Listen to Ruth tell the story of Day V:
Day V transcribed:
Today is Thursday, Oct. 1, day five of the I Heart Wisconsin: River Trip. Today started with a freezing night, it was about 36 degrees and it was pretty cold, so I’m going to make some adjustments to how I stay comfortable at night camping. I was camping on Rainbow Rapids and had just finished up my breakfast when two dogs came running out of the woods. I called “hello, hello,” because I had heard some shotguns and I wanted to make sure they knew there was a person down there. And two duck hunters came down, they were really nice guys, and I got to watch them put on their waders and wade out to an island where they strung some decoys on the main river and then they sat back on the island, I think waiting for birds. It was very nice because it was a misty, cool morning and their dogs were just going crazy, turning circles, so excited to be out there on the water and ready to retrieve. One of them was trying to retrieve the decoy. It was pretty cute.
I said goodbye to them and headed around their decoys and as soon as I got down around the bend, I flushed up a huge flock of mergansers. I don’t even know if that’s what bird they were looking for, but I sent them the other way downstream. Sorry, guys!
It’s nice to see how people use the river. What I noticed about this stretch south of Rainbow Falls is that people have very modest cabins. Many of them are the old, original log cabins or they’re log buildings from the ‘50s with manufactured logs and they’re all painted natural colors that blend in. They have very small docks. You can tell these are just people who enjoy living on the river and they’re not building huge mansions for waterfront. It really caused me to appreciate Wisconsinsites and how people who just really love Wisconsin have found places that are important to them and for many people it’s the Wisconsin River.
About a mile further downstream, I was really honored to paddle with Anna Maria Hansen, who is a reporter with Price County Review. She’s a young woman who has learned by the school of hard knocks how to be a journalist. She’s really doing a great job writing outdoor columns, interviewing lots of different people and learning about some of the natural resource issues around the Phillips and Park Falls area and writing about them. She also covers the school board and the city council meetings, but it’s just a delight to find someone who really, really enjoys writing about natural resources. The work she does is so important for other people to read and learn the same things she’s learning, whether it’s how to do wild rice or banding birds or Tom Nicholls’ field station—he does field trips for the Foundation as well—she’s just finding all these wonderful things about the Price County area and she’s sharing them. It’s really important to raise awareness about the beauty of our state and some of the issues, too, with natural resources. So that was really fun to paddle with Anna Maria this morning. I think she’s going to really contribute a lot to our understanding of the natural world.
Then I headed on to Rhinelander and it was a beautiful September afternoon, 70 degrees with a light wind. I actually sun burned my lips, if that’s possible, and almost fell asleep at my lunch spot. Then I had a long slog through the Rhinelander Flowage.
Some of you are probably wondering what’s going on with my boat. Yesterday I was sitting in two inches of water and it was not very comfortable and it was also a little scary because the more water that comes in the lower it goes. Not that it would sink, but it just is hard to paddle and makes me wonder what’s wrong. So today I put the heavy stuff in the back and tried to keep the front end lighter because I think what’s happening is that water is seeping in the tip of the front end where there’s sort of a little drainage area. I don’t know for sure, but I think that might be it.
The Rainbow Flowage was a good test because I actually ended up getting quite a bit of wind. A flowage is a big open lake area. Today I started out with the waterfowl hunters and I ended up in the Rhinelander Flowage, which has a huge wild rice bed in the upper part, which right now is just golden. Most of the rice is gone, although I see a few rice grains actually stuck to my boat. They have an awn on them, which is like a tail that helps them drill down into the muck and some of those awns got stuck on the fabric of my boat. The waterfowl in there were incredible; the beating wings and the flapping feet on water. I saw coots, teal, mergansers, I’m pretty sure there were some wood ducks, and a couple mallards, all in these vast, flat wild rice beds. And then the channel kind of just winds around through there. I was just flushing up ducks like you wouldn’t believe.
Today was a waterfowl day and the song of the day was Black Water by the Doobies. I don’t know why, but it just fit the day. It was really fun to listen to some music for the first time today.
Tonight I’m staying with friends, Tom and Steve in Rhinelander and Marcia, a friend of mine came over for supper and I had the most amazing bubble bath in a deep, deep soaking tub if you can believe this, that overlooks the Wisconsin River. So yeah, I got off the river and the river and I’m going to sleep in a nice cozy bed tonight, but I’m not far, maybe just 100 feet and tomorrow morning I’ll put in the river and go down and meet a reporter from Channel12TV and someone from WXPR, the incredible community radio station here in Rhinelander. So I’m looking forward to that and sharing with them a little about the I Heart Wisconsin trip.