News & Stories
Namekagon Adventure – Anwatin and Nellie Stone Paddle the River
As the snow began to melt, the Anwatin and Nellie Stone Ski Team coaches were worried about losing their teams with the fleeting snow. “At the end of winter, it’s hard to see next winter,” said Anwatin coach Allie Rykken. “We were trying to think of a way to hold onto our teams through the spring and summer. We initially thought of this paddling/camping trip as a motivation for attendance.”
Both the Nellie Stone and Anwatin Ski Teams are year round programs where the athletes ski in the winter and mountain bike, roller ski and trail run in the summer. “We thought a canoe trip would be fun, and of course it would be great practice for the Tri-Loppet.”
Many of the youth who signed up for the trip had no experience paddling or camping. “It was almost hard to use this as an incentive because they didn’t know what to expect,” said Nellie Stone coach Andrew Magill. Wanting to give the kids a bit of paddling experience before the trip, Coach John Miller arranged a practice on the water. Using kayaks generously donated by Joe’s Sporting Goods, the group got their feet wet one afternoon on Lake Jarvis before hitting the current. Joe’s also donated the canoe trailer used to haul boats on the trip.
Initially, the group made plans to travel the Brule River. However, late spring rains made the river rise nearly 200%. Opting for flatter waters, the coaches rerouted the trip to the Namekagon River which cuts through Northern Wisconsin. The group of twelve youth, six chaperones, and seven water-craft embarked on a three day adventure over Memorial Day weekend. They packed food and some supplies in the canoes, while their sag wagon carried the camping equipment.
Over the course of the weekend, the kids learned to paddle, fish, and set up camp. “Fishing was the most popular activity” said Miller who described how the group celebrated after Nellie Stone Skier Bryce Holte hooked a 10 inch bass. Campfire building also became a competitive art, each kid determined to better the design of the previous contender.
The group drifted off each night to a mixture of folklore and fantasy recounted by Miller. “I stood outside their tents and told stories incorporating everything from Grendel from Beowolf to Windego from Algonquin folklore,” Miller said. The kids were captivated, and asked for more stories on the drive home.
The group came a long way throughout the weekend, not only in ability but in area, “They paddled about twenty four miles downstream,” Rykken calculated. “At the beginning of the trip, we made sure the chaperones were spread throughout the group. By the end of the trip the kids were kicking us out of their boats, and they were doing just fine.”
You’ll be able to see those Namekogan canoe skills this weekend as Nellie Stone and Anwatin compete in the Tri-Loppet. Let summer training begin!