Thursday, May 26, 2011

A big mileage day

The weather here turned a bit nasty and cold overnight and I awoke at about 4:00 a.m. to rain and a temperature in my tent of 52 degrees F. I've had colder nights on this trip but not any as damp. I was freezing my tail off the rest of the night and most of this morning!

I got up and had a cold breakfast since I didn't cook last night and didn't want to set up the stove this morning. As I was finishing my packing Troy, the Army Corps of Engineers guy, pulled up and updated me about the river conditions. He also gave me a copy of the new river map book the Corps just published on the lower Missouri. Overnight the estimates for the high water mark for Glascow, MO, had risen from 30 to 32 feet. I'm not surprised as the water had also risen two feet in the few hours after I went to bed.

I had to hoof it quite a distance from my campsite back to the river. I have to make about four trips to get all my gear down to the put in point so I can pack the boat. Troy had hauled my gear in his truck up to where I camped yesterday so that wan't too much of an effort on my part but this morning's packing time was a different story. It was 8:30 a.m. by the time I had everything at the landing. I went to fill up my water bottles when a local fisherman pulled into the landing and launched his boat. The problem was that he left his truck and boat trailer parked in the water at the landing. I was able to load my canoe but I couldn't launch it in the small space left a the landing, especially with the high water we have. He returned but not before I had lost 30 minutes of paddling time.

I finally got on the river just after 9:00 a.m. It was clear from the get go that things were flowing fast. I pretty quickly realized that I had traveled 2 miles with little paddling. My original goal for today was to do 31 miles, a respectable day, but I had that done by the time I stopped for lunch. At lunch I mulled over my options. I could stay at that day's destination, even though it was an ugly little spot, or I could paddle on. Since I was in a groove I chose the later. It was 15 more miles down to Katfish Katy's and a full service campground.

When I got to Katy's I looked at the landing and the barren landscape and said "no way." I wanted a place with real character for my final destination. I knew Cooper's Landing was 10 more miles down river but I thought what the heck, It's only 4:00 p.m. and I'll be there after 5:00, 5:30 p.m. at the latest. So that's how I ended up paddling 56 miles in one day. It's kinda crazy considering I did 36 miles yesterday and it nearly killed me. When the wind and current are at your back it's best to go with the flow.

Today I think I may have met the person today with most amazing life story of anyone I've come across on this trip. As I was finishing my lunch at Booneville, MO, and about to depart for another few hours of fun a chap pulled up to the landing site. I've noticed there's a steady stream of people coming to the river to see how it looks, especially since we're at such high water levels. Tudor got out of his Jeep and had a look around and then came over to talk to me.

We talked a bit about what I was doing and then he asked what would happen if i fell out of the boat. That's not something I plan to do but I told him I'd swim to shore and hope I could collect my gear. Tudor then started to tell me the story of how he got hypothermia when we was swimming to freedom from communist Romania. Of course I had to stop him and hear the full story.

It turns out that he was a 26 year old member of the Romanian military and suffering from the feeling that "there was no air" and wanting freedom. He and a friend decided to swim the river between Romanian and Yugoslavia and make their way to a free country. As soon as Tudor got in the river he went numb and nearly passed out from hypothermia. If his friend hadn't been there to help him to shore he would have drowned. Of course, they were both quickly caught and spent a month in a Yugoslavian prison only to be returned to Romania where he sat in prison for another eight months. He said that during that time he talked to all the other prisoners that had failed in their attempts to flee the country and learned what they did, what they saw, and what he should do different the next time he tried to escape. When he was released he and his wife made a second attempt and were successful using the knowledge (he called it mental images; "I could just see where I had to go and what do to do") he learned in prison. He made his way to Italy and was granted political asylum to live in the United States (Jefferson, MO).

When I got to Cooper's Landing one of the owners looked at my canoe and decided it was a kayak and that my canoe paddle was all wrong. He forced me to take an old paddle of his because it's much better and I'll love it. So, I have a second hand paddle that would be fun to try out except for the big water I'm passing through. Not a time to try new things. I won't complain, though, as this is a real river camp with a lot of soul. And there are a bunch of odd characters here that give it an odd Jimmy Buffett kind of vibe.

I got another hot shower tonight and had Tai food (why there's a guy here running a restaurant here I have no idea). I did a load of laundry and spent time talking to my campmate Ed who's peddling his bike along the Katy trail for the Memorial Day weekend. He's an Iraq vet that served two tours of duty that now works for the USGS.

The water is still rising on the river and will do so until next week. The folks at Cooper's Landing expect to be flooded out in the next five days. I'm beginning to think this river just doesn't want me on her. I hope to stay a few days ahead of the major flooding event but it's clear now that my decision to pull out at St. Louis was in the cards all along, no matter how much I wanted to go on paddling this summer.


  1. Great update Sounds like you're really meeting a lot of interesting people. Seems like some of them are making a little bit of an impact in your life...Interesting to think how you may have impacted theirs.

  2. I think everyone needs to get out and do this sort of thing. It's amazing how great people really are if you just give them a chance. In some ways the last few weeks have been about rediscovering how great my coutry is. Just in time for Memorial Day.