These last two days were a breeze compared to the first two. At least it was for Traci and me. Not saying they were easy, just easier. After pushing through the headwaters the first day and all the lakes the second day, Mike was happy to have a clear river to paddle on finally! We started day 3 out a little later than usual, but the extra sleep was well deserved and very much needed!
We put Mike into the river right under Winnibigoshish Dam and drove over to Sandy and Jeff’s house to charge up, dry out our tent, and relax with friends. They have the perfect view of river and wide open area for us to set up for lunch. Traci and I met Sandy and Jeff on our trips down the river and they were more than happy to have us back! They love paddlers and in our experience over the last three years, they are willing to drop everything to help out. Since I was there two years ago, they have built a bunk house for paddlers and during remodeling, have added on a separate bathroom and washer and dryer entrance for paddlers. If that is not a river angel, then I don’t know what is.
Mike made it to Sandy and Jeff’s house just in time for lunch. Traci had her own little lunch café set up in the yard. Mike stopped for some quick first aid and scarfed a sandwich down before heading off down the river. We also finally got the chance to catch up with the 2017 Mississippi River Challenge team and witness how one of the guys laid down in the boat to rest while the others paddled. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I could sleep there.
After Mike left, we took our time getting to the meet up which was also our next portage. We had two portages back to back. The Blandin Paper Company owns the second dam in Grand Rapids that has a service that will portage you around both dams. For the speed record, we could not do this. Mike got out at one dam, back in, paddled three miles, got out again, portaged 1,200 yards, then jumped back in! He paddled until dark that night and we stealth camped outside of Grand Rapids.
Day 4 was a late start for Traci and me. Mike got right on the river and we might have crawled back into bed, and we might have made it to the next check point just in time to catch him, and we also might have lost and then went back and found some boat pads that we left on the top of the van. Just might have though.
After meeting Mike for his breakfast stop, Traci and I ran into town to get gas and found the cutest road side diner. We stopped in and picked up breakfast and a lot, I mean a lot of coffee! Before leaving we ordered a wrap to go for Mike and explained to the waitress, Gwen, who it was for. That Minnesota kindness came out and Gwen packed us up with extra chips, pickles, and snuck in a few cookies for us. She was such a delight and truly brightened up our morning! We made it to our lunch pit stop and surprised Mike with a non-dehydrated meal and he was so excited! Except now that he has had a taste for real food, he doesn’t want to go back again…I guess that means more grocery shopping for us!
The rest of the day was spent running around towns, chasing down Mike, finding decent spots for pit stops and being attacked by mosquitoes and horse flies. I have also come to find out that Traci truly enjoys narrating for animals, and insects. It definitely keeps us entertained when we are waiting for Mike to come down the river!
Day 4 ended at Sandy Lake Rec Area. This was one of my favorite spots that I camped at during my trip and helped me want to continue off with my previous expedition down the river. Here we found that not only is Mike exhausted and warn down from paddling all day, but so are Traci and I. It was such a hot day and we were getting attacked by every mosquito and horse fly as soon as we stepped out of the van. And then at one stop we left a door open in the van and the mosquitoes hid in the seats until we were vulnerable and then they began to attack. The floor of the van was covered by little specks of black, dead, bigger than birds, mosquitoes. By 9:00 PM we were all a little grumpy, tired and ready for the day to be over. In every expedition there is tension and frustration and the only ones you can take it out on are the ones you are with. What matters is how you handle it. In our case, it will make us stronger and understand each other better as we continue to head down the river towards one common and insane goal!