The Other Side of the  Mirror

Perspective? Experience? Choice? Oh the view may be familiar, but for some reasons different. You know, objects may be closer than they appear. So, Three sets of clothes! Why does this seem a problem? We only packed three sets of everything to take on our three and a half month trip—all we needed. Maybe I could squeeze in one extra shirt, pair of underwear, and pair of socks without John noticing. (I did manage to stuff my mini-camp pillow in this time—and more toilet paper) Why, this time, am I finding the limitation so difficult? On our previous trip, I was clothed every day. No shortage. Society? Am I concerned about the fact that we will be traveling with other people, more like being in civilization, and my vanity is kicking in? Last time, unless we went to town, John was the only one who saw me—it didn’t matter if my clothes were dirty and smelly or if I had applied any makeup. Hey, the others have the same limitations. I wonder how many sets of clothes they will bring. I wonder through which side of the mirror they will view themselves.

When we first started planning this trip 10 weeks ago, we had intended to take the same gear as on our previous trip. Except for changing out my previous wetsuit for my new one…you know, with the relief zipper. Once we decided to return to the river, John immediately wanted to rectify his error from two years ago and again began investigating women’s wetsuits. After some searching, we decided on and order an NRS Women’s 3.0 Ultra Jane Neoprene Wetsuit complete with not one but two zippers—one allowing ease to put on and one ease to pee. Different view, but still a wetsuit—even swap. Once we actually started packing, we made a few more changes to our gear list. We added some new paddling shirts since our others were stained and tattered. We also ordered some neoprene socks. John especially wanted to try these in an effort to avoid the issues he had with constantly drying his socks after getting water in his boots. I’m realizing the trip is the same but different.

Two years ago, we had two kayaks to stuff all our gear in—complete with location map for each item. Our boats provided floating suitcases with small individual hatches best accommodating gear that was fragmented into small bites vs one big gulp. This time, we are limited to about 6 cubic feet of gear per person. That doesn’t sound like much, but Quapaw Canoe Company is providing all the group water, food, kitchen and camp needs (including sit-backer style camp chairs—a chair with a back, yahoo). The only food I have to provide is our personal snacks! No dehydrating or stressing over having enough. I have prepared and vacuum packed my famous granola bars, caramelized walnuts (same recipe as before), mixed nuts, and home-made honey roasted peanuts. I can’t imagine how daunting the task of supplying food for twelve to fifteen people for a six-week wilderness adventure would be. And the stowing of the gear? An open 29 foot boat is more welcoming to a big gulp making fragmenting the gear less critical. Gear limitations and food prep—the same but different.

Considering our previous experiences and detailed trip planning files, getting prepared from start to finish in a short amount of time proved no problem. I’m glad we kept good records. (Why reinvent the wheel?) I have checked the master list to assess which tasks are necessary to complete no matter how long we will be gone. I still have to complete the following (but on a smaller scale)…

  • Pay bills ahead
  • Pack vitamins in small individual daily bags
  • Prepare food (snacks)
  • Arrange dog care
  • Stop mail deliver
  • Empty refrigerator

I find following an existing list easier than creating a new one. List completed—the same but different.

Just as the prep has been the same but different, the trip itself will be the same but different as well. Survival and accomplishment no longer take center stage. This time it’s the river itself who gets the spotlight. Our Creator provides the light, sound, and script. But our star can’t speak. We are her voices; we are her marquis; we are her marketing. In some ways, the pressure is greater. We are fleeting, but the river lives on. Her quality of life depending on how we represent her. Pray we do it well. Purpose—the same but different.

We will be paddling two segments of the entire Celebration Expedition in a couple of weeks. The first part will be new territory for us—the Middle Mississippi, which flows from the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers to Cairo, Illinois. The Mississippi has three sections: Upper, Middle, and Lower. Since we completed the Lower previously, the addition of the Middle will leave the Upper as the only uncharted portion for us (Another trip perhaps?). Although we have already paddled the section from Cairo to Caruthersville, seeing this wonderful wilderness area through the eyes of expert John Ruskey will seem like paddling there for the first time. In addition, when we entered these waters last time, we were (at least I was) scarred to death of the large river with strange currents, dangerous dikes, and larger tows with more expansive barge loads. Experience has replaced the fear of the unknown. We know what awaits us. Portions of the river—the same but different.

On our first trip, we experienced our life in the wilderness just the two of us in our kayaks. This time we will be in a large hand-built voyageur canoe, the Grasshopper, with several other people. Seeing the wilderness adventure from a different view, through the eyes of not just me but with others as well, creates anticipation. I won’t be responsible for my kayak, keeping it from the attack of whirlpools or out of the path of the tows. I won’t be the sole power source; I will be sharing the load with others. I look forward to sharing the experience, responsibility, and power source with others. Just the two of us—the same but different.

As I anticipate leaving in a few days, unlike our first trip, I can recall my previous experience—what I know. My Gestalt—the experiences I can hang my hat on to give me an idea of what is in store for us. I can still see the different areas in my mind. The Caribbean-like beach across the river from Wickliffe, Kentucky where we spent two nights because of storms. The yellow and orange sunset splayed over and reflected on the water close to Hickman, Kentucky. I see the willow shaded island just outside of New Madrid, Missouri. The purple and pink sunrise off the beach at mile marker 858, followed by clouds, waves and a wicked paddle into Caruthersville. What will this area look like this year? How will the changes in the river, my view, and my perspective affect what I see? How will the addition of experience—Ruskey’s, the others, and mine change how I respond to my wilderness life? Adding new memories and pictures of the Mississippi Wilderness will connect me even more to the lifestyle I love. I am anxious to live my wilderness life again. The same but different. Stayed tuned…



  1. Tom and Candy said:

    Very excited for you to enjoy and explore The River in a new way! Have a great adventure!

    March 14, 2017
  2. Richard Day said:

    A wonderfull excitement building writing for a new – old / same – different experience. Beat wishes. Papaw Richad

    March 14, 2017
  3. SAM GRUBB said:

    I am anxiously watching for the next chapter in this story.

    March 14, 2017

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