Winona, MN to Great River Bluffs State Park
I woke up to a triple play breakfast. Eggs, bacon, and toast is always a great way to start a day. I packed up my tent after breakfast and loaded my boat back into the water. It was up on the dike for my time in Winona. I was reorganizing my gear to fit back into the boat. Jeff and his two oldest sons were sitting on the steps watching as I worked to repack the boat. He asked me how I managed to fit everything I had into the boat. It is a 17.5′ Wilderness Systems boat. this is a dream boat that is capable of holding everything I need for 4+ months. I refill my water bags as needed and have food shipped out about every 2 weeks. Other than that, I am good to go with my Tsunami. I wanted to walk up and say thank you to Chris for the water adventures and the fireworks show. I will be getting him a copy shortly. I walked back down to Jeff’s and his boys wanted to watch me take off. I said a big thank you to Jeff and Marcy as I pushed off. Time to head down river.
I stopped by a boat house community on the way out of town. I had heard some good and not so good things about them. I wanted to see for myself. I came downstream because water is the only way to get to them with the flooding happening on the river. They had some elaborate designs as houses that are held up with barrels of air. Each barrel will hold up to 400 pounds. There were quite a few under these houses. The community (100 boat houses) is one second in size behind the San Francisco community. I photographed each house as it is a true part of the river culture. The people that live here are on river time and are perfectly happy with it. I was nearing the end of the houses when the rain moved in. I put away the camera and was ready to push on. Then I paused. I turned around because I knew the rain would be brief and I wanted to meet some of the residents.
I came upon this one house that was having a work party. They were prepping it to live in it year round. That is a commitment that I can respect. The river runs constant and does not freeze over for another 30 miles north. I spoke to the owner of this house that reminded me of a Burning Man dome and a Home Depot project. I got his name, but forgot it, but I have his contact. He told me how he rode the river a few times. I asked for any advise and in a wise manner, he said I will find my way and things will happen as they need to. He was the first person to give a perspective over advise. I admired that. A woman who he was with was getting ready to do a grocery run. I asked if I could capture some images of them as they took off in their boat. I paddled upstream before turning around to get the shots. I captured part of their river grit, in a good way. I am glad I stopped to find out more information about them and their community. I thanked his friends who were on the house and chatted with them for a few before leaving. As I was taking off, the neighbors started chatting with me. They had lived on the river for a long time. I began to get the sense of a real community there. They were a community that liked to live a different way, but they were all still good people. I gave the second couple my blog and they wished me luck in my journey. I really appreciated that coming from that community. I pulled out and photographed the remaining houses as I headed downstream. It was later in the day, but I was out to make some headway.
I moved along as I delt with on and off rain showers. The rain actually felt good. I was getting hungry around 5:00 and saw this park that had been flooded. I pulled into the park looking for a picnic table to set up on. I saw these 4 kids, Tim, Paige, Miranda, and Andy. I told them I get bonus points if I remembered all their names and they read this post. They were all in college in Winona. I told them what I was doing and they had a lot of questions about my gear and how I was doing. I filled them in as I was making my lunch/dinner. I offered traveling and life “ideas” for them to use as they pleased. I told them how I wanted to be able to speak to high school and young college students someday in the hopes of inspiring them. As they were getting ready to leave, Andy found a US flag on the ground and in the flood water. He pulled it out and told me I should fly it. It is the right size. I took it, told them I would wash it, and would keep it. I told them I could not fly a dirty flag. They took off and so did I.
I went downstream beginning to look for a camp location for the night. The sun was dipping when I saw this house up on a bluff. I parked and got out. I climbed a ladder to get to their place to ask permission to stay there. A woman and her son answered the door. I told them who I was and what I was looking to do. She said she would check with her husband, but thought it would be ok. I got a weird vibe as I headed back to the boat. Their location was not the best, now was their neighbors. I pushed out and decided to try my luck downstream. I knew my choices would be extremely limited, but that is the risk of adventure. I ended up seeing this cottage located right on the river with the water flooded up to the grass line. It had a clear entry and grassy higher ground. I went for it. I arrived as the sun was beginning to dip. I went to see if anyone was home. No go on that. I decided to set up anyways. I figured I would ask for forgiveness if needed. I set up the tent and pulled out all my gear I needed. I looked up to see a beautiful sunset and the clouds being lit up. I photographed it and posted the beauty I was experiencing. I turned in as the stars were coming out. I could not be more pleased with that location. I was going to update my blog, but sleep won over.
This was a day that left me very happy. I love being out on an adventure and meeting cool people. It is fun to inspire and be inspired. This trip has had the opportunity to do a lot of both. It will make for a great story someday.