Dead Willows and Lively Hospitality in North Dakota
// September 3rd, 2012 // Uncategorized
I’m currently enjoying a short 2-day hiatus at the Tobacco Garden Resort and Marina, a wonderful little oasis amid the arid landscape that surrounds Lake Sakakawea in North Dakota. Hospitality here at the resort comes dished in generous helpings. The curious and conversational resort staff have taken a sincere liking to the news of my river journey and have bent over backwards to offer some special North Dakotan treatment for this Canadian kayaker. The added bonus of camping beneath shade trees for the first time in several weeks has indeed been a treat.
All was not so charming Friday afternoon (Aug 31) as I fought my way through a huge, half-submerged dead willow thicket that, given low water levels, completely consumed the width of the lake, a full two miles at this point. It took me an hour to push, pull and curse my way through the morass, completely confined to my kayak and having to, at one stage, urinate in the cockpit of the boat. I’m not proud of that last fact, by the way. And before you cringe with thoughts of me soaking in my own pee while paddling, please know that minutes later the wind increased fourfold and proceeded to churn the lake into whitecaps. As foot-high waves crept over the bow and spilled into my lap, the cockpit cesspool became well-diluted and fully cleansed.
After a half-hour of struggling through wind and waves, I finally arrived at the western shoreline where I discovered yet another stretch of dead willows preventing me from reaching solid ground. Standing calf-deep in mud and stagnant water, I unloaded the boat and hauled my camping gear to the base of an eroded bluff where I was well sheltered from the howling wind.
Thus was my introduction to Lake Sakakawea, a body of water upon which, according to my paddling guidebook, many dreams of kayaking and canoeing the length of the Missouri have ended. Yes, it is one tough lake. But this seasoned adventurer has been through tribulations a-plenty over the years. With utmost respect to the lake, it will take much more than dead willows and wind to stop my journey.