The day started soggy. We put our kayaks in the water for the first time at Riverside Landing (where last year’s trip down the Namekagon ended) in the rain. We paddled in the rain. Everyone was swaddled in rain gear, hoods cinched tight, grim faces belying our joy at finally being on the water after much anticipation.
I started fairly late, and we only paddled in the rain for about a half-hour before it started to clear. Then a tiny dot of blue poked through the clouds, which I figured to be just a tease. But then more blue and more sun and the clouds started to break. And the wind started to blow.
The wind started to blow in earnest as the skies began to clear. While it was nice to see the heavy clouds pushed east and fluffier, whiter clouds chase them away, I nearly lost my hat a couple times to big gusts. With the high water, beaches and sandbars are in short supply. Many of us ended up on a sandy island for lunch, the sun just starting to shine, rain gear being stripped off.
Hardly a sign of humans was seen along the whole stretch. We saw our first bald eagle, perched on a dead tree above its nest. I paddled with Jim Fitzpatrick all day, who identified countless birds by hearing snippets of their calls.
It was only a 12 mile day, but when we came around a big bend and saw another wide windy straightaway ahead, I groaned a little. Then I noticed the gathering of kayaks and canoes on the opposite bank, and realized it was the take-out landing.
The friendly folks of St. Croix Haven campground drove us a mile up the road to their vast but tidy campground, where the sun was shining, the wind was blowing, and a swarm of friendly dragonflies darted amongst us all afternoon, for the most part successfully defending us from mosquitoes.
Everyone eagerly set up their wet tents from this morning and the sun and wind dried everything out seemingly in a matter of minutes. A few hours slipped by, a haze of hot showers, a heated indoor swimming pool, and relaxation with the dragonflies.
Dinner was on our own this evening. Soup, dehydrated meals, chili, and pasta were among the menu items. Our presenter was Clark Peterson of Hinckley, who spoke about the Great Hinckley Fire of 1894, one of the worst and most deadly wildfires in human history. He is also a survivor of the Oklahoma City Bombing of 1996, and had a few things to say about that awful event.
The skies are clear as can be, the sun is still above the horizon at 8 p.m., and the forecast is for hot weather tomorrow, when we’ll head for St. Croix State Park.