July is National Picnic Month which celebrates the history of this activity and the way it has been used to bring families, friends, communities, and countries together. To celebrate this we decided to take a day to go canoeing on the Mississippi River and stop somewhere along the way to have a picnic lunch. After all, the definition of picnic is an excursion at which a meal is eaten outdoors, ideally taking place in a scenic landscape such as a park, beside a lake or with an interesting view. So off we go on our adventure.
We rented a canoe from CW Outfitting in Clearwater, MN. This was a great place to start our journey. This outfitter doesn’t just rent canoes and send you on your way. They have a great selection of gear and supplies to rent or purchase. The owner, Dan, has a passion for his business and he enjoys sharing the paddling experience with others. He wants to expose people to nature, the river, and the peace that it can offer. Since this is a family business, his son, Zac, assisted us through the check-in process. We watched a short video about safety, were fitted with life jackets, and then headed down to the river. We were on our way!
The river in this area is designated “Wild & Scenic” by the DNR which means many miles along this stretch are still in their natural state due to the protection, regulations, and zoning that are associated with this title.
It is a relaxing journey. The river is shallow and can be rocky in places, but nothing was too strenuous about this canoe trip. After about an hour of canoeing, we stopped for our picnic. We had packed a simple lunch in our cooler which included egg salad sandwiches, fresh vegetables, grapes and beverages; all very easy.
We spent about 30 minutes on the shore. It must be a popular place because we found deer tracks in the sand and two small fire rings from previous human visitors (I just wanted to make sure you didn’t think the deer made the fire rings). We cleaned up our area, skipped a few rocks and then loaded up to head back down the river.
Shortly after our picnic, we heard rustling in the trees along the shoreline and out flew a young eagle. It really startled us, but it was cool to see this bird so close. Now we were on the lookout for more eagles; sure enough there was one sitting on a branch on the shoreline. We actually got within about 20 feet of it. I quickly got out the camera and was able to get a couple of pictures before the eagle had enough of our watching and decided to fly up river to find a new tree to perch on. This was the closest that we have been to an eagle in the wild. What a beautiful bird.
Back to the paddling and to see what other critters we could spot. We saw many turtles on rocks basking in the warm sun, they didn’t like it when we would try to get a bit closer. One turtle probably had a 10”-12” shell, but most were much smaller. We also saw ducks, geese, and some fish. These finds made me think about the Pokemon Go app which came out this week. It is great to see so many kids outside and moving, but it is sad that they are all looking at the world through their phones instead of looking directly at the real world. Isn’t it a greater reward to see a living creature in the world than some animation? Just my thoughts with how technology seems to be replacing real-life experiences.
As we continued to paddle down the river, we began to see more homes on the river and I thought about how it would be nice to live on a lake or river. I grew up living on a lake and did enjoy it, well most of time. As a teen, I didn’t much care for the 18-mile drive to town to hang out with friends, but I did enjoy having the lake so close especially in the summer. I would spend time sitting on our dock, fishing, and swimming.
All and all this was a fun adventure. Dan, the owner, picked us up at the designated spot and we were shuttled back to the store/shop. This is a family-owned business that was started in 2009. I love when people have a passion for something and turn it in to a business. Wouldn’t it be awesome if everyone had a job they were passionate about? He shared how some people will fly into the Twin Cities, shuttle to Clearwater, CW Outfitters will set them up for extended trips, and then shuttle them to their starting point. They have had customers come from as far away as Finland, but most travel from within 2-3 hours away. Some people will actually travel the entire Mississippi River from the headwaters flowing out of Lake Itasca to New Orleans. That would be quite the adventure and one I think I would rather read about than actually do. I am not really the camping type! I prefer my day adventures but then sleeping in a bed at the end of the day. I encourage you to check out CW Outfitters for whatever paddling adventure you might want to try.
When we arrived back at the shop, I discovered that Dan’s son, Zac, had recently spent 22 days on the river on a stand up paddleboard (SUP). He traveled from the headwaters to South St. Paul. He was excited to share with us that he had blogged the experience. It took me a few days, but I read through the entire blog. I would encourage you to read through his blog. I felt like I was part of the trip. I was impressed by his adventure and by how many people were so kind and helpful along the way. He shared some deep thoughts — “Adventuring and dreaming of adventures and how important that is—and how an adventuring lifestyle is just a choice.” He also talked about how people seemed to really enjoy helping him, as if it brought them into the adventure.
This is so true, we may not all plan 22-day trips down the Mississippi but we all do have our own adventure called life. Often we try to find adventures while on vacation, but there are many adventures that can be found close to our homes. I think it is important that each day be considered some type of adventure. Maybe that means you are helping someone else in their adventure, or maybe just being kind to someone. I hope each and every day is an adventure for you.
Have you conquered any huge adventures? Have you helped someone in their adventure? Do you have an adventure you are dreaming of completing? I would love to hear about your experiences.
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