Journey down the Mississippi

Sunday, August 7, 2005

Editor's Note: Dave Hardesty of Cape Girardeau began his six-week solo kayak trip down the Mississippi River July 30. Hardesty will share the adventure with Southeast Missourian readers through letters he writes along the way.

(This week's update was written by Dave Hardesty's brother, Steve, who helped with the kayak launch at Lake Itaska, Minn.)

July 30, 9:30 a.m.: My wife Susie and I helped Dave launch his kayak at the headwaters of the Mississippi River at Lake Itaska.

The water was quite a bit lower than Dave had hoped and he walked most of the first mile, pulling his kayak. Finally, as the water deepened he got into his kayak and headed out.

There are several miles of marshes to be negotiated as he headed out of Lake Itaska State Park. Unfortunately, after only going a couple of miles, Dave found that the combination of the thick vegetation and the low water level made it impossible to get his kayak through the marshes.

At that point, he decided to go to "Plan B." Susie and I met back up with Dave, loaded up his kayak and portaged him 10 miles further down the river, past the marshes. Dave launched again, this time with the kayak loaded with 73 pounds of supplies needed for this trip.

We knew that this time he was going for good, so we gave him hugs and handshakes, said a prayer and sent him on his way. We found out later that in order to get to his first camping area, he had to negotiate many deadfalls that were blocking the river's path.

Normally these obstacles would have been under the water, but because of the low water level, Dave had to push or carry his kayak over or around these obstructions. At one point, he came to a tree that had fallen across the river and was just high enough to slip his kayak under, but he had to get out and swim behind it.

He finally made it to his first camping spot - very tired but very glad that his trip had officially begun. The following morning, July 31, as Susie and I were driving back home to St. Louis, Dave called us around 8:00 a.m. He was getting ready to head out again for another day of kayaking and site seeing.

His plan for Sunday was to kayak through Lake Irving and, following the rivers path, on into Lake Bemidji. He stopped at the visitors center there, did some site seeing including visiting the statue of Paul Bunyan and Babe, the Blue Ox.

He then followed the river out of Lake Bemidji and camped several miles down the Mississippi.

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