Monday, August 4, 2008

Great River Rumble July 29: Durand to Alma, WI 33 miles

This day was originally supposed to be 28 miles, but the first park could not accomodate that many boats. I got down to the boats in the morning and found a sign on mine--it read "Birthday Girl Linda". Bill had somehow made it the previous night and taped it on the back of my boat with lots of duct tape. Many paddlers commented on the sign and wished me happy birthday throughout the day. Several people asked if we were having cake! I'll have to remember that if we come back next year on my birthday.

We started out on the Chippewa River with a steady headwind. We took a short break at 5 miles and a lunch break at 15 miles, still in the Chippewa. The river was shallow with lots of sand bars. We even had to walk one section that was too shallow for kayaks!

We dumped into the Mississippi River at 17 miles, and could see the change immediately. The swift current of the Chippewa was gone--now we were in the wide waters of the muddy Mississippi, waters that were slow and deep. Very different from the Chippewa, but at least the wind was more favorable once we made the change.

We passed through lock 4 at Alma. The boat count was 80 at that point--a number of people had opted not to paddle this long day, and a bunch more quit at lunchtime. Bill, Fred, Otis and I all stayed the course. After the lock it was only 4 miles to the campground, a very strange place indeed... there was a marina and some permanent campers set up, a bar, a bathhouse, some very large boats on land...

We tried to set up camp a little farther away from the main group this night, hoping for a little more quiet. But everyone was so tired from paddling 33.7 miles that it quieted down pretty early. Spaghetti dinner was available at the bar, and we took advantage of that! Ordered lunches for the next day and called it a night. The train tracks were about 20 feet from the campground and the engineers blew the whistles frequently--about 8-10 blasts each time they came through, which was every hour. I took photos of trains and tents--unbelievable how close they were! It was 94 degrees when we arrived at camp. Looks like that's going to be the norm for the week.

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