To celebrate our 39th wedding anniversary (Tom and I were married at age 10), we decided to paddle two rivers in northeastern Wisconsin, the Manitowish and Flambeau Rivers. The waterways are part of a riverine system that includes the Turtle/Flambeau flowage, ponded water backed up by a dam. They comprise a historic route used by Native Americans and the voyageurs to cross from the Great Lakes to the Mississippi River, although, of course, the route did not include the dammed waters, which were create by loggers to float white pines to market. We knew nothing about these rivers except that they were remote and pristine.
We planned a day and a night on the Manitowish, then a short drive to the Flambeau for a two night stay. It was raining when we dropped into the Manitowish (never good) but the rain soon stopped and the skies cleared, somewhat. The Manitowish proved to be a meandering stream through a watery morass of emergent plants, rushes, alders, box elder, and soft maple. Lavendar iris were in bloom and bird life was abundant. For the second time in two weeks, we encountered endangered Trumpeter Swans. This pair had two fuzzy gray cygnets and the parents were quite enraged at us. One fearlessly charged the canoe, running on top of the water with big, flopping feet.
We saw no other paddlers on the Manitowish, and the campsites, maintained by the state of Wisconsin, were all available. When we arrived at the last one before our take-out point, we claimed it as home. I was dismayed to see watery marsh on three sides, ideal for mosquitoes– which, nonetheless had provided ample food for the 40-some species of birds we had racked up in the few hours we had been on the water.
Somehow, this is not what I envisioned for an anniversary trip: wet campsite, clouds of biting insects. It did not help that Tom’s sister and her husband were also celebrating a wedding anniversary that weekend– in splendor at Lake Itasca’s Douglas Lodge, and posting photos on Facebook (note the sunshine):
So we settled into our sleeping bags in a damp tent, swatted mosquitoes, and prepared for nighttime temps in the 40s.
We wanted remote and we got remote. Just before sunset, golden rays peaked from beneath a cloud, and we took that as a good omen– even though within an hour, it would be raining again.
One life lesson I keep relearning is, sometimes, you just have to ride it out.
Credit on the Showy Lady Slippers: Linnea Asp.