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

Monday, November 1, 2010

Day five -- Oct. 22, 2008

It is about 2000 and we have made the day without rain so far. The forecast still calls for thunderstorms after midnight. We have our tents tied down as well as the kayaks and trenches dug around the tents. I will sleep in my Gore-Tex and make sure everything in the tent is waterproofed before going to sleep.

We made 43 miles today and are camped across from Greenville, Miss. The entrance to the Vicksburg harbor is exactly 100 miles from our camp tonight. If the rain doesn't delay us, we hope to make 40 more miles tomorrow and Friday, leaving a short 20 miles to finish on Saturday. That would put us in Vicksburg around noon.

Since passing the Arkansas River, this Mississippi has changed dramatically. Huge and vast do not convey the size of the bends. The last bend just above Greenville is so big that I could barely see a barge on the far side of it without my binoculars! It looked like something out of my grandson's Matchbox cars collection. The turbulence around the end of the wing dikes is noticeably greater, too. We have to give them a wide berth. We know the river is going to keep getting bigger and we are being more careful.

We had a nice midriver visit this morning with three commercial fishermen. It looked like a three-generation business with grandpa, son and grandson working together. They were in a wide river jon boat with a small chest freezer in the center for their catch. We answered the usual questions and they reminded us that Cape was the home of Rush Limbaugh. Grandpa said he was a devoted Ditto Head! That is the usual reaction we get about Rush, they either love him or hate him. Grandpa told us how much better the fishing was before the COE made all the navigational improvements to the river. My new friend, Ron Nassar, is working with the COE to restore better fish and wildlife habitats in the lower Mississippi. Danny and I see deer, coyotes, pelicans, beavers, raccoons, cranes and ducks almost daily. Maybe future river travelers will see even more wildlife thanks to their efforts. I hope they find a way to get rid of those jumping carp while they are at it, or maybe some commercial use for them.

Yesterday morning Danny was way ahead of me, as usual, and I saw an official-looking launch pull up to him and stop. They talked until the approach of a barge forced them to have to move on. Danny later told me they were Coast Guard and just wanted to know if we needed anything. I told him they could have checked us for the proper safety gear if they had wanted. I carry flares and a boat horn for that reason.

We paddled against a south wind most of the day and only stopped once. That makes for a very tiring day.

Just before we met the commercial fishermen this morning, I had my first up-close and personal encounter with the notorious jumping carp. We had just made a crossing and I had pulled into a quiet cove to turn the page on my river chart. As I started back out into the channel, I was making a left stroke, which puts your right arm up. At the height of my right arm, a startled carp jumped nose first into my arm pit. I don't know if the smell killed him but I do think I heard him spitting as he disappeared back into the river. I've heard of lots of people getting hit by these exotic carp, sometimes with serious consequences. I was lucky the carp got the worst end of this encounter.

It is late and I need to get some sleep before the storms move in. I need to get the sand out of my hair and ears, too.

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