Baudette’s two bridges across the Rainy River shimmered in the morning sun and I felt strength return to my paddle. Four long days left my upper body a tangle of sore muscle and worn joints. Dull pain greeted every movement, the payment for crossing Lake of the Woods.
I tried to arrive last night, but the wind said no and it forces you to listen sometimes. Instead, I camped on an abandoned dock the current had pushed into a grass island. I thought about Baudette and watched a sea of fireflies melt into the stars of the night sky.
I arrived at Baudette’s dock and pulled everything I had onto the grass to dry in the sun. I lay next to it and watched workers put a fresh coat of paint on the town’s giant fish statue named Willie Walleye. It was the first time I felt warm in four days.
After everything dried, I loaded my equipment back into the boat and rolled it three blocks to the library. I didn’t think anyone in Baudette would touch the kayak if I left it in the park, but even in a small town it’s hard to trust the world with your dreams.
“First time anyone ever arrived with a kayak,” one of the librarians said as I walked in.
I grinned at her.
“I wasn’t sure where to leave it,” I said.
“It’ll be fine out front,” she said. “Don’t worry about it.”
I settled into a big couch with my computer to send a few emails back home letting my parents know I’d survived Lake of the Woods.
“You wouldn’t want an apple, would you?” another librarian asked.
She handed it to me before I could answer.
“Is it ok if I eat it in here?” I said.
“That’s where I’m going to eat mine,” she said, laughing.
The first bite tasted crisp and sweet. I’d been eating peanut butter and granola for two days. The apple disappeared in a few, hungry bites.
Five minutes later she came back.
“Where you staying?” she asked.
“Not sure,” I said.
She smiled at me.
“My name’s Janet,” she said. “My husband Neal and I live just down the street.”