Saturday, May 2, 2015

After our delicious breakfast casserole, we had two visitors. The first was our neighbor, who was camping next to us in his new camper. The second was Virginia Berry from The Francisville Times (Our 10th interview). She was more than a reporter, she became a friend in the few minutes she talked with us. It wasn’t long after she left, we saw her driving back. I thought she thought of something else to ask, but instead, she delivered a package of vanilla creme-filled pastries and two bananas. These may be our breakfast tomorrow.

We saw two eagles today. I saw my first snake in the water today. John saw one a few days ago. (Maybe weeks – I don’t remember) As long as the snake is in the water and I am in my boat, life will be good for all.

We have been trying to stop for lunch, now that the banks are more accessible. However, today we tried to stop, but the bank was too muddy. So we decided to have a floating lunch and take a snack break at Mt. Carmel, Illinois, 412 mile mark and then continue to an island further down stream.

The White River merged with the Wabash River at Mt. Carmel in the vicinity of the boat dock and Twin Rivers Restaurant.

Of course, we encountered another “just happened to be… ” moment as we landed at Mt. Carmel, planning to use the restroom at Twin Rivers Restaurant up the hill from the dock. Jim “just happened to be” driving by the boat dock as we were getting out of our boats. He asked the usual questions. John told him we stopped to use the restroom. Of course, Jim offered to take us up the hill to the restaurant/restroom. He took me first without any incident.

John, on the other hand, went to the restroom and came back with a place to camp and dinner arrangements made. (I like it when John goes to the restroom.) While he was his the restaurant, Brooklyn Adams “just happened to” be working. John asked her if we could pitch a tent behind the restaurant. (I thought we were going on from Mt. Carmel, but John knew I was tired.) Brooklyn said, “You can camp a little downstream at my family’s personal campground.”

After John had arranged our overnight accommodations, he walked out on the deck of the restaurant, and Jim yelled up at John, “Hey, that’s the owner.” Jeff Wyatt, the owner of Twin Rivers, “just happened to be” standing outside the restaurant when John walked out.

After a brief conversation about what we were doing, Jeff expressed a lot of interest in the headwaters of the Wabash because different maps show the beginning at various locations. Jeff knew a lot of the river history in this immediate area, particularly in regards to the mussel boom and the historic black pearl. John told Jeff we were camping at Brooklyn’s and would be coming back to his restaurant for dinner. Jeff said, “You certainly will come back for dinner and it is on me.”

Challenge number one: to find Brooklyn’s camping spot….. Directions on the river are different from directions on the road. “Downstream, on the right bank, about a quarter of a mile, red building, stairs…..” We found what we thought fit the description – John yelled for Brooklyn. She appeared.

Challenge number two: to dock the boats in the mud by a steep bank, tie the boats to the stairs, and climb up the bank. We spoke with Brooklyn for a while and determined we were indeed staying. This would be the first time we had docked our boats, i.e. tied them off and allowed them to float.

Challenge number three: to get the items we needed from our boats, without dropping anything in the water or mud, damaging equipment, tearing clothing (this was a great spot for a family camp and fishing base, but a lot of metal and sharp edges meant it was not very conducive to lightweight camp gear and neoprene), while John tried desperately to stay upright and not lose a boot with each step. Each item was thrown up the hill, in hopes I would catch them or they would land on the top of the hill and not roll back down through the mud into to the water. Mission accomplished!

We set up our tent and changed for dinner. (It doesn’t take long when your only outfit option is your other/only set of “clean” clothes.) When we emerged from the tent, there were six men sitting under the pavilion most of whom were an Adams or a friend of an Adams. Jeff was one of those friends sitting amongst the Adams’ family and offered to drive us to his restaurant.

Jeff joined us for dinner – catfish was amazing. We filled him in on the actual beginning of The Wabash and he filled us in on some of the history of Mt. Carmel, the mussel boom history, the Jumbo Adams story, and some of his own colorful history. What an interesting man. He should write a book!

When we returned to the Adams’ camp spot, we sat inside their red building (a “hooch” as they call it), with Helen (an Adams sister), Helen’s husband Dale, Billy Adams (Brooklyn’s father), Kadon (Brooklyn’s three-year-old nephew), and, of course, Brooklyn. They told us of a 70-year-old man who had come through in an inflatable kayak. He would deflate his kayak and put it in his backpack. He had kayaked in many places in his unique, transportable kayak, including the Amazon. They had some great stories of their family and many people they’ve met along the river.

In addition to the stories, Billy warned us to check for snakes in our cockpit in the morning. Hmmmm….. And I repeat… As long as the snake is in the water and I am in my boat, life will be good for all. Most of the potential hitchhiker threat was reported to be in the form common water snakes, but apparently a Copperhead makes an unwanted appearance now and then. (Remember, more people are killed by cattle each year in the U.S. than by snakes.)

Goodbyes were said to our new friends who went to their houses, leaving us to ours, our tent. As they were leaving, Dale became the latest supporter of The Fortress. Thank you Dale!

We were brushing our teeth and getting ready for bed when a truck pulled up. It was Mike’s daughter Jenna, boyfriend Brent, and dog, with plans to build a fire and sit by the river. We talked to them awhile before leaving them to the fire.

Good night. I can’t believe how much can happen in an afternoon and evening. It feels like a year since we left St. Francisville this morning.

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