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.

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.