... On the Mississippi River
Even the longest
journey begins with the first step.
It was two days before we were supposed to join Kayak4AKure
for the first stage of their Mississippi River trip.
Two days, and our Cerberus
21 Tandem/Triple skin on frame kayak
wasn't finished. I left Marquette, Michigan and arrived
at the Black Dog Kayaks shop in Bloomer, Wisconsin
to find that there were still stringers to be installed
before we could sand the frame, seal the wood, and
skin the kayak. Filling orders and finishing the kit
for Kayak4AKure had taken up all the time, so that,
"the cobblers children had no shoes."
|Putting the finishing
touches on the frame.
This is where the fuselage construction style of
the kayak really shone. It was Saturday morning and
we had to leave on Saturday night in order to make
it to Itasca, Minnesota for the trip down the Mississippi.
Stringers were laid into place then glued and screwed,
the frame was sanded, Thompson Water Seal was applied
to the frame, and the kayak was skinned and deck rigging
applied, leaving us with a couple of hours to pack
up the truck.
We were supposed
to be on the road by now!
|Arrival at Bert's
We finally hit the road after midnight and we arrived
in Itasca at 6am. We pulled into Bert's Cabins in
Itasca, Minnesota to find that the rudder and the
Sea Dog rudder pedals on the
Kayak4AKure kayak still needed to be installed.
After a breakfast meeting with Louis and John it
was decided that Sunday would be a training day. We
would finish setting up the kayak, shake down our
gear, and give the kayaks a good open water test on
Lake Itasca and get a good night's sleep before we
finally hit the water on Monday morning.
|Installing sea socks
on the training day.
Monday morning began as casually as Sunday. Gear
was loaded, kayaks were set up and loaded onto the
Kayak4AKure chase truck, and we headed for the Mary
Gibbs Center and the Headwaters for the opening photo
Ready to go!
|Louis and John prepare
to take the first step.
Joel and Mark
at the Headwaters
It was decided that we would put in at Gulsvig Landing,
on the other side of the culvert that goes beneath
the highway. Photos were taken, ticker tape fell from
the sky, and we were finally on the water. The first
step of a 2400+ mile trip.
|Last minute adjustments
at Gulsvig Landing.
|Navigating the twisty
The current was strong and the paddling was easy,
as we kayaked down what is called the "Mighty
Mississippi," but what really amounted to a large
At the first
portage on the River.
Twelve miles later we were at the first portage of
the trip, around a waterfall, and into Class 1 rapids.
Class 1 rapids are nothing to talk about, except that
the water gets very shallow and the rocks take bites
out of the bottom of the kayak. We were very pleased
to see that the polyester/vinyl skin on the kayaks
took the hits and still kept the water out.
Eventually the water became too shallow for us to
paddle. Ropes were tied to the bow and stern of each
of the kayaks and we walked the kayaks for five miles,
walking on the shore as we let the kayaks float down
the river by themselves. Camp was in a marshy clearing
just on the other side of the highway on a cold May
|Sleep while you
The discussion around the campfire centered around
the river downstream. Would we have more miles of
walking? Or, would we get to paddle?
on Day 2.
The next morning coffee was brewed and a couple of
small patches were applied to the yellow Kayak4AKure
kayak. After we broke camp, we walked a half-mile
and found that we could actually ride in the kayaks
again. However, that only lasted another five miles
before the Mighty "Mississippi" split up
into a dozen tiny creeks, barely the width of our
|The Mighty Mississippi?
Portage on the
After fighting deadfalls, we got fed up and walked
ahead a quarter mile or so to find deeper water. The
kayaks were skidded through the tall grass, allowed
to float by themselves another few hundred yards,
and we were back in the kayaks for a twisty, turny
ride down the river. Somewhere during that five miles
the skies opened up and poured rain, hail, and cold
wind on us. No sooner had we put on our wetsuits and
paddling jackets under the shelter of a bridge, than
the clouds broke and the sun beat down on us again.
Five miles later and we were at Coffee Pot Landing,
just north of Bemidji, Minnesota.
|Coffee Pot Landing
(Photo by Mark Hammond)
John at Coffee
At Coffee Pot, we decided that it was time to call
it a day. Kayak4Akure set up camp and we loaded our
kayak on the chase truck for the trip back to Bert's
Cabins to pick up our vehicle and to
head back to Wisconsin.
| Black Dog Kayaks
packs up to go home. (Photo by Mark Hammond)
Kayak4AKure continued down the Mississippi River
the next day and, thirty days later, pulled their
kayaks out at the end of the Mississippi. 2400 miles
is a real torture test for any kayak, and, although
the Cerberus 21 kayak took some hard knocks and needed
some repairs along the way, John and Louis made it
in what is a very long trip in any kind of boat.".
Mark and I, i.e., Black
Dog Kayaks, had a great time with Louis
and John from Kayak4AKure. Thanks to Deb for driving
us around in the chase vehicle! Black Dog Kayaks does
plan to return to the River to pick up where we left
off, paddling from Bemidji and going until we get
tired, then pulling out until the next year. We can't
afford the time to do the River all in one shot, but
who's to say that we can't do it in stages?
- John and Louis; Black Dog Kayaks - Joel and
You can see more photos of the Kayak4AKure