Day 17: The Struggle
Aitkin to 31 river miles downstream
Today was a struggle. It was a struggle on so many levels. The physical beating on my arms for two weeks, the heat of the sun with needed head protection that does not breath, and the mental tiredness of doing 100’s of switchback turns on the river. My first 10 miles was under 3mph. The river is moving about that fast. I was frustrated with making wide sweeping turns, one after another. The pace of the river was having a hard time filling my need for that rush. I also realized two PB&J sandwiches, a granola bar, and my oatmeal this morning is simply not cutting it for calories. I started this adventure at 265 puonds. I was not thrilled with that weight, but I knew I would lose a lot of that over the course of the summer. Today is 2 weeks on the river. A good amount of weight has dropped. It is a combination of long daily workouts and lack of total calories. I knew the first 2 weeks would help me sort a lot of things out. I know I need more food and snacks. I will lighten my load in Minneapolis. I have sore arms, an upper back, and simple tiredness. This adventure is not a weekend REI adventure. There is little training that the gym provided that compares to actual boat time. It offers extreme amounts of beauty and wonder, but it comes at a cost. That being said, I have trained like this for other athletic events. January 01 of this year, there was a Plan A. That is it. No Plan B or C. This Plan A is to complete the Mississippi River via sea kayak this summer. That has not and will not change. Today was just a bit of a challenge.
At lunch, I had a Snickers and I was all better. I think I just sounded like Rosanne Bar. Actually lunch did go a long way. I was low on fuel and I needed it bad. I had 5 miles before the runoff from the flood dam, that I did not take the day before, rejoined with the river. I was looming forward to that. As I moved down those next 5 miles, I took a break to eat a snack and bring my knees up from the cockpit. I had the paddle balanced across my chest and I was just floating. I looked to my left and less than 3′ from my boat was a beaver. This curious beaver was just looking up towards me as it was swimming along. I did not move as this experience was too good not to enjoy. It held there for a few minutes before disappearing. I chalked that up to one of the cool things on this trip.
I made it to the river spillway reconnect. As soon as I entered it, the speed picked up significantly. This was the small rush I was seeking. The river doubled in size and began to straighten out. I will always remember the switchbacks, but I was excited to be able to open my Tsunami up. When I have a clean line of sight, the boat likes to track well and move. The first 4 hours that I did 10 miles, the next 4 hours, I did 25 miles. That is a pace that I can do for long distances. That was my stride. The heat of the day was sinking in, but I dropped my head and moved. I continued to see bald eagles all day long. I think I am going to switch up to my big lens for the next few days. That will allow me the reach to be able to capture their size and beauty as I go.
I was within a mile or two before I was ready to call it a night. I saw this island I the middle of the river. I thought it would be a great place to camp if I could find a good spot. It ended up being there was no land. There was a small tree forest in the middle of the river. I thought about how I could balance in my boat, while standing, and slinging my hammock in those trees. In all of those thougts, I ended up soaked each time. I kept going and saw this golf course looking stretch of land ahead on my left. I figured I was going to set up there. I would get permission if needed. Sure enough, there was a large one story house up the grassy hill. I pulled my boat out of the water and went up to see what could be possible. I met Jack, the builder and owner. He invited me in. He is an older gentleman that is retired. He asked if it was just me. I told him yes. He then offered me a guest bedroom, laundry, and a shower. I was surprised but agreed. I have always said thet there are good people all over this country. This was just another example. He told me to take his 4 wheeler to go get the gear I needed. I did that and he told me that since I had been the doors more than twice, just do what I needed like I lived there. He offered me some ice water (which is a big deal), so.e chocolate chip ice cream and a red velvet cake. Cold items and sweet tooth items? I was a in. I showered up and cleaned my clothes. Now, I am charging everything and ready to call it a night.
Side note: I know I have not moved near as far as I thought I would be moving. While one side of me is frustrated, the other would not trade the sights and experiences for anything. I know I am getting lighter, stronger, and more in rhythm with my gear. I will figure if I am going to just make it to New Orleans, which would make this adventure a success, or push it to Clearwater, FL. I do know it is too early to tell. There will be many more miles and many more experience to go through before I have that answer. So, I will work through the pain and make this “a”, not “the”, adventure of a lifetime. I will also add more pictures to the blog when I have a much faster upload connection. It is sti pretty sparce out here in the wild of Minnesota.
Never. Miss. A. Moment.