From the Rush City Ferry Landing to the Sunrise Landing ten miles downriver, the St. Croix threads a straight course due south. This Fourth of July our party of four took two canoes and embarked on that trip. Tom and I had just come off the Namekagon, and though that river, and its compatriot tributary, the Yellow River, beckoned, we opted for the St. Croix. Construction at the Taylor’s Falls bridge backed up traffic and we didn’t want to be on the Wisconsin side when the holiday lake traffic headed home to the Cities.
I never pondered what it might be like to paddle an undeviating course. We dropped in shortly after noon, and the first stop, 15 minutes later, was on a sandy island, for a lunch of egg salad sandwiches, grapes and Nut Goodies.
When we took up our paddles again we realized that a strong south wind blew. It would be our headwind for the next ten miles. The better part of our holiday afternoon would be spent doing battle with a unflagging, stiff wind, one that threatened to undo our paddling and push us upriver.
We sought shelter in the lee side of the bank, but there wasn’t really a lee. We tacking back and forth, as if we were sailboats, thinking we could harness the enemy. Finally, we adopted reality: we would muscle our way down. With that acceptance, my stern paddler, daughter Christina, and I, dug in.
Not for the first time, I realized what a great metaphor river canoeing is for life. In tough times, there is no real refuge. The only way through this, is through.