Allison's River Journal 2
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Day Three and Day Four

Woke up very pleasantly to the low laughter of Jim and Jo. As farmers, they get up before God, get the fire started, put the water on and putter for an hour before I even dream about dreaming about getting up. Arising is a lot easier when the campfire spit rings the alarm, the air is fresh and misty and the smell of coffee is in the air.
There's also the promise of what's around the next bend to consider. So far this trip, there's lots of considering going on already. Yesterday, Jim announced "I'm feeling more like myself today than I did yesterday." I've considered that to the point that my brain might be edging out my arms as the most painful part of the body.

Consideration is key.

Jim and Jo are extremely considerate of us and each other, which on a trip like this, is as necessary as the paddle and boat. Unless you're lone wolfing it, taking the time to be nice to your mates can make or break a trip. Jim and Jo have that down to a science.

They also seem very good at making each other laugh and working together. Putting up, taking down, whatever. I really enjoy watching them paddle. When they find their groove, they seem to glide effortlessly across the water. They are like peanut butter and jelly, making a mockery of the common belief that 'couples who canoe together... get divorced.'
However, I can see why canoes sink some relationships. The small space of a canoe becomes a pressure cooker and paddles transform easily to bludgeoning tools if one is not careful...and considerate.

For example, when sitting up front, it is far more HELPFUL to say "steer right" or "veer left" than to scream "we're going to hit it!" From the steering seat, it is far nicer to ask "The stream seems to be running faster here, shall we catch it?" than, "pick up your paddle, punk!"

There seems to be a canoe hierarchy, where the person in steerage is divine ruler. But the flip side of divinity is blame. The back seat is one hundred percent at fault when anything happens regardless of wind, current, elusive logs, tsunami --it's all their fault. The front seat's only job seems to be to direct and criticize the back's steering. Four hours with a dynamic like this can make the Titanic look like a pleasure cruise.

Good thing Frank and I were in the S.S. Anarchy. Jim and Jo were in the S.S. Beatin' Our Butt. They make it look so easy; it's only when we get near them that we see how hard they're working. Their dog Chris is amazing too. She rides along agreeably enough, and occasionally, she gets out and runs along the riverbanks, or swims like an otter.
Chris and I seem to have a lot in common. We beg for food and whine when we don't get our way. We also both do the same thing when the canoe stops - get out and run like hell. We run like our paws were on fire, like shots from a cannon. I can't get enough of this fresh air and crunchy leaves underfoot and Chris runs looking for a rotting fish to roll in. I haven't joined her in that activity, but I probably smell like I do. I'm ripening up well, but I'm convinced that getting a good glamour on lets you see more animals.

This morning we came upon some deer swimming across the river. They looked different wet. They were darker, more stout and muscular looking -almost like burros.
We repeatedly ran into Harry as well and we've now seemed to have established a pattern. We see him. He sees us. He lifts his enormous body into the air and flys downriver 200 yards or so. When we come by. We see him. He sees us (and seems to be surprised?) lifts off, and the process starts over again.

Bunches of ducks do the same thing. We saw some beauties today with red heads and gray bodies. I wish I knew my birds better. There was one bird I could identify, however. It was tall, pink and native to Florida. They seem to proliferate on the lawns of the summer cottages we passed. They looked cold, miserable and out of their element.

Today was cold and rainy, and we passed by more houses and cabins along this stretch. The gray was gorgeous. Dim skies seem to make the colors stand out even more vibrantly. Shreds of blue started peeping out as we pulled into camp, but the respite wasn't long as the skys opened up again after dusk, quenching the campfire and drenching Jim and Jo.
The rain hasn't got them down, though we keep hoping for a 24 hour dry spell. Well, as Jim said earlier, "Adventures aren't just sunshine and pony rides." He was quoting J.R.R. Tolkien's hobbit Bilbo. Frank also quoted from Tolkien, from Sam Gamgee, "A change is as good as a rest as my gaffer used to say." Those hobbits had it a lot tougher than we. Bilbo had trolls to contend with. We just have the rain and our own precious weariness. But I'm proud of us already. Some way or another, we keep finding reserves that fuel us a little longer, a little faster, a little farther along in our quest.

Jim and Jo on Hodenpyl Lake
The paddling has been spectacular today. Each bend seems to get prettier than the next. We seem to speed up with anticipation at each corner, only to ride the current round it, into whatever lies beyond.

Today was one of high banks and riffles. Last night we got rained on, but the day turned gorgeous around 10, and became clear and cold. The oranges of the maples popped out against a cornflower blue sky and the air tasted like winter.
We were in a paddling frenzy this morning. I don't think we exchanged three sentences on the way to Chippewa Landing. We were trying to make a four hour float in two, so Frank and I canoed like fiends. We wielded our nimble craft as best we could, but it has a mischievous spirit, especially when it come to branches and logs.

We also had some company on the river today. We weaved around a horde of fly fishermen, all in waders, all with cigars poking out of their faces. Jim asked one if a cigar was a requirement for fishing and the man replied 'You need a rod, a reel and a reverse order.' We also ran into a guy from the Conservation Resource Alliance doing erosion control on one of the banks and a couple of bow hunters.

Molly Wolfe and Susan Futterer Batdorff joined us in a canoe at Chippewa Landing. They were just going to be with us for a couple of days. Molly has never been canoeing before so she asked us, 'What do you do if you tip over?' Her answer: 'You don't tip over."
She asked again, "I know, but what happens if you do?" Her answer, "You don't."
The water was so cold we would have to 'put to' immediately, build a fire, and probably spend hours warming up and drying out. But the darling made one more valiant attempt at getting a straight answer. She would have had better luck getting water from a rock.
"Where should I sit that gets the least wet?" Her answer, "You don't get wet."
What we didn't know until later was that Molly was water-phobic. But, being the brave spirit she is, when Susan invited her along, she said 'yes' figuring that she'd get over her fear along the way.

Her easy courage inspired all of us.

I also found inspiration in her magic fingers. Molly is a massage therapist, and she gave me a taste of her talent around the campfire. It was pure bliss.

Something is definitely beginning to happen with my body; I've been slightly altered from head to foot. Speaking of feet, while there are still two of them, my socks have now molded to the skin. The effluvium released upon shoe removal can cause disintegration of the face. Moving up to the legs -they are two wooden pegs. All I need is a patch and parrot.
The upper body is a lot more fun. There were no Kelloggs in sight, but I'm sure getting a lot of Snap! Crackle! and Pop! in my arms and back. The lower parts of my back feel like I'm wearing a 50 pound inner tube. My arms are stones covered with skin. But my hands...I'm proudest of my lovely calloused hands. The kind of hands that feel like they're covered in sand and steel wool, hard working hands, roughened by well-earned labor.
Molly helped me rub out the physical kinks, but the camadrie around the campfire has a more healing affect.

We camped out on an island tonight, one Jo named 'Enchanted Island' because of the magical qualities that drew her there. It certainly seems enchanted now as an owl just let out a eerie howl. God I love this. That owl is so close to us now. It sounds like it's on the next branch. The fire crackles, the conversation moves easy, and the owl chimes in, thrilling me from the inside out. And then the coyotes come. Howling and yipping, concentrated and pack-like, they sound calls from across the river. I've never heard them so close. The night noises are invading my soul tonight. I'm hoping my subconscious is on 'record' so I can dream about them later. However, its more likely that my dreams will drift back to canoeing. I've been canoeing so much that I feel like I do it in my sleep. And, judging by the rain the last few nights, canoeing in my sleep is not such a bad idea. We are getting plenty of water in the tent and I find myself afloat on my sleeping pad in the mornings, wondering if I've tried to paddle at all and how I'm steering.

Susan and Mollie

Jo taking a welcome rest on the riverbank