For breakfast, Mary made me a hard boiled egg, 2 slices of toast and some OJ—living the high life (thank you!).
Just before I got to the first dam of the day, I saw, running around the rip-rap on the side of the river, a mama and two baby otters. I was so close to them! After yesterday when I didn’t even see any deer, I had assumed my views of wild mammals had come to an end. And then, this! My heart quickened and I tried to think about how I could video them without scaring them. Definitely the best part of the day. (The video didn't really come out, sorry.)
The first dam, Sartell dam, started next to a busy road. I had to pull my kayak up the bank and then onto the shoulder of the road. After several hundred feet, taking turns moving heavy bags and my kayak, always keeping both in sight, an older gentleman in a jeep, Bob, stopped and offered to ferry my bags and water to the put-in. He explained that the put-in was much farther than it looked, and mentioned that he had paddled himself when he was 18 down to St. Louis. The road was about 1/2 mile long, and then I had to go down a dirt trail under a bridge where there was a drop-off that bent one side of my wheels and popped the tire off the wheels too. Bob was very kind and took them to a friends house nearby to fix it well enough to continue using them.
The day involved two portages. Both were much longer than listed on the map. It was a hot day, too. On top of it, I was battling strong winds against me between the portages. I also had to navigate Sauk Rapids--the first set of rapids that really involved some serious paddling and focus. With 15-20 mile an hour winds against me and a strong current and the rapids, it was a tough go, but I made it. I only got pulled into one trough because the suck was so strong. (I took video, but the brim of my hat was covering the camera lens the whole time). I saw a trick-kayaker practicing, named Rick. He had paddles that read "Drug Free" and was glad that we both paddled for a cause. He was doing all kinds of rolls and flips! His kayak was super short and looked like a little rubber ducky. I told him I couldn't do what he was doing in my (super long, laden) kayak. (Also tried and failed to get video of that).
At the St. Cloud dam, the take-out is up 5 STEPS. Who thought steps were a good idea for portaging? I managed, with the help of a young Somali woman who helped yank my boat's painter up the bank. Still, the yanking was so intense that I managed to finally break beyond repair, the tevas that started my trip a month ago already in poor condition. The rest of the portage was done barefoot. I started carting things a little at a time, when Carter, a young man who works at the St. Cloud park stopped and helped me carry my bags for the whole portage (Thank you!) Awaiting at the end...can you guess? FIFTY ONE STEPS. Thank goodness they were going down, but still! Fifty one! Steps! Uggh. Of course, the beach at the bottom of the steps was FULL of broken glass, and me with no shoes. I summoned all my circus skills and stepped gingerly as I packed up the boat and shoved off. Feet did okay.
I feel dead today. My hands hurt from sunburn. I dragged them in the water to cool them off.
I had planned on meeting some people and staying with them tonight, but after I left St. Cloud, I paddled a little further, but couldn't even manage to get to the designated campsite, so I stealth camped at the head of an island. It was beautiful; rocky, warm, no bugs, complete with a dead tree to hang stuff to dry. I was bummed to miss Val and Ryan, but my back was beginning to give out, and I was done for the day. I tried to go swimming, but it was too shallow. So I just sat and enjoyed what felt like a cool Jacuzzi.
I saw a bunch of turtles, goldfinch, juvenile bald eagles today. I ate 2 cans green beans, but I need more food. The cheese I bought in the convenient mart in Little Falls is disgusting, and the cans were nearly $2 apiece. Ridiculous.