Monday, September 01, 2008

Labor Day on the Wisconsin River

Labor Day is a sweet end-of-summer treat, like a cookie after you think you've emptied the Oreo tray but find that stray hidden by the wrapper. It's an unexpected little bonus, and Labor Day always catches me by surprise like the hidden Oreo.

Sure, you could find a bourgeois capitalist captain of industry and hang him from a lamppost in honor of the exploited workers, but Kenny Lay already has his karmic comeuppance, so let's have a peaceful coexistence of labor and capital, okay?

Anyway, I feel the best thing to do on Labor Day is paddle. The tricky part is to find a place where all the other people in the universe who have the same idea as you don't want to go too. The Lower Wisconsin on Labor Day (or any holiday) is usually a zoo, full of folks who are more interested in beer than the beauties of the River.

Well, like Yogi Berra used to say, "No one goes there anymore, it's too crowded." We chanced the section from Spring Green to Lone Rock, about eight miles. We could not have been more rewarded by our leap of faith. We saw a few folks early on at the put-in, but by the end of the shuttle no one was there, and we saw no one on the entire stretch.

But first the confession of stupidity. For this trip we took four kayaks and a canoe so that Gracie could come along. I packed all the kayak gear, but forgot to throw in a canoe paddle. I could not assume that Ian would have grabbed his, so we found ourselves at the put-in without a canoe paddle. Oops.

We ran the shuttle, and I planned on grabbing a paddle somewhere in Lone Rock. The bait shop, the Oar House*, was closed, so we found ourselves looking for a canoe trailer so we could perhaps find a livery. As we passed an old brick building, we spied two old wooden paddles sitting against the wall, looking like they hadn't been moved in a while, so I pulled into the driveway, got out and and poked around, calling out for an occupant. With no answer, I reluctantly appropriated one of these old paddles, and we were on our way.

By the time we ran the shuttle, canoes were starting to pile up at the beach, but they were running their shuttle, so we launched alone.

It was an almost perfect day, warm with a slight tailwind (never happens on this River), and the water was cool and refreshing. Once we figured out we were going too fast we stopped and played in the water for a good half-hour. Just sitting in the River with your back to the current in 18 inches of water is like getting a gentle massage. Gracie ran herself into exhaustion chasing tennis balls. We ate dried mangoes and reluctantly got back into the kayaks.

One of my reasons for this trip (or better said, one of the ways to make this trip a tax deduction) was to test the new Delta 12.10. A shorter polycarbonate kayak, this little boat has a lot of capacity, and promised to be a wonderful little boat for short trips on smaller rivers.

Well, it is. A little sluggish after paddling a boat five feet longer, but for a kayak its size, it's a sweet little craft. Everyone who paddled it enjoyed it, and Ian ended up in it for the last stretch, and he gave it a thumbs-up. I think it will do well next year.

The time on the water was too short but it always is. We loaded up, dropped off the borrowed paddle** and headed for Culvers. On the way I saw this giant ear of corn. I cannot pass giant fiberglass items without taking a picture. Call it a weakness.

Tired but grateful,


* Say it like Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins. Hardy har har.

** We wrapped it with a twenty-dollar bill for rental fee. The paddle was worth about $7.00, so my karmic conscience is clean.

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