, and Minneapolis is waiting.
It's hard to believe it's only been a week since we lit out from Grand Rapids, so much has happened. We woke up and got going in time to make it out of town fairly cleanly, with an assist from the nice folks at the power plant. They picked us up and took us to Steamboat Landing, the Calypso in tow, but not before giving us a brief tour of the control room of the plant and assisting us with some hardware modifications (no more paddles being damaged due to the middle seat!). We paddled out to a campsite near Blackberry and made camp somewhat early, taking advantage of the great birdwatching there -- there were kingfishers and eagles flying all about. It was a beautiful place.
The next day had us making our way down to Willowood campsite, paddling hard. We had made an unfortunate discovery coming out of Grand Rapids -- our YSI multiparameter device was malfunctioning and wouldn't boot up. So, after every attempt to make the device function to no avail, we decided to mail it back to Ohio to sit the rest of the trip out. Repairs are expensive, and even to have it looked at is out of our budget. However, we still have plenty of equipment to continuing testing. Our primary loss is readings on dissolved oxygen. All things considered, all is still very well. We mailed the device from the Mississippi Landing store in Jacobson, an extraordinarily small town just off the river. The rest of the day consisted of passing idyllic farmland and cows languishing under and overcast sky.
Being wary of oncoming storms, we spent the whole next day paddling hard to get to Palisade. We really hit it that day, managing to make it into Palisade and its beautiful campground before nightfall. Anticipating some nasty precipitation, we pulled the canoe from the water and spread out under the protection of the camp enclosure, taking a "zero" (day off) to get as much non-paddling work done as possible. That paid off nicely (despite the rain being slim to none), and there were high spirits with us on our way out. Quick aside to the people of Palisade: Thanks again, especially for all the dry wood.
After our day off we powered onward to Lone Pine campsite, by way of a nasty low head dam to cut off a little time. That was one of our nastier portages, including poison ivy, slick rocks, and a precipitous perch for our boat in the eddies afterward. However, we made it, and spent an hour after speaking to Pete, a man who lived up on the dam and came down to speak with us. He'd been out mushroom hunting and took a little break to chit chat with us and give us his CD (he goes by Pickin' Pete, on banjo). It was strange on the diversion channel, being the first long, straight stretch we'd had. It was bizarre and beautiful, with just enough current to keep us moving right along. We ended up doing some night paddling to make our goal that day, arriving in Lone Pine and finishing making camp just after midnight.
Our next morning was a little slow after all the night paddling. Caleb managed to catch up with us, so we all took off together in the direction of Brainerd. We stopped off at the Bridge Tavern as a way of recon for town (Hi, Tiffany!). A beautiful atlas moth was in its death throes after laying its eggs on the back patio. The death dance of an atlas moth is a fine thing to behold. After some chit chat and insect watching, we got back on the river and made it to a hay field just north of Brainerd for the night. To whoever's land that was: Thanks! we tried to leave it just as we found it.
And finally, we made our way to Brainerd in the morning. It took a bit of tough paddling to dodge another incoming storm (which only sort of showed up again), but it was worth every second. The folks here are just fantastic, as are the local establishments. Even as we landed, Zack of the Brainerd newspaper was on shore taking photos and getting ready to do a little interview. From there on it's been nothing but excellent hospitality and interesting experiences, including a little field trip out to Ironton's flooded pit mines that were once used to extract bog iron (Hi, Kaitie!), a gorgeous location. Thanks for the kindness all around, Brainerd. Maybe if you'd been a little less kind we would have made it out on time, though.
So, that brings us up to date. A big shout out and thank you to the Sidney Daily News, Piqua Daily Call, and Troy Daily News for supporting us and getting us some exposure back home. Oh, and a big thank you to the local radio station here in Brainerd, KLIZ -- "The Power Loon." You really saved our collective sanity when the iPod went overboard.
Thanks again, everybody, and see you next week!