• ksaunders1934

Deep Thoughts on the River

Waking up on Star Island was pretty cool with the sunrise coming over the trees. Breaking down camp went quickly and I was on the water at a good time. Made my way straight across the lake because it was so calm and an easy paddle. This sort of trip remind me of being in the field in the Marines. Work all day till you can barely move, sometimes to the point you just want to sit down and go on strike, sleep (as best you can), wake up so stiff and tight you can't stand up straight for a few minutes, and then back at it all over again. Except this is enjoyable and there's not an imbecile yelling at me from the comforts of an air conditioned box truck about things he knows nothing about... but that's neither here nor there.

Made it to Knutson Dam and when I pulled on shore, I met three sisters who were there camping with their families. One of them has a son in the Marines. I wish him the best of luck and hope he does well during his time in. After a quick pic with them, I set off downstream. Between Cass Lake and Lake Winnibigoshish, I saw 7 bald eagles, 2 hawks, and 2 river otters. One of the eagles stayed perched long enough to let me take its picture, cause it was #FreedomAF! It's pretty awesome to see all this wildlife I'd never get the chance to see otherwise. It makes me wonder what kind of crazy, awesome Pokemon I would catch here on the river if I played Pokemon Go! Once I hit Lake Winnie, I hugged the south shoreline till I got to Richard Townsite boat launch where I made camp. I'll be back at it in the morning. While I was eating dinner, a couple of officers from Leech Lake PD stopped in to let their K-9 run around. I talked to them about camping there and they said technically it's not allowed but they have bigger things to worry about than camping kayakers, but if I needed anything to not hesitate to call. A guy came up in his boat shortly after and I chatted for a bit with him as well. He was just a good ol country boy. He told me about the lake and different things to be on the lookout for as far as changing weather patterns and spots on the lake that are worse than others. Once night fell, I racked out.

The next morning I took off across Lake Winnie and boy! What a brute of a paddle that was! It kicked my tail! The winds picked up about halfway across and I thought for sure I'd capsize a couple of times. I didn't though, cause I'm awesome like that and made it to Birch Landing where I stopped for lunch. Met a couple of guys heading out fishing and chatted with them for a bit, then a nice guy and his family. Turns out the waves were causing me to take on water again, so I'm going to try and make the Twin Cities where I can stop at Clearwater Outfitters or Current Designs HQ and see if they can do something for me. I made Lake Winnie Dam and couldn't find the portage out, when a fellow, Josh, came down waving me in. Turns out he had just paddled from the headwaters as well and was ending his trip there. He was just doing a short trip to test everything out before he hits the main trip down the full river next year. He helped me get my gear to the campground just down the road and I was able to get a campsite.

After setting everything up, he invited me over to where he was hanging out. It was a campsite that a couple who were camping out on in their RV were letting him stay there till his wife came to pick him up. Ray and Jeanette were their names and they were such a pleasant and hospitable couple. As soon as I walked up, Ray came out with a beer and a smile and said, "I bet you could use this, sit down and relax a bit." Josh and I traded stories about the first leg of the trip and Ray just listened intently, taking it all in. We got to know Ray and Jeanette as well and found that they live in Fort Myers and travel about 6 months out of the year in the RV. Turns out another couple had stopped in a few days earlier who were canoeing the river and then Josh, and now myself. I believe Ray and Jeannette were meant to stop at this campsite and be a Ray of Hope and sliver of everyday, family surroundings we take so much for granted but desperately need in this journey. Josh was unloading his gear and offered up about a week's worth of food, a solar charger, and bear spray. That's going to go a LONG way. Josh's wife came and they loaded up and headed back to the city. I went back to my campsite and readied for bed. The next morning Ray invited me for breakfast, and we had eggs, bacon, and toast. It was so nice of them. We talked for about an hour after, and I needed to get on my way. They asked to pray for me and my travels and mission, and I was truly touched. Ray helped me get my boat in the water, we said our goodbyes and I was off. Thank you so much to Josh, Ray, and Jeannette! It's people like you who are going to get me through this trip.

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