Lake Winnie to Aitkin

Hey everyone!

In our last blog we had just crash-landed at a random cabin on the East shore of Lake Winnibigoshish due to high winds and waves. We felt strange squatting on personal property without permission but, alas, we had no choice!

We woke up the next morning to even stronger winds than the day before. The Winnie dam was only 6 miles away but the large waves and wind made it impossible to depart from the dock. I woke up and turned on my phone to check the weather. While checking the weather I received a call from a reporter at the Cass Lake Times.  The Times wanted to meet up and interview us about the trip.  I wasn’t quite sure where we were so I gave Allen, the reporter, the cabin number and general location. Allan drove around aimlessly and eventually stopped at a resort to ask for directions. Little did we (or Allen) know but this was the best thing he could have done. His direction stop went something like this:

Allan: Hello! Can you tell me how to get to cabin #20292?

Guy at the resort (Dillon): Well, yes…that is my cabin! What do you need?

Allan: Well, there are eleven canoeists camped out there. They are paddling the Mississippi River!

Dillon: I gotta see this.

Two cars showed up at the cabin. John met the reporter and thanked the other man, Dillon, for showing Allan how to find the place.  After meeting John, Dillon said, “This is my cabin!” Dillon was grinning from ear-to-ear. I had never seen someone so ecstatic to find eleven vagabonds squatting on their property. Dillon thought our plan to portage to the dam was silly and left the cabin to pick up a trailer for our boats and gear. After we loaded up, Dillon and Allan drove us to the Winnie Dam so we could continue on the flowing Mississippi. We were humbled by their hospitality and willingness to help us.  

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The section of the river after Winnie Dam has been gorgeous. The fall colors are starting to show and the wildlife is abundant (so many eagles!).

 

After lake Winnie the flow slowed and we navigated through some rough marshes until we reached Gambler’s Point. That night a large tree fell over right next to one of our tents. We are now more wary of dead trees, or “widow makers”, at our campsites.  During our paddle the next day we heard gunshots and even saw a duck shot and fall from the sky! Turns out it was the first day of duck hunting season -- good thing we are a loud group. What are the hunting regulations for duck hunting season in Minnesota? What agency makes those regulations? How does hunting affect the animal populations in our ecosystem?

We passed the first power plant on the Mississippi River right before Cohasset. As we paddled toward the smoke stacks, our group couldn’t help but notice how out of place the plant looked amongst the wild marshes. I know that people rely on this power plant to turn on their lights and run their laundry but I couldn’t help feeling sad that it uses water from the river: our home. How do power plants use water?   Challenge: Map out the life of a water molecule from when it enters a power plant to when it is put back into the river. How does this process affect the river?

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Sometimes it is easy to ignore things that we do not see or understand. Next time you turn on the lights, think about where your energy comes from or how far it traveled to reach your home. Do you know where your power comes from? Click these links to find what fuels you get your power, check your carbon footprint, and read about what you can do to conserve energy.

The next day we paddled against a strong headwind to Blandin Dam. We passed the Blandin Paper Mill and saw seemingly endless stacks of logs leading up to the mill. We portaged to the other side and saw that the water was lower, the scenery was rockier, and the river was narrower. What purpose do dams serve? How do they affect river communities? How do they affect river ecosystems?

We continued on the river to Jacobson, MN and camped by the road at a local Wayside. A policeman came by to tell us that we couldn’t camp there, but after hearing our story he said it was all right. Phew! We headed to town to meet some locals and found our two biggest fans: Norm and Emmitt. Norm gave us free t-shirts/sweaters and a bag full of delicious walleye. They told us stories about the town and the people who live there and even drove down to Palisade two nights later to hang out with us again! People like Norm and Emmitt continue to amaze us with their support of our expedition. Can you think of a time when a stranger showed you hospitality? Share with your class your experience and explain why you think it is important to care for the people around us.

This morning as we were paddling down the river we saw a sign on the bank that said “Paddle4ward”. It warmed our hearts to know that people are following our trip and excited about our travels.

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That’s a brief summary about our adventures so far! We are camped in Aitkin tonight and it is supposed to storm all day tomorrow…it’s gonna be great!!

-Natalie


Sponsor of the week: Camp Chow. Sarah Hamilton at Camp Chow sponsored our first 14 dinners! We have been eating luxuriously and are so please that we want to buy more! Check out their dehydrated, packaged trail foods. Yum!

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