March 25, 2017 (Saturday)
High – 68
Low – 51
Skies: Scattered thunderstorms, 40 % chance of rain
Winds : SSE 10-20 mph
Miles traveled: 21 miles
Total miles: 81 miles
Where we are: Beaver Island MMRM 118 RBD
Last night when I went to bed, I expected to hear thunder, see lightning, and fear for my life at some point during the night. Even though I didn’t notice any thunder or lightning, enough rain fell to create a couple of puddles in our tent.
After the discussion yesterday morning and the forecast, I thought for sure we would be spending another day off the river. While I was eating my breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon chips, and orange slices, Driftwood announced we were packing up and traveling on to our next destination. Lesson learned: Don’t make plans two days out based on the current forecast—things change.
As I packed up our bedding, I heard John say, “The bottom of big blue (our HUGE dry bag) is wet. Your backpack is soaked. Sorry.” This disruption to my routine caused distress. Where am I going to store my dry paper journal and other need-to-stay-dry items? And WHY is our DRY bag WET? How are we going to eliminate this from happening again? John suggested giving my paper a new home in the dry Sherpa bag. I stuffed my pockets with the other items. Packing continued. I think the bag will have to live upside down from now on.
Today, John and I paddled in Junebug I so we could experience a different boat. I didn’t notice a difference in the boat as much as I did in my placement in the boat. In Grasshopper, we paddled from the back. Today, Mike placed us toward the front. Paddling in the bow seemed more tiring to me, but I can’t imagine why it would matter.
When stopping for a potty break, finding a place to pee is interesting with everyone heading for the woods at the same time—especially as a woman among men. I started in one direction over the rocks toward some deadfall. All of the sudden, I realized Mike was headed in the same area. Crap! Now, what! I looked farther into the woods. I passed Mike, crawled over five downed trees, and turned around to see if anyone could see me. I decided if I crouched behind the last tree, I would be out of view. When it was just John and me on our last trip, I just found a place a significant distance from the water and did my business. Even though we aren’t in society, the fact that others are with us requires more effort.
After our break, Tony acted as our helmsman since this is his last chance before he will be leaving us tomorrow. I haven’t been brave enough to accept the challenge to steer this heavily loaded 29’ monster from the stern yet. An entire boat of people, all their possessions at the moment, and our food supply is a lot of responsibility.
Right now, I am sitting on a log by the river close to St. Genevieve, MO. The wing protects our lunch of salmon, cheese, pita bread, salami, humus, carrots, salad, pretzels, and Cheese-Its from the rain that was falling as we landed.
Remember John’s headache. He still has it. I knew he was feeling desperate when he accepted some Aleve from Janet. Even after taking it several times today, he is still very quiet. I want my fun-loving, joking-around John back.
Mike is still trying to convince me to take the helm. He claims taking the challenge will affect the way I paddle in the front. We’ll see.
I am now sitting in our tent listening to the rain pelt the rain-fly. John is sleeping next to me. I hope a little rest will help him feel better.
We are staying on another Beaver Island, but I think I will call it Pelican Island. Let me explain…
Driftwood and Mike had selected Beaver Island for our campsite this morning. As we approached, the beach was white as snow, covered with hundreds of American Pelicans. We didn’t want to disturb them so we pressed on past the wing dam to the next beach. The sloping portion of the beach seemed to have been chopped off leaving a cut bank with rugged, muddy edges. We looked back at the pelican-covered beach and then back at the rugged edged beach. Pelican Island won.
We paddled hard upstream past the wing dam. Once we were safely past the dam, we silently approached the beach to get a better view of the white flock of birds.
Watching them reminded me of a Mutual of Omaha moment. A few left the pack, circled around and landed in the water. The next group left and continued to hover in the air. The rest continued to leave in organized shifts, some to the water and some to the air. I had expected them to all leave at once in a flurry of white. The beach was finally clear except for the ubiquitous ammonia-ladened, fish-smelling poo they left behind.
After lunch, I reluctantly perched myself high on the helmsman seat on the back of Junebug I. (Yes, Mike convinced me to leave my seat of comfort.) After a couple of instructions from Mike, we were on our way.
As soon as we pushed off, rain pelted me in the face, visibility decreased. Keeping my head up and looking forward proved difficult. I wanted to put my head down and protect my face from the stinging rain. In the midst of the rain, we of course encountered more tow traffic than we have the entire trip and the largest load—42 barges. The wind in my face and the waves made maneuvering difficult. Sometimes when I used my blade as a rudder, the water pulled me causing fear I would fall off the boat. Once I was somewhat comfortable with steering, Mike taught me the “C” and “J” strokes. I found the “C” stroke the easiest although he said the other stroke was more efficient. Even with the new strokes, I felt the boat constantly going left, and then right, and then left, and then… The rest of the crew had to wonder about my abilities. Even so, I convinced myself that since we arrived at our campsite without taking a swim and Junebug I is still in one piece, my first experience at the helm was a success.
Dinner of rice and stir-fry complete and dishes washed, I am sitting on a small log by the fire. The smoke intermittently blows in my face. I am tempted to move but know the smoke will follow, as it always does. John is still in the tent, not feeling well enough to eat. The atmosphere is quiet.
After dinner, we all gathered (except John) around the campfire as Tony did a reading from the book of Twain Life on the Mississippi, chapter 35, “Vicksburg During the Trouble”. As we passed Tony’s bottle of Glen Fiddich single malt scotch from Scotland, he entranced while sitting on a triangular blue stool next to a pair of boots drying upside down on two branches stuck in the sand. He unfolded his reading glasses, placed them on his face, and brought the words to life in his British accent. Driftwood read one section written in a Southern dialect. I guess Tony didn’t think he could do a Southern dialect justice.
My river view as I write…
Driftwood sits on the opposite side of the fire playing some blues.
A tow passes on the river. Only the lights on the rake of the lead barge and the rail lights show its presence. Waves created by the passing tow break at the edge of the beach.
Tonight’s industry is a lock and dam at the mouth of the Kaskaskia River. The lights look like a small, quiet city.
The skies vary between light clouds, dark clouds, and a star-filled blue velvet.
Sights and sounds of living in the wilderness.
Rain is approaching—good night…