March 20, 2017

Monday, March 20, 2017
Weather conditions:
High – 82
Low – 47
Skies: sunshine and clouds
Winds : W 5-10 mph

Miles traveled: 4 miles
Total miles: 4 miles
Where we are: Duck Island

“This isn’t happening,” I heard John say.

Gaining full consciousness, I contemplated ignoring the screeching rise and fall tone of the incessant siren in the hall and a pre-recorded voice announcing, “Do not use the elevator. Evacuate the building. Do not use the elevator. Evacuate the building…” Do I get up or simply go back to sleep and hope for the best.

I didn’t move, listening for screaming in the hall. I heard none. The incessant noise continued. As I waited to hear the canned-man say, “All clear. You may return to your room,” thoughts bounced in the walls of my mind. What about our gear? If we lose that, we won’t be able to go on our trip. (Notice, I wasn’t concerned about our lives or those in the building. Just-waking-up thoughts are not always compassionate.)

The memories of the 1974 movie Towering Inferno promoted me to leave the comfort of the bed and dress to enter the public world. John got up and, knowing what I was thinking, addressed some of my mind-bouncing thoughts, “Grab the gear bags. Don’t do you hair. This may be the real deal.” I looked at the clock–4:15 a.m.

Armed with everything we needed for the next couple of weeks, we entered an empty hall. Was everyone still in bed? We reconsidered until a scene from Towering Inferno played again in my mind. Deciding if we were dead, we wouldn’t be able to go on our trip, we looked for the exit signs. (Notice, we didn’t check out the map on our door?)

We found the steps and quickly regretted staying on the eighth floor. We trudged down the stairwell unaccompanied by any other guests until we finally reached the first floor. Opening the door to a storage area, we found our way outside, the smell of smoke greeted our noses. At last, we realized we had made the right decision but still wondered where everyone else was in the building. Turning the corner, we found two more people and three fire trucks. This was not a drill.

I sat on the curb and looked around. This was how we were going to spend our last night in society? I couldn’t wait to live in the wilderness again. A fire alarm will not wake me up at 4:00 a.m. on the river.

We made our way to the main entrance and found all of the guests jammed into the lobby. Kids in pajamas, shirtless old men, naked babies wrapped in blankets and sleeping in their mother’s arms. A full but peaceful room of an eclectic mix of people all waiting patiently for the all clear. After about any our and conversation with Maggie, we were allowed to return to our rooms. Of course the elevators were not working yet (Why would they be.) so we trudged back up the eight flights of stairs to the eighth floor.

Adventure complete for the night, we returned to bed and continued our task of sleeping.

This morning was spent paying attention to details we will ignore for the next couple of weeks–shoring, shaving, etc.

After a day spent downtown St. Louis, we made our way to the Columbia Bottom boat ramp. Meeting time was 4:00 p.m. As is John’s practice, we arrived at 2:45. The early arrival gave us a chance to sit and watch the river. I don’t think I will ever get tired of watching the water ripple from the influences of the wind and what lies hidden beneath. As we sat enjoying the silence, we saw our first bald eagle of the trip effortlessly and gracefully glide cross the river. it’s head and tail reflected the sun, creating a majestic scene like no other bird.

Meet our fellow travelers …..

John and LaNae Abnet — us

Alicia Lloyd – Clean Water Policy Coordinator for the Missouri Coalition for the Environment – with us one night. Go website:

Tony Long – Seasoned paddler joining us from Belgium, on expedition for one week, to Cairo

Andy McLean – Kiwi adventurer now living in London, on expedition all the way to the Gulf.

Chris Battaglia – Expedition Film Maker, from Portland ME, modeled his business after Thoreau’s “simple life” — – going all the way to the gulf

Boyce Upholt – Expedition chronicler, TFA leader, now turned full-time writer, his current project is called between the levees: which he sub-titles “America’s Great, Misbehaving River—and its Walled-In Wild- going the distance

Tim Weybright, retired computer programmer/farm boy dreamed all his life of trying the big Mighty Mississippi one day! Two or three days

Tanner Aljets – works with Sierra Piasa Policy and 1Mississippi

OH Yeh! Even though we told him he couldn’t come, Penn stowed away in our bag.

Introducing Crew:

Mike Clark – BMA founder and leader, teacher.

Janet Sullens Moreland – BMA guide, world-class paddler, teacher (Che ck out

Lena Von Machui – QCC secretary and 1st mate

Mark “River” Peoples – QCC chief guide and youth leader

John Ruskey – QCC founder, Rivergator creator

Climbing aboard the handcrafted Grasshopper and floating onto the Missouri River caused my heart rate to slow. I sighed. What peace. I was on the river again. We arrived at the confluence of Mississippi just as the sunset painted the sky canvas with hues of pink, red, and purple.

Looking to the left and right, I said hello to my friend the Mississippi. To the left were the familiar lights and sounds of industry, to the right Duck Island–our home for the night. Paddling hard to safely maneuver around the Army Corpse of Engineer’s stone wall dike, we headed to the sandy beach.

The light in the sky slid farther behind the horizon, making the recognition of the white pelicans on the shore difficult–a sight not seen from the road. While setting up our tent under headlamp light with the help of the wind, I experienced the first injury of our trip. I approached John from behind just as he lifted his arm to place the rain fly on the tent. His elbow connected with my chin causing my teeth to come together. Unfortunately, my tongue was sandwiched between my teeth. I didn’t know that much blood flowed through my tongue.

After eating a gourmet dinner of pork loin, mashed potatoes, and Brussels sprouts, all cooked in Dutch ovens, we sat under the stars around the campfire, like-minded people getting to know each other’s stories.

Now, it is 11:18 p.m. The familiar sounds of the river beckon me to rest my head on my pillow and call it a night.

I will rest well listening to the rustling of the tent in the wind, the lapping of the water on the beach, and the humming of the tows pushing barges downstream. Home!