Well look at that, another year has passed and we’re once again looking back in our year-end review. 2021 was an interesting year for MilesPaddled.com. From an outsider’s perspective, we may not have appeared all that busy, but behind-the-scenes there was a lot happening.
The main thing that kept us busy was retooling the entire site – the front and the backend. Unfortunately, that took the site offline right when the average (Miles) paddler visits most often (apologies again for that, the timing was kind of out of my control). The upside of the whole being down thing? It set us up for the future on way more stable ground than ever before. We’re a little cleaner and a lot leaner, but we’ve got plenty to keep wrenching on because this site is a never-ending work in progress.
As for the rest of our year? Well, the pandemic continued throughout 2021 so paddling was a great respite from the reality that this thing was going to continue. It was great that vaccinations (not immunizations, to be clear) were widely offered so we could once again hang out with our paddling friends – or, at least those who weren’t choosing to politicize a shot.
Canoecopia was virtual once again and on par with most virtual conferences. We engaged in some virtual talks to local groups, including one to benefit the Wisconsin River Alliance. We also led two paddling groups – one on a fishing expedition, as well as a first timer’s group, a first for me too, personally.
We also reported on a baker’s dozen new paddles covering many miles of new water, including a couple bucket list trips, and a couple we didn’t think would be all that great but turned out to be extra special.
We’re looking forward to another great year chasing new miles of rivers and creeks throughout Wisconsin. But before we do, here’s a look back at some other interesting things that came about this year for Miles Paddled, including a few of our favorite paddles.
A New Milespaddled.com
Milespaddled.com went through its fifth incarnation in thirteen years. This one, however, was the biggest update in its existence. It took many, many, many “Barry hours.” The changeover took longer than expected but as mentioned, it was well worth it as it should set us up on solid footing for many years to come.
We added many new features and improvements that were well-received by many of you who use our site (and I do appreciate the positive feedback on the new features – I generally find that if I think something is useful for me, you’ll probably find it useful too). We also cleaned up a lot of reports, paring down many of the old and overlapping paddles, and we plan to continue to update the outdated information going forward.
Related sidenote: A funny thing happened when we were offline. So many paddlers were bummed about us being down that many accessed our reports via a cached version of the site (as well as via the Wayback Machine). Below is how people accessed our site – for real. It was desperation! And it kind of gave me a chuckle.
Invasive Species Report
We added a new feature story this year, where I co-conspired with Jeanne Scherer and the River Alliance of Wisconsin to work up an important and interesting Invasive Species Report prompted by the increase in New Zealand mud snails being found in local streams.
We also added a half-dozen new videos to our YouTube channel because capturing our experiences and sharing them with you is just part of the fun. Be sure to subscribe to us if you don’t already.
So, this also happened…. Yes, there’s now a Miles Peddled. It was inspired(?) by Miles Paddled apparently, but no, we aren’t in cahoots. That said, we got a kick out of the idea that Miles Paddled could be co-opted and become something different, albeit similar. Imitation really is the biggest form of flattery, and once again, we find ourselves flattered. We also had many laughs while concepting which urls to buy akin to Miles Paddled. Paddle, Peddle and Plow on, y’all!
Top 5 Paddles of 2021
Our Best Paddles lists have been a staple of the site for quite some time now. This year, we give you five more trips that differ quite a bit from each other, but are all well worth consideration for your next outing.
1: Deerskin River
Deerskin Road/Forest Road 2199 to Rangeline Road
The Deerskin River is a wild and mostly undeveloped little gem that gently meanders through classic northern Wisconsin landscape over crystal clear water, a sandy bottom and around occasional glacial erratic boulders. It’s a short but varied trip that changes complexion from open to forested to marsh, and back to forested surroundings. With easy accesses and an obstruction-free run from start to finish, it’s well worth the day trip if you’re in the Eagle River area. Quite frankly, this was a surprising little find that exceeded any of my expectations. Read the full trip report here.
2: Black River
Highway 73 to Willard Road
Two-for-one fun combining primitive-feeling creek paddling with the bigger but still rugged Black River, this outstanding trip is blessed with easy accesses and multiple options to shorten or elongate your time on the water – to say nothing of its numerous Class I-II rapids, impressive boulder gardens and wildlife opportunities. Read the full trip report here.
3: New Wood River
County Highway E to Tesch Road
A short northcentral Wisconsin lightwater trip, (made even shorter due to the closure of the once popular put-in just upstream from this ad hoc access point) the New Wood River is wildly appealing for its constant riffles and occasional Class I waves, but is best considered a companion run to others in the area when the water is up due to its abbreviated length. Read the full trip report here.
4: Kickapoo River
Highway 131 to Ontario
With water clarity as stunning as the sandstone rock outcrops before and above you, this “path less paddled” of the otherwise extremely popular Kickapoo River will dazzle newbies and delight old hands alike who sensibly wish to avoid the throngs further downstream. Water levels will often be low, and the put-in access might well be overgrown with brush and weeds in summer, but both of these caveats are well worth the price of admission to this extraordinary paddle trip. Read the full trip report here.
5: Grant River
Short Cut Road to County Road U
When it comes to Wisconsin driftless paddles, the Grant is as captivating as they come with its twists, turns, riffles and rock formations. However, there’s currently one big caveat and by big, we mean one big portage around an enormous pile of deadfall that has obstructed this normally free-flowing section. Even still, this river has been a go-to of ours for years and will continue to be, but it’s best paddled in spring when the foliage is less dense to expose more of its stunning features. Read the full trip report here.
We Gave and Gave and Gave once again
The best part of this site is that it’s enabled us to give to causes important to us. After paying hosting costs, I’m happy to say we were able to donate the extra profits from ad revenue and t-shirt sales once again.
Due to being down for a couple months we didn’t make the funds we normally do, but we made enough to contribute to the River Alliance of Wisconsin and American Whitewater once again, as well as Big City Mountaineers – a non-profit that provides the opportunity for young people from communities that have lacked equitable access to nature to engage in outdoor activities. Thanks to all of you who did support us, because you’re supporting others too.
Cheers to 2022
2021 has a been a blast, right? Riiight? While we may not have turned the corner on this pandemic back towards what we once were more familiar and comfortable with, we raise our half-full glasses of All Day IPA and cheers to all of you for a much better year ahead.
Paddling is a great escape and I feel lucky to have a moment on the water any time I can get it. Here’s to many wonderful moments and escapes for you in 2022, too.
Happy New Year, y’all!