Adventurous retirees
Wisconsin River flotilla recent experience for local group
By Margaret Richman
Most of the group gathered next the river for a group shot. Climbing up a bluff provided a scenic overlook of the Wisconsin River.

“Don’t own a rocker—off their rockers” is a more fitting adage for this group of adventurous area retires.

Daytrips and week-long trips by foot, bicycle, snowshoe, motorcycle or watercraft keep these seniors at a never-say-oldster status. Chuck and Bonnie Schucknecht, Dale Voskuil, and Mary Depies recently took a group of underlings on their annual explore a river kayak and canoe daytrip proving adventure in life is unending.

The annual river flotilla began around a decade ago as a tradition among Chilton area teachers. More than a dozen people have participated in the excursions which have led to the exploration of multiple river routes throughout the state. As customary, the group welcomes the less experienced to join the fun and this year four stepped up to the challenge of keeping up with the veterans.

The chosen water was the Wisconsin River with a drop off point in Mazomanie and exit point 10 miles down river near Spring Green. With outstanding weather on their side, the motley crew of eight began their paddling escapade with Voskuil’s first of many self-depreciating jokes: “You will all be disappointed to know that I couldn’t find my Speedo this morning.”

Voskuil, an experienced canoeist and canoe building artisan, has propelled his way down this section of river in the past and thus was placed in the Sacagawea role. Knowing that following a winding river is unlike finding your way out of the woods, the others were shored up with confidence and away they floated.

Lunch port was at Ferry Bluff, a DNR owned property designated as a State Natural Area. Sea legs were shaken out (or rather cramped legs stretched and tired arms massaged) and the group huffed their way up the trail to the sandstone ledge of the bluff. Bonnie Schucknecht quietly impressed upon the group that when a joint becomes worn out, trade it in for new hardware as she scampered up the terrain on her bionic hips without difficulty.

Two hundred feet above the river valley with views that stretched 20 miles, remarks like, “Do you believe this is Wisconsin?” were heard amongst the group. The view was remarkable, provided for memorable photo opportunities, and was worth a trip in itself.

The bluff top further getting-to-know-you conversation was intermixed with continued wise-cracks from Voskuil. “I always told my students that they wouldn’t believe it but I use to be a nerd” and Chuck Schucknecht’s rub of freedom in retirement, “I wonder how the working folks day is going?” With bellies now full, scenic views implanted in cameras and banter over, the mixed group of eight trudged back down the trail to carry on their paddling spree.

The tranquility of the water, amazing views, and continued establishment of friendships were temporarily interrupted with a brief oops-a-daisy. If Voskuil’s continued jokes weren’t enough (“I lost 15 pounds and no longer have to weigh in at the co-op”) he provided new fodder when a bolt on his canoe seat unscrewed causing the seat to fall and he to lose balance. The result was a head over heels tumble into the river. Once establishing the river at a walkable 3.5 foot depth and Dale and all his belongings intact, the group’s “oh no’s” and “are you OK’s” were quickly replaced with some uncontrolled “blah ha haas.” Needless to say, the calamity will provide Voskuil new material for his cache of witticisms for years to come.

The day with the retirees continued on with their quest for adventure and sharing it with others. Kayaks and canoes now on trailers, the group took a vehicular side track to experience the Merrimac Ferry. Of course there was a more direct route to the restaurant but the experience of adding the ferry ride onto the excursion is a small example of their “it’s all about the journey” credence.

Much is to be learned from inter-generational gatherings for all parties involved. The retirees enjoy time with family, friends and involvement in church and civic duties. But time for adventure is important too. The Schucknechts said,

Turn to PADDLE/page 5