the park lives up to its name...


so i was hoping to share photos of our first camping trip in over 7 years, and happy tales of where we traveled, what we saw, etc.

but i have a sad hunch that our camera drowned yesterday so no more photos for a while.

here's how the days went.

after sunday's half marathon in stillwater, i came home, got showered, ate and we hit the road about 1pm to head to center city, mn about 60 minutes from home.

we went to wild river state park, which is about 6000 acres of beauty and did i mention, close to home? love that!

we made two brief stops, and then continued on to the park.

got camp set up (not til 4 since the prior nights campers were still there and had til 4 to leave) and took a hike along the river for a good hour or so. the st croix river runs right along the park. sunday was phenomenal in the weather dept. no winds, sunny skies, about 78. lovely!

hiked back to camp around 7 and got going on dinner...and campfire! smores. just good kick back relaxing time with some vino...

monday woke up to owls calling to each other. not sure what kind, but definitely owls. at 4:30. still cool. went back to sleep for a few hours...

then woke up again to party sunny skies, but some on and off winds. didn't think much of that at the time...

made breakfast, and got clothes out for the day.

decided it would be a great day for a river ride in a canoe at a landing in the park where they rent canoes.

we wore our keen water sandals, wicking tops and shorts. packed a small backpack with the camera, a few snacks, 3 bottles of water, a camp towel and sunscreen.

now here is where of course i'll admit we are novice paddlers. and those who know me well know i am not a swimmer, so of course i always wear my PFD. as does Mark (who can swim, but not sure how well; i've never seen him swim).

get to the place, and the guy tells us for $40 he drives us 10 miles up river, and we float or paddle back down to the landing.

sounds good.

then he says 'yeah the winds yesterday were out of the north, and people were flying down the river...usually takes 3-5 hours, but today the winds are directly out of the south and they're strong.'.

okay HERE is where you *should* tell novice paddlers, 'you know, if you're not experienced, today might not be the best day to try this'.

but no. not such a warning. more like 'okay, that's $40'.

so we and 2 other younger couples who happened to be leaving at the same time as us jumped in the van and headed to the sunrise landing spot.

well within about 30 minutes of being in the canoe, mark and i both realized this was going to be a long hard fight to get downriver. we were battling at least 25-30 mph winds. directly against us. whitecaps. rolling waves. you name it.

i wasn't freaked out though. we just hugged the shoreline (as was recommended by the guy) and made our way down. saw some beautiful bald eagles, and other than a strong arm workout we were fine.

until about 2 hours into it. the gusts were SO strong, that if we didn't get the steering down quite right, we'd end up having to circle around to get control of the canoe and get ourselves pointed in the right direction again.

the river can get to 20ft in some areas, and it's quite wide (or it seemed to be to me) but most of the time we'd get blown and would have to regroup, we'd end up in the middle of the river while doing this. inexperience? probably. i also give the wind a lot of credit at winning.

well, all i remember is trying to circle back around and a huge gust coming and dumping the entire canoe over all the way.

i grabbed for canoe first and then the backpack. looked back at mark, who's head was back above water (we both totally went under) and the first thing he said was 'shore!' so we went with the current over to the muddy shoreline, which thankfully didn't take too long...

the 2nd thing he said was 'i can't believe you still have your hat on!' i was wearing my cowboy hat that does have a string on it, so it stayed on the whole time. i looked in the now flooded upright canoe and saw mark's glasses case (he was not having a contacts day) and grabbed for that and the camera (also sadly totally underwater).

we regrouped at the shoreline and said 'now what?'

well NO one was around. not the other couples. no cabins. nothing.

we had no choice but to dump the canoe (at this point we could touch bottom thank goodness) though it was was the deepest red clay mud i've ever been stuck in. i literally couldn't pull my feet out. (boy did we have on the right footwear though...those keens rocked in this situation).

we got all the water out of the canoe. saw that miraculously we still had both paddles. how i don't know. if we hadn't we really would have been screwed as we never would have made it downriver with none or just one. we'd have had to walk somehow to find help or be rescued somehow :( we didn't have a phone with us, but if we had it only would have ended up being soaked.

i was able to put myself back in the bow, mark used a low tree jutting out into the river to take his place in the stern, and off we went again.

i thought i was fine. until we hit a gust of wind and all i kept flashing back to was going underwater again. not good.

we beached at a sandbar and by this time i was freezing and shaking so bad i couldn't be still. i had no dry clothes (lesson #5 it seems; always bring a wet pack of dry clothes!) and i was beyond freaked at wanting to be on that water again.

we waited about 25 min or so and one of the couples came by and asked if we were okay.

to amy & jay? thank goodness you came by and offered to be our wingmen back to the landing.

we stuck right close by them the rest of the way, and they were my saving grace about wanting to get back in the canoe.

and they too said they almost lost it more than once in tipping over.

but every time we hit a wind, i had to breathe through it and pray (yes really) that we'd make it through without tipping again. we had a solid hour and a half or so after the capsize til we landed for good.

we finally got back to the landing under beautiful blue skies around 4:30.

i have never been so happy to see land in my life.

spent the rest of the day just rejoicing we didn't end up in worse shape than losing some personal belongings, lit the campfire early to dry out, and took a long hot well derserved shower.

ended with more wine, some guitar singing time (in a mostly desolate campground; most folks has left on monday so it seemed we had the whole place to ourselves...pretty awesome) and just being together...

but after that adventure, will i canoe again?

yes.

will i canoe alone with just mark (mainly) on a super windy down a big river?

hell no.

yes i need to learn to swim. and yes, i need to bone up on being safe and learning better canoe techniques. but i really do wish the dude running the canoe place (who by the way wasn't even there when we finished. the whole place was just locked up. we could have stolen the canoe for $40 or if we *had* wound up in worse shape than just capsizing who would have even known we were missing?) had warned against novices going out. common sense on *their* part.

so our first crisis in 10 years together. shook us up and we made it. still very scary. and i feel very, belittled i guess. or ashamed that i put myself in a position that depending on where in the river we had gone in could have been a different outcome in those conditions...

i do love camping. i do love the woods. but this weekend wound up being more adventure than we ever saw coming.

now to figure out how to save up for a camera. :( or pray by some miracle this one makes it...

oh yes, and in 23 days? i run a marathon. i have a 6 miler tonight to regroup my thoughts on...i think that will help. today the weather is gray, gloomy and still. somehow i feel just like that.

5 comments:

Sunshine said...
May 26, 2009 at 6:43 PM

Congratulations on finishing the Stillwater Half.

Library Guy said...
May 27, 2009 at 2:10 PM

Wow. I'm glad you dudes are safe. Quite the adventure...

Carolnb said...
May 28, 2009 at 11:12 AM

Good luck with your run. National Camera may be able to help with the camera or tell if you if it's worth trying.

Marathon Maritza said...
May 29, 2009 at 8:32 AM

Yikes, what an adventure! I'm glad you are okay and everything turned out fine in the end....wild river indeed!

Jeremi said...
May 30, 2009 at 7:41 PM

Oh wow, what an adventure!!
The hot shower and wine sounds like a great way to end that day : )

And your marathon, you're going to kick butt on it, I know you are!

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