Sunday, August 14, 2011

Moonlight Paddle -- minus the moon

So we got a little wet at the end of Friday evening's for Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Paddle 2011's Moonlight Paddle from the Bomier Landing in De Pere to the Green Bay Metro Landing. The clouds being what they were, we also didn't see the moon. But we saw lots of lights on boats. Just shy of 60 boats took part, including two full voyageur canoes on loan from the DNR. We had 79 paddlers in all. Lots of them were wearing damp smiles.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Trust the turtle

By David Horst 

Never doubt the turtle.

Waiting in the Menasha Lock

The sky hung low with dark clouds as we rolled into Neenah early last Saturday morning. Rain dripped on our truck windshield. Lightning split the sky.

This was a paddling day — the 10th annual Park-to-Park Paddle. At least it was supposed to be.

The forecasters were hedging on the weather. A 30 percent chance of thunderstorms, they said. One front followed by another. It was 7:15 a.m., with the launch scheduled at 9:30. We had to decide soon, and much of the group was leaning toward canceling.

We decided to give it another hour and, as has been our experience, the weather cleared in time for the paddle. I was confident it would go on as planned because I had turned over the turtle.

The turtle had become part of our story early in our series of Fox River paddles last year. Ottawa medicine woman Jackie Redwoman had told us about a turtle figurine she turned over to cause bad weather to pass on either side of our event. Ever since then, we've been taking advantage of the power of the turtle.

I was not so confident the evening before. The forecast said thunderstorms and higher-percentage numbers were reaching earlier and earlier into the morning. About then, I went out to our barn for evening chores and found a little turtle garden decoration standing solidly on its feet. Horrified, I quickly turned the turtle on its back and went inside to email the other event organizers that all would be OK.

The clouds broke as the paddlers began to arrive. The dark skies had not scared them off, apparently, as 195 people registered.

We launched in 140 craft, most worthy and some too small for the task. The predicted 15 mph winds also failed to show. We moved out into Lake Winnebago without resistance. A couple of novices had to be taken back to shore, but not for any fault of the wind or water.

Going through downtown Menasha, we passed a group on shore that I have to assume was having a Park-to-Park Paddle party.

We gathered at the Menasha Lock turning basin. There, Jake Stachovak, the veteran of a 5,700-mile kayak trip around the eastern third of the United States, and Bob Kriese, a skilled paddler from Waupaca, gave us a rolling demonstration.

Jake did his usual trick of standing up in his cockpit, but then decided to up the degree of difficulty. He put his hands on either side of the cockpit opening and pushed up into a handstand — for about the next five seconds.

But the real highlight of this trip is seeing canoes and kayaks of many colors jammed into the Menasha lock. Spectators and well-wishers leaned over the railings awaiting our arrival.

Once through the lock, we headed out into Little Lake Butte des Morts. It was worlds apart from last year's experience. A strong northwest wind last year made for a miserable crossing for many, and sent some paddlers into the water. This year, there was a mere whisper of a breeze.

Our last stretch of the Fox, from Stroebe Island to Appleton's Lutz Park, was a showcase of impressive homes and landscaping ingenuity on the steep slopes.

As we glided under the walking bridge at Lutz, the trip, like the summer, seemed to pass too quickly.

After landing, I took the shuttle bus back to Shattuck to retrieve the truck. As we hefted the boats onto the roof, a bolt of lightning crackled.

Nice timing, Mr. Turtle.

Two trips remain for Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Paddle 2011: 
Aug. 12: Moonlight Paddle, Bomier Landing in De Pere to Green Bay Metro Marina. 
Sept. 24: Appleton Locks Paddle, Lutz Park in Appleton to Sunset Point Park in Kimberly. Details at