First thing, I realized that I had failed to put my hat, sunglasses, and paddling gloves in the cockpit last night. I’ve done that before, but I carefully tied them to the boat. Apparently, that didn’t happen last night as I was unloading the kayak…and they all blew away. Sad. Like, very sad. I loved that hat, and those paddling gloves were really helpful. Of course it was the day after I posted a picture on facebook saying “this is what I look like every day now”—wearing all those accessories. Sigh. I was glad I had packed an extra set of sunglasses and a hat. I backtracked on the river a while to see if the wind had pushed them into the reeds, to no avail.
I set in to listening to Huck Finn again. About a mile downstream from my campsite, I saw—really? Is that what I think it is?—my hat floating in the reeds! I paddled over, snagged it with my paddle blade, and was delighted to see my sunglasses floating inside the brim of the hat! Yay! Floaty sunglass strap, you are awesome. I looked everywhere for my paddle gloves, and they were nowhere to be seen, but I was happy to have my hat and sunglasses back.
The day was sunny, the wind was against me, and further down the river I came to the Potlach dam. It was my first portage solo since the very first portage. It wasn't too bad--most of the way was paved, and there was even a trash can and a toilet for portagers to use. After ~40 minutes, just as I was putting in again, two folks came up--Jake Tavakoli and Julie Haskell, a couple who started July 1st in their canoe. They have caught up to me! We chatted a bit, established that we'd see one another at Fletcher's Landing tomorrow night, and then I headed off and let them continue their portage. Baxter campsite had a nice little rocky landing, but I somehow missed the real spot you're supposed to land, and ended up pitching my tent on a grassy spot that was difficult to get to. Still, the grass was soft to sleep on. I finished setting up camp just as it got dark. In the middle of the night, a crazy thunderstorm blew through. The lightning and thunder woke me up, but there wasn't anything I could do, so I dozed back to sleep.
Day 28: Baxter to Fletcher's Landing (23 miles)
Today was one of my favorite days so far. This morning, the foot of my tent and the base of my tent was wet because the storm was so intense. But I was able to dry everything out before I left. I picked wild raspberries to eat with my breakfast. I saw Jake and Julie paddle by as I was bringing all my bags back to my kayak.
The day was lovely, and I enjoyed the continued change of landscape: instead of river banked with rice or steep sand banks, things are more rocky and there are islands now. Back in the day, they used to send logs down river, and the logs would get jammed on the shallows. The log jams would get so big that they'd start accumulating silt and dirt, and eventually became islands. I had used all my water this morning, so I stopped at Crow Wing State Park, a historic spot with both a Catholic and Lutheran Mission, where settlers had a school house and tried to convert and educate native Americans in the area. It was also a popular trapping and hunting trading post. Jake and Julie were just leaving the State Park when I arrived. We chatted some more, and then I wandered into the park to find water. It was a much longer walk than I'm used to for such forays, which was nice (the stretching of my legs and all). Further down the river, I passed Camp Ripley. I could hear practice time with mortar shells and machine guns on the right and private guns on the left of the river. Pretty intense. I saw bald eagles, deer, and a tank driving down the coast! The best, were the rapids, which were plentiful, and light--a very fun run. When I arrived at Fletcher’s landing, Jake and Julie had set up camp and offered me some boiled water so I had warm ramen tonight, mmmmmm. J & J and I enjoyed hanging out chatting until the mosquitos became too rampant to bear it any longer. Then, in our respective tents, we read quietly and shared laughs as thoughts arose. It was good to be around some people.
Day 29: Fletchers Landing to Little Falls, half day (7 miles).
In the morning, I found some more raspberries before we left. I decided to join J & J in Little Falls to take care of some pressing logistical issues. As we paddled into town, Jake hallooed to a woman in a kayak out for an afternoon paddle. Jeannie, her name was, called her friends Judy and Bob who live on the water to ask if they minded us camping in their backyard. While Judy and Bob were at a family reunion, we gratefully set up our tents in their backyard, and set off to find a shower and do some laundry. After finding the fire station, police station, and 2 gyms closed, we asked a man on the street if he had any suggestions for where we might find a shower. He (Tim, AKA Merle) offered his own place, just a few blocks away. "I'm moving, and I don't have a shower curtain, but you're welcome! I just think what you all are doing is so amazing." So we showered, listened to Merle's music, and started our laundry. J & J went to have a drink with Merle while I used the wifi and watched our clothes being washed. When we returned to Judy and Bob's I ate some mac and cheese (hit the spot. Jake lent me their stove), and then the family returned home. I taught the kids what sour grass was, and they were weeding the garden and eating that the rest of the day. It was so jovial to join the festivities for the evening, enjoying Jake's quick snark, Julie's laugh, and the family's good natured banter.