Tag Archives: powerboat

Point No Point


Today’s paddling was one of the harder days I’ve had. Most of it was in Lake Pepin, which swallows any current the river might have at this point, and the wind is not your friend: it comes from the south, and I was paddling mostly east, which makes for a choppy journey. And it got really sunny and hot as the day went on: I thought I was about as tan as I get, but I got some more color today. I was expecting lots of drunken powerboaters and waterskiers (waterskiing was invented on Lake Pepin, who knew?), but thankfully there were hardly any until right before Lake City, where I finished up. There was one guy who had moored his boat in a bit of a cove and was draped asleep, buck naked, across the stern. I definitely had a twinge of jealousy at the sight. I can’t drape myself (naked or clothed) over the back of my kayak, a definite drawback on a beautiful late summer day like today.

The bluff at Frontenac State Park is called Point No Point, and it really is well-named: you see it from a distance as a well-developed point that seems about a mile off, and you paddle for probably more than three miles, and suddenly you’re at the town of Frontenac, and the point never actually materializes as a point. It’s a very curious optical illusion, and it pleases me to be tricked by it just as it has tricked riverboat pilots and fur traders (and pleasure boaters, too, no doubt) for generations.

blowing in the wind


It was my kayaking day today, and I started out happily from right below Blanchard Dam. Mac and I looked for some cross rocks before I started out. My cousin Meg would have found a bunch — she’s an expert at finding Petosky stones on Lake Michigan — but Mac and I didn’t succeed in finding even one.

The river was rougher than it has been: it’s wide enough here that you get pretty serious swells, which my little red sportscar of a kayak handles just fine. But as the day went on, the wind got stronger and stronger, and it was completely, fiercely, against me (coming from the south), and this stretch of the river doesn’t meander much, so once the wind is against you, it stays against you. And then, because of the upcoming Sartell Dam, the current subsides to basically zero, and here I am on this damn lake of a river, with the wind so strong I am paddling against whitecaps, using all my strength basically to avoid being blown upstream again. And I’m passing houses of a size and grandeur that, I’m sorry, just seem ridiculous to me: what family could possibly need a summer house of 12,000 square feet or something?!? McMansion summer houses with six boats moored out front: jet skis, pontoon boats, etc. etc.

So there I am madly paddling away just to stay still, and this very cool little 70’s era powerboat pulls up, and the guy says, “You’re paddling in the wrong direction today!” I agreed, and he told me his house was about a mile and a half down on the left, and that the place I had planned to meet up with Mac and pull out was still another six miles beyond that, and that I was welcome to stop at his place for at least a bathroom break or something.

After he left, the river did do one meander, which was enough for me to stop and text Mac about why I was so late, but when the river turned again I was back in the brunt of this insane wind, so when I got to Gary and Debbie’s place, pictured above (check the flamingos!), and Gary came out to usher me in, I decided I really had had enough, and pulled in. I called Mac to come get me, and when he arrived, Gary and Debbie invited us to stay for dinner, which we gratefully accepted, and Debbie showed us her orchid collection of something like 200 plants (I see this in your future, Yvan!), and introduced us to their parrot, Etta (for Etta James), and fed us an excellent meal, and were altogether generous and lovely folks. They live up here full time, Gary works at the Sartell Mill, and Debbie is a serious runner, like 70-miles-a-week serious(!) and they have two grown kids who work in the Twin Cities, the girl as a zookeeper, how cool is that?! Gary built their house himself, (nowhere near 12K sqft) so we talked a bit about housebuilding, too. And they told us about the upcoming Minnesota State Fair, which we may have to go to. I’ve never actually been to a state fair, so maybe it’s part of my education.

Anyway, I’m writing this the next day, and I’m STILL pretty fried. It’s a great lesson that even though I’m getting stronger and more experienced at this kayaking biz, it will still kick my ass when it feels like it!

go with the wind


Today was a really fun day of paddling: partially because the wind was with me and the current is picking up more and more, so without any particular effort, I did my twenty miles in less than five hours. This whole area has a bunch of islands made from logs that got stuck on their way down the river, but there’s no navigation anxiety, you can basically take whatever channel you like: they all end up down the stream one way or another. Very fun!

My stint today took me past Camp Ripley Military Reservation, so the sound of heavy artillery was a very strange accompaniment to my peaceful paddle down the river. The target range was blessedly out of sight, but I did see various military vehicles and lots of DANGER signs on that side of the river. I took them seriously and mostly stayed on towards the east bank of the river, the non-military side.

And for the first time in days and days, I actually saw some people! I passed three boats of fishermen today: the first set were very pleased to hear I had started at Itasca and was aiming for NOLA; one guy said he sees at least one long-distance paddler every year and had been waiting for this year’s. The second boat was completely stuck in the reeds, their motor having inhaled the green, which I guess is not a good thing for a motor. One of them said he wished he were in my boat today, asked where the next boat launch was, and was not happy to hear eight miles downriver as the answer. I told him if he cut loose he’d probably float down without needing any engine, but he didn’t seem too eager to try it. Note to self: if powerboating on a river in low water, go UPSTREAM of your launch point, so you can float back down to your car if you run into trouble. (although WHY one would want to power through these waters is a bit of a mystery to me anyway…)

My man Mac found a campsite (with shower!) and scoped out a rather tony Carnegie Library here in Little Falls, and I could happily spend the rest of the day here, but I want to explore Little Falls a bit. There are A LOT of layers of history here, and I want to see what traces of it I can find…