With west winds, we were able to sail some of the day, J & J with their tarp (with Julie as mast and boom), and I with my umbrella. Their tarp was much larger than my umbrella, and they had Jake to continue paddling, so they flew past me. We all tucked into Yellow River to see if we could find the effigy mounds. We ended up tying up under a foot bridge, and clambering up the side. We walked up to the Effigy Mounds National Monument visitor center, watched a 15 minute film on the effigy mounds, got a good lay of the land and hiked up the mountain to see what we could see. The effigy mounds are in the shapes of circles, wide lines, eagles, and bears. It is unknown specifically who made them, but they’re 1000-3000 years old and are often funerary mounds. The Effigy Mounds are a sacred native site. This was the first touristy excursion I had taken for myself and I was not disappointed. A mid-day hike was really wonderful to take, especially in such a beautiful and interesting spot. The top of the hill boasted some incredible vistas of the river, and J & J and I enjoyed the invertebrate life in the park, too (stink bug! Millipede! Fuzzy caterpillar!) By the time we were finished with our sylvan jaunt, it was nearly 5pm, and we opted to camp on the beach just north of Prairie du Chein, WI (“pray-d’shayn”).
I made some quinoa and mushroom masala for dinner, relaxed a bit, and then we headed into town to see if we could find the Tavern, a bar, purportedly owned by a fellow adventurer named Pat. We enjoyed the walk past old train depots, forts and other old buildings (Prairie du Chien was the 2nd European settlement on the Mississippi). Sure enough, we found Patrick Igou, manning the bar. With his bearded face and long braids, wide smile and the adventurous twinkle in his eye, we knew immediately we were in the presence of a friend. First round of drinks (just juice and soda water for me) was on him, and we enjoyed the bluegrass music and stories of his journeys down the Mississippi, the Missouri river, and hiking the Appalachian Trail. He said when he and his buddy did the Mississippi River, they did it in 89 days, and only wore a tee shirt and shorts, and brought no other clothes. He brought a tarp and his buddy had a hammock, but down south, there were no trees on the sandbars, so his buddy had to sleep in his hammock on the bare ground. They never used a toilet the whole time, and kept trying to one-up eachother to see how extreme they could be, paddling earlier in the morning and later at night, camping in evermore uncomfortable spots, etc. He and his other bartender were both mighty glad to have us there for the evening and we were glad to be in a place where we were welcomed!
Walking home after midnight, we marveled at the starry sky. The big dipper was sitting in the sky like it was on a stove instead of how I usually see it farther east, like it’s hanging on the wall. The milky way was thick, and the entire sky was dotted gorgeously with pinpricks of light. The river was so glassy that the stars were reflected in it.