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Thread: Boating Micro-Adventures

  1. #1
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    Default Boating Micro-Adventures

    Still early spring weather here, temps around freezing on many nights. Still, I managed to launch my boat for a couple of micro-adventures on local(ish) waters. It's kind of a new focus for me, encouraged by the past year's pandemic travel restrictions: finding sail and oar outings on a small scale, close to home.

    Micro-Adventure #1 was an overnight trip to Perrot State Park, on the Wisconsin side of the Mississippi river, just 5 miles or so south of Winona, Minnesota:

    Winona.jpg

    The park is bordered on the west by the Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge, which is entirely cut off from the Mississippi by a series of dikes and railroad causeways, and is a brief spring/fall stopover for herds of wandering wildfowl and migrating warblers, and year-round home to lots of bald eagles. Dramatically steep bluffs, and an inner bay at the mouth of the Trempealeau River, which empties into the Mississippi under a low(ish) railroad bridge.

    Perrot State Park.jpg

    (Pardon the misspelling in the Google Earth image--it's Trempealeau)
    Last edited by WI-Tom; 04-22-2021 at 08:11 PM.
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    Default Re: Boating Micro-Adventures

    I had visited Perrot State Park with my wife on a very early warm day, hiking some of the trails up and down the bluffs--no boats involved. What I saw made me want to come back. Specifically, I wanted to visit the "centerpiece" of the park (from my perspective, anyway): Trempealeau Mountain, a dramatic bluff rising 425 feet above the Mississippi.

    Trempealeau means "foot bathed in water"--a name that reflects the mountain's "island" status. It is connected to the Perrot State Park mainland by the railroad bridge/causeway, but crossing by land seemed like cheating to me. My plan was to use my sail & oar boat to approach by sea (well, by water, at least), climb Trempealeau Mountain, and then explore the inner waters and marshes of Trempealeau Bay, and the outlying islands in the main Mississippi channel just outside the park.

    Somewhere in there, I expected I'd find a sheltered backwater to anchor for the night and sleep aboard.

    Tom
    Last edited by WI-Tom; 04-22-2021 at 09:15 PM.
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    Default Re: Boating Micro-Adventures

    Here's a view of Trempealeau Mountain from the east, from the summit of Brady's Bluff in Perrot State Park--a nice overview of Trempealeau Bay, Trempealeau Mountain, and the wildlife refuge just beyond:

    Brady's Bluff view.jpg

    You can see the railroad bridge/causeway (the "cheater" route) connecting the Trempealeau Mountain "island" to the mainland, running from the bottom left of the photo. The dike/causeway running from the righthand (north) side of the island marks the boundary of the Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge. All the marshy little brown islands in the foreground are in Trempealeau Bay, which I hoped to explore.

    When my wife and I visited on foot, there were hundreds (thousands?) of sandhill cranes out in Trempealeau Bay, all over those marshy islands.

    Tom
    Last edited by WI-Tom; 04-22-2021 at 08:12 PM.
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    Default Re: Boating Micro-Adventures

    Oh goody!

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    Default Re: Boating Micro-Adventures

    My brother joined me, but left his own boat behind. Fair enough, I suppose, after all the times I've tagged along on his Phoenix III (or just stolen it for my own uses entirely for a solo trip!) We launched just across from Trempealeau Mountain, rowed around a sandspit at the mouth of the Trempealeau River (i.e., ran aground on the sandspit, poled off, detoured farther downstream and back in to the channel), and continued up the main channel for not quite a mile, landing at the northwest corner of Trempealeau Mountain:

    Rowing 1.jpg

    Right about here Philip Schwartz photo):

    Philip Schwartz photo.jpg

    Rowing against a 1.5 knot(ish) current, with an extra person sitting in the sternsheets (my brother agreed to split the rowing duties "equally"--with me rowing the upstream leg, and him rowing back), encouraged a leisurely dawdling pace that was entirely suitable for my intentions.

    The "mountain" (I used to live in Colorado, so...) was, at least, steep enough to be interesting:

    Trempeleau SNA.jpg

    In fact, according to the Wisconsin DNR, at least, Trempealeau Mountain is one of only three solid rock islands on the entire Mississippi River. There were some cliffy bits, steep or overhanging sandstone, maybe some limestone too.
    Last edited by WI-Tom; 04-22-2021 at 08:13 PM.
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    Default Re: Boating Micro-Adventures

    Large birds all over the place--April is the month for birds around here. Seemed like there were at least half a dozen bald eagles in sight at any moment, some adults, some juveniles (but still too big to want to mess with). Also some large birds of indeterminate status--eagle-ish size, but owl-like heads.

    A faint path led from the end of the National Wildlife dike up the northwest ridge. For about 100 meters. Then, the path faded into obscurity, but seemed to be heading up a frighteningly steep and muddy hillside along the edge of some 30-foot cliffs. And then, even more steeply, along the top of the cliffs.

    And then, easing off from "terrifyingly steep" to merely "frighteningly steep" again for a while, (by this time I had already halfway mentally vetoed the idea of returning by the same route), to another section I would describe as "very frighteningly steep, AND exposed" that had us above the treetops. A couple of actual cliff bands to climb through (one guarded by a spiky dead tree, the other by vast exposure for a couple of class 4 moves just beneath the summit), and there we were.

    This isn't my photo, but it's the only online image I found from the summit--photographer is listed as Matthew Lukas:

    Summit view.jpg

    That's the view basically westward from the top, into the National Wildlife Refuge (which is not connected by water access to Trempealeau Bay).

    Really a worthwhile adventure, a little more challenging than I had anticipated. It's good to be a little scared now and then.

    Tom
    Last edited by WI-Tom; 04-22-2021 at 08:13 PM.
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    Default Re: Boating Micro-Adventures

    Your pictures are showing up (at least for me) as "Invalid Attachments"
    Steve

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    Default Re: Boating Micro-Adventures

    Thanks--I reloaded them. I suppose they'll fail again a few times. The photo process can be a bit finicky on the WBF, I find.

    Tom
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    Default Re: Boating Micro-Adventures

    We found a path leading down southwest off the summit, and followed that for a while before a bit of bushwacking to get down to the water and circle the island back to the boat. At which point, a northerly wind--quite strong--made the idea of rowing farther northward into Trempealeau Bay quite unappealing. Instead, we walked a loop on the park trails that took us over the summit of Brady's Bluff and back along the river shore.

    Brady's Bluff walk.jpg

    Some nifty dry-stone staircases leading up to a CCC stone-and-log shelter.

    Brady's Bluff stairs.jpg

    Then back to the boat for lunch (supper?), with my brother heading home, leaving me to row back out into Trempealeau Bay to find the night's anchorage. Chilly weather predicted, but I had a sleeping bag and a silk liner, and lots of bundle-up options.

    Tom

    Edit to add: Attachments again! I'll try to fix them later. Might as well take the boat again for now.
    Last edited by WI-Tom; 04-22-2021 at 08:14 PM.
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  10. #10
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    Default Re: Boating Micro-Adventures

    Ah, there they are!
    I lived the Second City for a time and always found Wisconsin (AKA Chicago's State Park) a beautiful place for a motorcycle ride. Not to forget about the ice cream and custard...I still have a license plate frame that says "Riding for the Sundaes".

    Looking forward to your micro-adventures, I recently realized there are any number of 1-3 day sailing adventures to be had from my home port that for whatever reason I had been ignoring. There is a plan to fix that this summer.
    Steve

    If you would have a good boat, be a good guy when you build her - honest, careful, patient, strong.
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    Default Re: Boating Micro-Adventures

    OK, so my brother left for home, and I set out alone to find an anchorage. I rowed deep up into Trempealeau Bay, heading for a forested island where I figured I could spend the night undisturbed:

    Rowing 2.jpg

    Actually, "deep" into Trempealeau Bay isn't even possible, it turns out. Depths were mid-calf at the deepest, with the keel often dragging through the mud, and the upper tips of the oar blades sticking up out of the water. I had to abandon my attempt when it became apparent I'd never get anywhere near those islands.

    So, Plan B:

    Rowing 3.jpg

    Got there at twilight, just enough time to tie the bow to shore in a cozy little backwater bay, set up the boat tent, and arrange some cushions in the sternsheets for a comfy session of doing nothing but being there. And being then.

    From a different trip the year before, here's my tent set-up:

    DSCN6365.jpg

    A cozy cold night on the boat, tucked in below Trempealeau Mountain. Barred owls all over wanting to know who was cooking for me (the answer, tragically: no one--I made do with a somewhat soggy and convincingly mashed-up ham sandwich), and muskrats and beavers swimming around my little cove, with nothing visible but the V of their wakes, and only the occasional slap of a tail to draw my attention. A bright sickle moon off to the west, and the North Star hanging above Trempealeau Bay.

    A great night!

    Tom
    Last edited by WI-Tom; 04-22-2021 at 09:13 PM.
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    Default Re: Boating Micro-Adventures

    The next day, the cold woke me early enough to have the tent and gear re-packed before 7 a.m. A chilly morning indeed, with my dry bags covered in flakes of frost. Only one thing to do: start rowing to warm up!

    So, I did. Mission one: circle along close to shore to see as much of the Trempealeau Mountain shore as I could--the logical landing point for an easy all-trail ascent would be at the intersection of the railroad causeway. I headed that way:

    Rowing 4.jpg
    Again, nope. Too shallow, even for a 7" draft. (A kayak could make it, I think). After trying a shortcut back along the railroad causeway (nope: too shallow), I reversed course, and went back out the same way I came in.

    Plenty of daylight left--I doubt it was 9 a.m. So, I continued out to the Mississippi and rowed around a few islands for a while, watched a barge tow pass by in the main traffic channel, and rowed back to the car by early afternoon.

    Rowing 5.jpg

    Then I rowed up a different channel of the river as deep as I could, and ate lunch among a bunch of red-winged blackbirds and 'rats swimming around in the reeds. Read a book for a while. Then back to the car, loaded up, and went home--Micro-Adventure #1 complete.

    Tom
    Last edited by WI-Tom; 04-22-2021 at 08:18 PM.
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    Default Re: Boating Micro-Adventures

    Quote Originally Posted by stromborg View Post
    Ah, there they are!
    I lived the Second City for a time and always found Wisconsin (AKA Chicago's State Park) a beautiful place for a motorcycle ride. Not to forget about the ice cream and custard...I still have a license plate frame that says "Riding for the Sundaes".

    Looking forward to your micro-adventures, I recently realized there are any number of 1-3 day sailing adventures to be had from my home port that for whatever reason I had been ignoring. There is a plan to fix that this summer.
    Having seen a fair bit of northern Illinois, I can't say I blame you all for coming up to the Driftless Area of south/southwestern Wisconsin.

    I hope you post some of your own micro-adventures!

    Tom
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    Default Re: Boating Micro-Adventures

    Micro-Adventure #2 went truly micro: a stretch of river between two dams, just 8 blocks from home. Only a couple of hours of rowing, but man, this is a nifty little mini-wilderness right at the edge of town.

    A straight-up no-frills mile of upstream river rowing (but the current is gentle unless they're letting a lot of water over the dam--at which point, rowing upstream is pretty impossible) led to a rocky entrance to a side channel right below the dam's spillway:



    (In pretty much every photo in this micro-adventure, you can assume that I'm either about to scrape the keel across a barely-submerged rock, or just got done scraping the keel across a barely-submerged rock--water levels were about as low as I've seen below the dam).

    Tom
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    Default Re: Boating Micro-Adventures

    This side channel is the spillway/overflow channel--the main dam face is off to the side. This rock-filled channel is, I think, the original course of the river, which was a series of rapids and falls here 100 years ago.

    1.jpg

    Yep. "Rock-filled" is an adequate descriptor.

    Tom
    Last edited by WI-Tom; 04-22-2021 at 08:59 PM.
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    Default Re: Boating Micro-Adventures

    Found a little niche out of the wind where I thought the boat might not bang around too much, and went ashore. This is looking back down toward the entrance to the main river channel:

    2.jpg

    And looking the other way, toward the loooong wall of spillway gates (the main dam is out of the picture to the right):

    3.jpg

    This is a really neat little wild rocky "wilderness" (kind of a post-apocalyptic abandoned-industrial feel to it), with acres of exposed granite slabs. Must have been a neat section of river before it was tamed.
    Last edited by WI-Tom; 04-22-2021 at 09:00 PM.
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    Default Re: Boating Micro-Adventures

    Even at low water, a few waterfalls trickle down the rocks from the spillway gates:

    4.jpg

    A really neat place--even better when you arrive by boat (you can approach by land as well). I'd love to anchor here for an overnighter...

    6.jpg

    Except that the thought of a sudden release of water from the dam might make me a bit uneasy--the rocky banks here are ENTIRELY underwater--raging class IV whitewater from the look of it--during big releases.
    Last edited by WI-Tom; 04-22-2021 at 08:58 PM.
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    Default Re: Boating Micro-Adventures

    A wider shot for a little more context:

    7.jpg
    Attachment 84565

    And then, after an hour of wandering around below the dam, it was time to head back home:

    8.jpg
    Attachment 84567

    With a last look at the main dam face once I reached the river and headed downstream (the rocky spillway channel is off to the left in this photo):

    9.jpg

    And that's that--Micro-Adventure #2 complete.

    What little trips are the rest of you up to?

    Tom
    Last edited by WI-Tom; 04-23-2021 at 06:37 AM.
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    Default Re: Boating Micro-Adventures

    Nice. The "hawk like birds with owl heads" is a pretty accurate description of the Northern Harrier, aka Marsh Hawk, by the way. Were they swooping around at relatively low altitudes?
    -Dave

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    Default Re: Boating Micro-Adventures

    Thanks, Dave--I had a look online, and it might have been a northern harrier. Not my photo, but here's one:

    northern harrier.jpg

    We saw them sitting on tree limbs overhanging the river, looking out over the marsh and not flying. But the terrain in the photo above is exactly what they were looking at.

    I forgot one other wildlife sighting--in a MOST unusual location. The location? Under a big tree, well inland, at the foot of Trempealeau Mountain.

    The species?

    gar.jpg

    Alligator gar, about 18" long, and maybe 30% eaten. Judging by the amount of white-splattered leaves under the tree, it must have been dropped there by an eagle. Not what I was expecting to find in the woods!

    Tom
    Last edited by WI-Tom; 04-23-2021 at 07:29 AM.
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    Default Re: Boating Micro-Adventures

    Tom, when they do those big releases from the dam, do they look for and warn small boats and other users that are on the river? Or does one take a chance?

    Jeff

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    Default Re: Boating Micro-Adventures

    Quote Originally Posted by jpatrick View Post
    Tom, when they do those big releases from the dam, do they look for and warn small boats and other users that are on the river? Or does one take a chance?

    Jeff
    I think the releases are scheduled, but not publicized aggressively; they usually only happen at extreme high water levels, like early spring. Even the biggest releases don't affect the main river channel, and nothing but a kayak could get into the spillway channel without leaving a lot of paint on the rocks. Certainly not an outboard boat, which is the only kind of boat besides mine I've seen on this stretch of water (apparently the walleye fishing is quite good).

    By all means, I would not try to anchor overnight there in the spring without checking with the dam about potential releases!

    Tom
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    Default Re: Boating Micro-Adventures

    Here's a nice drone shot (not mine) of the dam from late May, with the spillway gates open:

    10.jpg

    That raging whitewater grows out of a couple of trickles that you can easily hop (or step) over. When the spillways are open, there are two channels of whitewater--the one I rowed up (closer to the main dam face), and a steeper/narrower channel (farther from the main dam face)--good views around 2:06:



    Really, it's a cool place. At low water, you can wander that whole area between the spillway channels--mostly bare granite slabs, then. And far enough from roads that you don't run into many people. There's a network of MB trails and running trails in the woods, too. Great stuff, like a mile or so from home. I do a lot of trail running there, nice and shady.

    Tom
    Last edited by WI-Tom; 04-23-2021 at 11:28 AM.
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    Default Re: Boating Micro-Adventures

    Thank You Sir

    could i have another ?

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    Default Re: Boating Micro-Adventures

    Stand by. Monday-Tuesday, or maybe Tuesday-Wednesday, is the next scheduled Micro-Adventure from me.

    Meanwhile, feel free to post one of your own here!

    Tom
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    Default Re: Boating Micro-Adventures

    Thanks for sharing, it's always interesting to see how different the terrain is in various parts of the country. I feel like I'd be a bit scared with all those huge rocks around.

    What tent are you using and how well does it work? Can you sit up in it, or is it just for sleeping?

    Looking forward to hearing more of your adventures!

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    Default Re: Boating Micro-Adventures

    Oh, it's rocky--but I ease along at maybe 1/10th of a knot. (And still hit rocks). Nothing to explore at speed.

    The tent is a simple low hoop tent (Eureka Solo), plenty of room to sleep, but not even close to sitting headroom. I got it mainly for mosquito protection. You can roll the fly back and have an all-mesh tent if it's dry. It's quite long, actually--setting it up uses up almost the entire 10' long sleeping platform:

    Solo tent.jpg

    I spent as long as I could sitting in the comfy stern seat with my feet up before crawling into the tent for the night. But it was cold enough that the tent was significantly warmer than going without it would have been. I kind of like small cozy spaces.

    My (eventual) "real" plan is to sew up a custom silnylon boat tent that will set on some frames (old Sierra Designs "Clip Flashlight" tent poles--cheaper to buy old tents on ebay than to buy new poles alone, actually):

    tent prototype.jpg

    The floating hoop frame keeps the tent outside the gunwales, and provides lots of room. I've decided I'll likely drop the mast at anchor for easier access to the bow (the comfiest lounging seat aboard). Here's the hoop frame--this works really well, with the steep sided/flat top shape creating lots of living space compared to simple bent hoops:

    tent frame.jpg
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    Default Re: Boating Micro-Adventures

    An off the shelf tent is appealing since I could use it for other camping trips as well, but a dedicated boat tent really would be better. With the side benches pushed to the middle in my First Mate, I've only got about 6' before my head hits the center board case, so anything more than a bivy sack probably wouldn't work. Even that might be pushing it.

    I've built a super rough polytarp contraption to go over the sprit as a ridge pole, but I have my doubts that it'll even be worth fooling with. I think it's more apt to funnel water into the boat than keep it out. Rodgers Barnes has hooks on the outside of his Ilur to catch the edge of his tent, but I haven't quite decided if I want to go that route.

    I hope to go on an 2-3 day trip in the next month or so, I've gotta figure something out!

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    Default Re: Boating Micro-Adventures

    Quote Originally Posted by The Jeff View Post
    An off the shelf tent is appealing since I could use it for other camping trips as well, but a dedicated boat tent really would be better. With the side benches pushed to the middle in my First Mate, I've only got about 6' before my head hits the center board case, so anything more than a bivy sack probably wouldn't work. Even that might be pushing it.

    I've built a super rough polytarp contraption to go over the sprit as a ridge pole, but I have my doubts that it'll even be worth fooling with. I think it's more apt to funnel water into the boat than keep it out. Rodgers Barnes has hooks on the outside of his Ilur to catch the edge of his tent, but I haven't quite decided if I want to go that route.

    I hope to go on an 2-3 day trip in the next month or so, I've gotta figure something out!
    For the Phoenix III, I had good luck with just an 8' x 10' tarp rigged over the boat:

    PIII tarp rig.jpg

    The nice thing about a platform is, it doesn't really matter too much if water gets into the boat, as long as it doesn't get onto the platform. Adding a set of extra filler planks to make a full-width platform gives a bit more room, because you can lie diagonally a bit.

    Tom
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    Default Re: Boating Micro-Adventures

    Another micro-adventure, this one to a nearby county, where 19th-century loggers created a 6,000-acre impoundment pond near the center of town to store logs. LOTS of logs--here's one contemporary view:

    historical photo.jpg

    These days the pond is quite a bit prettier, with second-growth hardwood forest covering the surrounding slopes, and a few low marshy wooded islands that remain mostly unused.

    Map.jpg
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    Default Re: Boating Micro-Adventures

    I didn't bother to bring my rudder or set up the sailing rig--I wasn't sure the pond would be deep enough for the rudder/centerboard. So, it was all rowing--first, about 3/4 mile paralleling the steep shores forming the "bowl" the pond sits in:

    G1.jpg

    Nice weather, a pretty good wind blowing from the north (but sheltered by my shoreline-hugging route). A couple of fishing boats out.

    1.jpg

    And then, time to leave the shore and head for the central marshy islands.

    2.jpg
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    Default Re: Boating Micro-Adventures

    My kind of place--too shallow for outboard boats except in the one marked channel between islands (which I avoided). Once I left the deep water, I didn't see anyone.

    3.jpg

    Pleasant easy rowing with no particular destination in mind.

    5.jpg

    And a nice sandy beach for a brief stop ashore.

    6.jpg
    You don't have to be prepared as long as you're willing to suffer the consequences.

    www.tompamperin.com

  33. #33
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    northwestern Wisconsin
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    Default Re: Boating Micro-Adventures

    Such an interesting time to be out and about on the water--trees not really leafed out yet, but very different from the bleakness of autumn somehow. Birds everywhere, singing loudly--these fellows loudest of all (though not so much "singing" from them):

    10.jpg

    After an hour or so, I headed back past the ramp and farther downstream to check out the railroad bridge and dam I knew were there. This entire stretch was all sandstone cliffs, with a few rope swings hanging from trees by local kids. This probably would be a wonderland mini-wilderness, along the lines of the much more famous Wisconsin Dells, if it hadn't been flooded out by the impoundment.

    G2.jpg

    The bridge was neat:

    8.jpg

    Here, too, was evidence of the local youth doing things far from the involvement and approval of the adult world--rope swings on the bridge framework, with another rope set to assist the climb back up the stone piers. I love to see signs of kids out doing things on their own.

    9.jpg
    You don't have to be prepared as long as you're willing to suffer the consequences.

    www.tompamperin.com

  34. #34
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    central cal
    Posts
    21,282

    Default Re: Boating Micro-Adventures

    This is pretty much the entirety of the type boating I do. I havenít been aboard a vessel since Covid, though, so Iíve nothing new to report.
    That may change soon, and if it does, I hope someone takes pictures.

    I am terrible at remembering to photograph stuff.

  35. #35
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    northwestern Wisconsin
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    Default Re: Boating Micro-Adventures

    Just above the dam is the location that marks the beginning of a 1.5-mile log plume-canal-tunnel system (long gone now) built to transport logs from the storage pound around the dam to yet another pond (this one separate from the river) for sorting and transport to local mills:

    flume.jpg

    Here's the route of the flume/canal/tunnel through town:

    dells pond historical map.jpg

    Before the dam, this would have been a neat stretch of rocks and rapids.

    Somewhere between 3 and 4 miles of rowing. A little trip I took on a sudden whim, when I realized the sun had popped out in the afternoon.

    G4.jpg

    Leaving the sailing rig behind speeds up launching and loading considerably, with nothing to rig. I don't even bother to install the 9 round hatch covers when rowing on flat water where I'm unlikely to capsize, or to load the 50 lbs of ballast I use for sailing. Nothing aboard but oars, cushions, bailer, and sponge. Putting the boat back on the trailer takes about 10 minutes before it's ready for the road, which makes these kinds of short-term outings well worth it--far different from my usual approach to doing longer trips!

    Any other micro-adventures happening out there?

    Tom
    Last edited by WI-Tom; 04-26-2021 at 12:37 PM.
    You don't have to be prepared as long as you're willing to suffer the consequences.

    www.tompamperin.com

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