Trapped on a raft of ice on the chilly St. Croix River for more than an hour Tuesday afternoon, Chris Dedrickson never panicked.
Not even as the icy current whisked him away from downtown Hudson, Wis., and beneath the Interstate 94 bridge more than a mile away.
He knew he was in a predicament, though, and as he drifted downstream toward Afton, he realized his prospects didn't look good and began to calculate just how he might escape.
"It was a pretty strong wind and it kept me out in the middle," said Dedrickson, 45, who tried unsuccessfully to steer the ice with two sticks before Washington County deputies came to his rescue. "I was thinking I could make my way to solid ice and walk to shore."
"Maybe," he said.
Tuesday's adventure started when Dedrickson was given a ride to an eye appointment in Hudson. Because the sun was out and the St. Croix was glittering, he walked over the jetty where the old interstate highway once crossed the river to downtown Hudson.
Near the end of it, he stepped onto the edge of the ice with no particular purpose in mind. Just then, a chunk the size of a medium-sized house suddenly broke off and began drifting into a portion of Lake St. Croix, which runs 80 feet deep.
Dedrickson, a carpenter who lives in St. Croix Beach on the east edge of Washington County, used his cellphone to call a friend to bring a canoe to help. About the same time, someone spotted him from the bridge and called 911.
The Stillwater Fire Department, towing a Washington County Sheriff's Office airboat, arrived at Beanie's boat launch just south of the I-94 bridge, and the Hudson Fire Department entered the river from the Wisconsin side. Shortly before 2 p.m., rescuers got to the ice sheet and pulled Dedrickson to safety.
Law enforcement officers later measured the water temperature at barely 33 degrees. The ice sheet could have disintegrated while Dedrickson was standing on it, or collided with something, said Sgt. Tim Harris of the Sheriff's Office.
"He was definitely in danger, no doubt about it," Harris said. "Especially with the water temperature like that you don't last too long because your muscles cramp up. We're definitely very thankful that he's safe."
His ordeal behind him, Dedrickson stood on the riverbank shortly after 2 p.m., surveying the scene. He thought of his father, who drowned on the river in a boating accident 39 years ago, not far from where the ice glided through deep, crystal blue water. Unlike the rest of the St. Croix, he said, that stretch stayed open through the winter because of the faster current.
Dedrickson said he was grateful for Tuesday's rescue but said he didn't panic. He was embarrassed, though, by the commotion he caused.
"I would have rather got in my friend's canoe and saved the taxpayers a lot of money," he said.
Dedrickson's family moved to the St. Croix River from the Frogtown neighborhood in St. Paul when he was a boy. He was 6 when a drifting log hit the family boat, killing his father.
Despite that bitter memory, Dedrickson has spent much of his life around the river, and a few years ago made a solo, 1,050-mile journey from just north of Stillwater down the St. Croix and Mississippi rivers to Kentucky.
"It was the adventure of a lifetime," he said.