It was early spring in Minnesota. And well, Ranger Tom was right about the beginnings of the Mississippi. There is a reason why the official headwaters are some thirty miles from the source. We were miserable. There were long stretches of time where our canoe was not a tool, but a burden. We had to get out and walk it across areas that didn’t even resemble a river. It was more like a swamp. That is what it was—a river swamp. And not a very deep one. We kept bottoming out. But we had been forewarned. Ranger Tom called it “humble origins” but we had another name for it—hell. We knew the general direction the river ran, so we just kept on heading northeast through this…well…swamp. We were wading through knee-deep water and dragging a canoe along. I don’t think I need to tell you that that water was not warm. It was only the end of April and it was Minnesota. We would take a step and sink down a foot in the muck. We had to take off our shoes or risk losing them. There was places where it was waist deep, which is more than enough to operate the canoe, but it seemed as soon as we would get ready to board, it was ankle deep and all tree stumps again. Like I said, miserable. As soon as we hit the official Mississippi Headwaters State Park though, everything just opened up before us. It became a river—deep and wide.