By David Horst firstname.lastname@example.org
This was a far cry from 150 boats.
That's how many kayaks, canoes and stand-up boards we expected to show up at Lutz Park for the Appleton Locks Paddle.
That was before the one-week delay, due to hazardously high water flow on the Fox River, and the forecast for rain all day on our substitute date, Oct. 1.
The 38 boats that showed up didn't pack the locks full, as photos of past years' trips testify. No clanking of gunwales. No pushing of boats into the path of the lock gates.
We saw immature eagles. We saw an osprey. We saw deer nosing along the edge of the yards on the north side of the river.
|Friends gather for a group shot after a laid back 6-mile Appleton Locks Paddle.|
And it didn't even rain.
It has seemed at times that our North East Wisconsin Paddlers public paddle events have fallen victim to their own success. It is fun to turn out a big crowd and enjoy the variety of boat colors and designs, and personalities of their owners. A flotilla like that nails our goal of getting people out on the water, but a smaller crowd has its charms.
I was able to have extended conversations under paddle power with the veteran paddler who drove up from Milwaukee, the former municipal worker who put up with my recitation of the history of the Appleton sewage treatment plant's anaerobic digesters and guy who is much closer to a real farmer than I am.
The logistIcs of launching and landing were were not on a scale with Normandy, as some of these outings seem to be. The group wasn't stretched over miles of River. It was just nice.
These outings are essentially planned by three guys and pulled off on launch day with a lot of help from just a few more. It was up to the three of us to make go, no-go decision. We made the absolutely right call.
The previous Thursday, the flow created a 2-foot standing wave of water rushing from the navigation channel to the open gates of the dam, eager to take someone along for the ride. Now the surface was flat, though the pull of the current was still real enough to kindle an active imagination to consider how bad of a day that would be.
As we pulled into Sunset Park in Kimberly, I realized this was it for the season and my mind turned to what we will ask all of these people to do with us next year. I'll be OK if for some of those trips, they count in the dozens instead of the hundreds.