Around the bend Vicksburg, Miss., to Mile Zero: Day three

Monday, August 1, 2011

Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2009

Today was our wettest day yet! It started out looking pretty promising, with a starry sky before daybreak and a blue sky in the west as the sun rose. After about an hour of paddling, we watched the tall white cumulus clouds start stacking up in the west. They soon had turned gunmetal gray and the sky was getting very dark. It had been hot and humid, but a strong, cool wind started pushing us down the river. We made the best of it and rode with the wind around a bend. The first storm passed just behind us, but there was more to come. By 1100 we had made 20 miles, our halfway point for the day, so we stopped on a long, flat sandbar for lunch. We were almost finished eating when another big thunderstorm moved in quickly over the tree-lined bank on the west. It was on top of us in minutes and we were totally exposed. With nothing else for shelter, we both got into our beached kayaks and hunkered down in them as far as we could get. It was an impressive display of thunder and lightning, and we had front-row seats! The light show was followed by a blinding downpour of rain. Most of the lightning had moved beyond the far bank by now, but the rain was still coming down hard and steady.

Today was the third day for the clothes I had on, and yesterday's 50-miler had left them sweat-soaked. I had packed a bottle of liquid soap this morning so it would be easy to get to for a river bath tonight. Watching the heavy, steady rain from the confined quarters of my kayak cockpit reminded me how badly I needed a shower. Stripping down to my Fruit of the Looms, I took my first ever "thunder shower"! I even washed my smelly clothes while I was at it. What an improvement! I wrung my clothes out and put them back on, hoping they would dry if the sun came out. No such luck.

The sun did come out, but only for an hour. We were closing in on a 40-mile day when another dark storm came rolling in. At 1500 we had 37 miles and came upon a decent sandbar. With the storm closing in fast, we decided to make for the sandbar, hoping to have time to set up the tents before the storm hit, but it wasn't to be. The sky opened up once again just as we got on the sandbar. We both grabbed out tents and ground tarps. Using our bagged tents for seats, we watched from under our tarps as another booming thunderstorm got very up close and personal with us again. After the storm passed we had plenty of time to set up as dry a camp as we could. Dry spots are hard to find tonight, even in the tent. Thank goodness my sleeping pad and towel are dry. We could use a day of sun and wind to dry all our gear out. My fingers and toes are all wrinkled from being wet for so long.

Danny saw a beaver swimming near our kayaks this morning before we broke camp. He said it didn't seem very interested in us. A great blue heron watched us from nearby as we packed up. GBH's have been a constant companion since the first day at Lake Itasca, Minn.

The river continues to rise. We put a stick at the water's edge each evening and have found a rise of six to eight inches every morning. We drag the kayaks well up the bank each night, tie them down and tip them over to keep rain and critters out of the cockpits. This morning the river had risen enough that Elvira's head was under water. I think that is why she hasn't spoken to me all day.

I got to see Ole Man River take possession of a big piece of Louisiana real estate today. We were taking a shortcut through a shoot behind an island just before lunch. The bank was not riprapped, and mile-long sections of it had fallen into the river, trees and all. Another big section caved off and fell in as I was passing by. It made a big splash and the wave hit TPII broadside. It made for a little unexpected excitement. I was lucky there were no trees on that section to fall in with it; I might have been under it. Lewis and Clark mentioned this hazard many times in their journals as they traveled up the Missouri River in 1804.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: