Around the bend Vicksburg, Miss., to Mile Zero

Monday, June 6, 2011

By Dave Hardesty

Day one -- Sept. 20, 2009 -- part II

Saturday night, back in Vicksburg, we all went out for Chinese before Danny and I left Sunday morning. I had told Marla a little about my concerns on this last leg and that I was feeling more anxious than I had since that very first day back at Lake Itasca. After our meal, we all compared fortune cookies. Mine seemed very timely. It read, "Being aware of your fears will improve your life." It took me back to a fortune cookie I had opened just a few days before I started this adventure back in 2005. That one read, "Get your mind set -- confidence will lead you on." That one has been taped to the top of my computer monitor since then. I think I will add this latest one when I get back home.

Due to the past weeks of heavy rain, the river level is rising. We've been told it will continue rising until we get below the Atchafalaya River outflow, which is the only river that takes water from the Mississippi instead of adding to it. The rising river we are on now is carrying a load of flotsam from the usual street litter up to and including full trees, roots, crown and all. We give them plenty of room as we pass them by.

Just before we stopped today, we came upon a duck decoy spinning in circles in a small whirlpool. I rescued it, named it Elvira and it is now our trusty mascot for the rest of this two-man voyage of discovery. She is faithfully guarding the kayaks as I write in my journal.

I can't speak for Danny, but I have been watching for alligators all day! With all these logs floating around us, you could come up on one before you know it. I have been assured by the locals and others who have made this trip that we probably won't see any in the main river channel. I still believe you can't be too careful when it comes to an animal that looks at you as a possible snack. We camped on the backside of this island tonight to avoid the noise of the barges and for a better chance of seeing a live gator. We checked the sand for any suspicious reptilian claw tracks with a long tail. No gators so far.

It is almost 2130 and my back and shoulders are reminding me of the long day behind us. I hope the ibuprofen I took will help me get up in the morning and do it all over again.

Tonight we have 45 miles behind us, 393 to go and 10 back upriver. Time for a chapter from "Life on the Mississippi" for recreational reading and a chapter from my Bible for strength and courage, and then lights out.

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