As I sit on the beach at the north end of Lake Pepin outside of Lake City, MN, I am a little lost for words on where to start with today's blog. I think the title speaks for itself.
We have been extremely fortunate and blessed for the last nine days of this crazy and adventurous expedition. We have always found a place to sleep, the winds might be a little strong but the weather is beautiful, and we have wonderful support from river angels and those keeping up with Mike's progress from afar!
On Day 8 Mike paddled a total of 72 miles. Traci helped him portage the 1.5 miles around the Upper and Lower St. Anthony Lock and Dam through the Twin Cities. Those two locks have been closed since before I paddled the river two years ago. The state closed them indefinitely in order to preserve the northern Minnesota lakes and to keep out the Asian carp. The portage is paved and relatively easy, just long. We have been pushing Mike longer between stops and loading him up with even more water and calories this week than the last. His hands are starting to heal and he is increasing speed everyday! Still exhausted at night like he should be, he gets a full nights sleep and starts over the next day stronger. Since we are finally done with the Minnesota DNR maps, we have switched over to the Mississippi River Navigation Charts. These maps are full oversized books with hundreds of pages. Mike cannot carry this with him like he could the DNR maps so we have to be very detailed each morning and at each stop when we go over the daily plan.
Day 8 ended with Lock and Dam #2 outside of Hastings, MN. This is the first town where the river meets another state besides Minnesota. Hello Wisconsin! It is a great reminder that we are heading South and one step closer to Mile 0!
Another blessing over these last two days is how kind and helpful the Lock masters have been! At the beginning of Day 9 we stopped to talk to one of masters while Mike was in the lock. My first few attempts at getting the lock open so Mike could slide right in worked great, but I still felt awkfward using the radio to talk to them. The lock master gave me the lingo I should use and what information to give! In order to get Mike through the lock as soon as possible, I announce what lock # we are at, that Mike is a recreational white kayak and what mile marker he is at. I then tell them I want to "lock down" and ask what is the wait time? Once they tell me how long it will be, Traci and I decide if going through the lock or portaging around it will be faster. Sometimes it can take a few hours for a barge to get through the locks. I then radio the lock master again and tell them when Mike is in view so they can open the gate. The best part about all this is the term "lock down"! Traci and I have decided to say it with a Sean Connery accent. We have replaced the terms "let's go", "okay", and any other familiar phrase with "lock down" (in a Sean Connery accent). Just try it, it's fun!
Around noon on day 9, Mike started his paddle across Lake Pepin. Lake Pepin can almost be worse than Lake Winnie. Lake Pepin is 21 miles long and an average of 1.7 miles wide. It is the largest lake on the Mississippi River and the last one! He had heavy headwinds until about 6pm and pushed through. It's not so much that the wind was too strong, it's paddling through a large lake for hours without breaks is exhausting. We were fortunate we paddled through on a weekday because the weekends are flooded with pleasure craft that cause big wakes and get way too close! He made a quick pit stop at Lake City Marina and continued on until meeting us in Wabasha, MN where some of my favorite River Angels took us in for the night! Another blessing! Very ready to enjoy an evening off the road!