Mosquito Hill Nature Center organized a canoe and kayaking day on the Wolf River last weekend, and 33 outdoor enthusiasts took the two-hour trek down the Wolf River to Shaw’s Landing.
A special guest, Jake Stanovak of Wausau accompanied the group in his kayak, which he paddled 5,700 miles around the eastern third of the United States in 2009.
Thirty-three of us met at Riverside Park at 9 a.m., the wind howling at speeds of 20-30 miles per hour. We were all thankful the sun was out. Most everyone had dressed in layers, had mittens and waterproof shoes. My friend Angie and I watched and learned as other folks went about the business of unloading their watercraft from their cars.
One canoe in particular stood out from the others. It was called the Voyager canoe. Glen Gorsuch of Princeton built the 28-foot replica canoe in 2005 and shares it with school groups, Scouts, 4Hers, church groups and family reunions, amongst others, like Mosquito Hill.
We drove our cars out to Shaw’s Landing and a shuttle van returned us to New London, where we began our adventure. As the Voyager crew reviewed our instructions, most everyone held their hands up when asked if they knew how to paddle. The guide said we could switch positions with our bench partner during the trip, but only if we let the guide know first, and not more than one person was standing up at a time.
We received floatation vests and paddles and hit the dock.
As I stepped into the canoe, I could feel the sturdiness of the handmade vessel. It had a much wider bottom than a typical canoe, and actually fit 17 people – we filled the boat. As we took off, the wind was in our faces, ripping at our hoods and caps, and seemed to laugh at us as we grabbed onto items that weren’t latched down.
We all worked hard at our paddling, and with so many of us on board, the paddles tended to smack into each other as we raised them from the water. We soon caught onto the idea of every other row paddling, and once they were tired, alternate rows picked up where they left off.
The wind continued for a good ten minutes, but once around the first bend, its strength was cheated by the trees that shielded us. The water smoothed out and suddenly it was as if we were slipping along on the topside of a mirror. The sky was a sapphire blue, with nearly a cloud in the sky, and all was well in the world.
As we took time to rest and look around, a kayak came gliding by, and then another and another. There were 12 vessels in all – five canoes and six kayaks, plus our Voyager. The huge canoe was one of a kind that day.
We did receive some amazed looks from fishermen as we passed by, waving. We questioned whether they were catching anything? Some said ‘No,’ others said, ‘You bet!’ and ‘Just one so far.’ We even witnessed a nice catch.
Our side of the boat saw a turtle lounging on a fallen tree log that jutted out in the river. We passed the Ox Bow and many noted that they would have continued straight ahead, instead of taking the sharp river bend to the left. I don’t know if anyone was counting, but several bends later, we passed under the Northport Bridge on Hwy. X. A few from the group gave out a shout or a bird call as we passed under the concrete structure. The sound echoed and had everyone smiling.
Again we gave ourselves a rest and floated down the Wolf. The wind was tucked away again, and it felt more like 70 degrees than the 55 degrees of the day. Hats came off, and coat necks were loosened. A few passengers wished they had brought a stadium cushion with them, and I was one of them.
Every bend in the river brought us nearer to the mouth of the Little Wolf that meets the Wolf just below Flease’s Campground. We paddled up stream on the Little Wolf a bit, and turned around.
It wasn’t long before we came up to our Shaw’s Landing destination, and several of us thought it would be farther down river. I guess we enjoyed the experience so much that we didn’t want it to end quite yet.