#AtoZChallenge: My Favorite Things R

The Namekagon, although in a different season than my story.


I’m not sure where rivers come from, someplace hidden, but I know that if it were not for them, there would be no lakes and maybe even no oceans.  I hold them to be a little less scary, most of them having at least two shores visible, sometimes more if there is an island in the middle. They seem to be self-cleaning if left alone. Sometimes they become shallow enough that the bottom can be seen and there is no fearsome, endless descent as in the sea. Another wonderful thing about them is their motion, always on their way to something and wanting to take you along, which is mostly a good thing. Sometimes not.

We were visiting our hometown for a family reunion and one of our bonding activities was a river trip. The Namekagon runs past our town in its own valley, one of the nation’s Wild River Refuges, and we have often gone down sections of it in boats, canoes, kayaks and inner tubes. This time I was in a short, one person kayak, which because of its lack of length and directionality, was more like a teacup floating along on the current.

I don’t remember how I got close enough to the willows on the bank to get caught in them, but it was a place where the current quickened and was strong as it bent around a corner. Leaning a bit to avoid getting hit in the face, I lowered the edge of the teacup enough on the upriver side to allow the flow into the boat – the death knell of staying upright on the water.  We, the teacup and I, flipped.

There are only split seconds in which to discover whether you will stand or swim, hang onto the boat or onto the paddle. It is exciting, so much so that you may not even notice injuries incurred on the rocky river bottom. I stood, a little more than waist high, in the cold, swift and amazingly strong stream, choosing to hold onto my boat. Like a sail catching the wind, the kayak caught the water and only the overhanging branches kept us from going quickly downstream. It took an adrenalin rush for me to wrestle the boat upright and walk it to more shallow water where I could empty it.

Whoa, turn around. I think Mom’s in trouble …
Oh never mind, she’s wet but she’s alive.

By this time, others were aware of my predicament and were watching for my paddle to float past. We regrouped and continued our trip.

I remember this incident because it is the only time I have capsized (unless there is another that I have truly forgotten). I remember it because of the large bruise, scrape and painful lump on my shin that took a couple months to heal. I remember it because of the miracle of going back and finding my camera, catching the sun and glinting among the rocks on the bottom. I dried it out and it still worked, sort of. I remember it because of all the gorgeous pictures on the digital card that I still have and enjoy.

The river meant no harm. We just had an experience together.

When has nature given you an adrenalin rush experience?

#5: Namekagon River

Hayward started as a logging town in a river valley. The river was and is the Namekagon, now part of the St. Croix National Scenic Waterway. It’s about 100 miles long and has its name from the Ojibwe Indian word for “river at the place abundant with sturgeons”. The lumberjacks used the river to float logs down to the mills for processing, which of course is no longer necessary since we have roads and trucks. All that’s left of this part of history is the logrolling competitions and that championship contest is usually held in Hayward.

a great use for old railroad beds

My trek to the Namekagon started at Par Place Condominiums where I am staying. These condos are built on the “used to be RoyNona Golf Course” which is also the “used to be Roy Smith farm”. Roy Smith was my grandfather.  The river is fairly close to the farm/golf course/condos, so my sister-in-law MP and I decided to bike there.  Our route started down a trail on an old railroad bed.  I actually remember when trains ran the tracks there and the engineer would wave to me and blow the train whistle.  It hurts to say this.

These trails are all over the Hayward area and are used by snowmobiles and skiiers in the winter, bikes and hikers and ATV’s in the summer. The trails circling the town are paved, unlike this one, which is unpaved,peaceful and straight, lined with goldenrod and blackberry bushes. The breeze rattles the leaves on the poplar trees so there is a steady, soft white noise which belies all the motion you see when you glance at them. About half a mile on the trail brought us to Airport Road (another creative place name). Another half mile and we were at a small park on the river, across the road from the small, mostly private airport.

wp-1470862537949.jpgWe parked our bikes and walked down to the boat landing. The Namekagon is a great river for canoeing, kayaking,  tubing and fishing, although I do not vouch for the fishing part. I have done the other three. There has been a lot of rain this summer, and even some flooding, so the river is high and swift. There are a few white water places but a great deal of it is like this picture – tranquil appearing. Any time we do a river trip we see wildlife, eagles, deer, otters, and bear.  And wildflowers are everywhere. Floating down the Namekagon is one of my favorite things to do.

Another one foot dip. The water was cool and the mosquitoes were fierce so we didn’t stay long. wp-1470862505619.jpg