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 was awakened by the sound of what I thought were little feet, some kind of critters, running around on top of my tent at crack of dawn. Still confused with having been awakened so abruptly, it took me few moments to realize it was raining. Big Muddy Mike and Janet Sullens Moreland cooked a great breakfast. Walked over the levee, where we said our goodbyes to Janet and Mike.
You may have noticed a shell hanging around my neck recently. When our group was at River Angel John McCoy’s house in Hannibal, MO, I presented the shell to the team. In representation of a “complaint stone”. I apologized for all of my own complaining since the journey began, and I agreed to wear the complaint stone until such time as there was someone else who complained. Since we had to pack our tents in the rain this morning, I found the opportunity to pass on the complaint stone to Richard Sojourner. We've had fun all week saying things like, "That sounded like a complaint to me!". Poor Richard now bears the weight of the stone until he catches me, or someone else on the team, complaining.
It only took 20 minutes to paddle to the fast back waters of the Mississippi from Fort Charters, Illinois where we camped last night.
Paddled 35 miles today. Camped 10 miles past Chester, Illinois on east shore looking at the south end of Rock Wood Island and North end of Liberty Island. Very difficult to find a campsite site in these high water conditions. All places we tried were underwater. Fortunately, there was this little piece of heaven. After cleaning up the grounds a bit, it turned out to be great. Recommend this site to anyone paddling in flooded conditions because the relatively clear sand is level and piled higher than the recent waters reached. Nice canopy above as well. Spoke with Big Muddy and he is going to add this campsite to the River Gator as good for high water conditions.
Lying here in my tent, I notice a big hollow where my stomach use to be, above my belt line. Not even hungry, but must eat in the tent tonight. Weather has been taking it's toll on conditions and my body.
Considering not leaving here until the sun shines again.
Take care, and if so inclined say a prayer for us.
There were no boats in the St. Louis Harbor when we paddled out at 1030 am this morning. Only passed two moving barges but seemingly 100's more were at the shoreline. High waters, wind and yes rain again, coupled with the big holiday weekend likely created these conditions.
Wind was our biggest enemy. It followed the up stream river bottom all day. Needing some relief, we frequently paddled over raging wing dams into back waters. Those following with SPOT can see lots of zig-zaggimg and irregular patterns. Often, the steady winds were so strong that when the boat turned sideways it was very difficult to get it headed back into the headwinds.
Paddled through a deep forest to reach dry land at historic Le Fort De Charters, IL. There was no other way to get here by water. Thick dense undergrowth was at times seemingly impossible to navigate. One of the Adventureitus camera men made this statement in a text: "It will be hard to navigate through the flooded trees". That it was, but with significant effort, we paddled along side the jetty for the last mile reaching the fort area at 0845 pm where we set up camp on dry land for the evening.
No paddling today. We have restocked on food items and other boatkeeping supplies needed to start this epic journey on the Lower Mississippi tomorrow morning. Stay tuned for the next Adventureitus Productions weekly update. This is a big week...and I am sure thankful for the rest today!
This 4th of July, 2015, was an exciting day of paddling, log walking, acrobatics, mud, and fellowship with some amazing new friends and family.
The weather was perfect when we awoke from a marvelous sleep that was made possible by Joseph Ringling, Joan Twillman, and many others from the St. Charles, Missouri area. These folks made my day, not only because of the River Angel support, but also because we paddled through the final lock and dam yesterday. I am really looking forward to paddling from here to the Gulf of Mexico, with no more barriers to slow the river flow.
We paddled through the bushes to reach the flooded shoreline. Receding waters left deep muddy conditions where we needed to take out for the trip to Big Muddy's Canoe House. A great experience ending such a memorable day paddy the Mighty Mississippi.
We spent the evening eating delicious campfire-cooked foods. Blessed that Janet Moreland was able to drive down and join us for neighborhood fireworks as well.
A Fourth of July to Remember Forever.
There were multiple contributors of these photos.
We will continue to add to this blog as videos and pictures are downloaded.
John's Boat Harbor was deserted last night when we arrived. Flooded roads kept the ground crew from being able to reach us. Again this morning, there was no one to be seen. Only evidence of life among the hundreds of beautiful yachts, other than Richard Sojourner and I, was a lone groundhog that kept hanging around.
When I awoke this morning, I noticed something different about my boat. Thought I must have trashed the place in the dark last night. What really happened was that some critters had eaten a hole in my dry bag where I keep day foods. Lunch turned out to be great, though. I found a little restaurant on the river road between the Illinois River Confluence and Alton. The owner opened early just fir Richard Sojourner and I. Thank you for the fish sandwich.
Passed through the last lock on the Mississippi today. We will paddle the Chain of Rocks tomorrow and see how fast the river drops from there before venturing any further.
Alton, IL is a beautiful place to experience the end of manmade blockages (Dams) preventing the natural flow of the Mississippi. From here on out no more portages, no more locks and no more Lake (pools) to cross.
Just after passing through the lock, Richard and I were greeted with open arms in a beautiful park maintained by the National Great Rivers Museum, which connects to the dam. A group of around 30 friends provided food, shower, and a large tent with the camping permit already in place. Joseph Ringling and fellow paddle friends had prepared a meal and complete evening worthy of a King. We were also entertained by fireworks over the Alton Bridge in the evening.
I have paddled my canoe hard these last few weeks. The results are sweet. Seventy Five miles in the last two days. Am tired, now, will get some rest and retreat to this beautiful large tent erected just for us.
No worries about rumors of Lock #25 being closed. Richard Sojourner and I passed right through the middle of the dam without any difficulties. We were moving at a rapid speed, but there were no rapids. After a mid-day stop and refreshments from the road crew, we only need to paddle ten more miles downstream to make tomorrow's schedule work out.
Water didn't look fast. Smooth flowing to what we are usually a accustomed. Was able to average almost 6 MPH, a new distance record for my loaded canoe. Hope to reach Alton, Illinois for fireworks and reception tomorrow night. Have only 28 miles left and then we will pass through the LAST LOCK AND DAM ON THE MISSISSIPPI.
The problem now is to decide what to do when we reach mile marker #180 tomorrow. Please stay tuned and see how we are able to deal with the closed river conditions down river from St Louis, MO.
Two frightening experiences while paddling today. One was little scary paddling over the Lock #22 spillway. Good size drop, enough to get the adrenalin up.
Most frightened I have been on the river so far was when I saw the Loch Ness Monster... At least I thought I did. Every hair on my entire body stood on end when I saw what appeared to be a large head rising out of the water. This could not have happened at at more remote island shore. After the head, then came the neck - nearly two feet in diameter - this monster shape continued to rise above the surface to six or eight feet high, right in front of my boat. That is when I really got scared. Turns out it was a large log and not to worry.
The second lock #24 of the day was quick and easy.
After passing through the lock, paddled over to the west shore where Judi, Shannon and the boys were waiting. Many great videos and images today. Slept in later than usual for we were well taken care of in Hannibal.
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!
I'm the Grey Beard Adventurer. But you can call me Dale Sanders, and these are my stories.