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.