Fought severe weather to guide “The Andrea” safely into New Orleans. Wind and waves and rain and a plethora of barges and tankers as well as borderline hypothermia couldn’t keep me from this fine town. Here’s some final thoughts on the journey of a lifetime. My sincere thanks to everyone – could not have made it without your encouragement and support.
Category Archives: Status Update
I’m now on my final approach into New Orleans with plans to arrive into the city on Tuesday, December 1st to land at 5pm – if the weather holds up! I’ll plan to be in town from Dec 1st thru Dec 8th.
Today is my birthday and I’ll be paddling with local Natchez kayaker Adam Elliott for the second part of the day. This is a sincerely beautiful portion of the river and the weather forecast for the next several days is bright and sunny. I couldn’t ask for a better day or for that matter spell of my life.
I’m really excited to be on this final stretch of the Mississippi. Am trying to enjoy the beauty of it all and to take it all in as the experience is about to come to an end.
So whether you can make it to New Orleans in person or meet up with me via this blog – I’ll look forward to seeing you all come NOLA!
Am currently in the heart of the Blues smack dab in the Mississppi Delta – in a town called Clarksdale, Mississippi. Thrilled beyond belief to be working a couple new stories on the blues, including interviews with Super Chickan, the Homemade Jamz Blues Band, and Mississippi gubernatorial contender and co-owner of Ground Zero Blues Club, Bill Luckett. More to follow soon…
Departing Memphis with the Great State of Mississippi now in my sights. Doing grand – loving this trip – excited for the many stories to come!
LOWER MISSISSIPPI RIVER
The difference in river currents post Cairo, Illinois, has been, to put it mildly, dramatic. Am now facing rising waters that two nights ago, could have taken me under – while in my sleep.
Had camped on a patch of sand known as “Moore Island” approximately 30 miles south of the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers and come midnight, was forced to pull up stakes as the waters were lapping at my tent. Moved the tent to higher ground – back into the sands below the elevated trees, as high as it actually went on that island – but by 6am, the waters had climbed to the point where it was time to vacate. The water had actually risen five feet in total Sunday night, but it certainly felt like more. Still in the dark, my lantern, blowing in the wind like a hurricane lamp, guided my movements of bringing goods from tent to canoe as I was in essence evicted off the island.
Now in the river, I was greeted by raging waters, dangerous waves, monster barges, wind, and dark.
Made it to the first boat ramp I could find to get off the river where I met and befriended the pilot of the ferry service tug that operates between Missouri and Hickman, Kentucky. Edward Fuller has been on the river for some time, and had some ominous words regarding my mode of transport – pointing to a spot just across the river where a giant eddy has been known to spin full sized boats, as he put it, something silly.
After listening to my story, Edward told me, “I’m not sure if I should call you crazy – or praise you”. Edward gave me one of his bright orange rain slickers for good luck (so the barges could actually see me) along with some snacks and extra water. We talked shop while we waited for the next car to arrive as well as for the waves to calm down. During that time, I learned a number of good strategies to deal with the remainder of my trip: Hug the right side of the coast (at least for this portion of the river); get completely off of the river when a monster barge approaches; but do not step foot onto Island No. 8 (a large island approx 5 miles down from Hickman, KY), as “it is a hunting island where they will shoot you on sight.”
As luck would have it, I had to make two emergency stops onto Island No. 8, as two monster barges, one after the next, hugged the same stretch of coastline, immediately to my left. As Edward had explained, “hunters down here don’t care about Christmas. For them, it’s all about the start of hunting season. They stock that island with deer and if you land on their island without an invite, they will think you’re a poacher, and they will shoot you. They shoot on sight.”
Just before landing, the first time, I did see one deer who jumped out of my line of sight the moment I laid eyes on her. Laying low on dreaded Island No. 8, I was happy and quite fortunate that these were the only set of eyes to have seen me.
Am now talking with tug pilots whenever I get the chance to check out the rapidly changing conditions on this river. The waters continue to rise and it is now rare to find an island with a sandbar at all. Most islands are simply comprised of the top half of trees. I’d take pictures to show you but while I’m out on the river these days, I’m too busy concentrating. The river current has picked up to at times clock in at ten to twelve miles per hour. That’s up from two to five miles per hour prior to joining the Ohio River at Cairo. At such speeds the dangerous part of the river is not what is on top but indeed what is just below the surface. Logs, driftwood, and buoys. And at times, a medley of the three.
While that first morning out, post Moore Island, spooked me, the waves have not reached the levels that they did that day. I take solace in my suffering. There is still the nature. There is still the adventure. At this stage of the game, I am quite literally fighting to tell these stories – to make it to these towns. Upon landing at Cairo, at going on 10pm last Wednesday night, the good Reverend Kelly Cox asked, “Is this really worth the story?” To which question I answered honestly – without even thinking, “Yes, absolutely!”
Even with the rains, there are still the birds. Small birds with bright blue inner feathers, skirting about the canoe, as if to check it out, dipping and diving, always coming back for a second look. Today, the rain was sort of cool, scattered at first, like unto heavy sprinkles. But then it droned on and on, picking up steam, until it turned into a downpour. Cold rain that drives at you, in the case of today – all day long. Was so cold when I pulled out at Caruthersville, Missouri, late today that I checked myself directly into a hotel – with the kind (and essential) assistance of two new friends who live here locally. A wise investment for the hot shower alone. And now – at long last – for the bed. A bed that come morning, knock on wood, will not have floated away.
Reached the halfway point of my river sojourn tonight with a triumphant entry into Cairo, Illinois. The US Corp of Engineers calls it the halfway point because its where the river is divided into the Upper and Lower portions. In reality, I’ve got 1341 river miles behind me with 970 to go! Excited for the stories lined up here… Thanks everyone for following – here’s to adventure!
Spent a scenic night on Beaver Island. My tent was positioned on a sand dune overlooking the river as well as the ascent of the moon. Was sure it was a full moon, but alas, no. Shot this video just before taking off the following morning.
ST LOUIS, MO
It’s the middle of the night and I’m writing to you from the deck of the sailboat “Adventure”. The wind has been gusting as of late – which is why I’m not further down river. Launched out Friday at approximately 4pm but was forced back to Hoppie’s Marina due to high waves – coming the wrong way. Almost swamped the canoe in the process. A fellow traveler and owner of said “Adventure”, Tug Buce, who was heading into town for the night with friends, was kind enough to offer me use of his deck for the night. First night out under the stars on this entire trip. Stars so clear. Moon appearing full. Lull of the water, for once sleeping directly over the water, a dream.
Many thanks to Darla and Lloyd, of St Louis, for joining in on the spirit of “safari” – complete with pith helmet and raccoon hat – launching me out in fine fashion via a moving serenade of “Old Man River”. I sincerely appreciate your assistance and well wishes… Am safe and sound and come the morn, will be ready to set out yet again.
Currently paddling strong – bound for the great city of St. Louis…
Finished my dinner and made my way upstairs. No ghosts to report – as of yet. Laid my foam pad and sleeping bag out on the boyhood bedroom of Sam Clemens. Period toys all around. “My, but it’s a bully taw!” A number of large and opaque marbles just up on the bed were found on site, I’m told by museum curator Henry Sweets. He reasons they could have very well belonged to young Sam as they date to the early 1800’s. Windows in the boyhood bedroom face the Mississippi River and out back to where Huck would have come calling.
More to follow…