Saturday, December 17, 2011

Mississippi River Conclusion

So I guess its time for deep thoughts and sage advice. I'm not sure what qualifies me for such things, but people always seem to think you have something important to say after a trip like this.

Would I do it again?
Sort of. I would think about going down the Mississippi again, but I would want to do something different, ie kayak, or springtime, or change something else.

Would I do another river trip?
Yes, at some point. There are plenty of other rivers, but there are also plenty of other trails to hike, or roads to bike, etc, So I don't know if or when I'll get around to another river trip.

What did I learn?
Barges are annoying, wind is annoying, but overall the Mississippi is much more wilderness than I expected, which is nice.

Most people will think you are crazy when doing something like this (ie too dangerous, too abnormal, too whatever reason not to get out and do something), but the people that actually matter will be interested.

There is still kindness in America. While it is much less common than on a trail like the AT, there are still plenty of people willing to help you out, offer rides, places to stay, etc.

Why did I do it?
Good question. It seemed like a nice trip for the time period that I was looking at, and something to keep me outdoors and in the woods. I'm always looking for different things to do, anything out of the ordinary and outdoors.

Photos
Take a look at all my photos here:
I still need to go through and add descriptions to a lot of them, but at least I have them all uploaded now.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Mississippi River Day 115 (Morgan City, 2200 miles)

Last day of paddling, and a very long day against the current. I ended up taking a smaller river back up to the Intra-coastal Waterway, hoping for less current, but it didn't help. I met back up with Greg and Michael for one last night, and that was the end of the trip.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Mississippi River Day 114 (Gulf Coast, 2179.5 miles)

Another foggy morning, but only lasted about an hour. The current has been getting slower as we get closer to the coast, and the river widened out quite a bit today. 16 miles into the day we got to see open water, and decided that was good enough, pulled over and had lunch on a convenient sandbar, took a few pictures, and headed back.

Paddling against the current, even though it has slowed down a bit, is really hard. We were able to make headway by staying towards the shore, where the current isn't as strong, and also where we could pole ourselves along with our paddles on the river bottom.

We only made it 6 miles back up before calling it for the day, but we found a nice seashell beach, composed entirely of seashells, about 2 feet above the water, and set up camp. It was a nice camp, but some of the really big and fast boats that went by sent up a big enough wake to splash some water on us, so we were thankful to have our flies on our tents and hammock.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Mississippi River Day 113 (Atchafalaya #127.5, 2157.5 miles)

Another foggy morning. At this point I'm not sure if its the weather, or if the Atchafalaya is usually foggy in the morning. Today it burned off quicker, thanks to some wind, but unfortunately it was a headwind.

I stopped for lunch just upstream of Morgan City, and was able to watch a Coast Guard ship practicing man overboard drills.

Once the wind died down I made it through Morgan City and out into the Intra-coastal Waterway, where the current slowed a bit. There were also a lot more bigger boats out there, so I was glad I was only on it for a few miles before returning to the river on the downstream side.

While I was waiting for Greg and Michael, who had stopped in to town for water, a tug went by me, then did a u-turn and came back. I tried to get out of the way, until they cut their engine and called me over. The captain, Captain Boo, was concerned that we didn't have any radio or anything, and wanted to know what we were doing. Greg and Michael had caught back up, and were watching this from the side of the river. I was eventually able to convince him that we were safe, and were going to be camped shortly, instead of being on the water after dark. He finally took off, and we found a nice sandbar to camp on for the night.

The sandbar wasn't quite high enough, and some of the bigger wakes were breaking over the edge of it, but the waves didn't quite make it far enough inland to get the tenters wet. Fortunately I was in my hammock anyway, so it didn't really matter.

It had been getting a lot warmer, which has also been bringing out the bugs, and tonight was especially buggy.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Mississippi River Day 112 (Atchafalaya #95, 2125 miles)

Another foggy morning. I decided to push off and float in the current, until Greg and Michael caught back up to me. It was kind of interesting when they did, since they appeared out of the fog rather quietly, and managed to aim right towards me. It turned out that they had made several wrong turns in town, which is what took them so long yesterday. They had also apparently camped only a mile or two upstream from me, so we were pretty close.

I caught back up with them for lunch, and had a few tugs pass us, the only ones we had seen all day. We took off again after they had passed, and I was able to keep them at least in sight, to see where they pulled off to camp. They had found a very small campsite, barely big enough for their tents and my hammock, so we weren't able to have a fire for the night. Just before dark a hunter pulled over and asked what we were doing, and seemed impressed. He also had to warn us about the large alligators in the area, bigger than our canoes.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Mississippi River Day 111 (Atchafalaya #51, 2081 miles)

This morning was really foggy for the first few hours. If I had been on the Mississippi I couldn't have gone anywhere, since I probably would have gotten run over. Instead, I was able to push off, and enjoy the otherworldlyness of the fog.

After the fog lifted the day actually got quite warm. Apparently the cold weather the past week or 2 had been about 15-20 degrees colder than normal for this time of year.

Towards the afternoon I started just floating along with the current, waiting for Greg and Michael, who had stopped in to town to resupply one last time. Over the course of the day I was passed by a single barge, which was a lot smaller than the barges on the Mississippi. There were also several small boats, probably hunters or fishers.

Even with floating along for the last part of the day Greg and Michael still hadn't caught back up, so I ended up camping by myself for the night.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Mississippi River Day 110 (Atchafalaya #13.8, 2043.8 miles)

Woke up this morning and had a small fire to hang around until I pushed out again. I figured I had to leave a bit before Greg and Michael in order to do the same mileage, since they are a bit faster. That way we can end up camping together.

About 20 miles in I hit the turnoff for the Atchafalaya River, which I had been planning on taking for quite a while. It is much safer than the Mississippi, which still had to go through Baton Rouge and New Orleans, which have a lot more barge traffic (Cancer Alley and Suicide Alley don't sound like fun). Instead, the Atchafalaya is more of a river and less of a highway. It is also supposed to be more scenic, rather than a lot of levees and industry. It also doesn't hurt that it is shorter.

According to some people, the next big flood will actually divert the Mississippi into the Atchafalaya, re-routing the entire river south from there. The Army Corp of Engineers is trying to stop that, since it would ruin the economic opportunities of Baton Rouge and New Orleans. It seems to be a losing battle though.

After I got on the turnoff the current died out entirely, and I had to paddle through 5 or 6 miles of dead water. There was also a lock to pass through, but the lock master decided to drive me around in his pickup instead. He said it would be faster than draining the entire lock just for a canoe. I didn't mind. Downstream of the lock the water was a lot clearer, since there was no current to kick up the mud. After the 5 or 6 miles the channel rejoined the current, and I was being pushed along at 3 mph again, which was nice.

Greg and Michael met up with me again, since I had managed to convince them this was a better route than the Mississippi, and we ended up camping out together again.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Mississippi River Day 109 (Mile #323, 2004.5 miles)

A bit of a late start today again, trying to leave town can be tough.

As I was leaving town a barge was passing by and used his loudspeaker to warn me that he would be cutting in front of me to park the barge on the opposite shore. It was nice to actually know what was going on, since otherwise I would have thought he was trying to run me down or something.

The wind was mostly a tailwind, which helped push me along all day long. About 30 miles in I was passed by Greg and Michael in a point in the river that had a strong headwind, and then I had to try to catch up after that. We ended up finding a side channel to camp in for the night away from barge traffic, and had a nice big sandy area to camp in.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Mississippi River Day 108 (Natchez, MS, 1963.5 miles)

Another cold day, but I pushed out early wanting to get into Natchez before the library closed.
In the afternoon I got hit with a bit of rush hour barge traffic, with 16 barges passing me non-stop for about 2 hours.

When I got to town I hit the library, mainly to see what had happened to the other guys, since we had planned on trying to meet up again. It turned out that Davy was back about 20 miles after getting a late start figuring things out with the guy that had shown up to paddle with him for the rest of the trip.

When I left the library I found Greg and Michael's boat on the ramp next to mine, so I knew they were somewhere in town. I wandered around trying to find them until eventually Michael popped out of a bar and flagged me down. We debated getting a room for the night, and finally decided on a place right next to the bar. It was nice to get a shower, laundry, and warm room for the night again.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Mississippi River Day 107 (Mile #407, 1920.25 miles)

Today was a late start. Its tough leaving a hotel room, especially when it is so cold out. When I finally did leave I went a few miles downstream, and then had to walk to Walmart to resupply on food, since I was almost entirely out.

I ended up walking back to my boat with a backpack full of food, which was a bit expensive, but will last me more than enough for the rest of the trip. Its nice to not have to worry about where the next store is, or if I can take a day off if it rains.

It did warm up a bit during the day, but got cold again as soon as the sun went down.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Mississippi River Day 106 (Vicksburg, MS, 1890.5 miles)

It was another windy morning, so I waiting until things died down a bit to head out. It finally did calm down around noon, so I broke camp. It was still very cold, so I was bundled up, but at least I was moving.

I got into the town of Vicksburg, going up a side channel to get closer to the actual center of town, and then tied up my canoe and went to the library. While I was there I responded to an email from Davy, one of the two canoe-ers that I had met in Chester, IL. He was asking where I was, so I told him I was in the Vicksburg library. Next thing I knew, he was right behind me. He apparently had a hotel room just down the street, so I ended up cleaning up there and sleeping inside for a change. There were also two other paddlers just in the next room that he had also met. They had started at the headwaters of the Missouri in mid-August.

We ended up going out to a bar for dinner, and it was nice to have a bunch of paddling company around, especially since the temperature dropped to around 25 degrees overnight.

It was also nice to find out that Memphis has been getting hit with some pretty big snow, at least for the area. Glad I made it through there a couple days ago. Also, I noticed that I'm now between Mississippi and Louisiana, so I'm getting near the end in terms of states.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Mississippi River Day 105 (Mile #467, 1860.5 miles)

Same as yesterday. Today I even moved my hammock further into the woods, trying to get away from the wind a bit. It did help, but everything is still dripping wet and cold.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Mississippi River Day 104 (Mile #467, 1860.5 miles)

Cold, rainy, windy. Amazing how yesterday I was fine in shorts and a t-shirt, but today I have all my layers on. Still not going anywhere though.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Mississippi River Day 103 (Mile #467, 1860.5 miles)

Another strong headwind day, even warmer than yesterday, so I stayed where I was. It did start raining towards the afternoon, so I'm glad I stayed where I was anyway.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Mississippi River Day 102 (Mile #467, 1860.5 miles)

I woke up nice and early today so I could do a long day and get into town for the night. Unfortunately the weather didn't cooperate. It wasn't a bad headwind, but enough to slow me down a bit. So instead, I decided to do a short day, enjoy the relative warmth, and plan on getting in to town tomorrow. I found a nice sheltered sandy cove for the night, and had a nice big fire with a lot of driftwood.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Mississippi River Day 101 (Mile #548, 1842.5 miles)

I had a rude awakening this morning as a very loud barge decided to park right near my camp about an hour and a half before dawn. I figured I wasn't going to get any more sleep, so I broke camp and pushed off into the pre-dawn river.

I hit the town of Greenville 5 miles in, while it was still mostly dark. The actual town was several miles inland, but I stopped by the boat ramp hoping for a faucet. There was an entire town park and camping area, but all the faucets were closed off, and the area seemed pretty abandoned.

About half way through today I noticed that the leaves have been changing colors the past few days. Its like watching fall in reverse, as I get farther south, there starts to be more color, and towards evening I even noticed a lot of green leaves that haven't changed at all.

It was still a long day, but I took breaks throughout the day, so it wasn't bad. I figured with the pre-dawn start I would get in a few extra miles, and this also lines me up for town tomorrow night pretty well. It will be a long day tomorrow, but that way I can take care of things in town while its dark out, and save some time.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Mississippi River Day 100 (Mile #542, 1785.5 miles)

This morning wasn't as cold as yesterday, so I guess I'm doing a good job of getting south. There was a slight wind, but today had a lot of turns and bends, so I wasn't facing in one direction long enough for it to really bother me at all. After the first few hours the barge traffic died out almost entirely, and after that the day was just monotonous. The only really interesting thing was seeming some of the flooded out areas from the previous weeks of rain.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Mississippi River Day 99 (Mile #586, 1741.5 miles)

It was really cold again this morning, but I was hoping it would warm up. It did a bit eventually, but still pretty cool all day. I was alternating having my rain jacket on and off all day, depending on how the wind was blowing. I had no real plan or goals for today, but I was in the zone, so I kept going all day. I'm hoping to get further south faster to get into some warmer weather. Today was a pleasant day overall, just cooler than I would have liked.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Mississippi River Day 98 (Mile #635, 1692.5 miles)

Today was overcast in the morning, so I went into town to hit the library. After the past two days my kindle needed charging, and I wanted to use the internet. Unfortunately the internet wasn't working, so I couldn't update my journal. Apparently it hadn't been working yesterday either, so I'm glad I didn't venture out into the rain yesterday.

By around noon it cleared up outside, so I pushed off and made a good rest of the day out of it. It was nice just to get somewhere, instead of staying in my hammock all day.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Mississippi River Day 97 (Helena, AR, 1664.5 miles)

Today was really rainy again, so much that I didn't even want to go into town to stay in the library all day, so instead I stayed in my hammock and read.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Mississippi River Day 94 (Helena, AR, 1664.5 miles)

Another windy day. The morning was nice, but the wind picked up as the day went on. I kept going because I knew the town of Helena was close, so I got nearby and then stopped and went into town. I was pushing to get into the library before the weekend, but I found out that the library was closed for Thanksgiving Thursday through Sunday. Pretty much everything else in town was closed as well, but I had to get water jugs to replace the ones that floated away. I ended up going to three different gas stations hoping for gallon jugs of water, but the best I could do was a 2 liter of soda and a bunch off half liter water bottles.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Mississippi River Day 93 (Mile #689, 1638.5 miles)

I woke up to another hazy day, but it wasn't too bad, so I set out. Downtown Memphis passed by pretty quickly, and I realized that I had camped just a mile or two upstream from downtown. After those few miles I could have camped anywhere I wanted. Unlike St. Louis, which had a massive amount of barge traffic, Memphis was almost deserted. It looked like they kept all of the parked barges off in a side channel, so the main river was just like any other section of the river. It was a welcomed surprise, since I was anticipating having to dodge barges all day long.

In the afternoon the sun came out and warmed things up a little bit, making a pleasant day. I passed by a hunter on the shore, and he shouted a Happy Thanksgiving to me. I hadn't even realized it, so I was a bit surprised. Today was also my longest day so far, a full half century, plus a bit to find a campsite. It wasn't even bad at all, and I finished during daylight. There has also been an increased amount of small boat traffic in the past few days, so I guess its warm enough for people to still have boats out here.

My poison ivy is starting to heal, it did turn out to be full blown poison ivy rash in a few places, but the itch is going away by now.

And the best part of today was that I'm out of Tennessee now, and into Mississippi, at least on the left shore.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Mississippi River Day 92 (Mile #740, 1587.5 miles)

It was another day of almost rain all day long, but it held off all day. The current is moving along at about 2 mph, which really helps out. I would have gone further, but I ended just upstream from Memphis, since I wasn't sure about camping anywhere near the city. I was also getting pretty cold by that point, so its just as well I stopped and warmed up a bit.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Mississippi River Day 91 (Mile #778, 1549.5 miles)

I woke up to more rain, and a lot of wind. When I went to my canoe to get breakfast I found it was entirely underwater. Luckily I had taken the tupperware tubs out, and put them higher on the shore, since they have most of my gear in them. I found its really hard to pull a canoe full of water up onto shore. Some of my gear that was loose in the canoe washed away, including my 2 life jackets, 2 paddles, all but 1 of my water jugs, and a small towel I used for cleaning the boat. Luckily I found the life jackets and paddles washed ashore, but upstream of my boat. That just shows how strong the wind was.

After recovering my gear and waiting for the rain and wind to stop I pushed out, and managed to get a few miles in before the rain set in again. It seems like there is an upside to this though, with all the rain and rising water levels, the current has picked up again.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Mississippi River Day 90 (Mile #788, 1539.5 miles)

More rain, off and on all morning. I had to pull my canoe up a bit further so it didn't float away as the river rose. When the rain stopped in the afternoon the fog set in, so it wasn't really safe for me to be on the river with the tugs. Some of them were even using their fog horns, which were pretty loud up close.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Mississippi River Day 89 (Mile #788, 1539.5 miles)

It rained all last night, pretty hard, and this morning it looked like it was about to rain, but I decided to go for it anyway, even if I just got a few miles down the river. It rained all last night, and the entire shore was really muddy, and I had built up some nice mud stilts just walking from camp to the canoe.

I almost stopped twice, when it did start misting a little bit, but managed to keep going and put in a full day, even against a slight headwind.

After I had camp set up and a fire going a hunter stopped by, telling me he had smelled the smoke and was wondering what was going on. He seemed pretty impressed by what I was doing, which was nice.


The main thing I noticed today was the amount of debris in the water. The rain all last night raised the water level a bit, and more stuff is floating away now.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Mississippi River Day 88 (Mile #822, 1505 miles)

Today was sunny, but again a strong headwind. I decided to take the day off and enjoy myself on the side of the river. I have to remind myself that I am doing this trip to enjoy it, not just to get to the gulf. I have no real deadlines, just times that I would like to finish by. I decided I'd rather take a day off and not fight the wind again, and head out on a day when I could enjoy the river more. Overall it was a very relaxing day.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Mississippi River Day 87 (Mile #822, 1505 miles)

It was colder last night, mainly due to the wind.

After a couple of miles in I decided to stop since it was so windy that I was passed by a log floating downstream. It had a smaller surface area above water for the wind to blow on. Luckily where I stopped was by a barge loading area, and there was a faucet, so I was able to fill all my water jugs. I then read for a while, until the wind died down a bit.

Once the wind died out I got back on the river, but stopped early for the night, which was a nice change. Sometimes its nice to control your mileage instead of the wind determining it, even if it just means stopping early for the night. After sunset the wind died out and it was a nice still night.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Mississippi River Day 86 (Mile #836, 1491.7 miles)

Today started off really bad. After I broke camp I was coming down a hill a little ways to the boat, which I saw was tied up but still adrift. I also saw a barge passing by. By the time I got to the bottom of the hill the wake from the barge had completely swamped my boat, with really cold water.

After that the day did get better, with a slight tailwind for most of the day. I stopped in town at 15 miles to hit the library of Caruthersville. Towns are getting farther apart, and libraries are harder to get to, so updates are going to be less frequent. While in town I also stocked up, since the grocery was right next to the library, and I figured I could load up on supplies a bit.


On the way back to the boat ramp a guy stopped and asked me for directions to the casino. Since I had seen the casino boat just downstream I was actually able to give him directions, even though I told him I wasn't from around there. He asked me what I was doing, etc. He then concluded "That ****'s dangerous" and drove off.


I found a nice sandy campsite for the night, and enjoyed a clear night of stars. The really bad part of the day is that I think I'm coming down with a couple patches of poison ivy.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Mississippi River Day 85 (Mile #861, 1466.5 miles)

I waited until around 11:00 for the rain to stop, then I took off, bidding good riddance to the town of New Madrid. Waiting 3 days is too long.

It was another windy day, but at least it was a tailwind this time, which prompted the extra miles for the day. It was very cold, enough that my hands were numb after just bailing out the boat again, but I bundled up and kept going. It was nice to be moving again.

Towards the afternoon the sun peaked out, which was nice mentally, even though it didn't really warm anything up.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Mississippi River Day 84 (New Madrid, 1438.5 miles)

It rained all day today. It did stop for a bit around noon, which I took as an opportunity to bail out the boat, which was very full. Just as I finished that, the rain kicked back in again. Back to the hammock.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Mississippi River Day 83 (New Madrid, 1438.5 miles)

Another wind advisory day.

The wind ended up stopping around 7:30pm, when it almost seemed weird to not hear the wind howling. About 1/2 hour later the rain kicked in, and didn't stop at all.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Mississippi River Day 82 (New Madrid, 1438.5 miles)

I slept in today, not even bothering to see if it was windy. When I woke up it was blowing up a storm, and would have been a headwind if I had tried to get anywhere. Instead I wandered around town, especially the grocery store, which turned out to be a long walk.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Mississippi River Day 81 (New Madrid, 1438.5 miles)

Today was another windy day. I almost stopped after getting blown back from going around the first wingdam I went around. Instead, I fought a few more miles, since I knew a big horseshoe shaped bend was coming up in the river, so the wind would be at my back for a bit.
The bend ended up having a nice strong current to carry me around, and then the current and the wind ended up pushing me along. At one point I was going 6 mph, which was quite nice.

After the current died out, and I turned a bit so the wind was ahead of me again, I ended up fighting the last 1/2 mile to get near town. I stopped just outside of town so I could camp there.

In town I found out that there was a wind advisory for tomorrow, recommending that boaters stay off the water. I guess I'm stuck in town for another day.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Mississippi River Day 80 (Mile #907, 1420.5 miles)

Today started off extremely calm. I noticed a thick layer of ice in some of the spots where puddles collect in my canoe. Definitely colder. However, by 11 it was windy again, so much that I had to stop. I decided to try something new. I had two ropes tied to either end of the canoe, and tried pulling it along the shore. This worked pretty well, until I hit a patch of thick mud, where I was sinking in to my knees. Not fun, especially as it was getting colder near evening. I ended up crawling out of the mud on my hands and knees, so I had more surface area, and then let the canoe float on the wind back a bit upstream to somewhere that I could camp. I made a nice big fire so I could wash off the mud from my shoes and pants, and then dry out.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Mississippi River Day 79 (Mile #919, 1408.5 miles)

Today was another windy day, but I had to go somewhere, I was sick of waiting, and it wasn't a very nice spot to camp anyway. So instead, I exercised a bit of stubbornness, and spent the entire day swearing at the wind. Not a fun day. Also, I stopped in to town for a bit, and noticed frost collected in some of the shadowy spots, so its getting pretty cold.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Mississippi River Day 78 (Mile #940, 1387.5 miles)

Today the winds were even worse. It also rained last night, pretty hard. The worst part about the rain was that the wind blew it right up underneath my tarp, so I ended up getting pretty wet. Even with the rain though, the water level still dropped, since my canoe was further up from the water than last night.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Mississippi River Day 77 (Mile #940, 1387.5 miles)

I woke up early today hoping to catch the other two still sleeping, at least figuratively. Unfortunately the wind didn't agree with me. I ended up stopping just a mile past where I started, and ducked behind an empty barge to wait out the wind again. About halfway through the day another barge pulled up and started tying off to the empty one. One of the bargemen asked me what I was doing, and I told him I was waiting out the wind. He proceeded to tell me I had to move, since it was too dangerous to be that close to a moving barge. And this was while I was all the way on the shore, where there is no way the barge could have even gotten close to me. He then further showed his ignorance by radioing the captain that there was a kayaker near the shore. My canoe in no way looks like a kayak. Oh well. I did end up doing a few more miles, just to get away from some of the barges, but it was a discouraging day.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Mississippi River Day 76 (Mile #943, 1384.5 miles)

Today was my longest day yet, hoping to catch up to the other two guys. 
It was a nice night last night, warm and peaceful, so I was ready for a very full day.

There was a bit of a headwind all day, but the current helped out again.
at milemarker 18 I found a fresh campfire, so I knew they had camped there for the night. That means that they are getting farther ahead, which I thought was likely. It also prompted the longer day today.

I hit the Ohio river in the afternoon, where the current seemed to die out. That also means goodbye to Illinois and on to Kentucky.

I ended up going a bit past dark, just trying to get in extra miles, but I'm not sure how far ahead of me the other two are.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Mississippi River Day 75 (Mile #30, 1323 miles)

My host gave me a ride to the river in the morning, and offered that I could stay a second night if it was too windy to get anywhere. Once I saw the river I debated taking him up on the offer, but I wanted to try to catch back up with the other canoers.

I ended up fighting my way to the opposite side of the river, where the wind died down a bit, but it was still incredibly wavy. There were a few times I had to navigate around wing dams, and got blown back upstream, which can be really annoying. I ended up portaging over a few of them, just because it was easier to stay in the sheltered portion of the river.

I took a break at a bend in the river, hoping for the wind to die down a bit, and it did eventually, but the going was still slow. No sign of the other canoers, but I'm hoping they took the day off, or at least went slow as well.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Mississippi River Day 74 (Cape Girardeau, MO, 1301.5 miles)

We woke up this morning to a heavy fog, so we waited it out until around 10:30, still sitting around the fire talking. Zach offered me a different paddle, apparently the one I have been using is too small for me, and he had 2 extras. It seems to be working better, so I guess that's good. We had a bit of a headwind all day, but it wasn't too bad, especially with the current pulling us along.

I stopped in Cape Girardeau, since I had set up a couchsurfing hosting there, while they continued on to Commerce, another 13 miles or so. Hopefully I'll catch back up to them, but I'm not sure, they are both going faster than I would like to so I'm not sure if I will or not.

I ended up chaining the boat up to an old mooring post under a bridge, and walked to my host's house He was very nice, a graduate assistant at the local college. Besides the standard shower and laundry, he also took me to the weekly poker night. Its strange how nice a normal thing like that can be, when you have been traveling for so long.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Mississippi River Day 73 (Grand Tower, IL, 1280.3 miles)

I wanted to get in a few extra miles today, given that I didn't go anywhere yesterday. About halfway through the day a sailboat passed me, then cut its motor. It was a couple was heading down the Mississippi, and then on to wherever else they could get to. They were quite nice, and its nice to talk to other people doing similar trips.

I stopped in to Grand Tower, but the library was closed, and didn't have wireless. I ended up wandering around town to find an open wifi spot, and did eventually find a weak signal, probably after scaring half of the neighborhood watch people.

I left town in the afternoon, and when I turned around there were two other canoers behind me a ways. I decided to wait for them to catch up. Turns out that Davy had spent the day in Chester as well, and then also met Zach, another canoer doing the whole river. We ended up camping together and spent a long time talking to each other, and burned an entire huge pile of driftwood.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Mississippi River Day 72 (Chester, Il, 1244 miles)

Today was a rainy day. I crossed the river to get into town, and spent the day in library. It wasn't to bad until I had to go back across the river to get to where I had left my camp setup. By that point it was raining sideways, and I had to paddle against the wind and the current just to get back to camp. I ended up beaching my canoe about a 1/4 mile downstream of camp and running the last bit to try to stay dryer. It didn't really work, but I was done with the river by that point.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Mississippi River Day 71 (Chester, Il, 1244 miles)

Today started off calm, but the wind built up as the day went on.

There were a few bigger barges today. South of St. Louis they don't need to pass through locks, so they are able to push bigger loads.

I took a few wind breaks today. One especially since the wind was blowing strong around a turn, and a barge was coming. The wind would have pushed me into the oncoming barge, so I decided to wait until it passed.

On the next wind break another canoe-er came up from behind me. It turns out that he is traveling all the way as well. Davey is from Yonkers, NY. This is his second trip down the river, and had a few interesting stories to tell. Not sure if I'll end up seeing him again or not.

Just before dusk I was approaching town, and a fish decided to jump right into my boat. It scared me pretty good, and ended up flopping around and getting my canoe all fish-smelly before I could flip it back out. It was probably about 2 feet long, not sure what kind. It left some scales in the bottom of my boat, where it rubbed against some of the stuff I had there. Smelly.

I got to Chester late, just at dusk, and ended up getting lost and wandering around town at night. This town has a major thing for Popeye.

I left town without really accomplishing anything, but it was still interesting

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Mississippi River Day 70 (Lee Island, 1217 miles)

Today was a very windy day. If it wasn't for the current I would have just sat out this one. Even as it was, I got off the river quite a few times today to wait out the strong wind.

The really annoying part is that the river is so low that the wingdams are high above the water level. They stick out into the river, so I can't hug the shoreline to get out of the wind.

A few barges passed my today, but nothing major. Most of the traffic has been at night. I'm not sure if that is done on purpose when going through the city or nor.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Mississippi River Day 69 (Chesley Island, 1194 miles)

Today was a really good day. It started off a bit cold and windy, but that died down pretty well.

I had 2 miles until I hit the Chain of Rocks, which is a class III whitewater area which is considered Dam #27. I just portaged around it, and had a bit of help from 2 locals.

I passed the island where I was planning on staying last night at 8 miles. It was ideally situated where I could get through St. Louis in a day, but I decided to press on with the nice weather and new found current.

I passed through St. Louis without any real problems. There were a lot of parked barges, and a lot of small tow traffic moving them around, but no barges going up or down the river, which was nice.

As I was going through town I pulled out my kindle to check the maps, and it wouldn't turn on. I knew the battery was charged, so I figured it was broken. Not good, since it is my source of entertainment and navigation.

When I finally stopped for the day at a mile marker I was surprised by the distance I had traveled. It didn't feel that far. I found a nice sandy beach for the night and set up camp. And the best part is that I checked my kindle again, and now its back to working.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Mississippi River Day 68 (Chouteau Island, 1162 miles)

Today started off bad and got worse.

Since I was already in the channel by Maple Island, I decided to stay in the back channel and go behind the rather long island. However, about 2 miles into the channel, the entire channel was closed off with sand, for about a mile. I would have to either portage or go back 2 miles. Very annoying. I decided to go back to the main channel.

By the time I got back to where I started the day off, the wind was blowing pretty good. A few more miles and there were barges everywhere, which just made the wind worse.

I pulled off the river and waited a few hours, about a mile upriver from the confluence with the Missouri River. I actually ended up walking down to the confluence to see how the river looked. Fortunately the Missouri River was flowing along pretty well, which gives me high hopes for an increase in current.

Towards evening I set off again, and met a guy along the shoreline. Kevin had apparently been wanting to do a trip like this, but never got the chance. We talked for a bit, and I was able to find out more about the river just south, in the St. Louis area, which was coming up soon.

I made a few more miles before it got dark, and I found a spot to camp. Not a very nice one, but decent enough as the sun was setting.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Mississippi River Day 67 (Maple Island, 1153.5 miles)

It rained a bit again last night, but I woke up early due to the ferry traffic starting right near my camp.
There was a slight tailwind today, and extremely nice fall colors all along the banks.

I stopped in to Alton Il, late in the day, and had to walk a mile to the grocery store. It was already getting dark by the time I got back to my boat, but I wanted to get through the lock that was just downstream of town.

The lock, lock #26, was a big one. It was designed to fit an entire large barge through at once, with high walls also. It seemed to take forever to paddle through it, and it got completely dark by the time I was on the downstream side.

Just downstream of it there was a dredging crew, so I had to paddle around them right away, in the choppy waters flowing out of the dam.

I headed towards the nearest island and set up camp, but it was pretty noisy with the dredging going on, and I didn't want to make a fire that close to town.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Mississippi River Day 66 (Dardenne Island, 1125.5 miles)

Today I passed lock#25. I had to wait for 2 barges to go through, which took about an hour and half, and then I found out that their pull cord was broken, so I couldn't signal the lock tenders. Instead I had to yell until they noticed me, which took a while. Not very fun. The whole thing took about 2 and a half hours, so I didn't think I would be able to make very many miles today, but it still worked out.

I had planned on spending the night on and island around mile 20, but the entire island was marked with private property no trespassing signs, so I kept going a bit.

Towards the end of the day there were a bunch of nice bluff, and some of them had some interesting caves carved into them by the water. It seems like the fall colors are finally coming to an end, but they are still nice to look at.

I was also attacked by a fish today. It jumped out of the water and headbutted the side of my boat. Pretty stupid fish.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Mississippi River Day 65 (Sterling Island, 1102 miles)

I woke up to a bit of rain, so I went back to sleep, waiting for it to clear. Around 8:00 I woke up to nice sun, and watched the clouds fading into the horizon.

I hit another lock at 6 miles, lock #24. Apparently there is no lock #23 for some reason. Not sure why. I stopped in the little town just downstream of the lock, but there wasn't much there so I kept going.

All day I had a slight tailwind, so I kept going, to make up some miles from the previous two days. Its nice to get some extra miles in on some days

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Mississippi River Day 63 (Louisiana, MO, 1074 miles)

As expected, today was extremely windy. I made it to town at 3 miles, and spent most of the day wandering around town. Not a whole lot to see there. Most of the town was actually a ways away from the riverfront.

I left late in the afternoon, hoping for an evening lull in the wind, but no such luck.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Mississippi River Day 62 (Angle Island, 1069 miles)

Last night it rained a bit, and was really windy. I had to get up in the middle of the night to re-tie my tarp a bit, since it was flapping around a lot. I decided to sleep in a bit because of the storm, figuring it would be a nasty day, but it cleared up quite a bit.

At 4 miles in I hit another lock, but the lock tenders seemed very apathetic, like it was just another boring day at work, which I guess it was.

The river was pretty calm today, which was nice, but it ended up getting pretty hot. The entire day I felt isolated because there was no traffic at all on the river, either barges or fishermen.

I ended the day just outside of town, lining up for a short day tomorrow, since there is supposed to be a lot of wind all day long.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Mississippi River Day 61 (Hillet Island, 1049 miles)

This morning I left my Canadian friend Casey early in the morning. A few hours later he flew by me in his boat, and that's the last I'll see of him.

I spent most of the day going in and out of islands in the side channels, staying out of the way of other boaters.

I stopped for the afternoon in Hannibal, which is supposed to be the birthplace of Mark Twain. That's pretty much the entire focus of the town, and everything is named after him in some way.

I hit the library, but it was closed because it was Sunday. I spent some time outside of it, but didn't want to hang around for too long. I also did a light resupply, but I had to carry everything for about a mile, so I held off on doing a lot of food.

When I got back to my boat there were a few fishermen at the docks, so we stopped and talked for a bit. Some of them thought I was crazy, and some of them wished they could come with me.
I stopped for the night a few miles outside of town, and had a nice big fire going. I also took the chance to clean out my boat a bit. Dirt and mud accumulates quite a bit, so I emptied everything out and washed the whole boat out.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Mississippi River Day 60 (Pouge Island, 1029 miles)

I woke up this morning to find my canoe completely beached. The water levels had dropped 6 inches overnight. I knew that the water levels were dropping, but this is ridiculous.

I saw a lock at 5 miles, and as I was getting closer a barge started coming up behind me. I didn't want to have to wait 2 hours again, so I tried going faster. I went behind an island, and when I got back out the barge was gone. It had gone into a side channel to pick up more cargo, so I didn't have to actually race it at all. Lucky.

Once I got to the lock, I happened to get there just as another barge was leaving. Good timing. There wasn't a rope to pull on for the signal, so I had to climb the ladder a bit, and then use my paddle to pull down on the lever that the rope would have been attached to.

At lunch I stopped into the town of La Grange, but it was quite the disappointment. The library was closed for the weekend, and didn't have wifi anyway. The only other thing really in the town was a gas station, so I bought some food there and took off. The whole afternoon was pretty hot, so I went slow and stayed in the shade mostly.

I decided to bypass the town of Quincy, since it was getting late and I didn't want to get stuck in town for the night. Instead, I pushed a few more miles, and got to the next lock, so I wouldn't have to wait in the morning.

At the lock there was a boater there already waiting as a barge came upstream, so I didn't have to signal the lock tenders for myself. It turns out that the boater was a Canadian named Casey, who had started four days before at La Crosse, and was planning on doing the entire river by motorboat. We ended up camping together, and I got a nice fire going so we could sit and talk for awhile.

It was an interesting race with Casey. We left the lock together, where he was obviously faster with the motor. By the time I got to where he has making camp, he already had his stuff out to set up. Then I was able to set up my hammock and make a fire, while he was still trying to set up his tent. I guess when you have been doing something for a couple months, you get pretty fast at it.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Mississippi River Day 59 (Huff Island, 1006 miles)

Today I got a pre-dawn start, once I heard that the wind was gone. Almost as soon as I set out though, I ended up beached. The island had a u-shaped sandbar around it, so I had to backtrack. If it was light out I would have seen it, but instead I had to run into it a few times feeling my way around. Not a good start. Even worse, a bunch of birds had camped out above my campsite for the night, and covered my canoe and hammock with bird poop. Grrr.

However, with the calm all day I decided to try to make up a few miles. I hit a lock at 16 miles in, and this one had a power plant attached to it, so the drop was quite a bit bigger than most of the other locks. I had lunch just after the lock, on a small island, before continuing on.

After lunch I saw a few interesting things. In a side channel there was an entire tug sitting on the side of the bank, ten feet up from the water. I guess it got grounded during a flood, and was just left there. I also saw a bunch of fish jumping 3 feet out of the water. I've been told they were asian carp, but I'm not that big on fish identification, so I don't really know. The strangest thing was just downstream from the dam, I saw a group of people fishing in a boat. Something didn't seem quite right, so I paddled closer. Turns out it was a family of midgets, mother father and son, who were working the family business of fishing. Just a bit strange to see on the river.

Overall today was a very nice day. Very few other boats out, and no barges. I did see one other canoe-er, but he was just a local going upstream to fish for a bit.

And best thing of all, I'm out of another state. Goodbye Iowa.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Mississippi River Day 58 (Hass's Island, 973.5 miles)

Today I got a few miles in and decided that I had been fighting too much wind for too long. I found a small island, and camped out there for the rest of the day. Luckily the weather is calling for calmer days in the next few days, so I'm just waiting for that.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Mississippi River Day 57 (Dutchman Island, 968.5 miles)

Today I slept in a bit, since I was planning on making a short stop in town in 2.5 miles anyway.

The wind built up over the course of the day, but it was coming from all different directions throughout the day. I wasn't even going around any major turns or anything, it was just a variable day.

While I was waiting out a bit of the wind I met some loggers who were logging the trees off of some of the islands. They were working in teams, with some of them cutting the trees, then another team floating them down the river to a dock, where another team pulled them out. It seems like this would increase the erosion on the islands, but I guess they are allowed to do it.

Towards the end of the day I ended up missing the island I was planning on staying at. I think the low water levels caused the side channels to actually close off, so I didn't notice the island. Instead I ended up a few more miles downstream, at a larger island. This one even had houses on it, but I don't think anyone was there, because there were no boats at their docks.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Mississippi River Day 56 (O'Connell Island, 947.5 miles)

I had a slight tailwind most of the day today, as long as I stuck to the Iowa side of the river, out of the way of the western wind. The entire day glided by, and I didn't really ever stop that much. It was overcast all day long, so the day had a timeless feel, without ever seeing the sun.

I was passed by a coast guard ship that was re-laying the buoys that mark the channel, since they drift over time. Interesting to see some of the maintenance that the river requires.

I had to stay in the main channel today, since there were no other options, but there were plenty of small islands to make things more interesting. I passed through another lock late in the day, and then found a campsite right near town for the night.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Mississippi River Day 55 (Brass Island, 920 miles)

Today flowed by, after a bad start. A few miles in I hit a lock, where I realized that I lost my hat. I either left it at the campsite, or it blew out of my boat. Luckily it was just a wide-brimmed hat for sun, and not my insulated hat. I'm not sure how much more I'll actually need the shade, since the weather has been getting colder. Down to 30 degrees last night.

I spent most of today in back channels, since there were long stretches that connected through. This kept me out of the wind, and away from the barges. It was much more enjoyable, and reminded me a bit of the headwaters area.

I hit the second lock late in the day, where Troy had said he would be working. He probably was, but I didn't see him at all. After passing through that lock I actually got a bit of a tailwind, so I took advantage of it for a longer day.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Mississippi River Day 54 (Island 303, 894 miles)

I got a bit of a late start today, since I really didn't feel like fighting with the wind again after such a tough day yesterday. However, the wind had mostly died down. It also helped that I finally turned south again, after several days of heading almost due west into the wind.

I stopped by a town at 6 miles, but the library was closed since its Sunday. Oh well.

After turning south the wind picked up a bit, but I was able to find calmer spots near the shore where the wind was blocked, so it did't bother me as much as on previous days.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Mississippi River Day 53 (Bonfire Island, 875 miles)

Today was even worse than yesterday. I spent the first 8 hours of the day trying hard to barely make 6 miles due to the wind. There wasn't even anywhere to hide out, since I was going through Davenport IA, and there were no trees to stop the wind.

In some places the waves were breaking over the front of my canoe as I bobbed up and down, and there were whitecaps everywhere. I stopped right after the city as soon as I found a spot, and decided to call it quits.

At 5:30 the wind slowed down quite a bit, so I pushed out again, and made another 3 miles before dark. As it was getting dark I was looking for a campsite when I came across a family with a large bonfire. They called me over and asked what I was doing. They were about to leave, so they left me their food and the fire, both of which I enjoyed.

It turned out that one of them, Troy, is in charge of safety for the surrounding lock areas, so he told me a few horror stories about the locks and dams. Apparently a few years ago someone on a surfboard was sucked under the dam, and had to be rescued. He was saved, and continued downriver, but was probably a bit more careful after that.

Troy said he would be at the lock 42 miles down on Monday, so I might end up seeing him again.
Overall a nice end to a horrible day.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Mississippi River Day 52 (Duck Creek, 866 miles)

Today was a repeat of a few days ago. I got an early start for wind, and made 3 miles before hitting the next lock. Then I had to wait for 2 hours out in the open channel waiting for a barge to go through. Not fun.

Once I was through the lock I stopped on the next sandy island hoping to recoup some motivation for the day. By the time I actually was ready to leave again the wind had kicked up quite a bit, and I was blown around with some pretty big waves.

I made a few more miles before deciding it was getting to rough to be out on the water, and found a small creek to go up for a campsite. There was some slight rain in the afternoon, but nothing too bad.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Mississippi River Day 51 (Sycamore Creek, 859 miles)

It rained quite a bit last night, so everything was soaked when I woke up. Its never fun to pack up wet gear, even if you are dry.

I got an early start to try to avoid most of the wind. Four miles in I hit a town, but there wasn't much there, and it was starting to sprinkle a bit. As I was leaving two guys in a pickup pulled up and started talking to me. They were pretty interested in the trip, so I stayed longer than I would have otherwise. They were actually from the next town downriver, so I tried hinting I would be staying somewhere around there, wherever I could find, but no such luck on the yogi.

At twelve miles I hit another town, where I stopped for the library and internet. When I left the wind had kicked up quite a bit, and was blowing sideways. To leave town I had to paddle about a half mile crossways to get back to the flow of the river, which was straight into the wind. Luckily when I finally got to the opposite shore I was able to be sheltered a bit from the wind, and decided to keep going.

I was planning a shorter day today, but there were a bunch of houses all along the bank, so I didn't really have to many camping options. As it was getting dark I found a culvert leading up a stream, and was able to camp on the stream bank. There was a house right nearby, but I actually strung my hammock across the creek, so I wasn't actually trespassing.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Mississippi River Day 50 (Side of river, 839 miles)

Today had a nice calm start, but the skies were black by 10:00am. I pulled off the river just before the skies opened up, and there was thunder and lighting to go with the rain. Good choice.

I tried to wait it out, but it lasted on and off all day. It stopped a bit around dinner, but by then I was there for the night. A short day, but better than getting soaked and electrocuted.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Mississippi River Day 49 (Stamps Island, 832 miles)

Today I slept in a bit just to enjoy it.

I hit a town at 4 miles in today, but wasn't able to update my journal. The entire town had wireless setup, but I would have had to pay $5 per 24 hours of usage, even at the public library. No way, so I waited.

There was some slight rain and moderate wind today, but nothing show stopping. The major change today was that the bluffs on either side of the river disappeared. This means that the river has also become wider, especially on the upstream side of some of the dams.

I ended today going through a lock, and found a small island just downstream from it. It was quite nice listening to the dam noises as I fell asleep, but unfortunately it also meant I was woken up any time a barge went through in the night, since they blow a horn to signal the boat to leave the dock. Oh well.
I had a large fire again tonight, since the island had a plentiful supply of dry driftwood. I cooked more mashed potatoes, adding in the last of my cheese, and called it a night.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Mississippi River Day 48 (Little Soup Bone Island, 812 miles)

Today started off with a nice calm morning, which was nice and relaxing. I had to get an early start today to get into town so I could eat breakfast. The lock and town were at 4 miles in, so it wasn't too far to go without breakfast. After getting something to eat I went to the library for a quick stop, and then did a larger resupply from the grocery store. I ended up getting a 5 lb bag of potatoes, which I would never do on a backpacking trip. Quite nice. Also got a bunch of carrots and broccoli, just to make sure I have a balanced diet.

Other than town today was mostly uneventful. I stopped at 5:00, where there was a nice flat beach to camp on, with a large amount of driftwood for a fire. It was a pretty nice day overall, even with a bit of a headwind. The traffic had significantly died down from yesterday, even though today was still a holiday, so I was expecting more people. I had a nice large helping of cheesy potatoes for dinner, and read a bit before going to bed.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Mississippi River Day 47 (Jackson Island, 793 miles)

Today was a rollercoaster in several ways. I got an early start hoping for no wind. Luckily I got it to start off with, so I thought it was going to be a god day. 3 miles in I hit a lock, and had to wait an hour and a half for a barge to pass through before I could go through. Not making good use of an early start. By the time I got through the wind had picked up quite a bit, and was pushing me back. Another three miles and I hit town, where I was hoping to get a bit of food to last me another day. No such luck. I asked around, and there wasn't anything reasonable within walking distance, so I won't have food until town tomorrow. Not good.

After leaving town the boat traffic was crazy. At one point I looked up and down the river and counted 20 boats that I could see. I stayed out of the channel in shallower water, but they still caused quite a bit of wake, which bounced me all over the place. The power boats are especially bad, since they are big but still move really fast.

Due to all the bad conditions I took a break for the afternoon, only 9 miles into the day. By 5:00 the wind had died down, so I pushed on. I found a back channel, which cut out the pleasure boat traffic, which helped improve my mood. By dark the boat traffic had died out, and the moon was shining at full strength, so I pushed a few more hours. That way I can get into town early tomorrow, and not have to starve.

Looking back on today's maps I noticed that I crossed another state line today. Goodbye Wisconsis, hello Illinois. Not as exciting as the first line, since there was no sign and I didn't even notice.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Mississippi River Day 46 (Maquoketa Island, 768 miles)

This morning I was ready for the wind. And by that I mean that I listened for the wind before getting out of bed, and decided to just go back to sleep, since it was way to windy to go anywhere.

I did see a canoe with a family in it, parents and two small kids. They weren't making much headway, even with 2 paddlers, so I decided I made a good decision on the zero day.

At 6:00 the wind died down a bit, so I was debating heading out for a few miles by the moon, but decided I already had camp set up, so it wasn't worth it. The wind picked back up around 10:00, so I was glad I didn't go on.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Mississippi River Day 45 (Maquoketa Island, 768 miles)

Today was not what I was hoping for. I got an early start, hoping to do some more miles today. Even with an early start the wind had already picked up, and I only made 7 miles in the first 4 hours of hard paddling. Luckily at 7 miles there was a nice park, Mud Lake park, where I spent the rest of the day waiting for the wind to die down.

I left again around 5:30, hoping for the evening calm that usually sets in. No such luck. As it got darker the waves actually kicked up, and some of the bigger ones where splashing into my boat. Not something you want to happen when you can only see by the moonlight.

I found a small island after another 3 miles and made camp. The island was nice and flat, with the undergrowth kicked down, and only 3 trees. Luckily two of them worked for my hammock, so I was set for the night. I wasn't able to cook, since the wind would have blown any heat away from my alcohol stove, but I just had a bit of cold food instead.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Mississippi River Day 44 (Hurricane Island, 758 miles)

I woke up this morning to the sounds of a dredging crew right next to my island. Apparently the lights that I had seen the night before were from there boats where they spent the night. I hit a lock at 4 miles in, and talked a bit with the lock tenders. Apparently the nice weather is supposed to last until Tuesday, when there will be thunder storms. The weather has been mid 80's, instead of the mid 60's it usually is this time of year, so I have appreciated it by trying to do more miles now, to make it easier later.

I hit a town at 12 miles, right as the wind was kicking up, so it worked out nicely. Unfortunately the library was a ways outside of town, so I had a bit of a hike. I was able to upload more pictures and got caught up on my journal. I left around 5:00 when the wind was dying down, which was nice. I hit a gas station as I left town for a small resupply, since there was no grocery in town. After that it was a bit of a night paddle by the moon, still with nice weather. I found a poor campsite for the night, but I was ready to stop, and there didn't look to be anything soon on the maps, so I called it a night. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Mississippi River Day 43 (McMillian Island, 735 miles)

Today was a nice day again, I'm not sure how many more of these I'm going to get. I slept in a bit to wait for fog again, and then took off. I took a side channel that bypassed town today. Turns out the side channel is actually the official channel for the barges, because the traffic kept going. Its nice to be able to bypass some of these towns, without needing supplies or anything. Especially some of the bigger cities could get annoying.

I had a nice couple of breaks today on soft sandy beached, and I called it a day on one of the beaches at mile 18. The wind picked up quite a bit, and the beach had a nice campsite, so I thought I was done for the day. However, the wind died down as the evening went on, and I decided to take advantage of the coming full moon and do some night miles. It is quite interesting to canoe by moonlight, and I definitely recommend trying it. I pushed on for a few hours by the moon, which sets me up for town tomorrow nicely. I'm planning on doing more of a resupply, since its been more than 300 miles since my last major resupply. Canoeing is definitly a bit different than backpacking.

I pushed the night miles tonight because I wanted to try it, and I'm not sure how long the weather will last. The moon keeps getting brighter, but I wanted a clear night to try it. The past couple of nights have been clear, and the full moon is only a couple days away, so I took advantage of the circumstances.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Mississippi River Day 42 (Jackson Island, 709 miles)

I slept in a bit today to wait for the fog to clear, and then headed out. It was warm today, but not as bad as yesterday. I'm still trying to take advantage of the Indian summer I've been in for the past couple of days to push out a few extra miles. That way, if I get a particulary nasty day later on, I can just wait it out. I figurue that the weather will be getting a bit worse as I go, so I'd rather do more miles on a nice day now. Also, 18 miles would have put me in the middle of the lake formed by a lock, so I had to go a few extra miles anyway to find a campsite. The lock was at mile 24, and the wind was picking up, so I was glad to be getting close to done. After that I just had to go downstream a bit to find a nice spot and set up camp. I'm a bit sore, but after a while it all fades away and the miles just slide by.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Mississippi River Day 41 (Henderson Island, 682 miles)

This morning I slept in a bit. My thermometer was reading 44 degrees at 7:00, so I wanted it to warm up a bit. An hour later it was already 60. It was still pretty calm and foggy even then, but I took off into the haze. By 2:00 in the afternoon it reached 108. That was sitting in the sun for a while, with no breeze. Its also on a cheap thermometer, but I think its accurate. I was dripping sweat, so I know it was quite hot.

The lock tender today was a stickler for rules. As I approached he asked me if I had a lifejacket, and said I had to put it on to use the lock. This was the first time at all that I have had to use the life jacket, so it caught me off guard. I could tell he followed all the rules, because he waited for the gates to completely open and close before changing the signals to stop and go. Other tenders just wait until the turbulence has stopped, and let you through anyway. Just a bit different I guess.

Since the heat was so bad today I took a break in the afternoon, longer than my usual breaks for the day. At mile 20 I reached my goal for the day, which was the Iowa state line. I'm out of my first state, officially. Its a bit weird, since I've actually been on the border of Minnesota and Wisconsin for a while now, but I'm done with Minnesota now, and still between Iowa and Wisconsin. Even though its an imaginary line, its nice to get a milestone like that out of the way.

I made camp for the night shortly after the state line, where there was a nice sandy campsite, with a firepit and a lot of wood. For the first time in a while now there were mosquitoes again, which was a bit annoying, but they weren't anywhere near as bad as they were went I started.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Mississippi River Day 40 (Mormon Island 659.8 miles)

This morning wasn't so cold, but it was really foggy. I hit a lock early in the day, at 4 miles in. It was still very foggy at that point, and I hadn't read the maps, so I wasn't really expecting it. I just saw the pier jutting out of the fog, and realized where I was. Once I realized I was at a lock I pulled the cord to signal that I wanted to go through. The lock tenders had to radio to a tug that was halfway in on the downstream side. The tug was tied up there, I'm not sure why, but it was preventing the gates from closing. It took a bit to get it moved out of the way, and then I was let through.

All day today I had an arguement with myself. I was debating between how long I want this trip to take. If I average 15 miles per day it will be end of January. That would give me more time each day to relax. The second option is 18 miles, which would be around New Years. That would be longer days, but allow me other trips in January. I had finally made up my mind to only do 15 average, but when I got to mile 15 I realized it was too soon to stop. So I kept going. I guess its going to be 18 miles average, which will probably work out better. The big thing that has really changed is that there is no longer any current, so I'm only averaging 3 mph. Before the twin cities I was going about 4 mph, since the current was about 1 mph. That can make a big diference over the course of the day.

After finishing the debate, I kept going, and mostly bypassed the town of LaCrosse. I stopped for water and that was it. I already have enough food, and the library was probably closed, since it was late on Sunday when I got there. Instead I went a few more miles, and found a nice island campsite. The island has a bunch of trees that have been gnawed on by beavers, but they area still standing. No beaver dams in sight though. I used some of the deadwood to make a nice fire, and called it a day.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Mississippi River Day 39 (Johnson Island, 637 miles)

It was a cold night last night. My thermometer got down to 38 degrees in my hammock. Luckily the blanket that I picked up works quite well, so I can hold off on a new sleeping bag for a bit longer.

Last night I was visited by aliens just after dark. Or so it seemed. I was on an island just upstream of the lock. Right after I went to bed a bright light repeatedly shone pretty much right at my hammock. Turns out that the barges have bright spotlights, and tend to focus on the islands that they have to avoid. Also, apparently the barges can run most of the night, weather permitting.

I hit the first lock at 3 miles in, and I was bundled up with all my layers on. Later when I hit the next lock, at mile 13 I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt. An interesting day of weather. At the second lock I was a bit rushed. There were other boaters who were going through, and I ended up coming up behind them a bit late. I was paddling hard, trying to get into the lock, but the gates started closing so I backed off to wait for the next one. Fortunately the lock tenders noticed me, and re-opened the gates to let me in, rather than have me wait, which was nice of them.

I stopped for lunch on a nice sandy beach area, which had obviously been used for camping by a lot of other people. Towars the end of the day the wind picked up, but I found a nice sheltered spot on the inside of Johnson Island that was completely calm. The water cuts through the island, making it actually 2 separate islands, and I ended up camping on the inner section of the river between the two.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Mississippi River Day 38 (Island, 612.5 miles)

Another windy day. After yesterday I would have just stayed in bed and not deal with the wind again, but I had camped a bit to close to civilization. I was pretty close to a couple houses, so I figured I should get out before they start complaining. There was also a lock 2 miles in, and I was hoping that the wind might be a bit less after that, if the water level downstream was low enough to shelter me a bit. I spent that 2 miles turned sideways again, and just let myself drift with the wind. It wasn't worth fighting to stay pointed in the right direction, and I was still making progress.

Once I got to the dam I was told I'd have to wait awhile, as they had a barge going through. I decided to pull my canoe out of the water just upstream, stop at a gas station for hot food, and watch the barge. It was quite a process to get it through the lock. There was the tug and 12 barges stacked 3 wide and 4 long. That it longer than the lock itself, so they have to separate. The lock can fit 3 barges wide, which is why they move them like that. So the first 9 barges fit in the lock, and they sever the connection to the tug, which then backs off. The lock gate is closed, and the water comes in. Once the water is high enough the upper gate is opened and a cable is attached to the barges, which are then pulled out of the lock. The process repeats for the rear 3 barges and the tug, which are then re-attached. This whole thing probably took about an hour or so, and then I got to go down through the lock. Pretty interesting.

I spent some more time drifting sideways, then took a break for the afternoon. Even though I wasn't paddling for the most part, it is still mentally taxing to be dealing with the larger waves, especially when having little control over the direction you are facing. I started again at 4:30, and was able to make a little bit of headway, still being turned sideways by gusts, but mostly facing the right direction. I stopped just short of the next lock, since it was getting dark.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Mississippi River Day 37 (Island, 599 miles)

Today was a rough day. According to the weather channel there was 25-40 mph winds, with gusts up to 50, and a severe wind advisory. Not a fun day to be on the water. Luckily it was a tailwind, or I wouldn't have gotten anywhere. I would have stayed in camp, except that town was only 4 miles away, so I figured I would try for that. I spent those four miles turned sideways, and let the wind just blow me downstream. I could paddle towards either bank, but as soon as I tried to turn straight the wind pushed me back sideways. I barely made it to the town landing, but was able to pull the canoe up on the bank a bit to get out of the waves. Once onshore I met a motorcyclist who saw that I was getting tossed around, and said he was having the same problem, and with the same conclusion of spending time in town.

I spent some time wandering around town, but there wasn't really a whole lot there, so I just went to the library. I took the chance to do some research into towns downstream, and got photos uploaded, so the day wasn't a complete waste. The library closed at 5:00, so I left around 4:30 and went back to my canoe. It had also been raining a bit off and on, so I had to bail some water out before setting out. I mainly just wanted to get outside of town to set up camp, but the wind was still at my back, so I let it blow me downstream for awhile.

A long day for only 9 miles, but I didn't have to paddle most of the way.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Mississippi RIver Day 36 (Island, 590 miles)

I got an early start today, because I was still worried about wind on Lake Pepin. Fortunately, there wasn't any real wind to speak of, and the lake was relatively calm. It was actually quite nice to be paddling along on such a large body of water, and not have to worry about waves.

I stopped in to Lake City about halfway through the day for the library and supplies. Unfortunately trailjournals seemed to be having some problems, so I couldn't update my journal. I also stopped at Family Dollar to pick up another tupperware tub to keep everything waterproof. All of the large size were missing their lids, so I asked a clerk about it. Apparently all of the lids were damaged in transit, so they gave me a broken one for 50% off. All it needed was a bit of duct tape and it was as good as new. Now everything I have can be kept perfectly waterproof, which is quite nice on rainy days.

After I left town the wind picked up a bit, but not enough to cause any real problems. It was interested because there were a few sailboats out to enjoy the breeze, which I hadn't seen before.

One bad thing about Lake Pepin is there all the mileage markers disappeared, so I had no idea how far along I was. The shoreline was indistinct as well, so I was just guessing based on time how far along I was.

It was getting dark as I came to the end of the lake, but I pushed a bit later because I knew that tomorrow was forecast for severe wind, so I wanted to be off the lake if possible. I also had to cross to the far side, because there was a railroad right next to the near bank, which I knew would keep me up all night long. I found a nice spot on the far bank, and called it quits.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Mississippi River Day 35 (Lighthouse Island 569 miles)

This morning it sounded like rain, so I slept in a bit. Once I got going I realized that it was only 'tree rain' or the water falling off the trees in the wind. Then, about half an hour after I actually got going it really did start raining. Talk about bad timing.

I went through Lock #3 early in the day, and talked a bit with the lock tender about my trip. He had been thinking about something like this for awhile, but never really gave it serious thought. Also, he had looked on google maps for the headwaters, but could never find it, since he had been looking north of Bemidji. The headwaters is actually south, and travels north for the first 60 miles or so, making a big question mark.

I stopped in Red Wing for library and food, and got back on the river pretty quickly. Its interesting seeing the different libraries along the way. Some are pretty big and new, while others are very small town-y.

The past few days have been pretty nice. I'm in a very forested area, more-so than the headwaters region, or any other region since then. Once I finished with the weekend and got out of the city areas there hasn't been much boat traffic, and I have the river mostly to myself the entire day. Even when there are other boats on the river they don't bother me much, and the river is large enough that their wakes don't even cause any problems.

I finished today just before the rain set in, so I had my tarp set up and was able to stay dry. I did a few extra miles today to line up for Lake Pepin tomorrow. It is a 21 mile long lake, and if the wind is blowing right that can make for some big waves. Happily, the weather isn't supposed to be that windy tomorrow, but is the day after, so I want to be off the lake by tomorrow night.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Mississippi River Day 34 (Island, 546.5 miles)

It seemed windy this morning, so I stayed a bit longer in my hammock before getting out. I heard voices a few times on the water in the early morning, I'm assuming that it was just some fishermen, but I might be going crazy.

As soon as I finally started the wind actually died down, which was nice. I also got into a more sheltered portion of the river, so that helped as well. Then I hit Stump Lake, which is a large flooded section, and the wind picked up again. At the end of the lake there was another lock, so I decided to cut across a portion of the lake. The wind was actually at my back, but the waves kept turning me sideways, so it was still a battle.

When I got to the lock there was a barge and crane idling around it, so I kept my distance a bit. It was pretty hard with the tailwind, and the waves kicked up to 2 feet high. Eventually the lock tendered waved me around, and I cut in front of the barge. Apparently they were doing some construction, so it was just waiting there.

I stopped in to Hastings to use the library, and unfortunately it was 2 miles away from the waterfront. It gave me a nice break from the canoe though, but really ate into the hours of the day. I also forgot to bring food, so it was a long start to the afternoon.

Once I got back to the canoe it was really windy, so I took a lunch break in the park hoping it would die down. Unfortunately it didn't, so I just went for it. Fortunately, as soon as I got going I got back into a sheltered area, so it wasn't too bad. A rainy evening cut my miles a bit short, but I ended up camping on an island again. This one didn't have a name, but it was obvious that a lot of people used it for camping. There was a bunch of trashed tents and other garbage, but the island was pretty clear of undergrowth, so it was actually pretty nice.

Also, I posted some more pics to my flickr account, so take a look:
pictures

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Mississippi River Day 33 (Baldwin Island Camp, 531 miles)

I woke up early again today, and it was a nice calm day to start with. The first few miles were more wooded areas, and then I hit another industrial area. This area had concrete and steel walls, which made the boat wakes bounce off and hit me again from the other side. I also saw more boat traffic, and several barges. The boats are getting bigger as well, so the wakes can be pretty annoying. While passing through this area I hit a pretty low spot morale-wise, but I knew I had to keep going to get past it.

A few more miles and I came to another forested area, which was nice, even though it had barges docked all along the way. While in this area I got passed by a coast guard boat, so I was glad I got my boat properly registered before.

I decided to take a back route, cutting through Baldwin lake instead of the main channel of the Mississippi. That way I could avoid some of the boat traffic, and get a different view. This also took me by the island where I was to camp for the night. This campsite was lacking the typical amenities, like the privy and picnic table, but it did have several nice lawn chairs that I took advantage of.

As I was sitting there trying to decide if I wanted to keep going or not, the fire restarted itself. Apparently someone hadn't put it out well enough, and the wind kicked it back up. That decided it. I had a free fire, so I was staying. I ended up paying for the fire though, when my pot got too hot and burnt through my potholder, burning my thumb. It didn't hurt for a while, then it started throbbing, so I don't think that's good.

I also took advantage of the beach to start craft night. I had been thinking about turning the tarp I bought in Bemidji into some sort of spray skirt. That way it would keep out drips from the paddle, and a light rain. However, after cutting the tarp into shape it started raining, so I canceled the rest of the craft night, to be continued later.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Mississippi River Day 32 (Fort Snelling park, 509.5 miles)

I woke up early this morning, and found that I had camped right over a rather large dead fish. Oh well.
I hit a dam 4 miles into the day, the last portage on the river. It wasn't a bad portage, I'm not sure how long it was, but most of the way was grassy. There were a lot of fishermen along the way, since it was some sort of park type area, and they gave me some funny looks.

I tried to stop in town for the library, but my computer wouldn't connect for some reason. The library seemed weird anyways, there were security guards at the entrances and exits, which seemed overkill.

Right after I left the library I hit the first lock on the river. I had to wait for a bit, since they had a large tour boat coming in, so I paddled close to the shore to wait. Bad decision. The wake of the boat was relatively minor, but since I was already on the shoreline it ended up tipping me sideways, and I almost swamped the canoe. Instead I just got splashed a bit, and reminded to pay more attention.

I got into the lock after that, and pulled off my hat to see everything better. I forgot that my sunglasses were on top of my hat, and almost lost them in the river. Fortunately they don't sink that fast, and I was able to reach in the water and grab them.

The lock dropped about 50 feet in 10 minutes, which is a strange feeling to look up the walls afterwards. I talked a bit with the lock tender, and he actually expected that I was going the whole way. I guess they see a few canoe-ers come through every year. He was also nice enough to call down to the next lock and have them wait for me, since I'm a bit slower than the motor boats.

Then next couple of miles were very urban, but then I was pleasantly surprised to find the rest of the day going through a forested valley. Some of it was state parks and some of it was college land, but it was definitely better than what I was hoping for.

I passed through Lock #1, which is the third lock on the river, late in the day. Just downstream of the lock there was more park like areas, with lots of fishermen and dog walkers. The whole area had nice sandy banks, which was a change from the rock previously. I found a nice spot to camp for the night, and called it quits.

One portage, 3 locks , and 25.5 miles in one day, not bad.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Mississippi River Day 31 (Point Park, 484 miles)

Today was another longer day to take advantage of yet another nice day of weather. I saw a fox along the bank today, before it ran away from me. I'm also still seeing tons of herons, but for some reason today they were all out of the water. Maybe it is just as it gets colder or something. Previously they were all standing in water, but today it was all on trees or rocks.

Around lunch time I hit some relatively major traffic. There was a canoe, a kayak, and a motorboat, all at the same bend in the river. Compared to no traffic everywhere else, it felt crowded.

I was actually going to stop for the day at Clausset Island, at 23 miles, but I decided to keep going after looking at the maps for tomorrow. That would have left me right in the middle of a city tomorrow night, which I want to avoid. Instead, I kept going another 5 miles, and hit a town park, stopped for dinner, and continued on another mile. It was one of those parks that you can't camp at, so I just found somewhere a little bit further on. It was getting dark by then, so I just found the nearest trees and strung my hammock.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Mississippi River Day 30 (Montissippi County Park, 455.8 miles)

I woke up this morning to breakfast. My host, Peter, had made some wonderful bacon and eggs, and we made breakfast sandwiches with it. I quickly packed up everything so he wouldn't be late to class. He drove me down to the boat landing and helped me load everything back up. After a quick picture, I pushed off on my way. He was also nice enough to let me keep his bike lock, saying that I would probably need it further downstream. Thanks again.

Within the first few miles I saw a couple sleeping on the side of the river. It seemed more like a try at a romantic experience than a homeless couple, but it looked like it got colder than they expected last night. I also had a helicopter fly over me several times, I'm not sure what they were doing, but it was pretty loud.

The current is stronger today thanks to the dam, which is always nice to have a bit of a push. I found a butterfly floating in the water, which made for a nice picture, and then I rescued it out of the water.

I stopped by Clearwater outfitter, which was right on the river, mainly to see what they had. Apparently they were just opening up within the past few months, but they had some very nice boats. Quite pricey, but very nice. Its also nice to stop by an outfitter, in my experience they are much more interested in your trip than they are in selling you something. Stores generally don't care much about the trip, and are happy to sell something. Also, apparently the owner said that water levels have been dropping lately. I'm not sure if that is good for me or not, but its just interesting to note.

I got to camp, and it started to rain, then it got sunny again, which was nice. I had a nice fire going, which made the evening nice as well.

I'm starting to try and take advantage of nicer days like today, and push more miles. That way, when it is nasty I can avoid longer days, either with bad wind or rain, or even just cold. Hopefully a longer day like today will help later on. It wasn't even that bad, since the current was stronger. I'm also getting much more use to paddling, so it doesn't seem as bad.