The bad, the good, and the ugly all reared their heads today.
Bad news is, I left the rubber cover to the charge port on my iPhone Six Plus off. Water condensed on the camera lens, so none of the great videos or photos of this very special day are usable. (The phone is fine, just poor quality of videos.)
There were several good news happenings. With John McCoy alongside the team, we had our own personal guide as we paddled from Quincy, Illinois to Mark Twain's home town of Hannibal, Missouri.
The drama started almost immediately as we paddled along side Lock # 21. Full to the brim, with overflowing waters, we made our way to the far side from the locks, preparing to paddle the spillway. I started SUP paddling far ahead to gain better vision. I was able to see that the waters flowing over the spillway were paddle-able. Not only possible, but I became the first member of our team to SUP through a Dam without using the lock.
The weather was perfect as we talked, socializing all the way to Hannibal. Paddling under the same bridge Mark Twain must have dreamed of was a thrilling experience.
On our arrival in Hannibal, we were blessed that my sister Judi Silvey and her daughter Shannon Williamson had arrived. Shannon is the one that has been taking my notes, videos and photos posting the to this website. When I saw them waiving from a riverboat dock, I just wanted to hug their necks right then but had to wait until we we could find land access.
The ugly part of the day was that the only place to land was behind the high flood gates on a sidewalk. The receding river left thick, soupy, mushy mud that was, in places as deep as the top of my shoes. We had to wheel the boats through the mud, over the dike, then back down to street level on the other side of the flood gate. Though muddy, and somewhat discouraged with the muddy conditions, we were very soon blessed with accommodations worthy of a king. First stop was the Mark Twain Brewing Co., where we all enjoyed a much-needed cold beer and delicious food. The offerings at John McCoy’s home were so perfect that I can’t even put it into words. It has just been a wonderful, wonderful day, with much to be thankful for.
I have another series of "You know you have been on the river too long when" --- phrases written for your entertainment in a future blog. Stay tuned!
Most of these photos were taken from the riverbank by Judi Silvey & Shannon Williamson, who were there to greet the crew as they paddled into Hannibal.
Today’s 38 miles were fast. In record time, we made it to Quincy, IL by 1700, and even had some time to goof around while paddling. Well, actually, Austin Graham goofed around…but we were all entertained!
When we arrived, the newspaper and TV media were waiting at the riverside for their interviews. River Angel and fellow kayaker, John McCoy, was also there to greet us. He treated us to the best chicken to ever hit my lips!
Very difficult 35 miles today. It took me a total of 11 hours. Paddled through two storms, and battled steady headwinds approaching 20 Knots. At times, forward progress was only inches per paddle stroke.
Persistence paid off and I reached the Keokuk, Iowa Yacht Club well before dark. The good folks at the club let us shower, wash clothes and we were able to pitch tents inside a boat storage building.
All indications are the high waters downstream from here will be challenging. Going for Quincy, IL early tomorrow morning.
High waters are making it almost impossible to find a dry spot to pitch a tent. The storm that came through few days ago also destroyed so many beautiful old trees. Paddled 35 miles today, not because we wanted to, just literally no place other than someone’s back yard to camp.
I asked several recreation boaters if they knew where we could stop. Most would simply say "there are none - all underwater". Was sent to one spot with dredged sand piled up near a vertical wall. As we surveyed the area, it was clearly impossible to even get out of the boat against the swift moving waters eroding the shore line.
By the time I made it back across the river, it was really too late for us to be on the water in a canoe. We found this seemingly deserted community with shoreline homes on a point. The river’s rapid currents had recently encircled the homes. Paddled through the neighborhood, trying to find anyone. There was no one. There wasn’t even one vehicle in this community of 50 or so homes - on a beautiful Saturday? Thankfully, the last downstream home had grass. Not much, but enough to safely erect a tent. Slept safely here through the night. We plan on getting out of here early in the morning.
We had a delicious treat for breakfast this morning. Wild mulberries topped off our cereal and powdered milk that Mike Cowan brought us yesterday. What a treat to find these delicious berries!
We paddled through two more locks today, and went 40 miles before we could locate a place to set up camp for the night. High waters have covered the sandbar system. Most trees along the shore are now on the water. Bad for paddling when you are looking for campsites, but good if you need to make up time! Tonight, we are in New Boston, IL, at river mile 433.
Today was the first time I had to stop paddling because of pain and fatigue. Crossing the relatively small pool (lake) above Lock and Dam #15 was almost impossible for this 80 year old paddler. Winds were fierce, blowing whitecaps in my face the entire crossing. Had to cross to the East bank to make any progress. It was very tense. I needed to paddle through the lock in time for media interviews scheduled for 1200 in Rock Island.
After four interviews, lunch, and a wonderful tour of the Navarro Canoe Company factory, we pushed on for more river mileage. Trying to make it to St Louis for the Fourth of July fireworks and a visit with the legendary Big Muddy Mike. It won’t be easy. I still have 12 more locks to pass through before reaching Alton, IL.
Signs that you "might" have been on the river too long:
1. You see a boat in a cove, look away for few seconds, and then it’s gone when you look back.
2. You stop paddling to take a quick drink of water, and then start paddling UP stream.
3. You drop a crumb from your Pop tart. You pick it up, blow off the sand and eat it because food supplies are low.
4. You strike a fire in wood that is loaded with mayflies and get swarmed. "Oh My Gracious Alive!"
A few more pictures, shared from friends today!
After the stress of yesterday, we finally settled in wet tents with dry sleeping bags. I awoke this morning, feeling optimistic about today’s weather report, and I was not disappointed by the outcome of beautiful weather.
Didn't get started paddling this morning until 0845, and by 2pm, I was setting at the lock and dam having, already paddled 31 miles. Conditions were directly opposite from yesterday. Not too hot, with following winds at 7 Knots. Paddling past “Bird Island” was a particular treat. Such an unusually beautiful sight.
After the team caught up, we all agreed to paddle an additional four miles to get to our campsite tonight. We camped across the river from downtown Clinton, IA. Hope you enjoy the photos and videos from today's paddle.
What an honor to have met these young men!
A decision had to be made as I paddled the 12 miles to Bellevue, IA. I had two options, either of which could spell disaster. Only one thing was certain. A big storm would soon pass overhead. Should I charge on to seek refuge in Bellevue, or wait out the storm somewhere on the shore line? With predicted 50 knot winds and some estimates even higher, staying in the boat was not an option. People were yelling from their shoreline homes to “get off the water!” Clouds were intensifying quickly. One lady even came running to the shoreline to show me the radar image. She predicted I had about 45 minutes to get off the water. I opted to go for the lock. Hope she joins Facebook so I can thank her.
It must have been the fastest lock passage ever. I pulled the cable for lockage and could immediately hear the gates start moving. In just a few short minutes, I was through lock #12 and behind the downstream wall. After grabbing the cell phone and empty solar battery, I started running. The brunt of the storm hit just seconds before I reached the security of a storefront in downtown Bellevue. Spent the morning at a restaurant, enjoying a hearty breakfast. I also had lunch there while waiting for the other paddlers to arrive.
Sorry that I was unable to make any photos or videos of this exciting last 24 hours. Every battery I had was empty by this time. The upstream weather conditions had taken their toll.
With no place to stay in Bellevue, the team decided to press on. Unfortunately, the only downtown hotel was closed on Mondays. With the help of a local police officer, we found a park we could camp at just two miles downstream. Please read tomorrow's blog for more.
Reflecting back on this day, one thing was clear - I made the right decision to leave our island campsite and press on to safety, where there was electricity to charge my devices.
I am thankful for all the blessings of this day. Ironically, the town where I received so much care and River Angel support is named Bellevue, the same name as my church in Memphis Tennessee. Is there a message to behold here?
Thankfully, Dale's phone service issues have been resolved. These images and videos are so spectacular that I couldn't resist posting them now, rather than later. Happy Father's Day, and enjoy!
6/22/15 Update from Dale via text message: Due to the lack of sunshine, my solar panel could not charge the battery for phone charging. So, I've been without power for around 36 hours. As you can see from the pictures, yesterday morning was dangerously foggy. Beautiful, but a bit unnerving at the same time. As we entered into Dubuque, Iowa, the large number of recreation power boats made it almost impossible to paddle. In spite of all the hardships yesterday, we still managed to paddle 35 miles, but every mile was earned the hard way. We were very fortunate to find a campsite when we did last night as they are few and far between in this neck of the river.
If not for the stormy weather, we would be right on target to arrive in Alton later today. Unfortunately, we have had another setback today, and have taken refuge in a wonderful little restaurant in Bellevue, IA, called the Carousel Corner. On the bright side, I'm charging my phone! Check back with us later tonight for the exciting details about getting here today.
When we paddled onto this island last night, little did we know it would be our storm refuge for the next 36 hours. Now trapped here for two nights. On the positive side, we have our own deserted personal private beach. Since it is an uninhabited island, however, the only way to communicate with the outside world is by phone. There are no facilities of any kind, just a friendly buck, some bobcat tracks and lots of turtle egg shells. Unfortunately, it looks like none of the eggs hatched, and were most likely eaten by the raccoons. Coons are industrious little creatures with a keen since of smell and delicate hands.
Phone service is sketchy at best. This, coupled with Sprint cutting my roaming service /data sharing capabilities, made matters worse. I have an unlimited plan that somehow Sprint found a way to limit. I cannot access the internet, receive incoming calls, or contact Sprint technical support since they allegedly “fixed the problem” last night. In a last ditch effort, I called the nearest Sprint store and was told that the problem is signals bouncing between two towers. Must leave this island to see if the problem is simply towers-related or otherwise.
It is now one in the morning and I must find some way to sleep in this humidity for we plan on paddling out at 0630. In less than four hours, must wake to pack. On the bright side - I can now see the stars for the first time in 48 hours.
The early bird gets the worm. At 0430 this morning, fish were striking everywhere - minnows jumping as high as 2 feet out of the water to avoid being eaten. If I were fishing, looks to me that early morning would be the best time.
As I paddled through the backwaters from Prairie du Chien, WI, I found the main channel by following "Where the Wild Rice Flows". Entered the river at mile marker 632 at 0845.
If I am to make it to St Louis by 4th July some daily routine changes will be necessary. I Have been blessed with the ability to find my inner next level. I may want to start paddling even earlier in the morning. Will need to make 30 miles per day through a couple dammed large pools each day. (I have always call dammed waters lakes). There are 17 dams remaining between here and Altona, Really looking forward to Paddling where the Mighty Mississippi flows freely to the Gulf of Mexico.
I am now paddling more alone than with the crew. To reach the Gulf of Mexico, I must set my own pace and not hold back. I must continue on, even if it means others are left behind. I do believe it is possible for all of us to finish at the Gulf of Mexico the same day, for the fast waters of the lower Mississippi will make it much easier to stay on schedule.
After paddling downstream a few miles, we stopped for breakfast at the home of River Angels John and Phyllis Verden in Lansing, Iowa. As you can see from these pictures, the view of the river from their house is spectacular! The food and fellowship was just what we needed, and was so appreciated by the whole team.
With an 8 knot wind coming up from the rear at about six o’clock to the boat, we paddled a total of 35 miles today. Using the signal rope again, we passed through lock #9 with no difficulties. I tend to like the signal rope because I don’t have to get the radio out or go to the trouble of locating the telephone number
This was the hardest paddle day so far. Paddled only 28 miles, directly into strong winds with white-capping waves. To make matters worse, I got deep into a stump field filled with wild rice.
Let me explain that last sentence. In this area, there are many man-made lakes, where they just cut down the trees and left the stumps in very shallow water. That’s what I’m calling a “stump field”. When we began our journey at the headwaters, the wild rice was not yet growing above the top of the water, and many times our only indication of where the current was flowing was to watch the wild rice underwater. So today we used our very own “GBA Theory” to paddle where the wild rice flows. Ever try paddling where the wild rice flows?
Got more wonderful notes today from friends who have made donations. It's all worth it when people you haven't seen for years donate and send inspiring notes…the Philippines, no less.
Met up with film crew, last night and camped on an island nine miles up from La Crosse, WI. It was peaceful paddle into the city where I was met by local TV Chanel 8. Enjoyed a very relaxing interview, which took place while I was still in my boat. Spent the day re-supplying, doing laundry and cleaning up. John Sullivan paddled ahead the day before, getting things ready for our arrival.
Found a wonderful campsite just across the bridge from downtown. The campground is most convenient and beautiful. Plan on paddling out at 0800tomorrow morning for waters less traveled, unknown to us, with storms predicted in the area. Sign in tomorrow to read about the adventures which lie ahead just down river.
The beauty of the river between Red Wing and LA Cross as it flows through hills and valleys is something to behold. Have been pleased with life in general these last few days. Bickering among the team has stopped, routine has become the norm and I usually can find things without having to open several bags . Having John Sullivan paddle alongside at such an appropriate time was a blessing.
Richard and I camped last night a mile up from Winona, MN. Today I paddled through one of the locks the old fashion way - used the signal rope. Went very smoothly and got a chance to experience the lockage without a two-way radio. We have now paddled through 10 locks and there is 20 to go before the river flows naturally just above its confluence with the Missouri north of St Louis.
I was interviewed today by Wenonah Canoes. We also enjoyed a delicious breakfast in downtown Winona. Plans are to start paddling at 0800 tomorrow. I think thefilm crew are "stealth" camping, so who knows where they are!
Looking forward to being in La Crosse tomorrow, as we pass through the last of the state of Minnesota and enter Wisconsin. I plan to do laundry and catch up on some reading while there.
He's a friend, a brother, a cousin. A seaman, a champion, a hero. A man who grew up with little, but has accomplished so much in his 80 years. Some call him "Papi", some call him the Greybeard Adventurer. I am proud to call him Uncle. Hope you enjoy this quick video. Happy Birthday Uncle Dale!
Speaking of which, the river is much wider in this area than I had imagined. The wider width is mostly because of the many small lakes one must paddle through to reach the faster waters below. After paddling through several locks and dams today, we still managed to paddle 40 miles. I paddled up to the last lock for the day and pulled the rope the old fashioned way. I wanted to experience the drama of this old fashioned lockage process, for it will likely change with time.
We ate cake most of the day. The extra calories must have given all of us some extra energy because we ended up paddling an unplanned extra distance before stopping for the night. Found this great campsite overlooking the city of Winona, MN and met yet another wonderful River Angel. The view of the city is spectacular.
"A view of the Lagoon near the campsite were John Sullivan and I slept the my first night of the fifth week on the river."
John Sullivan and I debated about leaving the fly off the tent last night. From experience, if you have to debate, it’s best to put it on. It was a good thing we did, because it started raining around 0300 and rained until around three this afternoon. Good night's sleep though.
We were able to dry things out this afternoon, and also found some time to hike into the marshes of lower Pepin. Several of the images were take in these marshes. One video is of a black water marsh I call home for the alleged Pepin Monster.
The mosquitoes here are very aggressive. If one can imagine how bad it is having to dig a hole for bathroom purposes, imagine how frustrating it was to have to swat mosquitoes at the same time. I squatted there, fanning them away as best I could, but the beasts are so fast that I still got bitten numerous times during a shortened potty call.
Did tent keeping (house keeping for those of you that live in Louisburg). Cleaned myself up and washed clothes. Thank goodness for WetOnes - one of only a couple creature comforts items I have with me. Right now, I am trying to take a nap but the beauty of this campsite makes it hard to sleep for to do so would mean that I have to take my eyes off the surrounding natural beauty of this area.
Richard Sojourner has arrived and camping with us. Must get some rest now. Plans are for early morning start.
Dale Crossing the ferocious Lake Pepin
As we approached our goal of paddling the length of Lake Pepin in one day, John made the best summary of the day: "Pepin was not going to make it easy for us to get out"! The alleged monster did find a way to get even, but we prevailed and found this beautiful lakeside campsite at the bitter end where water flows freely into the narrow river channel ahead.
I awoke at 0500 to begin preparing to leave from our camp before the expected rain came in. Unfortunately, it was already raining, so I put my rain gear on while I was still in my tent. Boy, was that a mistake! Read on for an ‘epic fail’ story, Greybeard style!
THE REST OF THE STORY....
By the time John Sullivan and I made it to the Red Wing Marina, I just couldn’t paddle any more. All day, I could feel my clothes getting wetter and wetter under the rain gear. I was just miserable in my concave seat of the boat. Upon stepping out of the boat, I immediately felt of the back side of my rain pants. Yep, I put them on backwards this morning. The fly of the pants had been gaped open, allowing the COLD rain water to slowly creep down the crack of my pants. Needless to say, it was even more obvious when I removed the rain gear! It is SO funny now, but at the time, I sure was frustrated! Ha!
Anyway, some misfortunes turn into gold. As we paddled into the marina at Red Wing, we heard a car horn blow. I was thanking the good Lord as Peg Linder introduced herself and explained that she was there to help. She took us to the Red Wing Boots Corporate office so that I could meet with Julie Quin and receive a pair of Red Wing’s newest water shoes: Vasque Water Shoes. These gems will be keeping my feet comfortable for many days and months to come.
Peg invited us back to her house where we are staying tonight. So thankful for the delicious food, conversation, and a roof over our heads tonight. We are so fortunate to have met this wonderful River Angel and her family!
Getting up at 0530 tomorrow for another early start
Our campsite tonight is ten miles downstream from Lock #2.
It was very exciting to be the last paddlers to use the Upper St Anthony Lock, which closed this evening. RIP Upper St Anthony Lock.
I hope you enjoy the images and videos I took as we passed through the three lock system. The paddle into Minneapolis was overshadowed by the lock experience, which in itself was breathtaking. Another highlight was a celebratory dinner at the home of River Angel Alice Kuenzil.
I'm the Grey Beard Adventurer. But you can call me Dale Sanders, and these are my stories.