As I begin this entry it is currently day three of our journey South. We left Monday morning from Interstate Park on the Wisconsin side. My parents, Kyle’s parents, and his sister were all there to see us off. I had a strange sense of calm and normalcy while we got the boat all ready to be launched and even during the goodbyes. In the past when I have taken adventures or journeys of a long time period, I have experienced anxiety and a bit of uneasiness, but this time was different. The morning seemed to have a sense of peace and tranquility as we loaded our last things into the boat. After giving hugs, taking pictures, and saying our final goodbyes Kyle and I hopped in Solvi and began to row down the river. As we rowed away and waved countless times to our family on the shoreline I felt confidant in what we were doing. It was as though the river was welcoming us as it was a beautiful morning of sunshine and calm waters. We went around an island and as we came out the other side I heard my name being yelled. I couldn’t really see them, but my parents had driven down the river a bit and jumped out of the car to say one last goodbye. We laughed and yelled back a forth a few moments before they were gone. Within the first hour of being underway Kyle and I stopped at a small sandbar in the middle of the river. On both sides of us steep rock faces surrounded the river. We pulled Solvi up on the side of the sand bar and jumped out. Clearly we were feeling very thrilled about what was going on because we literally ran laps around the sand bar- splashing and skipping through the water and stopping every once in a while to go swimming. We laughed and hugged and high fived- this was the beginning of what is going to be a tremendous journey and we wanted to soak up every moment.
There was little to no wind that day so we rowed all the while. We stopped in Osceola and had lunch at a park along the river. We took our time while rowing, pausing to observe everything around us and to look at each other in disbelief that it was finally happening. I am going to share an observation I made in my journal that was the highlight of our first day. We heard a waterfall and decided to pull off to explore it:
I sit in the boat while Kyle climbs up to take photos and check out the falls. I can both feel and smell the coolness of the water as it flows down the rocks and moss covered logs to join the flow of the St. Croix River. The slightest hint of cool water fills my pores as I look forward down the river and watch the white puffy clouds, not in the sky, but in the river’s reflection. Almost as though they are moving in the current- and then I look up and remember it’s just a reflection in the water and that really the clouds are above me. I wonder how far south the cloud above will travel, changing size, shape, and form before dissolving into nothingness. Blue dragon flies flutter about landing for just a moment on various surfaces before moving onto the next. What are you looking for dear dragon fly? Or are you just simply fluttering about with no intention and expectation?
I stepped off the boat into the base of the waterfall and my feet were instantly immersed in the cool water from the falls. My feet felt a different sensation than the rest of my body and instantly caused a wave of exhilaration and refreshment over my being. I climbed up the waterfall towards Kyle and observed all the different directions the water was flowing from; I then realized that although the water is flowing in many different directions and is taking different paths down the rocks- at the bottom it all ends up in the same place. The same beautiful place, regardless of the path it chose to take. And I thought to myself, what a metaphor of life.
Anyway, the rest of our day was just absolutely wonderful. We rowed a total of 12 miles before stopping at a nice little campsite on an island on the East side of the river. There we had a fire, cooked dinner, celebrated our first night, and climbed in bed early exhausted from the excitement of the day.
Day two proved to be just as successful as day one. I giggled once we got underway that morning, realizing that almost every morning for the next 6 months is going to be spent breaking down camp and heading south. How wonderfully simple! We covered a total of 14 miles yesterday, and didn’t stop at all along the way. At one point we decided to measure our speed using the GPS. While rowing very relaxed with the current we were making about 3.5-4 knots. When we really pushed hard we made a consistent 5 knots (but that was way too much work!) When sailing we make about half wind speed. Solvi is performing just as we hoped!
We had made lunch ahead of time so we just ate floating along the river. Right before lunch we passed the most spectacular area. There is a high railroad bridge South of Somerset and before the bridge the water opens up and marsh and rock cliffs surrounded the river on both sides. There was no one around except us and Solvi- Kyle and I were singing sea shanties and taking our strokes very leisurely as the current was pushing us along rather quickly. I literally felt like I was in a different era. A time long ago when boats didn’t have motors and goods were transported by railroad. When the rivers and land weren’t so developed and workers sang sea shanties while out on their work boats. I can’t really explain the pure feeling of bliss I experienced but it is something I have been experiencing a lot the last few days. And laughter, so much laughter often for no reason at all- it’s awesome. Anyway, the rest of the day was spent rowing and sailing a couple times, when we got enough wind, to our campsite. At one point we got really hot so we decided to try swimming off the boat while underway. I went first and jumped off the side deck. I was joking and told Kyle I was going to race him, and he rowed away leaving me a couple hundred yards back. I was laughing so hard I could barely swim and he came back letting me know I lost 🙂 He of course jumped off the foredeck making a big splash and getting as high as he could. It was very refreshing and we both felt a bit more motivated to finish rowing.
We found an awesome little island just north of Stillwater. It was a sandy island that was flooded so there were various ponds and trees with their trunks underwater all about. We knew it was going to rain so Kyle set up a really cool shelter using our boom tent (which is a hammock tent) and our mosquito net. The cooler was used as a table and we had all our cooking stuff and games. We spent the night watching the rain and enjoying the breeze it brought. It was romantic and lovely. After the rain calmed down a bit we walked to the other side of the island to see the sunset. We were standing their stretching in the drizzle when Kyle poked me and said “You’re it!” And like little kids we ran around the island hopping over ponds and hiding behind trees playing tag. It was a blast. I fell down into the sand due to laughter and exhaustion and we called it a night.
Day 3 has shown to be a bit tougher than day 1 and 2, which is interesting because we only went 9 miles today. We woke up late and got going around 10am. We rowed about a half hour into Stillwater where we met up with our friend Nick. He did some filming and we took him out on the boat for a short row. It was great to see him, definitely the highlight of the day. But I must say, pulling up to a dock and being in a town overwhelmed me a bit. Even after only 2 days of being on the river I couldn’t wait to get back out there and get away from the busy town. After saying our goodbyes we rowed 6 miles to our campsite where I am currently sitting. For some reason those 6 miles seemed really long. We were both tired, waited too long to eat, and it was hot. We still had a enjoyable time, but I was ready for a break. Day 3 was the hardest for me when I was on the Appalachian Trail as well. I think it’s due to our bodies adjusting to the physical labor of the rowing and getting used to being in the sun all day. Once we arrived at a little island just outside of Hudson we jumped in the water and went swimming right away. I instantly felt much better, refreshed, and ready for tomorrow! It is 17 miles to Prescott, which is where the St. Croix dumps into the Mississippi River. We are considering attempting the 17 miles tomorrow, especially if the wind picks up, but are not in a rush so we’ll see what the day provides and how we are feeling.
Overall words can not express the happiness we are both feeling. We are constantly telling each other how happy we are and thanking the universe for providing such a lovely life. We were asked today how we handle living in such a small space together for 6 months, and our answer was simple: We are a team, in love, and best friends. With all those things on our side we are doing great. I am ecstatic about life and so incredibly thankful. So as the sun sets over our island to welcome another part of the world into morning, I will say my thank you’s and look forward to what tomorrow will bring.