Tentin’ Out


I’ve had it happen several times now. I’ll be in a bar or a tavern or a church, nowhere near my canoe or my gear. Somebody will take one look at me, tap the shoulder of the person next to them, turn back to me, and then say it: “You’re doing the river. You’re gonna go all the way, aren’t ‘cha?”

I don’t know what gives it away. I always leave my Muck Boots in my trusty Old Town Charles River. It must be that look in my eyes. Wanderlust. The State of Being out on an expedition; a safari – the State of Being at one with nature whilst totally and thoroughly enthralled by everyone and everything all around.

The next set of questions up here in Northern Minnesota from the very start up at Lake Itasca have been the same, in the exact same sequence (and thus in order of importance), from fishermen meets children on the river to the odd, inquisitive observer:

1) Are ya fishin’?
2) What ‘cha eatin’?
3) You’re tentin’ out, aren’t ‘cha?

While I don’t have the correct answer for the first two questions I most certainly do for the third. The tentin’ out principal makes up for my lack of backwoods experience regarding the first two – always said with a knowing, appreciative smile.

Tentin’ Out along the Upper Mississippi River is a load of fun. There are state-maintained river access-only campsites set out strategically all along the Upper Mississippi, complete with wooden bench, fire ring, and spectacular view of the river, usually perched just above. The correct tent is key. Your tent shelters you from mosquitoes; the tent protects you from wind and from rain. Which is important because it’s rained just about every night since I’ve set out. The lightening strikes strike all around so brightly at times they illuminate the interior of the tent even with the storm shelter exterior draped overhead. And yet you feel safe and secure.

If you shift your thinking inward, the tent becomes your personal domain. You can block yourself off completely from the world or zip, zip down the 4-season screens and let the world and the sight of the river in, giddy with excitement to be a part of nature personified as the grumblings up in the clouds above go about their grumbling.

I thank you, Mr. Moss, for a tent well made. Having the time of my life here on the Upper Mississippi. I can’t say enough about it!


Filed under On the Mississippi, Wanderlust

7 responses to “Tentin’ Out

  1. Neil–

    Glad to hear that you are still of sound mind and body on this great adventure! My girlfriend Brittany and I met you just as you were striking out from the beach at Lake Itasca–we’ve been following your exploits online. If you are looking to kill a lunch hour while you are in Minneapolis, we’d love to take you out in exchange for some stories of your first few weeks. You can contact me through my website (linked above).


  2. Courtney Heron

    How exciting! A friend of one of your friend sent me this link to learn about your adventure. Sounds like you are off to a good start. Be safe and continuing having a great experience on the Mississippi. Your journey is an inspiration to all us working stiffs who long to be out in nature!

    • flashriversafari

      Thanks Courtney! Feels completely odd to be technically unemployed, drifting at times (between paddling spells) to the tune of the river – just watching the clouds roll by. Trying my best to treasure these moments! All best, Neal

  3. Ben P.

    Hola Neal,
    Andre and I just got back from Australia about a week ago. It was just awesome!! The trip went really well and we all had an excellent time. Andre has gone off to Mongolia and I’ll leave for Cambodia and Laos next week. Anyway, I’ve just started checking out your blog……trying to catch up on all the stuff I missed. I like the videos….the river looks so peaceful. Well, be safe and I will talk to you later. Ben P.

    • flashriversafari

      Hey Ben,
      So glad the trip out to Australia worked out so well. Cambodia sounds swell. Cambodia/Laos sounds excellent. Have yet to visit any of the above. Have a great summer and enjoy the travels! All best Neal

  4. Kat

    Neal, eat a Clif bar! you’re gettin’ skinny. 😉 Okay, maybe we should send you Clif bars. Wait, do you even like Clif bars?

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