-The next day, we paddled downriver and then across lakes for about 13 miles, finally stopping for the night on Island Lake and creating some pizza-like monstrosities that tasted great because everything tastes great on trail. That night, most of us stood on the shore of our campsite and looked out at the stars, which aren't as good as the stars at Crowduck, but aren't too far behind. Willie and Julia goodnaturedly made fun of each other, mainly Willie making fun of Julia's native Hawaii; Colleen and Kate lay on the sand and talked; Jeff and Leslie and I contemplated skinny dipping, but decided it was too cold and we should do it on Pallette Lake later on.
-We got up the next morning and paddled up the Manitowish River. About halfway up, we stopped at a portage take-out to have lunch. A family came down the river and when their small boy sighted us, he shouted, "Land ho!!" Willie called back to him, "You're on a river. You can see land all the time." (But the boy didn't hear it.) In proper canoeing technique, two people paddle on opposite sides of the boat, and the sternsman steers (the two words are related) using sweep strokes and J-strokes. In the family's canoe, all three people were paddling (makes the boat tippy, and crosses paddles); they paddled on the same side, except when the middle-aged woman in the bow would steer by switching sides of the boat. These are the kind of people we laugh at, though not to their faces. They told us the river was pretty low, and that they'd thus "been doing a lot of portaging." Portaging is lifting the canoe over your head and carrying it down a trail. What they had been doing was walking (or wetfooting) the canoe. I laughed more inside. We did walk the canoes upstream, and we got into camp a bit late, but it was a pretty great day. The main problem was we didn't get enough refried beans for our burritos.
-On our last full day, we got up and paddled up the Manitowish some more until we found Nixon Creek. We paddled down that and found the take-out. It's made of mud, which indents a couple inches when you step on it, but holds weight—except in the Black Hole, about a three-foot circle where someone unsuspecting can sink down to their hips. When I couldn't get anyone to stand there, I demonstrated it for them, just for fun. There would be clean lakes later, where I could rinse off. After a few portages, the first one long and the others shorter, we plunked down and camped on Pallette Lake. It started raining lightly, just enough to be ominous. We made spaghetti and then, since we'd been paddling a lot, we had a backrub party. I'm told I'm good at backrubs. It was raining proper by then, so nobody wanted to skinny dip, so we didn't, and it was disappointing. Instead, we all pretty much went right to sleep.
-We woke up cold the next day and paddled cold down Stevenson Creek. On the plus side, the normally shallow Stevenson had been deepened by the rain, and we didn't have to walk our canoes nearly as much. Although when we did, the water was rather darn cold. We pulled out back where we started at Trout Lake at 10:30. Unfortunately, our pick-up wasn't until 1:30, and it was still raining and really cold. After washing Stevenson off us, we set up a tarp and huddled under it (I understand there was some skinny dipping that I wasn't aware of, while Kate and I were setting up the tarp). And then we sat and ate and shivered, and later tossed a frisbee, until the bus came. So that was it for the trip. Now you know not only what GOOP stands for, but what it means.
After a pause of five days in which I didn't have much at all to do, while the first-years got oriented, classes started. I think it's going to be a great semester. I'm in Archaeology of North America; the professor is John Whittaker, whom I knapped with on Fridays last year. He came into the class carrying a spear, and later he invited us all to come with him to Cahokia on the 12th for a gathering of eccentric archaeologists who like to throw spears with atlatls and do other primitive things. I'll be going. I'm also in Theories of Culture, which is an anthro class taught by my linguistics concentration advisor, Brigittine French. And I'm in stats, which shouldn't be too bad. Lastly I'm in German, but I've suddenly become less enthusiastic about learning yet another Indo-European language (I've already studied English, Russian, Spanish, and Esperanto). However, I can't take Chinese (it's Sino-Tibetan) this year, because it conflicts with Archaeology. So I'm going to see if there's anything else interesting from my 4-year plan that I can replace German with*, and then hopefully I'll be able to take Chinese next year. And perhaps even learn a bit of a language in an ExCo. That's the "Experimental College", which consists of classes taught informally by students and other people who want to teach something but aren't professionals. I might try teaching Esperanto, actually. It could be fun. And it's a language that you could actually get a grasp on without professional or intensive instruction.
-As for EcoHouse matters. Well, we've gotten off to a good start. We all get along pretty well together. Rooming with Elissa has proved unproblematic so far. On Thursday, a group of us walked down to the farmers' market in town and bought lots of fruits and vegetables and bread and such. It turns out we probably could have gone without buying the fruits and vegetables, because the two campus gardens—one behind EcoHouse and one across campus—are producing like mad right now. In the kitchen, as I write, we have a zucchini that's about two feet long and fat. There's also a giant rutabaga in the fridge that I hope to use in pasties sometime soon. I think I'll make a small test batch, and then scale them up to make a meal for everyone who wants one. EcoHouse is anywhere from 50 to 70 percent vegetarian, depending on how delicious, local, and humane the meat is that's being offered. Regardless, I've found myself eating less meat, because meals cooked for everyone have to be vegetarian. I've made hamburgers for myself with some probably non-local, factory-farmed meat I bought at the local grocery on Thursday. I bought it impulsively, because I had bread and didn't know what besides hamburger I'd put between it, and I'd also never shopped for just myself before, so I didn't know how my creativity might work out in making food out of whatever I had. I regret buying that beef, but happily, I've learned of a place in town where you can buy local beef and chicken. So once I use this up, I'll get my meats from there. And there will be less or no stigma associated with my eating meat then. As it is, when I've been making my factory-beef burgers, I've felt almost like a barbarian intruding on a peaceful group of villagers. Funny how these things can depend on context—back at home, my making myself a burger was encouraged. I have no intention of going vegetarian. But I do like the idea of knowing where my meat comes from.
-Last night, we had a party here. There was alcohol involved, but I didn't drink in any meaningful amount (I drank a fifth… of a cup of some Iowan wine that Nathan brought). I discovered, though, that parties can be fun even sober, and a good place to meet people. I met, or got better acquainted with, Adam, Aniko, Kane, Latona, Anne-Marie, Evan, and Jumi, all of whom I've never mentioned here before, so don't worry about them unless they crop up later. But perhaps I'll start going to parties this semester. My criterion for a good party is whether you can actually talk to someone there without having to shout over the music. Last night I had to shout sometimes, but I was also able to get away from it in a different area of the house. Overall I'm glad I stayed around.
-Today I did some reading and explored along the railroad tracks with Madeline and met with EcoHouse and then with Bob's employees. In a little while I'm going to play Go. I like the way this semester is looking.
*Another reason I'd like to find a class other than German is that the textbook bundle for it costs $255 and is nonreturnable.