Share Your Adventure!

Written by Mike Larson
    Wednesday, 29 April 2015
Share Your Adventure!

Last summer, my eight year old son Benjamin and I borrowed a tandem kayak from the Urban Ecology Center for an overnight camping trip on the Wisconsin River. Thanks to a shuttle service through the Wisconsin Canoe Company, we were able to park our car 18 miles downstream from our starting point. Our goal was to stop at one of the many sandbar islands on the Wisconsin River to pitch our tent and finish the trip in two days. In order to pump Benjamin up for the trip, I talked about our awesome adventure for weeks in advance… little did I know just how exciting it was going to be!

The trip started easy enough. The sun was warm, and a nice current and gentle breeze pushed us easily down the river. We stopped for lunch on one of the islands. Benjamin immediately started exploring and splashing in the shallows. As afternoon turned to evening, we found a perfect little sandbar with a grassy knoll on which to pitch our tent. We built a fire, cooked our dinner and played together on “our” island.

mike paddle blog 1"Our island." Photo: Mike Larson

As night approached I noticed that, despite the lack of rain, the water level had risen slightly since we had arrived. Deciding it was better to be on the safe side, I moved our kayak and supplies a bit closer to the tent and away from the water’s edge- which was at least 20 yards away. Tired after a long day of paddling, we turned in for the night and quickly fell asleep.

At around 1:00 in the morning, I was awoken by the sound of our rain fly flapping noisily in the wind. Trying not to disturb Benjamin, I got up to stake it back down. When I opened the tent door, the first thing I noticed was that the river was now just three feet from where we were sleeping. It still hadn’t rained, but I checked the radar on my phone and saw that a huge storm was coming our way. Starting to panic a bit, I woke Benjamin up and enlisted his help in moving our tent up onto the grassy knoll. The “grass”- which was really more a collection of brush and weeds taller than Benjamin - proved tricky to navigate with a full tent, gear and kayak. Over the next hour or so I tried to maintain a positive attitude, talking to Benjamin casually about what a fun adventure we were having! I finally got back to sleep at 3 AM, not quite sure whether our little knoll was high enough to keep us dry if the storm raised the water level significantly.

At 6 am we woke again. The skies were cloudy, but the storm hadn’t hit yet. The spot where we had pitched our tent the day before was now completely submerged, but our new spot on the knoll was still dry. Hoping to out run the storm, Benjamin and I hurriedly packed up our things and started our return trip down river. After a couple of hours we pulled out at our landing spot in Spring Green, loaded up our gear and kayak and started driving into town for some breakfast. Five minutes after we got in the car, the heavens opened up and it poured. We enjoyed watching the rain while sipping hot cocoa in a small café. It was literally the BEST adventure of our lives!

mike paddle blog 2

All of this was possible thanks to the Urban Ecology Center Equipment Lending Benefit. We borrowed the kayak, tent and dry bags for the trip, as well as a tie down kit to secure the boat to the top of our car. River camping is just one of the adventures we’ve shared together. I’ve taken my boys backpacking, fishing, cross country skiing, geocaching and even playing disc golf with gear I borrowed from the Center. I share my story with you to hopefully inspire a sense of adventure for you and your family this summer- and I would like to invite you to do the same.

If you’re a contributing member of the Urban Ecology Center, you can borrow any of our outdoor adventure equipment for up to three days… for free. After your adventure, please share your experience with our community using the #UECmember hashtag, just like these members did.

Post a story about your canoe outing on Facebook. Tweet about your bike ride down the Oak Leaf Trail to your friends. Take lots of pictures and post them online. We want to hear about your adventures with our equipment! Use #UECmember to share your adventure with the world!


Mike Larson

Mike Larson

Mike is a happily married man living with his family in Milwaukee. As a young child he spent days playing along the banks of the Rock River, fostering a love for nature which eventually led him to study biology and pursue a career with the Urban Ecology Center. He enjoys connecting people with nature through his role as the Community Programs Manager. He hopes that the work he does can help make it possible for his two sons and other kids in Milwaukee to grow up with similar experiences to those he had as a child.

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