Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Mississippi: Aitkin to Little Falls

We started out in relatively good weather and it stayed like that for the whole stage. No more sub freezing temperatures and actually a lot of sunshine during the days. Day time temperatures are now around 12 Celsius and make life a lot easier. Lunch breaks are relaxing again when you don't have to massage your numb toes back into life. But life is still not easy on the river which is mostly due to the very low water levels this year. Central US has gone through almost a drought year and you definitely notice it on the river. For us this has the following two negative effects:

We are still getting stuck a lot in the low water. If this happens on sand bars it is not too bad, but more often we get stuck on rocks. In the beginning we had then tried to shimmy off again, but this resulted in a major leak in Brian's Folbot. So now we try to get out of the boat to get unstuck again. Usually this is possible because there is hardly any current, but in smaller rapids this can be very scary. Luckily none of us has capsized yet, but Brian does not want to risk more holes. He is so unhappy with his rather sensitive Folbot that he named it POS, short for Piece of Shit whereas my more robust Feathercraft has been named the Warship. So whenever we see ripples, rocks or rapids I am sent out first in the Warship to go through. And if I make it alive and in one piece Brian follows the same course in the POS.

Still Brian seems to be calling Folbot almost daily to fix his boat problems and I start wondering whether he has taken a romantic interest in Ashley, the Folbot customer service person who has already sent him two packages with spare parts.... In Minneapolis Brian will glue on extra keel strips and hopefully this will solve the problem.

Brian fighting the mud
The second  low water problem is mud. Beaching on a muddy  shore is a nightmare. One lunch break turned into a disaster because of this. When trying to get out of my boat I got stuck in the mud with my mud boots and while trying to extract one foot the other one sank in even deeper until mud was running into the boots and I was completely stuck. Brian had to bring pieces of wood to step on and it took my 15 minutes of digging until I got my boots out again. Of course by then my socks and pants were wet and completely covered with muck. And despite careful treading Brian encountered the same fortune when trying to get into his boat. Our short lunch break turned into a 2 hour fight with the mud. Although we now test the ground with our paddles before beaching it is still difficult to tell how firm the ground really is.

GSSS in action
At least I have discovered a way to get back into your boat without making too much of a mess and drowning. Brian calls it the GSSS (German Straddle, Shimmy and Sit) and it works as follows: You take the end of the kayak between  your legs (straddle), carefully work your way towards the cockpit using the kayak as a support when you start sinking (shimmy) and once your butt has made it to the cockpit you collapse into it (sit). The while procedure looks like an  awkward Kamasutra position and will not win you any price for elegance but it prevents you from sinking in too much and keeps the cockpit clean as you don't have to step into your boat with your dirty mud boots any more.

Despite our daily little rock and mud incidents the river itself is absolutely gorgeous in this section and still feels very remote. We are even seeing some late fall colours and plenty of wildlife. Dawn and dusk on the river are absolutely spectacular. It has been a hard, but beautiful trip so far.

2 comments:

The Camping Trail said...

Christine, thanks for the great advise. I don’t care if it is not gonna win brownie points on elegance or beauty as long as it works! I cannot be too particular about how I look as long as I am safe from drowning and god knows what else.

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