March 24, 2017 (Friday) It Seems Hot. It’s on Fire.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Weather conditions:
High – 73
Low – 58
Skies: mostly cloudy, 20% chance of rain
Winds : S 15-25 mph 40 mph gusts

Miles traveled: 0 (wind day)
Total miles: 60
Where we are: Salt Lake Island

Let me just say again one of the greatest inventions ever is the relief zipper on a woman’s wet suit. I know this is a weird way to start a journal entry, but I am ecstatic about the convenience of this feature. Unbelievably, I would rather pee or poop while wearing my wet suit than my regular pants since I don’t’ expose nearly as much skin during a trip to the outdoor ladies room.

Today began with another wonderful meal of sourdough French toast with real maple syrup. I thought maybe I would lose a little weight on this trip—I don’t see that happening.

With the sun shining and a breeze blowing, Driftwood called a pow wow to discuss our plans for the day. The weather forecast for today and tomorrow lists conditions dangerous for canoe travel—25-20 mph winds with gust to 40 mph. Tonight strong storms with hail, damaging winds, and lightning. Tomorrow doesn’t sound much better—more wind and storms.

A pros and cons discussion continued for several minutes. If we go, we may not find a camping spot as safe as this one. If we stay, we may be here two more nights without adding any river miles to the trip. Some people are planning to leave or enter the expedition in the next few days. We discussed what river time looks like. It’s hard to make a decision when the sun is shining and the wind is little more than a breeze. Time to vote. All those in favor of leaving… John and Mike, owner of Big Muddy Adventures located in St. Louis, lifted their hands. All those in favor of staying… We stayed.

With the decision to stay made, Mike presented additional advice, “Forty mile per hour gusts will create blowing sand and uncomfortable conditions on the beach. I suggest everyone move into the protection of the wooded area at the top of a small bluff.”

Several crew members helped move the kitchen, which includes four blue roll-up tables and gray pantry box sitting on tall removable wooden legs, to the wooded area. The wing covered all. One by one, the inhabitants of the beach began to disappear until only our tent remained. Instead of moving our tent, John decided to use this time to do some laundry and charge our Sherpa.

The wind picked up and the sand swirled like drifting snow. The deafening roar of the wind overtook the peaceful nature of the beach. I just wanted to get away from the noise. My eyes watered from the pain of the sand under my contacts. John stood by his decision to stay on the beach.

I couldn’t imagine spending the day fighting the sand in my eyes and in the tent. I asked, “Can’t we just check out the woods to see if we can find a spot.”

Walking through the barrier between the woods and the beach was like walking indoors to escape a blizzard. Peace. No wind. No sand in my eyes. We walked around and chose a flat spot. We moved all our belongings to the neighborhood behind the barrier.

Soon after we had moved to the neighborhood, Lena yelled, “Lunch is ready.” I walked to the kitchen. The spread on the blue table didn’t resemble my typical lunch at home—salmon, veggies, humus, and fruit.

After lunch, everyone went to their own portion of the woods. Some to nap, read, paint, write, or explore. John chose to nap, as usual. I chose to catch up on my journaling, as usual.

As I journaled, I contemplated the different types of wilderness—nature, industrial, within me. I looked out of my tent at the nature wilderness surrounding me. I saw tents dispersed among the trees, last year’s brown leaves, and this year’s new spring growth. As I enjoyed the peace of this wilderness, I could hear the wind on the other side of the barrier between the wooded area and the beach. Even though the wind is another part of nature, when I heard it, I felt safe in the woods—away from the wind. I felt like the peace would end as soon as I left the shelter of the barrier. I also heard another wilderness—industrial wilderness, both on land and on the river. The metal clanging, sirens sounding, and explosions booming emerged from the Holcum grain processing facility, electric power plant, and distant rock quarry. Tows hummed as they float up and down the river. As I thought about these different states of the wild, I thought about the unsettled place within me—my personal wilderness. A place where I go to be by myself and think. A place others don’t understand. A place of peace. A place of noise.  A place with questions. A place with answers. A place of confusion. A place…

John slept for a couple of hours oblivious to my ponderings. I think part of the reason he slept so soundly is he has had a headache since Tuesday. I worry about him. He took the last of the Excedrin Migraine from the yellow first-aid bag last night without any relief. I thought he had checked everything on our list at home, including the first-aid bag. I was wrong. Again, I realized I needed to be more active in our packing.

As I journaled and John napped, the crunching of dead leaves alerted me of Driftwood’s approach. He said, “Several of the group ware going exploring on the island. Do you want to join?’

I said, “I’ll put on my shoes.”

John woke up, “I’m getting up.”

A total of six of us went on the walk into the interior of the island. We had hoped to see some interesting wildlife of the four-legged type. That didn’t happen, but we certainly saw the signs. Young willows chewed off by beaver, coyote, and deer tracks in the sand and mud. We also came across another Great Blue Heron rookery. As usual, the large birds gave it away by their presence in the sky. Not one or two simply passing over as one would normally see herons, but groups circling around together. Once we spotted the birds, we looked for the nests we were certain were they. They were. Cool.

Driftwood took samples of some unknown plants and pressed them in his sketchbook with plans to sketch and identify them later.

Soon after our return from our exploration, River announced dinner with a clang to a lid. He had prepared a gourmet meal of leg of lamb roasted slowly all day in a Dutch oven, stew, round loaves of bread resembling Irish bread, and salad with kale and wild garlic mustard greens from the woods.

After dinner, John spent 40 minutes cleaning the baked on remains of last night’s spaghetti pots with a stick, sand, and river water. All the luxuries of a wilderness kitchen.

Soon after dusk, we went to bed tired. Not sure why we were so tired since we didn’t paddle today. I wonder if we will be here again tomorrow. I’m ready to put my zippered wet suit back on.