June 23rd, 2008 - St. Croix River Interpretive Trip

Freshly back from California I hit the ground running (ooof!) and headed over to da border, (Wisconsin, not Canadian) as I got the chance to "get my feet wet" (couldn't be helped) sitting in as an interpretive canoe naturalist on Hamline University's "River College" program. This program focused on exposing teachers of grade-school and middle-school age kids to different ways of teaching earth science and environmental education. There was one naturalist per two or three canoes to "interpret the river" as we paddled from Taylor's Falls, MN to Osceola, WI.
For some reason I thought it was going to be easy. But trying to keep even a few canoes close enough together to be heard over splashing paddles with canoeists of vastly different abilities was no mere bagatelle. Plus the river was high and pretty fast with everyone having a different idea of things to check out. My group stayed together pretty well for the first half of the trip, and I got to use one of my favorite words: "Thalweg", which means, "The line defining the lowest points along the length of a river bed or valley."
Origin: [German : Tal, Thal, valley (from Middle High German tal, from Old High German) + Weg, way (from Middle High German wec, weg, from Old High German weg; see wegh- in Indo-European roots).]

I've also understood the thalweg to be the "natural course of a stream" or where the water wants to flow considering all the variables that affect it, stream bed geology, amount of water, deadfalls from the shore, shifting sediments, etc. Sort of "the True Way" of the stream or river, and an ever-changing, intangible element. Sounds like a river to me.
It was all well and good until my notes started getting wet and everyone began slowly putting distance between each other in an intangible way as well. The river was so fast we floated it in less than half the allotted time, so the plan from the mid-point was to meet under the bridge at the take-out spot (for the boats, not Fast Food) on the Wisco side and hike the trail to the beautiful, hidden waterfall.
Which was idyllic, beautiful, and pretty much hidden. Few of us even knew the waterfall was there, even the locals.
After sitting on an aluminum canoe seat for two hours it doesn't get much better than to lose your sea legs on a trail hike and stick your head under a cool waterfall. I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

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