Day 31

Made it through my last lock without much fanfare.  I actually went around it as the lock was open.  I stopped there to ask about the river going down to the Miss. and ended up talking to a Marine from the Vietnam era.  I was a Navy corpsman so Jake and I had an instant bond.  He gave me heaps of information and more that a few warnings!  I guess the Miss. R. going south is no picnic.  I will keep going with my eyes open and I’m sure things will be fine.  I am  camped about 8 miles from the Miss. R. so tomorrow will be an important decision making day-left, right , no left, no right…..  I might end up in Albuquerque at this rate!

I stopped a little early today as it is warm and I needed to recharge all my batteries.  So I am sitting on the bank and letting the sun warm me up before I make my nest.  One more cold night and then things will start to warm up.  I just booked a hotel for next weekend for my brother and me.  That will be a nice break.  After that, it’s the super highway to N.O.!


8 thoughts on “Day 31

  1. My personal blog from 10-8-12

    What is it about men that make them want to climb mountains and explore caves. We ride our motorcycles too fast and pull the rip cord at the last possible second. We set out in a 20 foot sail boat to cross the Pacific and we paddle a canoe down the river from Pittsburgh to New Orleans. Yesterday I got to ask the question of the canoeist.

    Going about my very important work in order to justify your taxes (for which I’m very grateful) I noticed a guy in a bright colored wind breaker walking up the shore from just below my lock and dam. A little later when I went back to my office he was standing outside. He asked if I could give him some advice about navigating on down the river. I asked where he was going and he said New Orleans. Anyone who knows the river system knows that the lower Mississippi from Cairo, Illinois to New Orleans, Louisiana is not a pleasure cruise. There’s a lot of traffic in a very winding river. So I asked the guy if he had charts and a radio. “No charts but a good radio”, he said.
    That was half the battle and absolutely necessary for someone foolish enough to navigate the Lower in a canoe. As I talked to the guy I realized this was no fly by night enterprise, but one that had been pretty carefully planned. His canoe had a flat deck built on it and outriggers on both sides to give stability. He was well supplied and had friends and family meeting him along the river to see that he was ok.

    So, all in all I was pretty impressed. I was starting to like the guy when he saw my screen saver on my computer. I have a very nice graphic of the Marine Corps emblem. He asked if I was a Marine and I said yes rather proudly, as we Marines usually do. He said he was a Corpsman so I stood up and gave him a man hug. You see, combat Marines have one unlucky sailor attached to every platoon. He’s the guy who patches up our wounds and puts band aids on our boo boos. But the thing is, he has to be the bravest baddest son of a bitch in the outfit because he does his thing when the bullets fly and he saves our lives while he risks his own. No marine will screw with a Corpsman except in a big brother way and nobody else will while a Marine is around. There’s a special relationship between Marines and Navy Corpsmen that is unique in my experience. This comrade in arms was 49 years old and had done pretty well in life, had enough money to enjoy life and taking a 2000 mile canoe trip seemed like a good way enjoy it. So he left a loving wife at home, grabbed his laptop and a solar generator, a marine radio, loaded it in his hand modified canoe and launched from Pittsburgh. He’s keeping a log of his experiences day by day and posting the entries on his web site from his laptop while floating down this old slow river.

    My thoughts will be with him and I’ll anxiously await his arrival in New Orleans. He has my phone number and I have his web site. Maybe we’ll keep in touch. After all, he’s my brother.

    • Jake, That was quite a comment, thanks! I related meeting you to my wife and shared many of the same sentiments. I am taking your advice and calling it a day in New Madrid, Mo. The Mississippi has been modified a bit to just handle barge traffic. The Ohio is both a recreational and barge river whereas the Mississippi seems to cater to barge only. I’ve already had two very close calls in two days. I don’t want to tempt fate. On the bright side, I found out that my canoe/craft can endure some pretty big waves! I would rather live to fight another day rather than knowingly go on a fools errand! Time to start planning my next misadventure. Can you tell me if the river is calmer in the summertime? It seems like there were many ‘rapids’ which I sure wouldn’t have expected on a river of that size. I’m glad I had the stabilizers! Thanks again brother!

      • Never having made that trip I can only tell you rumors. Generally speaking, the wider the water the bigger the waves. If you go while the river is in flood you’d have to deal with bigger waves and quite a bit of driftwood and other floatsum. The brighter side is that you’d be able to stay out of the channel and thus out of the way of barges. I can’t think of anything that would convince me to do the Lower in a canoe. If you decide to do the Tombigbee I’d be tempted to get my own canoe and join you.

        I’m glad you called it off, buddy. Take care.

        • Jake, It’s funny, the Ohio was just as wide as the MR but much more manageable due to the locks. The Army Corps of Engineers have made numerous jetties that divert water into the channels. These were supposed to be underwater but the levels are so low that they are they are halfway out of the water. This has had the effect of just churning up the water at every jetty. On the bright side, they were a good place to pull into at night as they offered great protection. Looking back on it, even if the river was full, I don’t know if I would do it. ‘They’ have kind of sacrificed the MR to commercial traffic at the expense of recreation. I don’t know if I agree or disagree with that as it is an economic lifeline for most of the country. Our country is blessed with many other waterways, lakes, etc. that we are not at a loss for recreational bodies of water. I have to say that this whole gig was such a positive learning/growing experience for me. I would encourage everyone to find their ‘thing’ and pursue it. Thanks for following!

          • In my rowdy youth I decided to canoe down the Fox River from Aurora, Illinois to the Illinois River and then down the Mississippi to the Gulf. I made it to Ottawa, Illinois where the Fox emptied into the Illinois and then looked at that big old river with all the barge traffic and decided I’d be better off going back home. I guess I wasn’t altogether stupd back then. If I’d had the trip planned as carfully as you I’d probably made it to the Mississippi but doubt I’d have gone far on it.

            I think I told you about the young guys who came through a month before you ijn that tiny little open car top boat. I never heard about them so I suspect they gave up on the Mississippi also. I’ll never know but I hope they’re safe.

          • The things we do when we are young show we have more brawn and brains. As the saying goes, ‘if your going to be stupid, you might as well be strong!’ When I was in the Navy at Camp Pendleton, I had the idea of riding my bike from there to Phoenix after I got off of work on Friday and having to be back at work Monday morning. I remember thinking at the time that a built in time requirement would be good for me. I made it but that was alot of hours on the bike! To this day, that was a memorable trip for me. I can bore you with the details of riding through the desert at night but you probably get the picture. I guess my line of thinking hasn’t progressed much over the last 30 years!

  2. Really good to get info from someone who knows about the ‘OLE MISS’. Hope you do not get a cold with all that artic air floating down the rivers there in the midwest Sam. Love you guy, Mom

  3. Hi Sam
    Glad to hear it’s warming up a bit. I thought of you the last two mornings as I left for work. Chilly back here in Ohio and I was hoping you were warm, dry and safe.


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