It’s a tough call but we’re going to stop canoeing the Mississippi River. That’s not to say our trip is over. Instead of New Orleans, our new destination is the Gulf of Mexico, via the Atchafalaya River.
Ever since we crossed the Mason-Dixon line, we’ve had to turn down numerous offers of fresh caught fish because we lacked any decent tools to filet and cook them. Finally after the nth time fishermen pulled over to our canoe and offered us their catch, we said what the hell and packed four large tripe into our cooler. Don’t ask me why we turned down the catfish we had been offered earlier in the trip for a much less tasty fish. In any case, here are the steps you should not take when cooking a fish caught in the Mississippi River.
1. Don’t pack a plastic bag overstuffed with ice and tripe into your cooler, infusing your food with fish smell.
Right now I’m sitting by the pool on the 8th floor of the Econolodge hotel/parking garage in downtown Memphis, waiting for the chicken and waffles lunch to settle, and life is good.
Earlier this week, with a few long days of paddling in tough winds, we finally decided to have a new mindset about the trip, mostly that we gots to chill more. Although we did almost immediately break this rule by racing to Memphis (we were excited for barbecue and blues, so can you blame us?), but from now on we plan to take things easier and, you know, go with the flow.
There are no easy miles on the Lower River, Mike of Big Muddy Adventures warned us as we left St. Louis. So, fittingly, just as we approached the confluence of the Ohio River at Cairo, IL (kay-row), an unexpected windstorm picked up and grounded us for several minutes. We finally entered the Lower River and immediately three men on a camouflage fishing boat approached us. At first we were hesitant — were they going to try and convince us to get off the river? — but before asking us where we were headed or where we came from, they offered us ice cold water, cans of Coke and a catfish. Welcome to southern hospitality.
Of course, right after they left a thunderstorm picked up and we were soon surrounded by bolts of lightening on almost all sides.
In case you haven’t heard, Iowa is flooded. The National Weather Service is using language like “major flood levels.”
The good news: the current is fast and we are making good time. We’ve even had a tailwind sometimes.
The bad news is everything is underwater. Campsites, campgrounds, towns. So we start each day wondering if we’ll be able to find a place to stay the night.
One of the primary concerns of our friends and family when planning the trip was the “human element.” Not that bad people aren’t a concern, but so far people have been nice above and beyond the call of duty. We were planning to do Lake Pepin in one day until Justin Staker, proprietor of Paddle Through It, offered his parents’ house partway through Pepin.
So I’ve been meaning to make this post a while ago, but life (aka paddling, portaging, drying clothes and doing it all over again the next day) has delayed me from doing so. I am able to do this trip because my employer, the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, has generously given me a three month sabbatical. At the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, I help to cordinate PDF’s Research Advocates, about 200 people with Parkinson’s and care partners from all across the country who help to bring about better treatments at a faster pace, to use our talking points lingo. Basically we help to pair them up with Parkinson’s researchers so they can share their perspective in order to reduce the barriers to research.
I am proud of to be a part of this work through PDF’s Parkinson’s Advocates in Research program, and I would like to take this opportunity to to continue to support this program while adventuring. Linnea and I decided to become PDF Champions to raise money that will go toward this program. Continue reading
Until I was on the Mississippi, I never realized how difficult it can be to tell if you actually are on the Mississippi. Trackless swamps, oxbow lakes, side channels and confusing bays, combined with sparsely detailed maps, make pinpointing your location troublesome at times. This should finally start to get a little easier.
We’re currently in a motel room in Bemidji, about eight miles behind schedule. The first days have been harder than expected and have given us little time for playing music, lounging on our hammocks or blogging. We’ll have a longer post on these first few days as soon as we can catch our breath. And dry our clothes. Long story.
Well, here we are. To the cheers (and silent misgivings?) of parents, family and friends, we finally launched our canoe at the source of the Father of Waters. Only about 2,200 miles of paddling to go. Our parents were nice enough to drive us to Itasca State Park and camp with us last night before we left. Dave’s brother and sister-in-law and some of our friends from Minneapolis came along to see us off as well.
We really should say how we couldn’t have even begun this trip without the help of a lot of people, but primarily our parents. Dave’s parents essentially allowed us to turn their house into a gear storage facility and both sets of parents hosted, chauffeured and lent us their cars as we bounced around the Twin Cities acquiring equipment and getting everything ready to go.
From here until Minneapolis we’ll have the luxury of a barge-free river and nice campsites maintained by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. The river will be fairly narrow and won’t be much like the Mississippi as people know it, which hopefully will give us time to get into the swing of things. Because it’s fairly isolated here, cell phone reception may be spotty so we’ll post again when we have the chance. Ever forward!