Sunday, September 28, 2008

Kevin Knieling: Going the distance

I'd like to introduce you to a guy by the name of Kevin Knieling. In a world of people who've had wild dreams about roaming the world, he's someone who's actually doing it.

My mom, who lives up in Drayton, North Dakota, had heard of Kevin's latest voyage: A kayak run that would begin in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He intends to paddle south down the Red River of the North. From there, he'll portage several miles to the heading of the Minnesota River network... and that will carry him toward the Twin Cities of Minnesota. At that point, he'll pick up the Mississippi River and traverse it all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.
His travels serve as a great reminder that inland behaviors have a way of flowing all the way to the seas... because his kayak will take that very trip.

I've been in touch with Kevin, and we've had a brief email exchange about his trip, as well as our project at I've asked him to check in with us once-in-a-while, and tell us about his observations from the rivers. He sent the two photos that appear in this posting, along with waypoints indicating their location; one is a disk implement used to cultivate fields, the other is some type of rusted-out boat or other scrap iron. Follow Kevin on this voyage, as I will be doing, by checking out You can follow the progress of this river voyage, specifically, by going to this section of his site: Once you're there, just click on the button that says, "Paddle It!"
Safe voyages, Mr. Knieling, and thanks for letting us see the state of these rivers through your eyes!
- Mike

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Happy International Coastal Cleanup Day!

To celebrate the event, I went after some of the oversized debris that I've inventoried over the past year in the metro Mississippi River (our adoption site 3 with the Adopt-a-River program). By the end of the day, I had gathered 885 pounds worth of crud (actual weight, not an estimate). The materiel was recovered along a 1.2-mile stretch of the river, between the I-694 bridget and 57th Avenue north on the west bank of the river... which is under the jurisdiction of the Three Rivers Park District.

Because of the geotrashing work we had done by kayak earlier this year, this recovery effort seemed very efficient; it took only about 6 hours, even though I was working alone. (The tools provided to us this year by Joe Rauscher at Joe's Sporting Goods have proven immensely helpful in preparing for this kind of work.) Because of the water-borne planning I had done, I knew exactly where I was going, and exactly what kind of tools I was going to need to hoist these items out of the muck, up some very long, steep banks.

Among the items recovered: A culvert, two safes (one with six bullet holes, and the other apparently cut open with an acetalene torch). two compressors with their chemical contents intact, various car parts (one tire on-the-rim, one fender), construction material, some scrap iron and a bike. (Click on the images to enlarge any photo here.)

Previous to this weekend, we had recovered 328 pounds of junk from the St. Croix River, as well as the Mississippi, bringing our season total to 1,218 pounds (so far). Not too bad under some trying circumstances this year.

Julie and I still have a few more trips planned before ice-up, including a sweep of the Osceola backwaters on the St. Croix River (our last attempt was rained out), a few walking trips on the Mississippi, and additional geo-tagging as weather allows. If you're interested in joining us, just drop me an email.

Two additional items worth noting from this weeks' efforts.

  1. First, only one item went into a dumpster (a wood-framed screen door). Having made plans with material handlers in advance, everything else recovered today can and will be recycled.

  2. Second... I captured some of the challenges of this project on video, and will use that footage to create some documentary content for this blog site this winter, when the on-water season is over. (I grabbed some similar footage on the St. Croix two weeks ago.)
  3. It has been a good day on the Mississippi. Now, there is the matter of some laundry that needs to be done.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The beauty and the beast

Early in the life of this project, I made a promise to myself: To not dwell only on the gloom and doom (one might say the beast) of pollution in our waterways, but also to celebrate the breathtaking beauty of the rivers we’re out to restore.

On a recent trip down the northern St. Croix River, my search for trash was rewarded by more than one glimpse of grandeur. I got nailed by a twenty-minute downpour, which for a moment had me wishing I had stayed off the water that day. But the storm soon passed, and rugged waves yielded to a glass-like surface. I sat there for a moment, reflecting about how lucky I was to be drifting down this wonderful waterway.

Then, I was granted another reflection. My paddle sitting idle on the deck of the kayak, the gentle current turned my boat backwards… and I saw the rear of the storm that had just passed overhead. I quickly grabbed my camera out of the dry sack and snapped this photo. (Click on the image to enlarge either photo.)

The St. Croix River is seldom so stingy as to give its advocates just one picturesque snapshot per visit. At nearly every turn, if you’ll take the time to notice, the river provides a spectacular glance at nature. And so it was this day, as I turned away from the storm and headed toward my base camp (still 4+ miles away). The water acted like its own mirror, offering one gorgeous reflection after another.

My wife has asked how I can turn a four-hour kayaking trip into a full-day excursion. I blame images like this: It is as if the river tempts her visitors to stay just one moment longer, at each crook or bend along the way.
While my mission is to remove trash and debris from our waterways, and encourage others to do the same... it seems a reasonable indulgence to enjoy the natural wonders we discover while on our journey; to capture and share some of the scenes these rivers provide. One might say that the beauty is the incentive; our reward for challenging the beast.

© 2008, Mike D. Anderson, Crystal, MN.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Two wins in one weekend, but a washout the next

Last weekend, we made two 9.6-mile sweeps of our "adoption site 2," the northern St. Croix River between Thayer's Landing and St. Croix State Park. We hit the Minnesota side on
Saurday, and the Wisconsin side on Sunday, capturing some great photos, footage and knowedge to share as time allows. This weekend, we were hoping to tackle the backwaters near Osceola, conducting an end-of-season cleanup of light litter, as well as two larger debris items we've been alerted to.

But on this Sunday morning, we are waking to the sound of rain on the roof of our base camp; a rain that has been falling nearly non-stop since Friday evening.

Oh, well. As I've stated before, there are two forces which demand respect in any cleanup effort: Mother Nature, and Father Time. This weekend, it is she who will hinder our efforts. We might have been able to get a little more work done, but it would have been miserable in the cold, constant rain. And since our great granddaughter is along on this voyage, we elected to be even more cautious than usual.

The delay puts additional pressure on our late-season goals. Autumn was in the air this weekend; the working days are getting noticably shorter, and the air and water are cooling. Enough so that we know our waterborne cleanup season will end within several weeks (perhaps a few shoreline cleanup missions could be completed after that).

We did discover a new place to use as a base camp this weekend. Traditionally, we would have set-up at William O'Brien or Interstate State Park when focusing on this particular section of the St. Croix River. But without a reservation this week, and learning those two camps were full, we instead setup at Wildwood Campgound, which is operated by the same folks who run Wild Mountain recreation area and Taylors Falls Canoe Rental. In addition to being a great facility, it is located just south of Taylors Falls near the intersection of highways 8 & 95, making it a very convenient site for us when cleaning our adopted stretch of the St. Croix near Osceola... or perhaps a site we'll keep in mind when planning next year's Dash for Trash.

© 2008 Mike D. Anderson, Crystal, MN.

Friday, September 12, 2008

We've got some catching up to do

I had the chance to do a combination cleanup/geotrashing trip on the west bank of our adopted metro Mississippi recently... and on Labor Day Monday, two of my kids helped me make another sweep along the same stretch, but on the east bank. I snapped a wealth of new photos and captured a lot of new trash targets, which I'll report about when time allows. And some nice recovery progress (we nabbed some tires).

Then, last weekend, I had a chance to hit our second adoption site on the northern St. Croix River, sweeping the west bank of this 9.6 mile stretch on one day, and the east bank the next day. On these two trips, the capacity of the Pungo kayaks we're using became clear: I was able to recover a full bag of trash someone had tossed into the river, as well as a pair of tires (and I geo-tagged two more sites where tires are sitting so I can go back and get those, too), along with some miscellanious trash.

Tonight, Julie and I are headed to our other adoption site, the backwaters of the St. Croix River near Osceola. I've received reports of a picnic table caught in trees along the shoreline, as well as a trash barrel of some type in the water. Hopefully, we'll be able to carry those items out, along with whatever debris has accumulated in the basin over the summer.

Even though out summer has been somewhat abbreviated, I think we're making some good progress. So far, we can count a little more than 300 pounds of trash removed from our adopted waterways. Beginning next weekend (to coincide with the annual International Coastal Cleanup), I'm hoping to make a few walking trips along the Mississippi here in town, and have developed a plan to remove several tires, safes and scrap-iron targets. I think it would still be a realistic goal to try remove 1,000 pounds of trash, before the river chills-down to the point that it is no longer safe to work.

If you'd like to join me for one of those trips, just drop me an email.

Of course, I'll document our progress more specifically at this site as time allows. But for now, while the weather is holding, my spare time is better spent on the water than behind a computer keyboard. There will be plenty of time to post details on rainy days... or after the ice comes in.

© 2008 Mike D. Anderson, Crystal, MN.