After dinner last night, we were entertained by a lanky fiddler playing old tunes – centuries old – from Ireland and elsewhere. Having spent time in Kentucky before Danbury, his music seemed to somehow connect the logging camps of the northwoods to the Appalachian hills and coal country.
Because our fearless leader Deb insists that she return with as many people as she started with, Mike Bartz gave a safety briefing. He talked about avoiding swamping, and what to do if it happens.
Peter Gove, past chair of the St. Croix River Association, gave a welcome. He talked about the long history of SCRA, which was formed in 1911. Today it has a staff of five and works across the watershed on issues ranging from invasive carp to water quality to development on its banks.
Then Steve Wierschem, director of Forts Folle Avoine, spoke. He talked about trapping on the Yellow River when he was 11-years-old, right where we stood now. There were just two cabins on the stretch of river then. He talked about the wild rice stands downstream where you could knock down 200 lbs of rice in a day.
Today, the Yellow River is lined with cabins. The rice is gone. The St. Croix has stayed relatively the way it was, thanks to the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act and the efforts of groups like SCRA. He urged us to see the Yellow as a cautionary tale, an example of what could have been without citizen stewardship.
As dusk fell, the paddlers and our hosts sat and stood in small groups. There was lots of laughter and stories of past years’ trips. It wasn’t fully dark when most of us headed to our tents, such is the fact of these pre-solstice evenings.
The rain started later, and kept up much of the night. It would wake me up occasionally, and then lull me back to sleep. It continued intermittently this morning – packing up a wet tent is truly one of the simple displeasures of life. But now we are dry and waiting for our ride up the river.