It took me 7 weeks to paddle from Lake Itasca to the southern border of Minnesota. The group I was with stopped often and took our time, obviously. It took Mike 11 days. We are finally out of Minnesota! I am sad to see it go but excited about this milestone on our journey! Fun fact, a third of the Mississippi River is in Minnesota alone!
On day 10 (Wednesday), the bad weather forced us to stay off the river for the morning and get a late start around 11 a.m. Luckily, we were in a warm, dry, nice home provided by our wonderful river angels Jean and Buzz! We took this opportunity to do laundry, shower, and catch up on some much needed sleep. We have been averaging around 5-6 hours of sleep a night. We are slowly realizing that in order to achieve our goal and stay strong, we need a little more sleep every night.
We left Wabasha, MN and headed south. Even thought the storms passed us, the winds and rains were still hanging around. Head winds reached up to 20 mph with 25mph wind gusts. It felt like once the storms left, the river traffic increased and Mike was forced to follow a barge all the way down to Winona. He made two portages around Locks and Dams, which meant he got a relief from the headwinds. The second portage was a little over 4 miles. Walking for miles took less than the 4.5 hour wait to get through the Lock and Dam!
We pulled up to the south side of Lock and Dam #5 to make food for Mike while he portaged and ran into our friend and fellow paddler Sam Mathieu and his mom Teresa! We have been following his solo trip down the Mississippi River since he left and have been keeping an eye out for him! We all talked and gave each other some river tips! As a blogger I love reading his Instagram stories of his time in the river and they remind me so much of my trip! You can follow him on Instagram at sams.solo.river.run! We wish we could see him again down south. He is trying to finish in 87 days! Good luck Sam!
We made it to Winona Campground just in time to camp before the next storms rolled in. There was hail and tornado warnings in the area until 10 p.m. that night. We were trying to set up camp right in the middle of the storm. Mike and I ran up to the camp office and asked if we could camp under the park pavilion to stay safe from the storm. They were more than happy to let us for the night and offered us anything else we needed during our stay. I stayed at that camp ground during my trip down the Mississippi River and they were just as kind and giving then as they are now!
On Day 11 we had some miles to make up after only getting in 33 the day before due to the weather. Traci and I launched Mike from the Campground and packed up our gear. Since the Locks and Dams are so close together, he is forced to paddled shorter legs. If we can get him through the Lock and Dam then we will, but if we cannot, he has to get out of the boat to portage around it. The wind was at his back and he was ready to paddle after a low mileage day before.
We made it out of Minnesota right after lunch! Traci and I stopped at my favorite restaurant in La Crosse to get some fish tacos and check on Mike's progress. The rest of the day was spent chasing Mike down the river, helping him with locks and dams and pushing his mileage to his highest to date! He paddled 74 miles! We stopped at Heytmans Landing just south of Lansing for the night. We were afraid that Mike wouldn't be able to find us since the landing was hidden under a railroad bridge. Right when he was supposed to be paddling in, a guy pulled up in his boat. We talked to Time for a while and he offered to take us out to check in on Mike and make sure he could find us. The channel starts heading to the other side of the river and if Mike would have taken it then he would definitely not see us. Luckily right when we pulled out of the landing and turned the corner, there was Mike! As we were thanking Tim, he offered us some frozen Walleye to cook up. We gladly accepted and put it in the cooler to fry up for 4th of July weekend!