Day 26: the Strength
My sleep was uneasy as I thought I knew what I was in store for my day. The Minnesota was creating today and that merges with the Mississippi within a few miles of where I will be launching. I got up to load the car up to head down to the river. My friend, Alisa, Jeff, and their two kids joined me. We arrived at Hidden Falls Park where the enterance was blocked for cars. We unloaded the boat and brought it down to the water. After talking with a few people about the journey, I said my see you laters and pushed off. The boat seemed heavy as I just resupplied my food. I got into the current and it did not seem that bad. I noticed I was the only boat on the water, but I pressed forward. When the Minnesota river merged in, I noticed a heavy increase in the flow and the weight of the water. The river now had a strength. It is not something to take lightly. I moved out of Minneapolis and towards St Paul. The current was strong and required a lot of attention. I managed to pull my camera out and get some great shots of St Paul. I realized I would be the only one capturing these images today because no one else was on the water. I neared the industrial area that had a lot of barges tied up. I captured some of these images while still focusing on the water. I saw a guy working on a parked tugboat. I swung around to talk with him. This was not easy, but I wanted to get some new perspectives. I approached him and found a sweet spot behing the boat that had a even mix of forward and back currents. He thought I was crazy for being on the river this day. I do not have any frame of reference, so this just seems like a big river to me. He told me that the river is at 114,000 cfs (cubic feet per second) and that normal is 30,000 cfs. I found out some radio communication info and the channels for the river traffic and locks. I told him thanks, smiled for a picture for him and headed out. The river was closed to commercial traffic this day which meant I had the whole river to myself. I was not sure if this was a good thing or a bad thing. Again, no frame of reference. I looked at it as an opportunity to enjoy the quiet, focus on the river, and look for beautiful scenery to capture.
The river was moving at a good clip. I did not have to paddle and I would still be making good time, but I want to earn my miles. I made it to an area that I could safely pull into for lunch. It was a flooded parking lot. I pulled right up to the stairs and tied up. I was parked. I was getting out and people would begin asking a lot of questions. A few said I was nuts while others tipped their hat off to me, so to speak. I look at this adventure as an opportunity. The opportunity to inspire, motivate, and live a full adventourous life. I make my lunch and talked with people until they left. I took comfort in the bench and took a very small rest. I was tired.
Now that I was refueled, I was still a little tired, but the river would wake me back up. When the river is flowing like it is now, there is little room for error. I started to notice the channel markers and stayed clear of them. I saw my first small barge coming upstream. It did throw a major wake, but that cod be because of the size and current. I would end up seeing 5-6 tugs and barges for the day. The day allowed for a lot of quiet introspective thought, much like this whole river has allowed me to do. I just kept plugging along towards Hastings. As I was getting closer, I notice the area where a glacier has cut the river. There were impressive sheer rocks cliff that were carved so long ago. I crossed the channel, looking both ways, and made my way over to them.
I photographed them as the sun lit them up. I gained a new appreciatin for the geography by seeing them. I turned around and headed downstream.
The headwinds were picking up and so was the water. The wind pushed the water against the current which began. To lead to some larger swells. The river was pushing me almost more than I was paddling. This caught my attention. I can see what is on the surface, but it is what I can not see that unnerves me. There was an increase in the size of debris on the river. This included larger branches and full trees. I entered an area where resting and relaxing would not be an option. The swells were turning into waves and the river required my full attention. I understand water and I am still learning about my kayak, but the intensity of the level made me tense. A few waves were crashing over my boat, but I could not quit. I needed a snack, but that was not an option. If I was flipped by any of the waves, I would be in serious trouble. That would not work for me, so I fought on. I found an island that was not under water and made my was towards it. I got there as the waves were picking up in size and intensity. I stretched for a minute, got a snack, drank some water, and then headed back out in them. I crossed the channel 2 more times making my route to Lock & Dam #2 the shortest possible. I turned the last corner and saw that I had about 2 mes to it. I looked for barge traffic and then decided to jump in the channel as it was the most direct path. This also meant larger waves. I hunkered down and made a go at it. I pushed between the waves and cut the swells the best I could. I watched one super long train after another as I neared the lock. I heard a radio call as I got close, so I knew I was in range. About a half me out, I called into the lock to get instructions. They told me where to go and I made my way there.
Someone from the Army Corp of Engineers came out greet me. He handed me a packet of information and a rope to hold on to when they let the water down for me to carry on. Normally, it is a 12′ drop, but due to the flood levels, it was about a 1.5′ drop. That was anticlimactic, but still cool to experience. The next bridge down river was Hastings. I was getting tired and ready for my day to end. I pulled into the town and at the park, which a lot of it was under water, people came out to see what I was doing. I pulled close to shore to ask about camping slots. I didn’t get any good options, so I decided to pull in right there. I pulled my boat up with the help of another guy and set up camp. People were coming up to talk with me as I was setting up. I got a good place for breakfast, made dinner and am calling it a night. My tent is right at the base of a busy railroad line. I can hear the trains coming and going, but should be able to sleep through just about anything. I get to sleep in as tomorrow is a very short day as I am looking to photograph some eagles.
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Hi Rich-Sounds like you are having a fabulous river, working vacation. I would love to do something like that in my lifetime. Why didn`t you invite me? I`m so jealous and I only hope you share your pictures with all of us. We had the MS bike ride last weekend. Went well. Had a very fun time as usual. We are doing well here. Continue having a wonderful time and be very safe. Love ya buddy, Peg