June 15, 2003—Our expedition left our house with three canoes atop three cars, enough for neighbors, kids of neighbors, friend of neighbors, and my daughter. We headed to Minnehaha Creek, the meandering, tree canopied, narrow stream that runs through south Minneapolis. We had a picnic packed and were delighted to be joined by Nat and Dan, two expert paddlers who have made many trips to the wilderness Boundary Waters bordering Canada, including a forty-five day canoe and portage trip from the Back River (Northwest Territory, Canada) to within 150 miles of the Arctic Circle.
This time our ribbon of water offered human sights—we paddled passed a gorgeous white-gowned bride having her picture made beside the creek. We passed houses and tennis courts tucked among the trees. We scooted under numerous stone bridges and came to a sudden and unexpected “Portage Here” sign. (When a canoe is carried on land it is called “portaging.”) We debated ignoring the sign and paddling past it
before deciding to obey the directions. Nat lifted our 68 pound canoe on his shoulders like it was no more than a sack of potatoes. (He says there is a method to getting a heavy canoe onto your own shoulders: First, make a ledge with your knees and slide the boat up, then flip the canoe over, ducking under it as it comes over. Push up with your knees. Be sure your shoulders are padded.) This portage took us out of the quiet steam and into the busy traffic of Penn Avenue. As it turned out, the portage was due to construction work on the bridge and a bulwark of steel would have met us had we tried to ignore the sign! (Lesson: Portage when told to do so!)
A couple of hours into the trip starvation struck and we had an emergency exchange of the potato chip bag, mid-stream. Our lunch stop finally arrived and we scrambled out for a picnic. At the last minute Jerry had remembered to bring a book (found in a furious search of his car trunk). Over lunch he read from JEWISH HUMOR and made us all laugh.
Back in the canoes we followed the twisting creek through a small spillway, then past the esteemed Hiawatha golf course where the sign actually tells canoeists to watch out for whizzing golf balls. The water was high throughout the
paddle and we had to lay low to slip under all the bridges. The boys took a quick dip in Lake Nokomis, easing in and out of the canoe without even as much as a wobble. (This is NOT easy to do!) At Highway 55 we hauled our canoes up the reedy bank to where our car was stashed for the shuttle back to the put-in. (One lucky person gets to stay back with the canoes, reading and daydreaming, while the others drive for the cars.) This creek is lovely and a wonderful afternoon paddle right in the heart of a big city.