The sun rises over the sandy banks of the island in the middle of the Wisconsin River.
Oh, it’ll be a warm Sunday. Very warm. And we have a long haul before us. So far, we’ve paddled barely a third of the way to Boscobel, our take out point.
Still, Ed lights up the little stove and I pause over oatmeal and a coffee. (This is the one use I have for Starbucks these days: they make a hell of a delicious instant.)
Normally, we do not hurry a morning. Here, where the sands squeak and the current ripples against the banks in the most wonderful way, it’s especially difficult to pack the boat and go. But, there’s no choice. And so by 9:30, we’re in the water, paddling.
We’re now going through the bluffy part of the river and here’s where autumn looks just as you want it to be -- touched gently by color. Not jarring, not exaggerated. Almost timid, but lovely nonetheless.
The sun stays behind us at first, then slowly moves toward the bow. I am getting one heck of a tan – on my left (south) side only.
We try to read the river, to cut back on the “getting stuck in the shallows” routine, but it’s hard. Again and again, we have to get out and push the boat to where the current is strong and the river bed is deep. Each hoist out of the boat is tough enough under any circumstances, but in this boat especially it’s a challenge. She sways, she rocks and if you tip her over six inches, she fills with water (there’s not much freeboard on this vessel).
We pause on another island for a lunch of bread, cheese and tomato, but only when my calculations tell me that it's okay, that we will get to the final point by sunset. Even so, I hurry Ed along. He tries to hury, but he cannot. A swim? Sure, there’s time for a swim. But hurry!
Yes, hurry. The enemy of a good passage here. I hurry right into the canoe, tip it six inches or so and fill her with a good base of water. We spend the next fifteen minutes bailing her out.
And we continue in our Huck Finn wannabe way. Getting a charge out of the most routine of events -- a flight of geese, a passage of a puffy cloud.
Past countless turtles, resting at the side, but only until we come close – then they jump off, one by one, plopping in, leaving no turtle behind.
We watch the occasional fisherperson too. I liked this one. I waved, She waved. I imagined her filling the truck with fish for the whole cold season before us.
The sun is now definitely on a steady descent.
We’re gettin’ there, but both Ed and I are putting in a lot of muscle on the final stretch. And we miss spotting some of the submerged timbers. Twice we hear the sharp scrape of underwater logs against the kayak’s (or canoe, we don’t quite know what it is...) bottom. We pause each time to check for holes. A scrape on a fiberglass boat is no big deal. On this boat – a rip is a very real possibility.
But we’re lucky. And we are at the final bridge before 6.
Ed sits back as I do the final paddle in. On the shore, a woman shouts out – you realize he’s making you do all the work! I know, I know, it’s been that way all along, I retort. But I don’t mean a word of it.
The light is deliciously golden. We pack up our boat, load the car and head back to Spring Green. Ed's car is there and we look affectionately at the two cars together -- quite likely the ugliest little cars this side of the Mississippi. He switches to his, I stay in mine, we head home.