Saturday, June 18, 2011

Layover day in Montevideo!

Hey everyone!

We arrived in Montevideo yesterday, finishing up our 16th day on trail. This past week has been  interesting on the river with some fierce weather and fickle water levels.
Cooking in the tent vestibule...we had three nights of rain in a row!

The Minnesota River from New Ulm to Montevideo is even more beautiful than the first stretch from Fort Snelling to New Ulm (which is gorgeous). We feel like we are in the middle of the wilderness; the ecosystem is thriving and sometimes we go days without seeing other people! Large granite rock outcroppings and more pine trees have started popping up along the river and spicing things up as far as aesthetics go. It's been really cool to paddle on the Minnesota and to learn about the waterways that helped shape Minnesota's history. See it for yourself if you haven't already.

settling into camp

Random sand bar = awesome camping spot.

Our environmental backgrounds have come in handy. We have spent some time talking about the flooding and pollution issues concerning the river and documenting things like crops growing straight up to the river bank, small or no buffer zones, and cows standing right in the river. Thanks to non-profit and community groups along the river, the Minnesota has improved in the last few years but there is still so much work to be done. We need to realize that healthy water-ways and healthy communities are directly correlated and that towns along the river have the potential to spark big change in environmental and public health issues in Minnesota and beyond.

Corn field with no buffer on the Minnesota

After 16 days on the river Ann and I have learned how to read the water and travel where the current is weakest. We love seeing bridges because they are great land marks on the map, but we never realized how much they change the hydrology of the river. Bridges funnel the river and create stronger currents and patches of what we call "confused water" around the support pillars. This water is difficult to attain in the canoe and changes the ebb and flow of the river. Over thousands of years the river has cut its own route, using land elevation as a guide, that will continue to change for thousands of years. Sometimes it seems like we construct things on the river without truly understanding the impacts they have on the natural direction of the water. At the same time, bridges create a different flow, a flow of people, from one community to the next and allow people to see the river if they don't have time to get out on it. We have open-ended conversations like this often attempting to further our education by exploring our own ideologies and thinking about the opposing viewpoints. We have been taught that one of the most important things we can do is to keep conversation alive to bridge the gap between the familiar and the unfamiliar.

Portaging around the Minnesota Falls Dam on the way to Granite Falls. It may be taken out in the next few years!

Both from fairly big cities, we have never truly experienced small-town Minnesota. City people often disregard small towns as boring or lacking culture, etc. What a misconception! The small towns we have stopped in have truly proved the opposite. Two nights ago we were going to camp near a boat launch right out of Granite Falls, MN, population 3,000. Tom Cherveny, who just wrote a story on our adventure for the West Central Trib., called us up and offered to feed and house us in Granite Falls that night. We have come to realize that the beginning of this trip is not about roughing it or trying to find solitude; it is about truly getting to know this place we call home and the people that shape its culture. We stayed with Tom and his vibrant family and experienced first-hand how hospitable, knowledgeable, and loving small town communities are. Like I said before, I truly believe in the power of the small town community. Their close-knit networks can fuel social movements even in times of top-down, political dead-lock.
Terri, Scott, and Tom. They are some of many helpful people we've met along the way.

We're continuing our Minnesota State Park tour! We've learned so much about the Minnesota history and the history of the Minnesota River. Did you know there were German P.O.W. camps by Flandrau? Did you know about the great Sioux uprising along the Minnesota? We learn something new with every tour!
Terri showed us around Upper Sioux Agency State Park

Today we were lucky enough to participate in Fiesta Days in Montevideo. We went on a canoe race and got to talk to several different people in town while bands played and delicious Uruguian food cooked on the grill. We swapped stories with an Ole alum, Duane, who we will meet up with again when we get to Big Stone Lake and met some wonderful people who work at the Easy Bean organic farm just out of town. We are getting breakfast with Patrick Moore from CURE Minnesota who is a great advocate for cleaning up our waterways! To learn more about CURE Minnesota you can visit their website at These people know what's up!

Yes, we are still getting along and we are enjoying every mile of our trip! The rain has been a doozy this past week but we knew this trip wasn't going to be all sunshine and daisies. We are pumped to get back out on the river tomorrow -- 21 more miles of upstream until we hit the lakes! Um Ya Ya. Downstream on the Red River here we come. We'll update the blog again when we get to Fargo, around June 29th. Thank you so much for your support. As Ann Bancroft said, "when the going gets tough, just think about all the people who really care about what you're doing." You keep us warm on those cold wet nights!

We'll leave you with the beginnings of our traveling canoe folk band, dedicated to Richard Warren and Ray Raiho. Happy Father's day! We love you!

P.S. keep following our GPS map on the website!

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like things are going great! I remember meeting so many of these people you write about on the trip Colton and I took. I also recognize the areas where you took several of these pictures, like the one with crops coming right to the river, awful! Keep going this is great!