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  • Writer's pictureWater Women

farewell to the driftless?!

we've made it to Dubuque! The 6 days since the last update have been lovely weather and some headwinds, some incredible river angels, fellow paddlers and we're almost to Illinois!!

After leaving Lacrosse, we had a harrowing night camping when some drunk hunters were launching their boats and being very loud next to our tent in the middle of the night. Once they had arrived and woke us up they arrived bopping loud music as making sexual assault and racist jokes. We both were awake, but thinking the other was sleeping and didn't want to bring any more attention to ourselves. To say the least, we did not sleep well.

After that we paddled into Iowa! It felt like a big landmark to get to another new state. The sign on river right brought us great joy and we had to stop for a photo shoot. From there, we paddled to another beautiful island site just across from Victory WI where it got a little colder in the night but we were still warm and cozy. The next day we wanted to celebrate getting into Iowa and it being Halloween, we treated ourselves to some hot lunch in Lansing Iowa. It was such a treat to have a leisurely lunch, warm and delicious burgers too! Lots of people were there to play Euchre. It was cool to be in the right place at the right time to see the crowds that had gathered there to play that game. That night we were hosted by the Schroeders even though they were out of town, we had a lovely time in their yard looking over the beautiful and big water their house overlooks. I think I mentioned earlier, we've been leapfrogging with another group of paddlers, Carlos and Jordan. We take similar sized days in terms of mileage but move at different paces so it's been fun meeting up with them impromptu and seeing their canoe pulled up in towns that we paddle by. So Jordan and Carlos were able to make it to the Schroeders too and we had a Halloween fest of Mac and cheese and wine generously brought from Carlos and Jordan. A true celebration!

***random river adjacent fun thing: I accidentally grew a pumpkin in the garden at my moms and it got big enough to carve and a dear friend , Solange, carved it in a river theme!! So lovely I had to share ***

The sunrise from their house the next day was gorgeous, clear glowing orange sun kissed sky. From there we paddled across some big pools before lock and damn 9. The day was warm and we had lots of sun, such a gift!! We pulled into Marquette after the sun and headwind just before sunset and were graciosuly hosted by Captain Bob and the Maiden Voyage Tours folks. I cooked us up some dinner and from there since we were in town we took a field trip to the gas station! Even though we both love, have and will continue to spend lots of time outside, it's always nice to poop in a heated bathroom on a toilet when you have the chance.

From Marquette we paddled to Guttenberg (pronounced like the guts inside us) and we're generously welcomed by the Kuempel's. We had quite a bit of headwind but were able to take enough shelter with the islands that it was doable- but I will say that if there had been anymore wind it would have been really sketchy and dangerous. Landing at the Kuempel's we were able to spend time with Dan and Deena and Carlos and Jordan had gotten there earlier that day, so we all coalesced there in a sheltered and glorious evening together. Thanks much to the Kuempel's for everything!

The next day was pretty windy, and because of the day before and staying with the Kuempel's, we were able to leave the heavy bags behind and do a day trip to Finleys landing and get picked up by Dan for another night inside. But, a very exciting thing happened as we locked through lock and damn 10- we heard a femme sounding voice on the radio from the damn! It was Barb, the first female lock worker we've met thus far! We were elated to meet another woman on the water, different kinds of being on the water, but still! It was glorious, and we learned that Barb is about to retire, and the tug boat outside the lock was named Barb, but not for her. We're hoping she gets a tug named after her when she retires in January!

Thanks SO much to Dan for shuttling us on the day we left from Guttenberg and getting some great photos of us in the lock too! Because the wind was predicted to be so high, we were very grateful to day trip without our bags- because of the curve of the river we were able to take shelter paddling close to shore. We got really lucky, other folks paddling that day had a really rough time of it, and we were just so grateful to have had an alright day, to be safe, and to have made some progress further south, further from winter. Of course, as we've said we have no schedule for many reasons as part of our mission for this trip, and we also are very aware of colder temps coming, even though people seem to keep wanting to remind us.

From there, we arrived at the Wickham's right before a huge downpour and yet again we're SO grateful to have such a lovely, warm and cozy home and new friends to spend time with. Unplanned, Carlos and Jordan as well as Cory and I and also some other paddlers that had been behind us until this last week, all ended up at the Wickham's! It was a game changer because of the huge, unrelenting rain and wind- so we were all extra grateful to be warm and dry. It's been so great to spend time here in Dubuque with the Wickham's, and to spend time with 4 other paddlers! As Cory says, we are the fall class of 2022 doing source to sea, though there's one paddler which we haven't met up with yet, Carmen. We're loving comparing stories and tales of the river with the other paddlers and having a rest day in Dubuque.

In 2018 on River Semester, our group stayed in Dubuque in the National River Museum for about a week. It was super lovely to go back there and feel /re-live all the memories. In 2018 it was a huge for us to stay in the museum- it was night at the museum style and we got to sleep in the train depot. Walking around the museum, especially with Avery, one of our hosts here and tour guide who used to work at that museum was awesome, to say the least. We were so happy to have a rest day spending time together here at the Wickham's and getting errands done as well as going to the museum. Thank you SO much to the Wickham's for hosting us the last couple days here in Dubuque!! We love you all so much and so appreciate all the time spent together.

Theres some different thoughts and opinions about where exactly the driftless region ends. If you haven't heard of it, it's definitely worth a google! I've been curious about where people define its borders and some have said that it's after Lacrosse when the Wisconsin river joins the Mississippi, others say the driftless ends north of Dubuque and even others say it ends in Clinton county Iowa.... so who knows! Regardless, we have been loving the bluffs and hills and cliffs and will definitely be an adjustment being in flatter land as we keep going. Since north of Lake Pepin, just after leaving the twin cities, we've been held in the driftless and its valleys of hills and cliffs- and now we're flowing into flatter spots.... farewell and thank you to the driftless !!

With river love,


Beautiful photo from Dan Kuempel of Cory and I locking through lock and damn 10

our Halloween/made it to Iowa hot lunch treat!

all about mussels at the national river museum in Dubuque- my favorite is the big fat mucket.

sunrise from the Schroeders

river flavored jackolantern made by my friend Solange!


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