Around the bend: Memphis, Tenn., to Vicksburg, Miss. - Part IV

Monday, October 4, 2010

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

Day four - Oct. 21, 2008

Last night was warmer so we both slept better. I woke up with a swollen bottom lip. Sunburn, I guess. I always use sunblock but never on my lips, and this has never happened before. Maybe the low angle of the sun in late October and its reflection off the water is the cause. I put sunblock on with my lip balm today. If that doesn't help, I'll start wearing my bandanna over my mouth. Surprises like that add to an adventure like this. You are constantly being forced to find different ways of dealing with needs that would be so easy to handle at home. Your ability to improvise is tested almost daily. It's like when we were kids playing and our imagination turned a stick into a rifle or a box into a fort. That same imagination is called upon, but the consequences are real out here. You are challenged to think outside of the box and that makes us grow. Getting out of our comfort zones is good for us all from time to time.

Today's 40 miles went smoothly with no "exciting" crossings. We had to wait on a sandbar for five big barges as they made their crossings to the outside of a bend before we could make our crossing to the inside. Not only do we have to wait for them to pass, but we also have to wait for the churned-up river to calm down to a manageable level. Every time we meet barges at the bends, the river dance goes on with us following the barges' lead.

We are camped at mile 580, about one mile below the mouth of the Arkansas River. Back at mile 592 we passed the house of Mike Huston, a man I have never met but was told to call on if we needed help in any way on this trip. Ron Nassar, conservation coordinator for the lower Mississippi River, told me about him last week. I found Ron's name and phone number on the list of public boat ramps I pulled up online. Besides telling me where to go for help along the way, Ron also gave me his cell phone number to call if we needed his help and his wife's cell number in case Marla and Colleen had any trouble finding the boat ramp in Vicksburg, Miss. By now I shouldn't be surprised by such acts of kindness offered to us on this river trip, but I am always overwhelmed by it. Total strangers from Lake Itasca, Minn., and now to Ron in Vicksburg, Miss., continue to be the highlight of the trip.

We didn't stop at Mike's house since there didn't appear to be anyone home and we really didn't need anything except maybe to recharge our cell phones.

As I said earlier, we are camped near the mouth of the Arkansas River and we passed the mouth of the White River today also. Looking up the White River as we passed, we saw a navigational lock and dam just up the mouth.

The Mississippi River carries the waters of almost all the rivers between the Rockies from the west and the Appalachians from the east to the Gulf of Mexico. The river Danny and I are riding on down here is certainly big enough to handle the job.

We didn't get off the river until 1800 this evening. We just had time to set up camp before dark. I took time to do something I'd been thinking about all day. I used my paddle to dig up sand and shape a Lazy Boy recliner on top of the sand bar to set my tent over. I'm laying on it now and it feels great! It is supposed to rain tomorrow evening so I probably won't have time for such luxury then, but I sure am enjoying it tonight!

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