Layne covered his lips with his finger in a gesture to be quiet. He whispers in my ear "there is something in there". We could see it walking our way now, only a few yards inside the thick undergrowth.
Layne Logue is paddling with me to Natchez. He is great at spotting creatures, small and large, that I would never know were stalking and closing in on our campsite across the river from the day marker and light at mile marker number 399.3.
Today has been a whirlwind of activities. Starting out with my awakening at 0400 (my routine starting time each day). I spend the extra morning time catching up on Facebook posts, emails, texts and messages. I also finish writing the daily blogs in the early AM. Today, however, was different. Richard was concerned that his symptoms of heat exhaustion still lingered. Thank God there was no signs of heat stroke.
Richard was awaiting results from some test the Doctors had given him the day before. He had heat exhaustion symptoms during the paddle into Vicksburg. While at the doctor’s office yesterday, he had been instructed not to paddle until the blood work test results were known. We expected to hear the results from the Doctor this morning.
Richard and I both packed as if both of us were paddling to Natchez. Tim brought us breakfast. The Shipley Donuts of Vicksburg are the best ever. Paired with fresh coffee, we got our gear loaded and off to the ramp before the 0800 interview with the Vicksburg Post.
A local youth with Type 1 Diabetes, following me on SPOT and her friend was there. She became part of the interview process. That was an emotional time for both of us. Here I am paddling for her, plus thousands of others so afflicted, and the mission may have to come to an end here on the boat ramp in Vicksburg, Mississippi.
As the interview ended the test results were in. Richard was instructed not to paddle until further tests could be done. The doctor felt he would need to followup with with his doctor's at home in three or four days. This was yet another setback that was added to the emotional rollercoaster of the last two days. But Richard and I are survivors, and a solution was soon to be found. Several options were discussed. His plans now are to re-join the Cruising for a Cure Expedition downriver in a few days. Layne and I paddled out from Vicksburg at 1030 this am.
By the way, the creatures stalking us turned out to be a very large raccoon and two bucks.
At the doctor's office, Tim McCarley and I waited in the parking lot. Richard had some issues that appear to be dehydration related. The doctor checked him thoroughly and all looks as though we will be able to paddle again, starting tomorrow. A late day start. But we must wait for lab blood work results. To keep tabs on start time, follow SPOT, which you can access on this website.
Today has been restful, a needed day off. Having paddled 100 miles in two days did task my old body has been pushed to the maximum. After a day of rest, both Richard and I will be in much better shape to deal with the high waters and heat issues. While I was busy writing this blog, River Angel Tim McCarley was busy trying to find a way to solve the "shade" problem for Richard's kayak. Amazingly, Tim was able to solve the problem and Richard will now have shade following him down the river.
Tonight, we went out on the town with Layne Logue. Loved the new "10 South" restaurant atop the 10 story Trust Mark building in downtown Vicksburg, MS.
Will get more needed rest tonight, and get up in the early AM for a newspaper interview. But first I would like to mention my family. To Merriam Sanders, my wife, for taking on the responsibility of running our home so I can paddle. To Judi Silvey, my sister, who without her massive efforts fund raising and providing outstanding on river ground support there would be no Cruising for a Cure Expedition. To Shannon Williamson, my niece, who has made the Jonathan Brown created fantastic Grey Beard Adventurer website even better with her daily maintenance and postings. To Elaine Sanders, my sister, who has provided much needed land and river side support. To AnnA, the poster child, and her parents, Tom and Angie Silvey, who's support was essential as well as allowing me to name my boat "AnnA". And to my children Jony, James and Sunshine for their loving support. I love all my family and thank those mentioned and un-mentioned, all down through 43 first cousins and 100's of second and third cousins, most whose roots can be traced back to Lickskillet, Kentucky.
The Sanders, Silvey and Hankins families all hope this Cruising for a Cure Expedition, in some small way will help find a cure for Juvenile Diabetes.
Saw briers under the tent, saw briers growing across passage to the boats, and saw briers hanging from the trees. This is not to mention the other vines, like poison oak, which fortunately has never been a problem for me. There were a couple dozen older saw briers blocking the passage to the boats, which I easily broke and moved aside. Although I did get pricked a few times, I was able to clear the passage before Richard awoke. Still can't figure out how we actually set up our tents last night. We must have been exhausted. The photos here were taken this am after I cleaned up the campsite. The boats are now loaded and ready for paddling. We left this makeshift campsite at the at the crack of dawn hopefully never to set foot here again.
Richard and I agreed to boat closer together from now on, a subject debated numerous times since we departed Lake Itasca on May 15th. With this heat, coupled with not being able to find dry grounds, and for a multitude of safety reasons, it is now crucial we stay within shouting distance. The need to paddle close to each other became apparent yesterday when Richard lost sight of me and I passed him on river left. He was just too far ahead to see my boat approaching as he awaited for me on the far side of the river.
It really must be boring for Richard, waiting for me numerous times throughout the day. His sleek, speedy kayak is much faster than my bulky touring canoe. I try hard, often too hard because of my competitive spirit, and sometimes just can't keep his boat in tow. It happened again today as Richard paddled on ahead arriving in Vicksburg "forty-five five minutes" ahead of me.
Richard must get out of the heat of the sun, finish early enough to avoid the mid day heat. For me I don't have this problem. My large wind tunnel designed umbrella from Germany acts as a shade tree. Possibly even better than natural shade because of its UV protection level. Coupled with pouring water over my head I am perfectly comfortable, even in the heat of the afternoon when the heat index is in the triple digits.
Unfortunately, my loyal paddle partner Richard Sojourner does not have shade following him down the river. Those who paddle in extreme heat, without shade have never experienced the comfort level created with following shade. No shade for Richard's boat, yet though. We still have not figured out how to mount a protective cover and still have paddling clearance.
A solution to this issue must be found prior to paddling out on Friday morning. That solution could very well include paddle early, paddle in full moon, break up the day in two segments, as well as find a way to shade a kayak cockpit.
Tune in tomorrow to see what solution(s) we came up with.
Earlier today, a funny thing happened. River Angel, and soon to be Source to Sea paddler, Matt Burdine tried to catch up with us at Mayersville, Mississippi. Unfortunately, we were paddling so fast that he he arrived with food too late. The alternate plan was for him to meet us on the levee a few miles downstream. The sandwiches were great. Thanks Matt! Too bad that paddling over to the levee became almost an impossible task.
Matt blew his car horn several times. I was finally able to figure out where the sound was coming from. We found the boat ramp. Well, we "thought" we he was there. Started paddling up the road only to find that there was a long stretched out section of the water. Walked over the hill, tried wading, and just went deeper and deeper. Richard even tried swimming and turned back. The side currents were ferocious. But I wasn't going to pass up free food. Unloaded my canoe, dragged it down the road until the road re-entered the water. Richard climbed in the boat with me and I paddled us over to the jetty where we ate well.
The expected campsite was missing. Nothing except tree tops visible above the surface of the water.
Before leaving Greenville, we made detailed plans on where to camp this night. There were three options, but we decided on the site furthest down river. At 50 miles, we paddled up to the recommended site, finding it submerged. There was no dry land to be found.
Having seen several homes on the west bank we made the decision to paddle across, thinking there would be a place where we could pitch a tent. Even if it meant trespassing. It would be dark in two hours and it could take that long to find any dry ground. Nothing could be worse than spending the night in our boats all night, fanning off mosquitoes.
The shoreline on the east bank was all flooded - no homes, nothing where we could get out and walk. Crossed back to the other side.
Desperate now, we were ready to take anything long as we could get out of the boat. Saw what looked like sand at the north end of an island. Turned out to be logs and other debris washed in - no ground of any type.
Paddled through several more islands with no exposed ground. Saw on the distant tree lined east shore what appeared I be a ten to twenty foot sandy bank. Richard said no, but I was now relying on faith and the higher power that it would be usable land, even if we had to set in camp chairs all night.
There it was, a little piece of sand. The bank was only a couple of feet high. Matted with saw briers and years of under growth, I manage to explore just enough to see that, with some work, we could pitch a tent. I was not leaving the site no matter how bad it was, which is the second time today that I set my jaw in determination.
Both Richard and I are having a difficult time cooling down tonight. Our makeshift site is nothing to behold, but it is dry. We have been in and out of the water several times, just to somewhat keep our core temperature down to acceptable levels. Now, after a quick bite for dinner, no cooking, we are setting here with all the expected nature's critters waiting for the air temperature to cool down enough to get inside the tents. The mosquitoes are getting more aggressive now that it is dark. Must get inside now, even if is hot in our canvas shelter.
Plans are to paddle out at the crack of dawn tomorrow. Must find a way to beat the heat and this is our only acceptable option.
Taking a rare "0" day, meaning no paddling today. Great evening of entertainment last night. Most of all enjoyed the company of the Keens and their air conditioned home!
Now that I have had a chance this day to dry out "stuff" want to take a moment and reflect on the background, reason for the Cruising for a Cure Expedition in the first place.
In the spring of 2004 I paddled from my birth place, Lickskillet, Kentucky to Memphis via Whippoorwill Creek. Followed the Red into Tennessee and back into Kentucky on to Lake Cumberland into Kentucky Lake. Down the Ohio and on to Memphis via the Mississippi. This trip left me with a burning desire to continue my pursuit to expand my horizon exploring other outdoor long distant paddle, bicycle and hiking expeditions.
Considered hiking the Appalachian Trail until I found out the oldest through hiker to complete the journey was 82 years ago. Since I was only 80 last year decided to wait couple years.
It was a relatively peaceful night to be camping in the woods. Made the best of last night's fast exit and found protection from an incoming storm. To the folks we met on the river, and those whose property we stayed on last night, “We thank you for your support!”
With temperatures soaring, we left early and paddled fast as we could muster. We hoped to reach Greenville in time to go to Church with John and Sam Keen. The extreme heat slowed our progress substantially. We even made our own passage through to the flooded point leading to Lake Ferguson. Thankfully, we reached the US Coast Guard Station at noon, just before the heat became unbearable. John Keen was able to meet me at the station ramp. While there, we met the fine folks on duty and enjoyed every minute of their company.
I want to thank the Jazz Persuasion Band who played at Lillo’s Restaurant in Greenville last night. Their generous donation to help fight Juvenile Diabetes was an awesome surprise! With support like this, we most certainly will reach our fundraising goal. Let's all speak for these children who so often have no voice being heard by society.
Will be paddling out from Greenville at 0500 tomorrow morning. Want to thank all the fine folks in Greenville for their support and hospitality. As John Ruskey would say "May the River be with You", especially the Keens, and God bless you and your family.
The day started out with us having to navigate around a wing dike. From there, we mostly followed the channel for 36 miles, which often has the fastest flow. Under normal circumstances, the channel is usually where the barges go. However, in flood stage conditions, this is not the case.
We have learned that the barge skippers tend to follow the path of least resistance. With abundant route choices in deep waters, upstream captains tend to navigate outside the charted channels, powering through the slow flowing waters, whichever side of the river that might be. This unauthorized, possibly illegal, navigation outside the designated route forces human powered paddlers to constantly be vigilant. With normal paddle speed ranging from six to eight MPH, we must be proactive for miles ahead to decide where an upcoming barge might pass. Under flood conditions, you can take nothing for granted.
The approaching storm now was close enough to send it's winds in our direction. Separated by wind and current, I was unable to get my umbrella down in time to enter a channel, with Richard between two islands. This set off a chain of events leading to another night of "Creative Camping" as Brad and Austin have coined the phrase so perfectly.
Richard was several hundred yards downstream when we re-entered the channel. Paddled hard as possible to catch up with him and cross the river, staying clear from of an upcoming barge at the same time. We needed shelter from the impending storm. I spotted a home complex on the far left shore that looked promising.
Richard would soon be too far downstream to make it to this potential oasis. I tried yelling, called him on the phone, radio and nothing I could do was getting his attention. The storm was now too close, we must find shelter. Richard was focused on downstream shelter, paddling far ahead. This left me with one viable option. I had to give up on contacting him and find shelter inside the left bank flooded trees. With Richard's location unknown, I weathered the winds, as the storm ended up passing mostly north of my position. Fizzled out with only some lightening, wind and little rain.
Once the worst of the storm had passed, I knew that I must find Richard. Again, there was no phone service and no radio contact. It looked like he just vanished around the corner. On the other side of the trees was a sandy service road. I walked to it, looking for any clue as to what my next options were. There were none that were immediately apparent, so I returned to the boat. As I paddled through the trees, I noticed a four wheeler powering down the road that I had just left.
The flooded shore line forest was dense, forcing me to yell out "Richard" several times. Then it came, a voice from the deep, he was OKAY, and was already paddling up through the trees toward me. What a relief!
We started looking for campsite options. Finding none, I began walking the road before the four wheeler returned. At first they seemed surprised, concerned that some miserable looking unknown human creature was trespassing on their property. Those feelings of doubt suddenly changed to sympathy and concern. They wanted to help after I introduced myself and explained the expedition mission . Thank God for the multi-family River Angels who also know John Keen, whose home we intend to spend the night tomorrow.
Two of the children of one family have a friend with Juvenile Diabetes. We gave them bracelets and words of encouragement to pass on. After a shower and some great conversation, we were four-wheeled back to our boats, where we sat up camp for the evening.
At noon, Richard and I were close to our goal of 30 miles downriver and decided to pass up several sand beaches before lunch. That was a mistake. I failed to notice that we were entering the delta, where the White and Arkansas Rivers married up with the Mississippi. The entire area, with levees several miles from the river basin, was filled with flood waters.
By the time we reached the White River, getting out of the boats was a high priority. Paddled into the confluence thinking there would be land access with drinking water, as was the case the last time I paddled this area. That was another mistake. Turbulent waters soon took their toll, forcing our boats into the huge eddy at the south side of the dying White River. Our attempt to paddle into the woods turned out to be a life saver. There it was - dry ground, with an old, abandoned cabin. Now we could rest and sleep a little to make up for the sleepless hours last night.
Those following SPOT can see where we stopped as well as where we ended up camping in a side yard of a weekend resort. Tried to get permission but wasn't until after we sat up tents that I realized why none of these beautiful homes were occupied. The roads coming in were flooded. No way to access this community by vehicle.
Prepared for a hot evening in the tent. The bitter and the sweet came soon after. Rain caught us outside under umbrellas. It fell in sheets, wind blew the tents sideways but sweet part was the cool air. When I was finally able to enter my tent, found it dry and reasonably cool. Thank God, for I would now sleep well for the evening.
Richard was not so fortunate. Wind and rain was so strong the fly mashed into the tent and, for those of you that camp, you know what happens when extra seam and fabric sealer is not applied before leaving home.
After this first downpour, it rained hard a few more times during the night. Unfortunately, with poor cell service, we were unable to access our favorite phone app, "My Radar", to check weather conditions. As I write this blog, the sun is beginning to show signs of rising and I still don't know if Richard slept dry for the evening.
It was hard to leave John Ruskey’s this morning. The place is a paddlers dream. After saying goodbye to the others, we floated out and alongside the elevated pedestrian walkway that snakes its way through the submerged forests of Helena. Upstream wind hit us immediately upon entering the river waterway, and we battled headwinds all the way to mile marker 633, which is where we sat up camp for the evening.
Thirty miles into the paddle, we spotted a potential campsite. Turning our boats to paddle to the shore, we noticed (for the first time) a big, dark, cloud that was rapidly approaching. Richard and I immediately became concerned and paddled faster. About that time, a weather alert sounded from my cell phone. We knew that the sandy bank we just passed was the only hope for getting ashore before the storm hit. We needed protective refuge, and FAST!
Didn't quite make it to shore before the weather front hit us fast and hard. Paddling up stream now, and with the wind against the current, it was nearly impossible to continue with forward momentum. I finally made it to shore, just short of where the sands began. Had to drag the boat behind me as I walked the final steps to the safety of dry land. Set up camp faster than ever before. Only took ten minutes and I was drying out inside the tent.
For those of you following my journey with SPOT, you will understand the value of this tool. I can't imagine exploring remote areas like this section of the Mississippi without SPOT. Thank you to Globalstar for making this unit part of my Expedition. You are a great sponsor.
Richard Sojourner and I are the only team members still paddling. The Adventureitus Productions team will meet us again above Baton Rouge. Jonathan Brown had to return early to Memphis, and Isaiah Allen only paddled with us the one day. The absence of their wonderful companionship has hit me today, and the loneliness of this huge river has set in. But Richard and I have miles and miles left to paddle and have no plans to stop before reaching the Gulf of Mexico.
We plan on paddling out Early a.m. tomorrow to make up for lost mileage today.
Wind from the approaching storm front was forcing my boat sideways. Felt like the starboard side was lifting…
We departed Cat Island at 0900. The film production crew from Adventureitusproductions.com had been busy shooting scenes from our "Creative" campsite, which turned out to be a pleasant nights stay. The Paddle for Prevention team, Corey Smock and Lance Loney, who had joined us for the evening paddled us again.
After a brief lunch stop in Tunica, Mississippi, we paddled past several beautiful sandy beaches where camping would be perfect. I mention this, for until today, I could count on one hand the number of sand beaches we have seen since St Louis, MO.
Approached West Helena and took a flood stage shortcut. Had to paddle over several wicked wing dikes at the beginning of this three mile passage. Those tracking me on SPOT can see my route. Upon entering the chute, could see an approaching storm brewing down river. By the time Jonathan Brown and I had paddled two thirds through, the storm arrived. Richard had paddled on ahead, and the boys from Adventureitus Productions were miles behind.
I have become accustomed to up river wind conditions and knew how to avoid being swamped. Backed the craft into the dense bushes under midsize shoreline trees, giving the best storm protection possible under these conditions. Tried paddling. It was less than a mile to Helena. Just couldn't make any promises. The Mississippi is huge at flood levels. So wide that paddling in storm winds could spell disaster. Fortunately the wind subsided, and was able to paddle the remaining mile into Quapaw at Helena without incident. We were blessed by yet another fine day on the Mighty Mississippi.
It was such an honor to be at John Ruskey’sQuapaw Canoe Company in West Helena, Arkansas. I now have visited both of the Quapaw locations and can say the on-river programs that John offers are a sight to behold. Programs are suited for all skill levels, including the first time paddler. I will soon be honored to paddle with the legendary John Ruskey for the first time.
It is Tuesday morning and my stop in Memphis is now only a memory. Paddled out from downtown Memphis as scheduled. It was hot and muggy, but the excitement of the moment overshadowed all the discomforts of being confined to the cockpit of my Wenona Canoe, which John Ruskey of Quapaw Canoe Company had played a major role in selection and acquisition. Was blessed with John's presence as we left Memphis, as well as Rod Wellington of Canada, Jonathan Brown from the Apple headquarters, and many of my family members and local supporters.
The team paddled out at 1230. We were accompanied by Isaiah Allen who joined us for the day. As we maneuvered through the fast moving waters toward our planned campsite on Cat Island, the team was still floating with euphoric joy from our brief stop in Memphis.
Our campfire highlighted the evening. I could see it from my tent front door, beautifully sparkling and surrounded by laughter from teammates who gathered for an evening of entertainment. Sorry I could not stay to enjoy the serenity of the moment, but the whirlwind of activities over the past three days had taken their toll. I had no more miles to paddle before I slept.
Today was another one of the team's "planned" days off. Here's some photos and videos from today and a few more from Saturday's event. Whew, was it ever a weekend for the books! The team will leave at 11am on Tuesday, July 21, to finish the last leg of the trip.
Attended church with my wife this morning. I have missed my Bellevue church family so much over these weeks. It was wonderful to feel their love and support in person, rather than from afar. The day was spent without the distractions of "business as usual" as I rested and caught up with what has been going on at home.
The following pictures are shared, with permission. Hope you enjoy John Keen's photographic journal of yesterday's excitement! Again, I am humbled by the love and support of my Memphis friends and family.
Paddled through the woods and up the chute to where SPOT Tracker had been turned off the night before. Found paddling up stream difficult, but with adrenalin flowing high, we managed to reach the bean field where we encountered the six foot vertical bank the night before. With SPOT working perfectly, I managed to finish writing the blog for yesterday while waiting for cameras to be positioned. With GoPro cameras mounted on our vessels, the paddle into Shelby Forest was no longer a dream…but a reality.
There she was, standing in front of a huge sign, my wife Merriam and Mollie my dog. There was a large gathering of people, many sporting long creative grey beards and shouting love and encouragement from the river’s edge. I can’t tell you how good this felt to see Meriam, Molly, and Memphis. The next hour was filled with greetings, photographs, hugs and tears. It was surely the highlight of the trip. Cameras were everywhere.
The paddle downriver into Memphis with 36 boats was filled with laughter and joy as we managed to stay within the fast waters of the channel in the flooded, now turbulent, waters. Needed to avoid the wing dikes as well as the barges, whose navigation routes are unpredictable in this flooded area. Passed four barges without difficulty and made our way to Mud Island.
The Adventureitus Productions crew, Brad Tallent, Austin Graham, and Coltin Calloway (who traveled from Cookeville, TN to join the fun) were able to shoot movie theme scenes, footage that has been long awaited. Thankfully they were able to use motorboats made available by Tom Roehm. It was a beautiful “3 hour tour”! When we rounded the southern bend of Mud Island, there was yet another large crowd of followers awaiting. This approach to downtown was once again emotional, a site to behold.
I was blessed to have Richard Sojourner and the camera crew along side of me. Also thanks to Jonathan Brown for flying in from California to be part of this great festivity. Another special guest was paddler/author, Rod Wellingon, who journeyed from Canada to join this momentous event. My feelings of joy, excitement and appreciation are hard to express in just a few words within a blog.
I want each and every person involved to know that their efforts were appreciated. A great cheer of appreciation goes out to Boar’s Night Out Barbeque and Catering, who DONATED the best pulled pork I ever put in my mouth. WOW, did it hit the spot! Cooked to perfection, the pork had just enough juiciness and smoke flavoring to make your mouth water with each bite. Sweet Swine O Mine provided the dry seasoning and the sauce, which was to DIE FOR! These two organizations are very involved in “Operation Barbeque Relief”. The mission of Operation BBQ Relief is to provide compassion and to offer hope and friendship to those whose lives have been affected by disasters across the United States through their expertise in cooking and catering barbecue meals. We were honored to have them present at our gathering.
Again, the Mississippi has kept us captive within hits flooded banks. Twenty miles up from Shelby Forest, we started looking for a campsite. Nothing. Nada. The two potential sites were on the far side of the river, and were too far to reach in these fast moving waters. There would be no possible way to round a bend see dry land and paddle a craft across without a couple mile downstream drift.
Attempting to find some form of creative campsite, we paddled into the chutes north of Shelby Forest. Found one decent site in the corner of a bean field, but with no way to get the boats up the six-foot bank, we had to remove this option from the table. Strike three. With one strike left, we decided to paddle on toward the Shelby Forest boat ramp. We were hoping to find land access upstream a little. With strike 3 taken, the boat ramp gave us our first opportunity to set foot on dry land since we left this morning.
Now, for the rest of the story….
The Cruising for a Cure Expedition went into covert stealth mode , and now we must admit the truth. We called for help.
Finding no suitable campsite at the Shelby Forest boat ramp, we called Mike Watson. He and Ellen live nearby. We asked them to please bring water (and fried chicken) because we had not been able to refill our water jugs for three days.
After Mike and Ellen’s arrival, they offered to let us stay at their home. We quickly agreed to this option and loaded our boats on his trailer. Immensely enjoyed the night in their home.
This morning, (July 18th), Richard and I put in early, paddled back up river to where I turned SPOT off last night. Now, as we paddle in at 11am, all will not know the truth until they read this blog. Haha—looks like we pulled it off. Thanks to the Watson’s, the crew from Adventureitus Productions, and a couple of other folks.
Bonus Blog Entry
I hope you can all take a few minutes to enjoy the absolute beauty of this video, compiled by John F. Sullivan. The beauty, as seen from the eyes of so many...just breathtaking!
Water surged into the radiator grill and was flowing past the vehicle at great speed.
Jonathan Brown and I walked out to the deepest waters on the access road to Tam's Landing. Richard Day had spent the night camping with us in the gravel parking lot. Richard had to drive through the flooded roadway on his way out, which had receded only half an inch or so overnight. Much to my surprise, he made it through.
It was a slow day of paddling. This was the first day with Jonathan. With only 30 miles to paddle in fast waters, there was no need to hurry. Used the time wisely, and took lots of photos and videos, which will be uploaded to this website soon as possible.
Started looking for campsites at 25 miles into the paddle. With high waters, we were not able to stop for lunch or to take any comfort stops. Did everything we could to paddle up the channel to Osceola, AK. Unfortunately, it was not meant to be. The high flood waters were just too swift to paddle against. Finally, after 33 miles, we found this little piece of sand, the first we have seen in many days.
Turns out, unlike last night, there are very few of the blood sucking flies or mosquitoes on this beautiful little beach. Hope you enjoy the videos and images of the day once Internet service is available.
Wrecked tug boats, half-sunk barges, and thousands of blood sucking flies. Uhhh…Is this where Jonathan Brown dropped a pin on Apple Maps for him to join us later today? That was the question we were a asking ourselves.
We left the beautiful town and great folks of Caruthersville early morning to avoid the expected intense heat later in the day. Our stay had been very prosperous, and included meeting a tug boat worker and his family who turned out to be amazing River Angels. He and his fellow workers greeted us on the river as we paddled through.
Paddled the 28 miles to what we “thought” was Tam's Landing, but it turned out to be one mile short. Also received a text that the landing was flooded and that a local farmer had built a dike the roadway. When we arrived at the correct landing, I immediately walked up the road to see what was going on. Found the problem a half-mile up. The road was flooded, diked along the edges, and the fast flowing waters looked impossible to drive through.
Put in options were limited, seemingly too difficult to attempt. A lone truck pulled into camp. "No problem" was the driver’s response to our questions about the depth of the flowing water. We notified Richard Day that he could drive on through. The rest you can see on video.
Alter all the difficulties of the day had been solved, it was a great evening of laughter, fireworks, chasing off flies and mosquitoes.
Dale currently has limited cell tower signal. Photos and videos have not been uploaded. This post will be updated as soon as possible.
Day of rest in Caruthersville, MO. Even though I am not on the water today, my work as an ambassador for raising awareness of Juvenile Diabetes and research funding continues.
I am so blessed Richard Sojourner, Brad Tallent and Austin Graham have been so elegantly involved with me in working with all of the fine folks here today. I have met some many people in this wonderful town. The Mayor, the Chief of Police, County Commissioners, Judges, many city employees and a host of citizens who have stopped by following me on SPOT and TV coverage.
Planning a big paddle this Saturday for Shelby Forest to Memphis. Anyone wishing to paddle with us please go to bluffcitycanoeclub.org and register.
The day is almost over, the air is beginning to cool down, with slight winds on following River. How good it is to be alive and of this earth.
Just a few of the wonderful people we have met in the past few days.
Paddled thirty miles today in intense heat. There is an obvious lack of the "Normal" conditions that I was able to enjoy the last couple times I paddled this section. There is water everywhere. Mosquitoes love it. But I am now safely tucked away in my tent.
The fast waters brought us here quickly, which is a good thing. Several vehicles and others in golf carts have stopped by, largely because my story aired on TV in this area the night before.
With this BLOG decided to release the second of a series of phrases: You know you have been on the river too long when, (true happening):
1. When you realize that all mosquitoes have the same first name.
2. When you can no longer smell your paddle partner's body odor.
3. When you think paddling over the dam is a good idea.
4. When the island ahead of you looked like it was sliding off to the right.
5. When you look 360 on a Saturday in June, with 20 knot winds and find that yours is the only boat on the Lake.
6. When lying on the ground you awake from a nap, reach out to stretch, accidently touch a fellow partners leg and think it is the dog.
7. When a large log rises from the Muddy waters and you think it is the Loch Ness Monster.
8. When you stop paddling to go # 1…and realize that SPOT has revealed your location.
9. When your air mattress looks pregnant.
10. When you resort to using a floating cottonwood tree as a playground.
11. When your own clothing items smell so bad that you can't stand them.
12. When you eat natural foods found along the river to supplement food supply.
13. When you see a small slice of sunshine until it is eaten by clouds.
14. When you can't wait to zip down.
15. When you try and paddled from under an approaching storm.
16. This one is not true but we have joked about it several time --- When you see an empty barge and think it is loaded with dehydrated water.
Paddled down the long road leading into Fort Defiance. The entire park is six feet underwater. The Mississippi and Ohio rivers are now flowing as one, and there is an impressive amount of fast-moving water. The whirlpools, the rapids at wing dykes, and the approaching waves from upcoming barges all have doubled in size.
With the Ohio now above us, the number of barges has increased. Today, within one short section, there were six upcoming and two downstream barges…plus our three boats…all sharing the same waters. This is when I got my Marine Radio out, and for the first time on this entire journey, felt I truly needed it. Thank you to my son, Jony, for giving it to me. It could have possibly saved my life. The problem is, the barges are not staying in the channels. Upcoming barge captains ignore buoys and seek our shore line for slow moving waters. We found ourselves having to paddle between and among them. Happy to say that the skippers were most polite while instructing us through this congested area without incident.
Sun is coming up over our beautiful campsite --- must pack up now and paddle the 30 miles to New Madrid, Missouri which will be our next stop.
The tent swayed violently back and forth in the wind storms of last night.
Packed out and left the critter-infested levee campsite at 1100 today. After two violent storms last night, we were ready to leave this unprotected finger of land with miles of stagnant waters backed up on the so called protected side of the levee. No place to be during a wind storm, which we graphically experienced, hopefully for the last time. But, with water levels at record highs, we could easily find ourselves having to paddle through several flooded forests again in order to find land suitable to erect a tent.
Arrived at Cairo, Illinois at 1530 to find that Point Defiance was underwater. Paddled up the access road a quarter mile, and behold there stood AnnA, my Grand Niece. She was standing on the road at the water’s edge. This was a surprise. I was most humbled. The greetings received from the welcoming party were the best ever. Also up the ramp was: Judi (my sister), Angie (AnnA's mom), Chandler (AnnA’s brother), Debbie (cousin), and high school classmate Coleman, all from Kentucky. Chris Austin and Mary Finley also came up from Memphis. Paducah TV was there giving area wide exclusive coverage of the event. To see the TV coverage go to the “Recent Press” tab on this website.
The river is now almost too high for us to safely paddle. We paddled 200 miles between the big dam at Alton, Illinois above St Louis and all the way to Cairo, Illinois without seeing a single boat other than a few barges. The river is very isolated now, cut off from civilization. It’s like a wilderness on water. Stunningly different to realize that not one of the adjacent forests have exposed sand or dirt of any type above water levels. Finding a campsite is nearly impossible. When Richard and I have to resort to pitching tents on a levee, you know something is not right.
Decisions on whether to paddle or not to paddle will have to be made daily. The July 11th group decision to paddle to Hickman, Kentucky has been made. Will paddle out from Cairo, Illinois around 0945 tomorrow morning.
Lying here in my sleeping bag, watching 1000's of mosquitoes aggressively seeking access into my tent. Coupled with the two violent storms we endured last night, I am reminded that one could not survive long in this environment without certain basic needs. Also wonder how the early explorers were able to deal with such conditions. I believe that the hardships humans in these conditions would endure without tents, sleeping bags, dry clothing, food and clean water, go unrecognized by mankind. Just like Juvenile Diabetes. It appears society has not yet come to come to grips, able to deal with the hardships these children endure for their entire life. I hope in some small way my efforts to survive this journey will help raise funds and awareness of the need for a cure.
Paddled thirty-five miles yesterday, finding only two places to stretch my legs on solid ground. Conditions are complicated due to the high flood waters and the absence of civilization. To put it in perspective, we now have paddled the last two hundred miles not seeing a single recreation craft of any type other than ours.
Having difficulty locating a campsite, Richard and I paddled across several wing dams to attempt to enter a channel off the main river, hoping to find a place to simply erect a tent. Nothing, not even a small piece of land above water level. Attempted to paddle through the woods, finding them so dense we could not maneuver our boats through the undergrowth and debris washed in by high waters. Our only options were to paddle the remaining 22 miles to Cairo, Illinois, or see if there was a passage somewhere that would allow us to paddle alongside the levee. Sleeping in the boat was not an option. At about 4 pm I noticed a small uncluttered opening and could see the levee. We were able to pitch tents on top the levee, but this left us high and unprotected from strong winds and rain. We had been paddling since 0730, and opted to stay here. The wind and rains did come. Somehow, our tents survived and kept us dry for the night. How blessed we were to have the simple things needed to survive. It's not that simple for children with Type one Diabetes.
The rain had just subsided when we crawled out of our tents this morning at 0900. The deep damp forest was filled with critters and seemingly 1,000 of insects. Couple dozen snails had taken up residency on the tent screen leaving trail of slime. But this is not a complaint, for I was able to lay my dry comfort.
No rain today. Different story though with what has turned out to be my worst enemy on this trip. Wind howled all day and as normal blew up stream in our faces. Seams the wind follows the river basin as it makes it's twist and turns.
Grand Tower Rock, famous in Mississippi River travels, stood high and Mighty near the right bank as I paddled up to the parking lot and was able to enjoy the moment. As I read the signs about most early boaters capsizing her realized just how special it would be if I could paddle around her without swamping.
My new best friend, an app called "My Radar". again alerted me of the impending rain. Yes, it came again, in buckets and wind riddled the tent on into the night. Just another routine way of life this last few weeks. Would love to see some sunshine and dry out. But thank God we are safe once again in our tents.
I'm the Grey Beard Adventurer. But you can call me Dale Sanders, and these are my stories.