April 1, 2017 (And Then I Mowed My Lawn)

April 1, 2017

Weather conditions:
High – 63
Low – 46
Skies: Sunny 10% rain
Winds: NNE 5-10 mph

Miles traveled: 26 miles
Total miles: 266 miles
Where we are: New Madrid, MO

My river view this morning:

Two years ago today we started our first trip from the headwaters of the Wabash River to the Gulf of Mexico by hiking 18 miles. On that day, we began a journey. Today, we end one. Tears both days. One of joy. One of heartache.

Today is my last morning with this crew. I take a close look at each of them. I am told I shouldn’t make descriptions of people blatant but should hide them in the story line. Today, I break that rule because I want to remember them just as they are this morning.

River wearing his Filson green overalls over his turquoise and tan Patagonia jacket. His headlamp sits on his black snowboarding hat.

Holding a red coffee mug, Magique wears sandals, knits, blue Patagonia jacket (He used to work there.), gray leggings and blue shorts. His headlamp wraps around his black knit hat.

Holding her personal stainless steel coffee travel mug with blue sleeve, Lena wears Nike shoes with skull and crossbones motif, blue patterned leggings, red knit hat, gray Alaska Ship Supply Harbor hoodie, and glasses. Her headlamp encircles her burgundy knit hat.

Mike wear moccasins, wool knits, leggings, MSR gray shorts, green Irish sweater, and brown knit hat. He is drinking coffee from a red porcelain mug, while sitting on a three-legged stool making pancakes. He takes a stick of butter and rubs it on the pan while the pan sits on the fire. Flames shoot up, around the pan, and engulf the butter. Flames shoot from the top of the pan.

Lena, apparently doubting the wisdom of Mike’s cooking method, said, “That looks hot.” She pauses for a brief moment before adding matter-of-factly, “It’s on fire.”

Boyce is dressed in neoprene boots, wet suit with the top portion folded down, camo coats, gray gloves, and red knit coat. He sips coffee from his blue mug.

Andy holds a blue coffee mug while wearing white tennis shoes, street elite black running pants, and green Polartec hoodie.

After breakfast, John and I need to remember to turn our black coffee mug bag into the kitchen. What a sad day.

Breakfast is ready….


Last night after supper, Magique interviewed Mike by spot light. Kind-of a cool setting. However while the interview was being filmed, John and I grew tired. We made an executive decision and postponed our Twain reading until today at breakfast. However rushing to get on the river, today’s breakfast reading didn’t happen either.  I thought maybe we were off the hook. No such luck. Even though a mound of gear in the center of the canoe separated us while under-way in the middle of the river, John and I entertained the crew of the Grasshopper with a reading from the book of Twain, Life on the Mississippi, chapter 36, “The Professor Spins a Yarn”. I know I pretend as if I didn’t want to do a reading. That’s not so. I enjoy doing readings—especially with John.

Our last 26 miles of paddling were uneventful and went quickly. We arrived at New Madrid, our river exit point, before lunch and began unloading our gear. John and I were in the process of carrying our bags up the hill and placing them on a round, cement picnic table to wait for our ride to St. Louis when I heard the motor of a boat. I gazed out at the aluminum boat approaching loaded with its poles and nets for a day of fishing. I remembered a familiar scene a couple of years ago on the island just above New Madrid. I was finishing my bath when we first heard and then saw this fishing boat approach the island. It was Jerry Whitehead. I couldn’t believe we were seeing him again. Today he asked, just as he had two years ago, if he could help the crew of the Grasshopper with anything. He even offered the use of his truck at the boat dock. He is truly a river angel.

After reconnecting with Jerry, John and I continued to carry the rest of our items away from our wilderness life. We said good-bye one by one to each crew member as they went their separate ways. A perfect visit to society includes dumping trash, using restrooms, eating fast food, purchasing supplies (food), and charging IT items. The tears began when I said good-bye to River and continued as I watched Andy walk away. I wanted to say No come back. I’m not done saying good-bye. I want to come with you. I don’t want to go back to Society. Will I see these members of my wilderness family again? Why do I get so attached? They are all continuing to the Gulf—I am jealous. How long before they get busy in details of the expedition that they forget about John and LaNae Abnet? I will be following them on-line the entire way, wishing I were with them.

Just like that, our wilderness life was over and we were waiting for our friends from Caruthersville, MO to take us back to society. We met the McClanahans when we stopped in Caruthersville for a few days on our prior trip. They extended hospitality to us by taking us to a barbecue restaurant, followed by ice cream. (Anyone who buys me ice cream is my friend for life.) We have kept in contact with them throughout these couple of years. Originally, on this expedition, we had planned to exit the river yesterday, March 31, at their hometown. But the weather delays had extended the arrival to Caruthersville to Monday, April. 3 Unfortunately, John has to get back to this thing called a job so we had to change our departure spot to New Madrid, which is 34 road miles from Caruthersville. The plan was for the McClanahans to pick us up and take us back to our car sitting at Big Muddy Adventure in St. Louis.

My cheeks were still wet with tears when the McClanahans pulled up in their vehicle pulling a trailer. Uh-oh, I think there was some miscommunication on our part. They thought we had traveled the river in our kayaks. This started a flurry of conversation about our next step.

  • The back of their vehicle was already stuffed—no room for our gear.
  • Who wants to pull a trailer to and through St. Louis?
  • Caruthersville isn’t very far from New Madrid. We could take the trailer back to their house.
  • When we are back at their house, the Mcclanahans could pack bags to stay in St. Louis too.

The original plan would still work with a little tweaking. Our gear would be strapped to the trailer for a brief ride to Caruthersville and then loaded into the back of the vehicle after some unloading. One, two, three, GO!

On the way to unloading and loading, we stopped and enjoyed lunch at a barbecue restaurant. What else do you eat in those parts?  Then, onto Caruthersville and the rest of the plan.

After unhooking the trailer, unloading unneeded items from the vehicle, placing our gear in the empty area, and then adding the newly packed luggage, we were on our way to St. Louis. As we were in transit, John called the Drury Hotel at the Arch, where we stayed the night before the expedition began on March 20, and reserve the LAST three rooms. John asked why they were so busy—the Cardinals opening game versus Cubs was Sunday, April 2.

The rest of the plan worked perfectly.

  • Drive to Big Muddy Adventures.
  • Pick up car. Janet Moreland arrived while we were there. I saw her long enough for a hug.
  • Go to hotel.
  • Shower quickly. I didn’t even shave my legs.
  • Dinner at Angelo’s, which is attached to Drury. They stayed open for us.
  • Went separate ways.

After we went our separate ways, John and I went to Carmine’s Steakhouse, which is attached to the Drury, for a couple of drinks. We enjoyed our cocktails out of separate glasses rather than sharing a black porcelain mug. In addition, the water didn’t require a ten-minute hard boil. We sat at chairs off the ground and shared a table. A look at us from across the restaurant reveals on the surface a couple that has it all—living the American dream. A closer look reveals a couple reminiscing about living almost two weeks in the wilderness. An even closer look reveals tears of sorry and joy glistening on the cheek of one as she thinks about a beginning, ending, and goodbyes.