In my mind, rivers are like cats: they have their own personality, a strong one at that and you better not mess with it, or else. Instead – study it. Find the gentle spots. And if there aren’t any, then go with what you’ve got.
I think about this now that we’re half dragging ourselves into the farmhouse, hungry as anything, ready to plunk down and devour the takeout pizza. That Wisconsin River, the old cat, it can play tricks on you.
It was to be a two day trip – on a stretch we’ve done before: from Spring Green to Boscobel. I’d say it’s a solid two day paddle, but one that’s not going to let your heart race.if you spread it out right.
The thing is, our start was substantially delayed. We lost our way driving there. No kidding. At one point, Ed pulled me over (we took both cars) and said – we’re going to see a lot of Wisconsin. We’re way off target.
We saw a lot of Wisconsin. 122 miles worth (instead of half that).
So there was that. Additionally, when you do a paddle in a country that doesn’t adore public transportation, you have to leave a car at the take out point, then drive over together to the put in point. You need two cars, strategically placed. Tick tock, tick tock.
Then, too, putting the kayak/canoe together – that same boat that gave us such a whopping great run along the Dordogne this summer, took a while. That sassy old girl! Not easy to work with, that's for sure. That's before she lets out air in her bladders when she's had enough.
But, finally, we’re set.
I look at my watch. 2:30. We are pushing off at 2:30! Late! Knowing full well that in October, the sun sets at 6:25 and shadows form over the water even earlier than that.
Still, we are on the river and it is a fine river and who can worry about getting to Bascobel now.
The sun, even in the late afternoon, is toasty warm, the river is plenty challenging, what with her sandbars and downed timber, and the scenery? Gorgeous.
Still, we can't go for too long. We need to find a place to pitch a tent before the sun's gone. October doesn't give you much time to work with.
At around 6, we find a beautiful stretch of sand on a river island. Facing the setting sun.
We unload the boat, put up just the inner mesh wall of the tent (no chance of rain, not tonight), Ed boils water for the mac and cheese supper, all this while the sun puts on the show of shows, right there before us.
And then it's gone. And there is complete quiet, except for the occasional splash of water as a fish jumps out then back in again.
Quiet. The hunters' rifles -- such a common sound in our state at this time of the year -- are still, the birds have settled down. Quiet. Ed's asleep by 8. Me, I drift in and out, checking up on the stars, the passage of the moon, listening for the next splash of a fish, then another...