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.
I'm the Grey Beard Adventurer. But you can call me Dale Sanders, and these are my stories.