Angle to Key West: Somehow (9/2)

Duluth – September 2, 2012

“So what’s the route from here to the Mississippi?” Deanna asked.

“Up the St. Louis River to Floodwood, then up the East Savanna River to the Savanna Portage,” I said. “That should take me to the Mississippi.”

She looked at me for a moment, then ran to her car to get a map.

Deanna guides kayaks in the Apostles and works as an educator for the estuary preserve at the mouth of the St. Louis River. We’d met for a few minutes when I’d arrived in Duluth, just long enough for her to pack her bag for the weekend and hand me a key to her place.

“Make yourself at home,” she’d told me. “Maybe I’ll see you Sunday.”

I needed the weekend to recover from the Apostles and prepare to fight up the St. Louis River.

Deanna opened the map and spread it on the table.

“It should be flat until Fond Du Lac,” she said. “But after that, I don’t know.”

We stared at the map and started digesting what lay ahead. There are five dams and miles of rapids between Duluth and Floodwood. You can see the water churning white on aerial photos. On top of that, the floods that turned Duluth into a disaster area two months ago also ripped up enough of the infrastructure in Jay Cooke State Park to shut it down completely. Hundred yard swaths of road disappeared, hillsides washed away, and every bridge is gone. It might be years before it’s reopened.

And all that is before the Savanna Portage begins with its six miles of bogs and swamp. I’ve asked and asked, but I haven’t found a single person who’s been there. Most don’t even know it exists. I just know the voyageurs hated it.

“So how are you going to do it?” she asked.

I wasn’t sure, but I looked at a map and saw how far three months has brought me from the Angle and how far I’ve got to go to Key West. It looks like I’ve barely moved, like I’ve been lost and drawing some great circle around Minnesota.

I laughed at winter once, but not any more. It hangs in the cool night. I see it coming in the trees. Every day feels shorter.

But there’s hope in that jagged line running down the center of the country. Get there, dip the bow in the muddy Mississippi, and I have a chance to bend the bottom of the map a bit closer. If I bend it far enough, winter can’t touch me.

“I don’t know,” I said. “But somehow I’ve got to find a way.”

4 thoughts on “Angle to Key West: Somehow (9/2)

  1. It is still hot here in SW Florida…90 degrees…fall is a long way off from here …it is hotter this year than in the past…once you are on the Mississippi you have a straight shot…you are going south …you can DO THIS….Can you catch some of the waves of the larger boats ….this would improve your milage with the granola motor…get some ice cream and start to paddle…What is a normal day for you? What time do you start and end for the day…What do you eat for lunch….Elaine

    1. I try to start as soon as I don’t think my hands will freeze off and end just before the sun sets. πŸ˜‰ I eat just about whatever I have! Usually granola and peanut butter or something like that, although the cold is making more things possible since it’s turning my boat into a refrigerator. πŸ˜‰

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