Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Milwaukee and Wisconsin News: A River Story

The Milwaukee and Wisconsin News: A River Story: Oddly enough, The Voyage of the Cauldron Skipper, is a river story about a man who is forced over a waterfalls in his boat. I got the ide...

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Milwaukee and Wisconsin News: Personal Update 01 15 2012

The Milwaukee and Wisconsin News: Personal Update 01 15 2012: Four of my photographs will be on display at Alverno College from January 25 2012 thru February 25 2012. You can see them at these times:...

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Milwaukee River North Kayak Trip 08 11 2010 First Set

Milwaukee River North Kayak Trip 08 12 2010
It was over ninety degrees on Wednesday August 12th 2010, when I decided to take my Kayak on this Northern section of the Milwaukee River as I had a strong belief that the scenery at this stretch of the river might differ from that we see in Milwaukee. The first thing I did before the trip was to take the electric hair cutting clippers with a 1/8” clip and trim the sides and back of my hair.  I launched where highway T intersects the Milwaukee River.   There are a few spaces to park on the side of the road before the bridge.  Except for one spot the water in this section from Highway T down to Highway C, the river is very shallow and rocky, two and a half feet or less.  I learned from the first two times out in my Kayak that where you see ripples in the water means that there are rocks underneath.
    Going a little ways with the current there was an Oxbow to my left.  For those of you who don’t know an Oxbow is part of a channel of a river that goes around an Island.  In my own scientific terminology it was once the main channel of the river but at one time the river gained so much force that it flowed straight over land, eating the land away, and after which this straight channel was the main channel and the Oxbow a slower channel.
As I paddled into the Oxbow on my left something furry scurried along the shore and jumped in the water for a swim, a Muskrat or Otter, I did not have time to get a good look or a good picture.  I did get a picture of a Turtle sitting on a rock to my right as the current was pulling me into the Oxbow.  Once into the Oxbow I found out that it was shallow and rocky.  You don’t really want to get turned sideways in the current.  Because my own personal rule is if you turn sideways your likely to turn over.  Once you turn over your likely to get wet, pissed and lose some stuff.  And I know that that is not the worst case scenario when this happens.  Stuck on rocks I ended up sticking my hand in the water and pushing.  For awhile I was going backwards but that did not bother me as the current was not to strong and having the long shape of the Kayak in the same direction of the current is the best way to needle through and avoid rocks.

After the Oxbow in the distance I could see a person wearing a light green vest and tromping around in the water.  This was a relief to me at this point.
“Hello.” I said to the first of a group of four bow fishers.  The young men looked to be of late High School or Early college years. A bow fisher is a fisherman who fishes for rough fish, like carp, with a bow and a barbed arrow with a line attached to the arrow and a reel on the bow.
“Getting any carp?”
“Yeah we got a few.”
The fourth bow fisherman was trodding through the knee high water against the current on his way back to highway T.
“I would almost feel safer wading in this that in this Kayak.”  I said referring to the shallow and rocky water.
      Not too far a distance from Highway T downstream another river branched into the Milwaukee river from the right side.  From a distance I could hear the sound of rough water as it ran over rocks.  At the mouth of this tributary the water in the Milwaukee River seemed to be a little deeper. Someone had piled up large rocks towards the northern mouth of this river I surmised to serve as a warning.  I did not want to get to close to the mouth as the water appeared to be faster and more rocky but from a distance the waves glistened in the sun as they cascaded over the rocks.
    Next on the right shore I came to a few trees that were not as green leafed as the rest.  The leaves were indeed a shade of grey.
     On the right shoreline I heard something growling in the brush and it was no bullfrog.  I was about to beach the Kayak for a second or two but instead kept on going.  As I paddled I passed under a series of electric lines strong on high metal framed structures like in a Godzilla movie.  If I was driving in my car it would be important to make a mental note of their relative position when seen off water to give a person a dimensional point of reference in terms of relative location when on the water.  But that would happen per chance another day.
      Next I stopped briefly at an island to take a picture of a pink orchid like flower.  It is common to find flowers such as these growing wild every so often and it was definitely worth taking a picture of.
     On the left shoreline were very large solid brick that must have been dumped off the back of a truck in a series of piles to prevent erosion.

     As I approached a tree overhanging the water I saw the white belly, red fur and long tail of what would appear to be a jungle monkey.  I paddled to the right shore as the current to me to get a closer look.  Getting close I saw that it was the largest red squirrel that I have ever seen.  Its large tail was hanging down from the limb as it was munching on something and throwing the crumbs in the river.
     I passed a grouping of thick and strong looking reeds on the right shoreline next.  This is the only place on the trip I saw a grouping like this.   I wondered what the conditions were that they only grew right there and what elements or nature benefited from them.
     Surprisingly I must have seen at least a half a dozen Great Blue Heron fishing in the river.  Upon the start of my trip I did not think that I would be traveling too far remotely to find so many.
     On the next stretch of river the shoreline was lined with the fullest and greenest trees I have ever seen. The river was wider here and the surface more still.  Like a mirror it reflected the beautiful images of the clouds and green shores.
     I approached a series of trees with their roots partially submerged on the left shore.  The thickly trunked trees looked as if they had once been planted in a straight line maybe to prevent erosion.  They kind of reminded me of defensive linemen on a football field.  This was the second series of trees such as this I would see while on my trip downstream.
     As the river bent to the right I saw an indication of the first sign of more shoreline development.  Perched high on a raised pier was a twelve foot aluminum boat with an outboard motor.  Behind it was a beautiful cabin of Red wood.  Seeing the boat made me realize that I was not the only one who enjoyed such places.
     As I paddled further on the left shore looking past the edge weeds I could see a corn field standing tall and in defiance of the flood plain.  Back some distance from the corn field was a large old style barn with a grey roof and red painted sides that was fading to grey.
    The hot day was mostly overcast with scattered large clouds.  In one picture the formation reminded me of a woman from a Botticelli painting.  It looks as if she is laying on the bed in a posing fashion.
     On the left bank I l believe somewhat past Highland Avenue was the sign of a Nature Preserve that read restricted use.
Somewhat past the highland avenue bridge on the right was a backwater bay.  Although there were a few houses with boat docks on the right.  The large bay was lined with Lilly Pads.  As any boater of any type know it is very easy to get stuck and drained of energy in such places.  If you are traveling down river and are tempted to veer left here do not do so, go right instead.
     Some distance past highway C the river started to widen out and become a little deeper.  The presence of navigation buoys was also a welcome sign of less desolation.  Soon I was to see two more houses propped up high on the bluff of the shoreline.  The second one had a metal retaining wall built down on its shoreline.  The color of the wall seemed to transition from the water level to its top, off whites and milky browns.
     As I approached what was to be the Highland Avenue Bridge there was a pontoon boat motoring towards me.  There were about eight people on board men and women.  It had an old 115 horsepower outboard motor on it, the fumes trailing behind it did not provide much in the way of needed oxygen for the length of the trip I had already traveled.   On the right shore there were boats moored with large horsepower outboards, this told me the water would be getting deeper.  I don’t know how deep it was though because I had stowed the transducer to my portable depth sounder in order to create less drag as I paddled.  But for a long stretch of the river here it looked like it might be a good spot to go fishing.
     As I crossed under the Highland Avenue Bridge the sign read boats keep east, snowmobile speed limit forty five miles per hour.  Another sign more east under the bridge read, slow no wake when water level in the red zone.  There was a vertical red line painted on the sign somewhat analogous to a thermometer, it was about two feet above the current waterline.
After I passed under the bridge there were more houses on the shore.  To the left there were two gentlemen standing on their dock.
“What bridge is that?” I asked after I had paddled near.
“That the Highland Avenue Bridge.”
“Is that a boat ramp?” I asked seeing a narrow ramp way down to the water to their right that had some signs that looked like they were placed by the local government.
“That’s not a boat ramp.”  One of the men said.  They had East Coast Accents.
“Where is the next place that I can get off?”
“You can get off right here by the Highland Avenue Bridge.”  They offered.
I had a little more steam in me.  “Where is the next place downstream that I can get off?”
“About a half mile down to the right of the Island is a park.  There is also one on the left.  About a mile and a half from here is Fireman’s Park where you would have to get off because that is where it ends.  There is a damn there.  You can get off and walk around I suppose.”
“Thank you.” I said and paddled onward with renewed vigor.  I have come to find out in my life when I was great need of advice the advice given was often poor.  I therefor try to be just the opposite of that. 
Once past them someone was burning leaves and brush on the left shore and breathing that didn’t do me any good either.
I paddled faster as I saw the pontoon boat approaching from back to the left of me.  I was keeping ahead of him.  The man operating the boat said, “Do you want to race?”
“I’ve already beaten you.”  I replied.  To which point he throttled up the smoking 115 horsepower outboard and sped ahead a little faster. I pushed my right oar forward in the water and headed directly into his shallow wake.  The sun was setting and there was much glare as you looked west so I decided to hug the right shoreline as the tree line might give my eyes some protection against the brightness of the sun on its setting horizon.  A good unintentional look into such brightness can give an overexerted person some type of temporary seizure I professed to myself from experience.
     On a pier on the right shoreline was docked a pontoon boat painted bright green.  Toward the back was a screened in structure with a roof the framework of which was also painted the same bright green.  I reasoned they might have just enough room inside for a card table.  The might like to play gin or rummy or poker or whatever and have a few drinks.  The workings of fun and creative people I reasoned with a sense of much needed levity.
Once I get tired I start to sing to keep me going.  “People on the river are happy to give.” “Big wheel keep on turning.” “Proud Marry keep on burning.”  The order of the lyrics didn’t seem to make any difference, in fact the more jumbled the refrains and disorder the more fun it is.  As the active mind tries to make humor and reason from disorder.  After I started to tire I imagined myself as someone else paddling instead.  It is best to choose someone you don’t like and make them paddle as in your mind it punishes them.  Two characters came to mind an obnoxious bald fat fellow from the gym I think of as name being “Peppier” and a muscled up swinely looking fellow.  Peppier seemed to be able to paddle better.  After that I tightened my abdominal muscles in cadence, an effort to release any stored energy from my mid section and put it to work.
     On my right I saw a tree barren of leaves it reminded me of a large broom stuck by its handle into the ground.  “We sweep here or we don’t sweep here I think in retrospect.”
     After rounding a bend to the left there was a sign for a Boy Scout camp.   On the same shoreline a little past the camp I spotted three deer.  They looked to be very healthy.  I started to take pictures just as my second and last camera battery ran out.
    I could see that I was approaching Villa Grove Park on the right; it seemed much farther than the two gentlemen with East Coast accents seemed to imply.  As I approached a large water skiing rigged boat manned by a father and full of adolescent boy’s”
“Do you know what road that is?” As I pointed to the road beyond Villa Grove Park.
“Do I know what road that is?”  The rich child in a man’s body, otherwise known as punk, mocked me right in front of his father.
“You didn’t earn that.”  I said sternly as they passed.  The father knew I was talking to him.
Once on shore I put my detachable wheelbase on my Kayak and telephoned home.
“I am off the water and pulling the Kayak to the nearest intersection, I will call you when I get there to tell where to come.”
    A man walking his dog said hello.  I asked him his full name which I will omit here and told him mine.  After a while he returned with his Subaru.  It had a Kayak carrier on top and a Kayaking organization sticker on the back.  And seeing that I was being eaten alive by mosquitoes he offered to give me a ride and this person was probably of honest spirit as he was a Kayaker.  I told him that my mother was coming to pick me up.  After consideration I called home and left a message that I was getting a ride to my car and that when she called home to tell her to just go home.
“With all the bends in the road you must have gone twenty miles, I would not even attempt that, you must have strong arms.”  He said as we drove back to Highway T.
“Sometimes I just need to get away fast and therefore poorly plan things.”  I said.
    Little did I know that two of the bridges on Green Bay road were out and my mother would have to detour twice.  Nor did I know that as you head West on Highland Avenue that the road you need to make a left on is Freedwood.   And I don’t know if I am getting these street spelling correct today.  It’s one of these issues of the same road has two different names depending where you are on it.  A rich people’s game to hide themselves and good places from others.  Freedwood Road Turns into Friedstadt road.  Being bit up by mosquitoes for a half hour while I waited, I was not amused by such an intelligent convention as this.  To give the same road two different names.  Why don’t they just put a cliff on the end of it and loot what they can from the person of every car that drives off of it.  The poet that formed in me when I was a young boy learned then that those who set traps often fall victim to them.
Meeting up with my mother who was waiting at the Mequon Country Club which was across from my pickup point we made it home safely.  All is well that ends well.
Thomas Paul Murphy
Copyright 2010 Thomas Paul Murphy
 Starting from the top picture below the photographs correspond with the start of my trip from Highway T:

Picture Set To Continue on next post:

Second Series of Pictures from 08 11 2010 Trip

Link to third set: