In the Water It Went

I started off my morning a little thankful that I didn’t sleep next to the sprinklers. That would have been awful. Not wanting to spend any more time feeling like a dirt bag than I needed to, I hit the water as soon as the light allowed.

Paddling on last night would have been tough to locate a better camping spot. The local homeless had taken a few of the obvious ones, and I wouldn’t want to displace someone already in that position.

It wasn’t long before I reached today’s dam and portage. Will it be terrible? Well, it started off with stairs… There were three steps that were framed in with heavy timbers. The dirt they retained has since washed away, leaving just the wood. I would have to unload my boat. Again. While I was in the water, I was able to move about half my stuff up onto the bank. Then I got out and moved it securely next to the walking path. I didn’t want anything to roll back in the water.

First half? Done. Back in the water I go. Thankfully it is firm and shallow right here. Unloading could have been worse. I got all the other big stuff on the bank. There were a handful of small things that I’d be able to pull with the boat. I balanced it on the stairs and got out to move the remaining stuff out of the way. Just as I was moving the final bear canister, a gentle wave or a slight breeze must have been just enough to tip the boat off balance. It rolled and the back end started taking on water, and my chart case (and maps) started to float away! I jumped back in the water as fast as I could to rescue my maps and prevent anything else from floating off.

The boat had quite a bit of water at this point. I got to put my bilge pump to use for the first time. It took some work and I alternated with my bailing scoop just to switch it up. All my little things were floating in there, so I couldn’t just dump it very easily. When I got to the last few gallons I figured that was enough that I could pull it out. A gallon weighs about 8 lbs, so they add up fast.

I finally got my boat out and started loading as I munched on the last pizza from yesterday. I wheeled it along the path, just as the garden staff was getting started and driving around in their carts. Up a steep grade there was now a paved path and, as luck would have it, a picnic table. That seems like a wonderful place for a break.

Some garden staff said hello as they were emptying the trash. We got to talking and were surprised I was paddling to the gulf. They agreed with my suggestion for more vending machines at portages.

I finally decided to go and I wheeled along the path to find the put-in spot. It sure seems like they picked the highest point along the river to decide to start the trail down. Between the hill, and the drop in the river from the head height of the dam, it was pretty far down. Do you think they had a ramp where I could wheel my boat? If you do. You haven’t been paying attention to this trip close enough. It’s stairs. It’s about 3 stories worth of stairs!

Maybe this calls for a nap? I laid there and rested, half dozing off and half playing on my phone. I talked to a few others out for a walk. One lady said she wanted to do it, and also had been watching videos about the AT. I encouraged her to hike the Appalachian Trail. I probably laid there a few hours, both from exhaustion and dreading the stairs.

Now, in fairness, these were very well maintained stairs, but still. I think it took me a total of 5 trips down to move all my gear and boat. The boat is an extra challenge. This makes me glad I got a nice lightweight one. Basically, I just get in the middle of the boat and lift it over my head, upside down. It’s tricky if it’s windy. These stairs also turned out a little tricky. Since they are steep, you have to point the front of the boat down a little so the back doesn’t hit the stairs behind you. Near the bottom is a retaining wall and a turn. I did my best, but I bumped and banged against it as I went past.

Out in the middle of the river, was a rock covered in turtles. I deem it Turtle Rock just like in Zelda: ALTTP.

Turtle Rock

The river was extra shallow today. It had a rocky bottom, which made it tough to dodge rocks (or even know where they were). I was undecided on my distance for the day, but I was sure I at least wanted another break at the Boy Scout Point campsite coming up.

I check my maps regularly and then I estimate what time I should arrive at my next waypoint. This way I can just take a look at my watch and have a good idea of how much farther. I was a little thrown when I got to the campsite so early. I could see the picnic tables and the nice takeout. But it couldn’t be right. The bank wasn’t shaped like the map said and I got there too soon. Just as I was about to pull out my phone, some people carrying boats came down carrying boats. They confirmed I was at a new county park that wasn’t indicated on my maps yet. It was some outfitters putting a group on to do a few miles to the next town. I chatted for several minutes and then paddled on before they had all gotten situated.

I got to Boy Scout Point and it was quite a lovely campsite. It even had a stack of firewood. The next site was another 10 miles. I could make it, but it just didn’t sound fun. I’ll stay here.

I was surprised it took the other paddlers an hour after I had arrived. It was less than 2 miles up river where they put in. They must have been stopping on the way for something.

I spent the afternoon relaxing and even built a fire in the evening. It will probably be the only time I do while I’m in the river, so I’ll just sit back and enjoy.

Mileage: 12.6

Total Mileage: 425

Today’s Audio: Strict Scrutiny (podcast)

Day 21

2 thoughts on “In the Water It Went

  1. Sounds like you are always finding an “unexpected adventure” such as the watery start! Thank goodness you got to the maps before they left. I really hope you can turn into a serial entry in the newspaper!
    Bingo Auntie B

  2. Hey, Nick, you’ve not made an entry for awhile, but it looks like you’re making good time and only less than 20 miles from the Iowa border (Friday night). One of the interesting things I’ve discovered as I follow your progress is how intricate the Mississippi is as it makes its way to the terminus. I have always had in my mind just a regular River that slowly grows in size as it travels south. But no, Lots and lots of adjacent marshes and features that make it the perfect flyway for migrating birds. Enjoy your journey and many of us are enjoying the trip from afar with you.
    Bingo Auntie Bonnie

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