Around the bend Memphis to Vicksburg: Part II

Monday, August 2, 2010
Dave Hardesty and Danny (Submitted photo)

Dave Hardesty continues a day-by-day account of his Mississippi River kayaking trip, an adventure shared with his friend Danny Rees.

Day two

Oct. 19, 2008

The temperature last night was 49 degrees, as predicted, but that was the coldest 49 degrees I've ever tried to sleep in! My feet were so cold I finally put them in an empty dry bag hoping to retain some body heat. It worked pretty well except for a little condensation.

Camping near two casinos on a Saturday night is not a good idea if quiet rest and sleep is what you had in mind. The traffic never stopped and I woke up at 0358 to the sound of people yelling and laughing. Being across the river and down a mile wasn't far enough away.

Danny and I both crawled out of our tents around 0600 and started moving around trying to warm up. The sun finally rose over the trees on the other bank and we could feel its welcomed heat right away.

I had my breakfast of a peanut butter tortilla and a half-cup Ziplock bag of rice, honey and almonds soaked for about 15 minutes in cold water. I like the rice better than the oatmeal I had brought. I've been eating granola bars and Gatorade for lunch and breaks. Last night I had chicken and dirty rice for dinner. That was the name on the package. I didn't mean it had sand in it, although almost everything else does.

This was another 40-mile day. The weather was perfect again; very little wind all day. Most of the day, the river was like glass until a barge passed.

We are camped about a mile below the Highway 49 bridge (river mile 660) that runs between Helena, Ark., and Lula, Miss. We had planned to eat in Helena but couldn't find a place to get out of the kayaks in their harbor without going through deep, sucking mud. Instead, we crossed the river and bushwhacked up the bank through briars, thick vines and poison ivy to get to the Isle of Capri casino where we enjoyed a huge buffet for dinner. We told them the food was great but they really need to improve their river access for high-rolling river travelers like us.

I guess I'll have to see Helena another time. Danny said they have a good blues festival each October. Maybe we'll come back for that sometime.

We passed several very nice riverside cabins below Tunica today; some were more mansion than cabin.

I took a few pictures of flocks of pelicans standing on the sandbars this morning. They looked like they were waiting to warm up, too. I can never get up as close as I'd like to with them. From a distance they look like a housepainters' convention.

The trees aren't showing as much color as they are at home and the mosquitoes are still active when the wind isn't blowing too hard.

The river is so wide down here that the frequent channel crossings we have to do must be carefully timed. When we get to the crossing and a barge is approaching, too, we have to give ourselves plenty of time to get to the other side without getting too close to the oncoming barges.

The river snakes its way back and forth constantly down here, creating one long bend after another. The barges have to stay on the outside of the bends for the deeper water. We have to stay on the inside to keep out of their way. So the barges are always crossing from outside to outside while we are crossing from inside to inside. It's our own special kind of river dance, kind of like a flea trying to dance with an elephant -- there is never any doubt who leads.

Tomorrow's 40 miles looks pretty remote on the chart. We hope to make it to mile 620 by 1630 so we will have plenty of time to set up camp. We had to wait for the casino buffet to open at 1700 this evening and after we ate and got back to our kayaks and paddled another mile to a good sandbar we barely had time to make camp before dark. These short, late October days give us less daylight hours for paddling and setting up camp. We both had to wait for the birth of new grandbabies before we started our trip this year. Next year, we plan to start earlier in September.

I brought along a list of public boat ramps that I found on the Internet. It indicates a marina with a store at mile 626. I hope it is there; I need to recharge my cell phone.

Danny and I are both wearing all the clothes we have with us tonight, clean and dirty. I hope we can stay warmer than last night. Cold feet make for a long night. The low is supposed to be 49 again.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: