March 28, 2017 (Is Your Ketchup “Grade ‘A’ Fancy?”)

March 28, 2017
Weather conditions:
High – 65
Low – 49
Skies: Cloudy 0% rain
Winds : N 5-10 mph

Miles traveled: 43 miles
Total miles: 162 miles
Where we are: Burnham Island MMRM 37  (LBD)

My river view this morning:

The pavilion is returning to normal. Chris’s sensitive electronics no longer cover the bench. Only a couple of PDFs and rain jackets hang from the rafters. The tables are almost clear of gear.

A haze hovers over the river, making the outline of Tower Rock difficult to distinguish. Moisture sprinkles the air. The birds announce their wakefulness and readiness to begin their day.

Oatmeal with apples and pineapple cooks on the small fire accompanied by a pot of cowboy coffee steaming nearby. Sliced bananas and oranges lie on the large wooden cutting board. An open four-pound container of crunchy peanut butter awaits a spoon for scooping.

Discussion of the plan for the day bounces through the group. After the best night’s sleep of the trip, I feel rejuvenated and ready for a potential 40-mile paddle.

Time to pack up. More later


The line-up in the canoe changed a little bit today—John and I are now in separate seats. River is in the bow, and switches sides after every 35 strokes (yes, he counts). Remember, he weighs 220 pounds, so the shift is very noticeable to all. Lena, in the second seat, paddles opposite River at all times. Magique and I are sitting behind Lena. I hadn’t noticed from the back that Magique periodically stops to take pictures or jot down notes. He was extra tired today because he stayed up late last night working and yawned very loudly A LOT! Eight people’s gear and food occupy the next few seats, followed by Andy and Boyce. John occupies his own seat followed by Mike on the stern. I asked John what he and the guys in the back talked about all day. He said, “Sports.” How can anyone talk about sports for hours? Dennis is still in his orange kayak slicing through the water like a floating carrot.

A small yacht sitting in the middle of the river caused some confusion. As we grew closer, we expected it to move. It didn’t. We discussed several scenarios. We grew closer—still no movement. We grew close enough to gather more information—instead of water under the boat, there were a bunch of rocks. We witnessed a shipwreck on a wing dam. Somebody had a baaad day.

Another more beautiful view created some disappointment with society. The red bud and dogwood trees splattered pink on the gray striations on the bluffs—a reminder of the landscaping nature conducts without our help. Unfortunately, the bluffs along the Mississippi are being quarried and disappear piece by piece each time man steals the stone from nature by dynamiting and removing it.

More tidbits about our day…

  • We saw an egret rookery on Cottonwood Island. How exciting to watch nature reproduce!
  • By 10:00 a.m., River has adorned three different hats—Woolyburger, Robin Hood (hunter green semi-brimmed sock hat with a feather), and fleecy (camouflage bomber hat).
  • Boyce took a turn as helmsman after we stopped at Trail of Tears State Park for a toilet break. I used the fanciest outhouse I have ever seen complete with a locking door. Really, the only way I could tell it was a pit toilet was absence of a bottom inside the commode.
  • For lunch, we enjoyed tuna salad sandwiches on another beautiful beach.
  • Cloudy conditions and a tail wind helped us make our planned 40+ (43) miles by 4:00 p.m. possible.


My river view tonight:

A wing dam creates a quiet pool where fish find an easy meal.

Pasta boils in a Dutch oven over the fire. Lena chops lettuce and carrots for a salad.

Boots upside down on sticks next to the fire dry for another day of paddling tomorrow.

Two piles of dry firewood await the adding of kindling to start tomorrow morning’s breakfast fire. A kettle of Mississippi River water boils hard tonight before being re-boiled and used for coffee and tea to accompany breakfast.

Unclaimed dry bags lie in a pile near the boat.

Magique sits on a log working on his laptop—a juxtaposition to the wilderness around. Boyce sits in a blue camp chair on the ground writing in his journal.

The sky is darkening with pink, providing a background for the few bare trees on the opposite bank. A green mile marker becomes a blinking green light as the sun disappears over the horizon.

Discussion begins concerning the game plan for tomorrow. The missing leadership of Driftwood is evident. The scenarios of 24 or 37 miles depend on conditions of the river, rain, and wind. Another consideration is the potential storms in the forecast for Thursday and the need to be somewhere safe. The weather day from last week continues to push us in an effort to get back on schedule.

Another day complete. I will sleep well tonight after a long day of paddling.