I got started before 6am, which, I hoped, meant I’d at least arrive early to Star Island, where Gretchen and Tom, friends of my mom’s cousin, had offered me a place to stay the night and a meal.
Just a mile from camp, I came upon my first portage around a hydroelectric dam. It took 45 minutes and was definitely made easier by the wheels on my kayak, but I’ve got to figure out something different for the pull handle, it’s so uncomfortable and makes long hauls nearly impossible because the rope impinges on my hand too much. (There will be a video...but my internet connection is too slow at the moment)
The pace of water doubled after the dam (from 1mph to 2) and there was a section of a couple miles that was thick with wildlife. Instead of one type of wildlife at a time, I could see, at any time, at least three different species including deer and fawns, heron, bald eagles (I saw 5 today!), mergansers, ducks, geese, orioles, red-wing blackbirds, kingfishers, loons, and so on.
After a long day yesterday, no sleep, and a heavy portage, I kept closing my eyes as I paddled on, super tired, and anxious to arrive to take a nap. Unfortunately, as I crossed Wolf Lake, I missed the exit point, and ended up doing a ½ circumnavigation of the lake, adding several miles to my day’s paddle. Some fishermen finally pointed me in the right direction—right back where I had come from. From there I still had over 10 miles to go (what I have been averaging on a normal day). On top of that, the majority of the paddling was across lakes, where the current stops, the wind picks up, and I had to deal with 4th of July weekend traffic and confused waves. Along the way, several motor boats and pontoon boats slowed to ask me where I was going and all about my trip. I was offered several beers. If only I drank! I am sure that would have been a very welcome, relaxing and sweet offer if I were a normal person who isn’t alcohol intolerant! I still appreciated the offers, but continued ahead, at a snail’s pace compared to them.
Once I got to Cass Lake, the lake in which my ultimate destination, Star Island, was, my arms were noodles. I started making up and singing my muscles love songs to keep them going. “Oh, little muscles, you’re so good to me! You help me get from Point A to Point B!...” The last 4 or 5 miles were hellacious. I was so tired. My joints were sore. My muscles went from hurting in my deltoids (which is where lactic acid builds up at the end of each day, and feels ‘normal’) to my rhomboids, then lats, and then even my forearms. The waves swamped my kayak a couple times and I had to bail out with the sponge and the hand bilge pump. When I finally rounded the corner of Star Island and was in the final stretch, I literally felt like my paddle strokes were the equivalent of stirring a teaspoon in my cereal bowl. I could barely move. My 17 mile day had turned into a 24 mile day on no sleep.
Gretchen met me at her dock and could not have been more accommodating and welcoming, “What’s the first thing you’d like? What can I help with?” I requested a moment to gather my strength, pull some things out of my boat and close her up (it takes a bit of time to “dismount” every day), and immediately went to enjoy a WARM SHOWER. Tom and Gretchen provided me with my own guest house apartment, and that evening, somewhat refreshed, I enjoyed dinner with them and their neighbors Dennis and Kelly. I was delighted to talk with all these folks about sailing, traveling, and pets. But I excused myself early, to crash to bed. The end of a very exciting and wonderful first week!