We leave at 7 am for the St. Croix and we are positively thrilled to have the opportunity to canoe this river. There were so many potential last minute obstacles that frankly I am quite surprised that it is going to happen after all. A big thanks to Eric Faust of the Duluth Coffee Company who is singularly responsible for making this happen. Eric not just loaned us his canoe but also volunteered to drive us to the launch point which lies somewhere over in Wisconsin. And it will also be someone in his family who will connect up with us down in Stillwater so that we can return the canoe.

Sarah and I are really digging Duluth. Impossible as it may seem the last 15 miles on Highway 2 west into Duluth was all pretty much on a downhill grade and riding in the sunshine was a pleasure that we haven’t experienced much since we got here. The last couple of miles included the biking thrill of crossing the Interstate 635 bridge over the ship canal between Superior, Wisconsin and Duluth, Minnesota. I still have no idea if what we did was legal or not but it was a plenty exciting long, high ride where we got to get a birds-eye view of some docked freighters. A couple of seamen on one ship waved and shouted ‘What’s happening man’? And we waved and shouted back.

Sarah skyped with one her friends so I went down to Fitgers by myself to drink a couple of pints. I really enjoyed their Starfire IPA (9/10) but not their Witch ESB (7/10) so much. They make a lager called Wildfire Lager which is infused with hot chilies that is truly one of the most exceptional brews I have ever tasted. It tastes like fresh Serrano’s and has that same Serrano spiciness too and in the spirit of Spinal Tap I give it a well deserved 11/10.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention our pie and coffee stop along the way at Mother’s Kitchen in tiny little Poplar, Wisconsin. Normally Banana Crème pie doesn’t do a thing for me because the couple of times that I’ve tried it there was mostly a weird banana flavored custard thing going on. Not so at Mother’s Kitchen. This pie had no discernable custard and was mostly chunky creamy pieces of banana; served up with a large scoop of vanilla ice cream and a cup of hot coffee it was truly an almost religious experience.

We stopped in yesterday morning at Duluth Coffee and we got the house brew of Guatemalan beans done in a medium roast and ordered our breakfast next door at the inappropriately named Coney Island. The coffee was excellent and served in big cups which we sipped on until our food arrived from next door. I like that gentlemen’s kind of reciprocity where one business supports the other and it seems like Eric has other kinds of similar things going on around the region. A waiter brought over 2 identical plates of eggs over medium, whole wheat toast, and hash browns. The eggs were cooked to perfection, the hash browns were neither greasy nor burned, and the coffee was the best in town.

We spent the afternoon hunting and gathering after our trip to Marine General on London Road. I bought a fishing rod, a Minnesota fishing license, and a big fat handful of artificial baits so I am more than ready for anything in size from the monster pike we might encounter right down to small mouth bass.

We stopped by the Whole Foods Co-Op up on 4th St. and 6th Ave. and picked up what I hope is 5 days worth of food. We got half a dozen big yams, the same number of big rutabagas and onions, a big bag of carrots, some potatoes, chili powder, olive oil, salt, peanut butter, 2 boxes of crackers, apples, aluminum foil, some paper platters, 2 rolls of paper towels, paper bowls, and a bunch of other stuff. We’d be packing different if we were backpacking but canoes were designed to haul weight.

Sarah downloaded the maps of the river from the National Parks Service so it appears that we’ll be wilderness camping the whole way. The NPS has designated the river a scenic waterway so we are very much looking forward to this little adventure. We bought head nets for the bugs and we are packing some serious deet spray which might be good for the mosquitoes although the locals joke that the dreaded blackfly is said to almost be impervious to it. I am hoping we’ll be alright although I am mindful that ‘hope is not a strategy’ as Sarah once pointed out earlier this trip.

The river is 170 miles total in length and we are doing 130 miles of it. If we make just 30 miles a day then we are looking at being out of the water as early as Saturday. The oldtimers thought nothing of doing 60-70 miles per day in the birch bark canoes that the natives taught them how to build even loaded up as they were with bundles of furs so I think that our expectations are reasonable. We will be traveling relatively light and fast in our borrowed Kevlar canoe which shares the distinction of also having been built in the region. Thanks again Eric. This wouldn’t have been possible without you.

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