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Chronicles of our team members adventures as they answer when “the River is Calling”!
It doesn’t matter the name or location of the river; when it calls, we just feel the need to answer!

Namekagon River Day Trip                                                                                                                                                                       Summer 2024

Dan and I made time for one quick getaway before the summer season got into full swing. On Saturday night we headed to Crosby with a full trailer of canoes and kayaks for Cuyuna triathletes. We camped out at my sister’s place, sat around the fire pit and enjoyed some time with family. Early Sunday morning we brought the canoes and kayaks to the Cuyuna State Park for participants of the annual Cuyuna Off-Road Triathlon. My sister is one of the event organizers and my other 2 sisters and I compete as a relay team to paddle, bike and run! Dan volunteers in one of the transition area’s helping paddlers get out of the water along with our brother-in-law. We’ve been volunteering or competed as sibling teams, with cousins, aunts, uncles, and in-laws since the event started 5 years ago! After the triathlon we all pitch in to help tear down, fold up and load up before heading to the Cuyuna Brewing Co. and Burritos California for a beer and burrito.

Monday morning, after enjoying coffee and conversation on the deck, Dan and I loaded up the van with our bikes inside the Space Trailer, and a Sportsman 120 and a Breeze strapped on top. We headed east to the Namekagon River which is part of the St Croix National Scenic Riverway. We locked our bikes at the Namekagon Trail Landing and drove to Fritz Landing at mile marker 13.7, northwest of Trego, WI. The mosquitos kept us moving as we unloaded the kayaks and launched in a section of backwater at Fritz Landing. Once out in the current, Dan got his rod and reel set up as we floated downstream with the sun playing hide and seek behind the clouds. The birds were singing and it was a beautiful June day with temps in the 70’s, so we applied some sunscreen and made sure to have hats and long sleeves at the ready. I floated with my feet draped over the sides of the kayak while Dan cast his line in the eddies and slack water hoping for a small-mouth, walleye or maybe even a sturgeon. We saw one other person on the river that afternoon, who snuck up on us in an inflatable kayak with a trolling motor. He said he fished the river quite often as we exchanged pleasantries before he passed us and fished on ahead. About a mile further downstream, we paddled on ahead of him as he fished one side around an island, and we took the other. There were several islands where we could decide right or left, which way should we go? Dan usually chose the way that looked most attractive for fish habitat so he could cast a few times and I would explore the other side. The 8.9 miles we paddled had more sandier river bottom spots than rocky areas, no classed rapids but a few low, rippling spots to paddle through and one place where we both ran up on a shallow sandy area and got out to stretch and walk our kayaks to deeper water. The section of river was fairly shallow and Dan couldn’t find too many deep fishing holes. There are ten campsites along that stretch of the Namekagon and we stopped to check one out at mile 8.8, stretch our legs and use the open air pit toilet. The terrain was similar to the Yellow River with some steep sandy banks dotted with tall pine trees as well as large stands of oak trees, some low land grass areas where we came upon a doe and her fawn that watched us from the bank camouflaged behind some tall grass and low bushes. We saw quite a few turtles sunning themselves before slipping into the water as we passed. We spotted a brood of ducklings lined up on a log that plopped off their perch to slip away under a low hanging branch and tried to be inconspicuous. A couple miles from the takeout, Dan spotted a great eddy and cast his line into it as he said “There’s gotta be a few fish in here.” As he felt a tug on his line, he set the hook, pulled in a nice 15” small-mouth bass and floated under a branch, close to shore and into a swarm of mosquitos. I paddled over to get a quick picture before he removed the hook, put the fish in the river and paddle away from the mosquitos. Most of the afternoon there was enough of a breeze to keep the deer flies and mosquitos at bay but a few times we were swatting more than paddling. We got off the river just under the bridge at Namekagon Trail Landing about four hours later. The block bathroom buildings at both landing sites are clean, with tiled floors and vault toilets. The mosquitos were prevalent at the landing as we swapped the locks on our bikes for the kayaks, tucked fishing gear, paddles and pfd’s into the kayaks, clipped our helmets and strapped on the dry bags, and pedaled up the hill as quickly as we could. There was about a half mile of tar before we pedaled through a half mile of sand and gravel, then biked 4 miles of hills out to Hwy 77 and 3 more miles of hilly highway with about two feet of shoulder. Fortunately, there was very little traffic on both the Namekagon Trail and Hwy 77 on a Monday night. We spotted a couple deer and a few turkeys as we pedaled along. As soon as we got to the van at Fritz Landing, Dan opened the Space Trailer, and we set our bikes in as quickly as we could, again trying our best to be faster than the mosquitos! We drove back to get our kayaks and gear, loaded and strapped it down with amazing speed and drove out of the woods. We were hungry! We found Gruzy’s Bar & Grill open on a Monday night and sat down for a basket meal before heading to our campsite at Totagatic Park, a Washburn County Park with some great campsite options. About half of the campsites were occupied, nice and quiet for a weeknight. We pulled in with enough time before it got dark to hang my hammock and start a fire. It was a beautiful night sleeping under the stars, with a bug net, of course!

Summer on the Mississippi River                                                                                                                                                   Summer 2023

We were fortunate to have time and opportunities to paddle “our” five-mile stretch of the Mississippi River from Island View County Park to CW Outfitting in Clearwater five times this season. Each time was a unique experience with friends, family, and staff! Each time we enjoyed an awesome adventure, saw wildlife, and experienced different water levels.

In June and again in August we got on the river with our wonderful CW Outfitting and NorthWest Canoe team members. On a warm evening in early June, after our season kick-off team gathering, there were six of us who got on the water. The river was still high from the Spring run-off so it seemed we did more floating and steering than actually paddling. We met Eric on the river, one of our fishing guides, who found some good structure and was casting from his SUP board. The sun was nearing the horizon as we paddled around the last island where Blake and Davis were attracting the early summer hatch of dragonfly’s that landed on their kayaks, paddles, and shoulders.

On an early Friday morning in August, before we opened the store, we gathered for a team paddle. It was a warm, sunny morning on the water as we launched a SUP, a solo canoe and five kayaks in the river at Island View Park.  There are four different areas on the 5-mile stretch where you can choose which way to go around an island so we “divided and conquered” to scout each area. There were two places where the water was shallow; one where I moved to the front of the SUP board so the fin wouldn’t drag and the other that was easily navigable and we didn’t have to get out since we were watching and could weave our way through the rocks & around the sandbars. It was a relaxing, fun way to start the day!

On a weekday in mid-July, we joined Dan’s sister, Terri from Illinois, and her daughter’s family from Texas, along with a nephew and two more Minnesota cousins for their inaugural Mississippi River paddle. All total there were thirteen of us and we met at Nelson Bros Restaurant to start the day off right with some Fritter French Toast and other deliciousness! We headed to CWO to get everyone outfitted with PFD’s and paddles, then loaded 4 tandem kayaks, 2 SUP’s and 3 solo kayaks on the trailer and the whole family in the van to head to Island View. Everyone helped to get the gear, boats, and boards to the river. We paddled to Boy Scout Point before getting off the water to check out the campsite, build a sandcastle, hunt for agates, and play in the water. Back on the river, some of the boys switched it up to paddle a SUP or kayak. Landon decided he wanted to swim(!) and made it about ¾ mile, swimming and floating with his PFD before he climbed in the front of the tandem kayak with Melissa. Ty and Grayson latched a SUP and kayak together so they could climb back and forth, lay and watch the river bottom go by, and work together to get down the river. The girls “I Spy-ed” eagles, turtles, and turkeys while collecting rocks and shells. We all collected fantastic memories of family time on the Mississippi!

In late August, we were invited to join a group of good friends on the river for a day of fishing and a leisurely float. Six of us spent a sunny, beautiful day on the river. The guys fished for small-mouth bass, while Maressia and I floated on SUP boards. We paddled, floated, and navigated around the shallow spots, occasionally getting off the SUP’s to walk in the water, cool off, and pull our boards around the sandbars. We stopped for lunch at Boy Scout Point and spotted two tiny, baby turtles in the shallows. The guys all caught fish, but how many and how big, we can’t say for sure! It was an awesome, relaxing way to spend the day with friends!

It was late September when Simon was spending time in Minnesota between his summer camp season and the winter snowboarding season at Copper Mountain and Caroline’s parents were visiting from Michigan that we picked a comfortably cloudy, fall afternoon to paddle. Since the river levels were pretty low, Simon and I took SUP boards without the fins, which proved to be a bit of a struggle in the beginning. It would have been easier to have the steering capability and carry over the low water areas than to paddle the sidewinding SUPs. Simon’s experience as a rafting guide was very beneficial though as we experimented with different paddling techniques to catch up with the canoers and kayakers! It turned out to be a peaceful paddle with plenty of eagles and a deer sighting along the banks. A wonderful way to spend time with family! 

Paddling the Rum River                                                                                                                                                                     July 2023

It was a sunny, 90-degree day in July when we planned to paddle a three-mile section of the Rum River. It was much cooler on the river than it was at the “hip camp” in Oak Grove. We spent two nights camping with family at a Hipcamp site, on private property, similar to an AirBnB or a VRBO. The campsite was a nice secluded, wooded area in Oak Grove.

We left the campsite early afternoon and went to check out the Rum River as it winds around the Rum River Central Regional Park in Anoka County. One nice thing about that section of the Rum River is that it outlines the park, making it easy to get on and off the river, all within the park with a good walking trail between parking lots. Nathan, Dan & I got on the water at the North Public Water Access area. It was much cooler on the river and we were glad to be on it! Dan brought a fishing rod to see how the fish were biting. We rounded the first bend and needed to paddle through some low water. Nathan got hung up on a sand bar and had to get his feet wet. Dan found a nice deep stretch around the bend and caught a Northern. He spent a good half hour fishing that stretch as Nathan and I fished out old aluminum cans from the river bed and hung out in the water under some low hanging branches that made for good shade. Dan got another bite but nothing to show for it and we urged him to pull up his line and keep paddling.

We came up on a turtle sunning itself on a log. It didn’t move until all three of us had paddled past and were on our way. Around another bend, on river right was a man-made dam to divert water around a peninsula where Cedar Creek flows into the Rum. The water was low around the peninsula, and we had to walk about 30 yards before it was deep enough to get back in our kayaks and paddle. Most of the riverbanks were gentle, sandy embankments headed with tall native grasses. Trees lined both sides of the river along the park to the right and the private properties on river left.

It was a quiet day on the river as we only met two groups, some teens floating in tubes and a couple paddling their sit-on-top kayaks. The rest of the paddling was easy-going with good water levels, so we didn’t have to get out of our kayaks.  A collie and her owner greeted us as we pulled up to the South Public Water Access. We carried the kayaks the short distance to the parking lot and were glad to see Andrea and Luna waiting in the air-conditioned camper van! It saved us a walk in the late afternoon heat, back to the car at the North parking lot. We loaded up the kayaks on the Space Trailer and headed home for a welcome shower and air conditioning! All in all, a great day to paddle the Rum River!

Colorado Rivers and Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve                                                                                                           April 2023
My sisters and I traveled to Colorado for our annual girls weekend in April. We usually stay closer to Minnesota but since it was my turn to plan our weekend adventure and some of our kids are in Colorado, we changed it up this year.  We didn't do any paddling but traveled beside, hiked along and wadded through a few of their rivers.
Late Thursday night, we flew into Denver, found our rental vehicle in the pouring rain and drove to Rhiley's apartment. We visited over coffee the next morning, then made our way out of the city, through the mountains along I-70 and Clear Creek until we got to Loveland. It was bright and sunny as we started the drive up Loveland Pass and met with windy conditions and a little drifting snow at the crest of the pass. On the way down we stopped at a hiking trail in Keystone along the Snake River and hiked 2 miles of the snow covered trail before we headed to Dillon to pick up Simon. We toured Copper Mountain with Simon and stayed with good friends, Howard and Sue. On Saturday morning, Simon and Sue joined us as we headed out of Silverthorne to Leadville and traveled along the Arkansas River to Poncha Springs. Our destination was the Sand Dunes National Park in Mosca, Colorado where we met Nathan, Andrea, Mara and Luna (their new dog). It was the first time for all of us visiting the park and in April the Medano Creek had not crested yet so we were able to wade across to get to the dunes. We walked, climbed, rested, and made our way through the sand. It was awesome! We found a local brewery in Alamosa to have dinner before we all went our separate ways for the night.
The four of us sisters stayed in a domehome at the base of the mountains near Moffat. On Sunday morning we made our way north and east to drive along the Arkansas River again through the mountains. We stopped at the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park to take in the amazing view before meeting our cousin, Lisa in Pueblo for some ice cream and a quick visit.  Then it was on to Nathan and Andi's house in Colorado Springs. After dinner and a walk around the block with Luna, we made our way back to Denver to get a few hours of sleep before our early morning flight back to Minnesota. What a great way to spend time with family and friends! 

Maddy's Winter Paddling Adventure on Sykes Creek                                                                                               February 2023

I was itching to get out of the cold and get on the water so I decided to head down to Florida. I am fortunate to have family in the area so I took a weekend and went down to Melbourne, FL. There are so many great kayaking spots in the area. One of my favorites is Sykes Creek which leads into the Indian and Banana Rivers. It is a no-wake zone so often times you will see manatees or dolphins. 

We paddled a 3-mile stretch in the Ulumay Wildlife Sanctuary portion of the creek. Halfway through our paddle, we stopped in one of the bays to do some hiking. This is a great area to do some bird watching as the sanctuary is home to a variety of birds including wood stork, belted kingfisher, and white or brown pelican. After our hike, we headed back to the boat landing. At this point it was sunset and we knew there was a good chance we would see dolphins. Right as we were about to turn the corner towards the boat launch three dolphins jumped out of the water 5 feet in front of our kayaks! It was a perfect ending to our adventure.

Spring Paddling on two Northwestern Wisconsin Rivers                                                                                                 May 2022

We had a precious few days before our busy summer season began so we loaded up our kayaks and bikes and drove east late Saturday night. We found a place to camp just across the state border in Northwestern Wisconsin. It was a cool spring morning as we wound our way through the back roads and wooded areas for another 40 minutes and stopped at the two-lane bridge on Whistler Road that crossed over the Yellow River.  We pulled our bikes out of the back of the Space Trailer, laid them in the tall grassy ditch, cabled them to the guard rail, and drove upriver to Norman’s Landing. It wasn’t well marked, except for the ATV tracks in the gravel where someone had been whipping donuts! We unstrapped the kayaks and put them on the riverbank, then sat down for a sandwich before getting on the water. We noticed a few dark clouds in the north and ducked into the van to wait out a passing rainstorm. I read a chapter in my book as Dan got his fishing gear ready. We donned our rain gear, just in case, slid our kayaks into the river, and took turns leading the way as the river snaked around a few bends. Dan cast his line around a few downed trees along the wooded shoreline and found some good structure but nothing that would bite. I paddled up and downstream, practicing for the Cuyuna Triathlon as Dan was floating and casting. There were about a dozen homesteads that we passed as we paddled back to our bikes but we didn’t meet any other paddlers or fishermen. We paddled along high banks lined with marsh grass, found our way around a few grassy islands and into more wooded, hilly shorelines. Dan was pleasantly surprised when he caught a nice-sized smallmouth bass after about two hours of casting his line. The smallie was tucked behind a log along the rooted riverbank where the current carved out pockets below the high sandy banks. As the sun came out from behind the clouds, we paddled up to the bridge where our bikes were waiting. The shore was mucky but we found a few boggy patches to get out and waded through the tall grass as there was no good exit at the bridge. We flipped the kayaks over, tucked some gear inside, and used the cable to lock them up. We pulled out a snack and hopped on our bikes to ride the three miles back to the launch point down tarred country roads. As we came down Norman Landing Road, pine trees lined the road as it turned to gravel and we avoided a few puddles and made our way down the hill to the van and trailer. It didn’t take long to load our bikes in the trailer and head back to pick up the kayaks. It was a relaxing, lazy afternoon exploring the Yellow River!

We spent the night at a County Campground along the Apple River. The next day we drove to the City of Amery to explore the Apple River. We launched from a small park on Cross Avenue and spent three hours on the water paddling to Black Brook Flowage Access at 110th Street. The Apple River had more shallow spots and was a lot busier than the Yellow River! We paddled past fishermen, other paddlers who were floating, fishing, and people wading along the banks with their dogs. There was also a nice headwind in several areas so we had to work a little harder! We staged our bikes at the River access and thankfully had the wind at our backs as we pedaled the 3.5 miles back into Amery and the Church parking lot where we left the van. The sun was setting as we drove back to gather our gear, load the kayaks and head home to Minnesota. It was another great day on the water!

Dan & Sandra on the Deschutes River                                                                                                                     September 2022

Our youngest son, Simon, was 10 years old when we started this business and has graduated from (the U of M and) CW Outfitting to faster moving waters! He’s worked as a rafting guide at Deschutes River Adventures in Maupin, Oregon for the past two summers and loved it! We drove out to Oregon at the end of September to visit him and close out the rafting season with him and two of his guide buddies. Ruby worked with Simon at Deschutes River Adventures and Kailyn’s family owns and operates River Trails Rafting in Maupin.

The temp was a fair 70 degrees and the sun was shining as the 14’ raft was loaded on top of Ruby’s Subaru. We headed through town, across the bridge over the Deschutes, and down along the river canyon to leave a car at the take-out, then piled into the Subaru and headed back up the winding river road to the put-in about 5 miles north of Maupin. A couple of us donned splash jackets under our PFD’s and neoprene booties before we pushed off and got the basic River Guide’s safety speech as Simon, Ruby, and Kailyn put on their “guide hats”. A mile down river, Simon navigated us through Class 2 & 3 rapids. We stayed pretty dry paddling through the Wapinitia wave train, went spinning through Tea Cups, and ran sideways through Devils Hole, “accidently” getting wet, of course! Then we got up on the pillow at Boxcar and turned down into another hole, coming out on top! We paddled two miles of lower Class 2’s until we came into town, floating under the bridge at Maupin. About forty minutes of flatwater paddling brought us to Surf City’s Class 2 rapid. After that, we hopped out on a sand bar to get another safety briefing and tuck away sunglasses and hats that we didn’t want to lose to the river before we smashed the Class 4 rapids at Oak Springs!  We hung out in the Champagne Room (eddy) for a bit before we headed downstream past a few fishermen casting from shore and through Class 2 rapids where the White River flows into the Deschutes. We wound down the river as the afternoon shadows stretched over the canyon walls. Simon and Sandra took turns “riding the bull” through Class 2 rapids at Upper Elevator and Lower Elevator as Kailyn took the Guide reins. We welcomed the sunshine as we finished the 13 mile run where the canyon walls open up at Sandy Beach take out. We were fortunate to have Casey, an Imperial Rafting Company driver, graciously agree to trailer our raft back to town, along with their rafting guests that got off the river a few minutes after us. It was a beautiful day rafting the Deschutes with our crew of awesome guides!

We ended the day taking in an awe inspiring sunset at Smith Rock State Park where the Crooked River winds through rock spires in Oregon’s High Desert.

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