Day 28 - A Frothy and Furious Lake Pepin Monster
Day 28: Diamond Bluff, WI → 8 Miles into Lake Pepin
Date: August 4th, 2022
URM 800 → URM 779
Distance today: 21 Miles
River Time: 11 hrs
Countdown to St. Louis: 599 miles
Today was the toughest day of the trip. Bar none.
The day began well, and the day began early. I was on the water by 5:20 a.m. I paddled through the pre-dawn 3-mile stretch of water separating me and Lock #3. I radioed ahead and the lockmaster readied the locking chamber for me. And I slid on through just as the sun was poking up over the trees without any issue.
For those curious about the locking process, here is a video timelapse of my locking through Lock #3.
I was only lowered a measly 7 vertical feet in this lock, as compared to ~40 on Lock #1. Maybe I’ll try to catch a video of a more impressive lock later.
After Lock #3, it was smooth sailing for a while longer. I opted to take the “Wisconsin Channel” in order to avoid the hubbub of Red Wing. This turned out to be a very pleasant backchannel that spit me back into the main channel not too far from the mouth of Lake Pepin.
In the back channel I could feel the wind picking up, but it didn’t affect me too much in that enclosed space. However when I re-entered the main channel, the wind was noticeably stronger.
When I arrived on Lake Pepin, I paddled a few miles into it and by then it was time for lunch. I met a couple with a house on the lake and they allowed me to eat in their shade. It was nice and cool, and in stark contrast to the extreme sun of the lake! They even gifted me some fresh fruit, which is always one of the best things to give to a long-distance traveler! It just tastes wondrous to eat something fresh when you’ve been on the trail so long.
This is when the day started to take a turn. I departed lunch and was slammed with a headwind. The weather said the wind was coming directly from the south, but I was hugging the shore, how could I be getting such a strong breeze against me? Because Lake Pepin is a huge river valley with high bluffs, which form an extremely effective wind tunnel, that’s how.
This was unlike the wind in other stretches because it was inescapable. On a normal stretch of river, even if I had a strong headwind, I could paddle hard to beat the wind in short bursts, and eventually the river would curve and give me some cover. So it was always back and forth between sheltered and exposed. On Lake Pepin, there was nowhere to hide. The wind was relentless and ripping directly in my face.
Let me put two things out there to illustrate my day:
This is what Lake Pepin looks like. It’s 23 miles long and over a mile wide at most parts.
The winds today were out of the S or SE at 10-20 mph. Gusting to maybe 25-30 mph.
So I paddled a bit longer, and stopped at the very first good spot I could find. I figured I should save my strength and wait for a more favorable forecast tomorrow.
Today I was bested by the Lake Pepin Monster, but tonight I will rest, recover and regroup.
Then tomorrow I will try again.
River Log Day 28
796-795 - Diamond Island + Island 21: Numerous good primitive camping spots.
789.9: A few good sandbar primitive sites just a tiny bit into the Wisconsin Channel. Right below Lower Red Wing Light.
785 - Lake Pepin Head Island: Good sandbar primitive campsites. Last islands on Pepin for a long while.