March 29, 2017
High – 76
Low – 52
Skies: Mostly Cloudy 20% rain
Winds: E 10-20 mph
Miles traveled: 38 miles
Total miles: 200 miles
Where we are: Bird Island MMRM0 (RBD)
My river view this morning:
After a fitful sleep, I climbed from our little knoll in the woods. A breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, bagels, and oranges greeted me from the kitchen, of which I eagerly partook. I have been sooooo hungry.
My belly is full as I sit on a three-legged stool and look at the same view from last night as now seen in the light of day. A light mist lifts off the river as the sun grows higher in the sky behind me. Yes—the sun has finally joined us. Right now, a few light clouds float through the blue sky. The green mile marker no longer flashes in the daylight. I notice the trees on the opposite bank are actually on the levee. What is beyond the levee? I can see the tops of tress. Are they part of a farm or city? The levee separates society from wilderness and wilderness from society. Neither side can see the other. Neither knows what is happening on the other side. Do they even remember the other exists? Out of sight, out of mind?
Everyone’s gear rests on the beach ready for stowing in just the right order into Grasshopper.
The boots on the stick spent the night by the fire.
A tow passes almost unnoticed. Last night as I lay in bed, the tows sounded like helicopters landing in the woods besides us. Again, why do the tows seem so much louder when I am trying to sleep?
John offers the crew the last of the orange slices before the rest of the kitchen is packed. The rinds are placed in a hole in the sand that was dug with a paddle specifically for organic garbage.
Time to start loading the boat. More later.
Today River and Mike switched places in the line-up of the boat. Although Mike changed sides periodically, the shift wasn’t at regular 35-stroke intervals and the craft didn’t acknowledge the switch as noticeably. Surprisingly, Mike was much quieter today—leadership tension? A more rested Magique expelled his air in the form of loud burps instead of yawns.
Pelicans. A common bird on the Mississippi? Who knew? Today I saw a flowing flight-dance performed by these white, large birds. A group of at least a hundred swayed effortlessly back and forth in the sky before splitting into two groups. Each group continued their dance turning from white to black and back again depending on the angle of their wings. Several groups split and then returned. How do they move together so seamlessly? What song do they hear? Who is the leader? Nature’s choreography.
Eager to get to Bird Island at the Mississippi-Ohio confluence, our home for tonight, we stopped and ate a quick tuna salad lunch on a beach after paddling 24 miles.
When we finally landed on Bird Island, we learned a valuable lesson. A decision had been made previously that we would camp on the island for a couple of reasons. One: What a cool place to camp—at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. Two: Bird Island is a safe spot to tuck into in case of the predicted severe storms. As soon as the island was in sight, we pulled off and began unpacking Grasshopper. Then several members explored the island. Unfortunately, they returned with an unfavorable report. While a sheltered area was readily available, large water and mud-filled gullies separated us from that protected camping spot. Everyone and everything back in the boat. We are moving on. Once we relaunched, we maneuvered around a wing dam to another beach farther down the same island. As we were approaching the beach, a Bald Eagle welcomed us to our new home. Lesson learned—don’t unload the boats until scoping out the campsite is complete.
My river view at 6:22 p.m.
I am looking at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. John and I were here almost exactly two years ago, but our view was different then. We approached this area not from the North under the Cairo Mississippi River Bridge but from the East under the Cairo Ohio River Bridge. Tonight, I sit on Bird Island with tears in my eyes as I look across the river at Fort Defiance and watch vehicles cross the bridges and tows move their barge loads on the river. This re-connection means so much to me.
I remember paddling down the Ohio in my kayak, Pray, knowing the Ohio would join the Mississippi soon after we came through the port at Cairo. The Ohio is much larger than the Mississippi here so the confluence isn’t’ as noticeable coming down the Ohio. We were just beyond this area when I looked over my right shoulder and saw the Cairo Mississippi River Bridge. John was too far ahead of me to be able to look over his shoulder and see it.
Oh, the memories. I was so scared when we entered the Mississippi on that first trip. The joining of the Ohio and the Mississippi creates a very large river, and the tow traffic increases as does the number of barges they push. We didn’t know anything about wing dams, or how to interact with all the tow traffic, or how to react to the whirlpools and strange currents, or…
Right now, I look at the same intersection tenderly. Almost with ownership. These are my rivers. This is where I have lived, where I have worked, where I have fallen deeper in love with John. We are sharing these experiences together.
Today, we are sharing this experience with seven others. Even though they can’t understand the specialness of this place to me, they are creating their own memories, which include us. We have a special bond—a river bond.
The brilliant full yellow-orange sun reflects on the diamonds of the water under the Cairo Mississippi River Bridge. The bright sun creates shades of yellow and orange, not the red or pink of the last couple of nights.
Our dinner of fish and corn-on-the-cob cook crackles on the fire. The wing is set up over the kitchen. The forecast calls for severe storms tonight and tomorrow so we may be here a couple of days. I will welcome a rest for my sore, stiff neck muscles. I need to pay attention to my paddling technique.
John is helping with the corn-on-the-cob. He thinks he can turn the corn with his bare hands. Of course, the corn is hot and he can’t really turn it. Mike offers him “hot hands”, hot pad gloves. Another expedition name for common items.
Bugs land in my hair. I place my hat on to keep them away. This is the first time we have battled bugs. Earlier, Andy was sitting under the wing on a stool using the table as a desk. When I ducked under the wing to talk with him, he looked up at me uncomfortably. That’s when I noticed the herd of gnats invading his space. At least they don’t bite.
Tonight will be an early night for me. Last night’s restlessness is catching up with me. Will we be here again tomorrow night?