I’m sitting at the Rivers Eatery in Cable, Wisconsin. The brick-fired pizzas are named after local rivers (I’m eating the Big Brook) and the beers are brewed down the road in Hayward at Angry Minnow Brewing (I’m drinking a River Pig IPA).
My dining companions are Mike, a retired Methodist minister from Burnsville, MN who grew up with missionary parents in India and served there for 15 years, and Jonathan, who works for the Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway but took his week of vacation to go paddling on the riverway.
Most of today was spent on the road. We drove to Danbury, Wisconsin where we rendezvoused at the casino there, and heard our first speech from Queen Deb, standing on the bumper of the U-Haul truck which will haul our gear everyday. She explained the three rules of the paddle:
- No whining
- No drowning (someone asked if that shouldn’t be rule #1, Deb smiled)
- Have fun
We left from there in a number of shuttle vans. Ours was the best — a 1975 Plymouth piloted by Jerry Dorff of Wild Rivers Canoe Outfitters from Grantsburg. Let’s just say that its 0-to-60 time is probably slower than a canoe’s. What it lacked in speed, though, it made up for in style.
Out the van’s “self-closing” windows, we admired the blooming white serviceberry in the woods, as well as a few bright yellow marsh marigolds. Then we got to the landing where we’ll launch in the morning. Everybody breathed deep when they stepped out of the vans — the air was rich with the aroma of white pines and the river rushed by quietly but urgently between its banks.
Back at the campsite, a half-mile away at the closed school in town, we set up our tents on the lawn and filled our water bottles from a garden hose provided by a neighboring restaurant. Then we headed here, where I found food, drink, companionship, and power outlets.
Tomorrow, we paddle.