Day 34: 22 Miles
Some things have changed in the last few days. We had a great few days with Mace and Sherri…we even got to see Woody (we hiked the JMT with him in 2014) and his wife. Sadly, Safety’s grandmother passed away while we were at Mace’s, so he rented a car and headed back to MA for the funeral. We weren’t really sure what the three of us would do without Safety. We considered just staying with Mace and Sherri for a week until Safety came back. But, we were able to talk Mace into coming out with us until Safety came back. He had one job he needed to complete before he could leave with us, so we helped him frame a deck and then he was ready to go! So, we stayed an extra two days with Mace and Sherri and we are back on the river today. It was nice to have the extra rest for our bodies, but it was also good to be making progress again. We got on the water at 9:45am and we were immediately greeted with a crosswind. We were still able to make good time and took plenty of breaks…we didn’t want to make Mace too sore on his first day. We have been pretty impressed with Mace today…we don’t think we could just jump into a canoe trip and do over 20 miles on our first day. We got through another lock in the afternoon (no waiting again! That makes six in a row!). The water on the downstream side of the lock was really choppy and full of erratic swells. We said it was like a weird amusement park ride that none of us liked. Luckily it calmed down after we got past the lock wall and then we only had to deal with the wind. We were lucky enough to spend most of the day in sloughs running parallel to the main navigation channel. We didn’t run into another boat all day. It was nice feeling like we had the river to ourselves. We got to camp around 5pm and we were all exhausted from dealing with the wind all day. It is nice to be sleeping outside again. The temperature is finally cooling down so we should have a good night for sleeping. Even though we miss Safety and hope everything is ok with him, it was also nice to spend time with Mace on the river.
Day 35: 23 Miles
We had a great night of sleep and woke up to a calm day with a very colorful sunrise. The first twenty minutes on the water were the calm morning time that we love…then the wind set in. We were basically fighting either a crosswind or a headwind for the rest of the day. We made good time to the lock this morning and our lock luck continued as the gates were opened before we got to the lock and without us even calling them. And we had a barge just a half mile behind us, so the timing worked out perfectly. We played the Name Game for quite awhile in the morning to help distract us from the strong wind we were paddling against. We stopped in New Boston which was just a few miles after the lock. The wind was just so strong and we wanted to take a break and hopefully find some food. We ate at a local bar and grill that was just opening up. The food was good and we just chilled out for almost two hours while we hoped the wind would die down. No such luck with the wind, but we figured we would try to make a bit more progress. Most of today was spent in sloughs again, which was nice. Sometimes the wind would be less in the sloughs, but even more important was that we didn’t see another boat all day in the sloughs. We did have some maneuvering with a tugboat bringing a barge from shore back into the navigation lane. Luckily Qball noticed what he was doing early so we could get ourselves into a good place. We finally called it quits with the wind around 3pm. We don’t usually stop that early, even with wind, but today was just too much. It took us a few tries before we found a good place to camp. We hung out for awhile while having an early dinner and then played cards for awhile. It has been really good to have Mace with us the past few days. His positive attitude definitely helps us from getting so down about the river. There has been a lot of laughing and great stories told. The forecast for tomorrow is a tailwind! Yeah!
Day 36: 27 Miles
When we woke up this morning, there was some distant thunder and lightning, but we figured it was far enough away that it was ok for us to start paddling. There was a slight tailwind and the morning was a great temperature with overcast skies. Within an hour, it had started to rain and the thunder sounded pretty close, so we pulled off and wait until the storm passed by. We just hung out in our ponchos getting chilled. Each time we thought it was clear to get moving, we would see a flash of lightning, so we would wait a bit longer. We ended up waiting out the storm for about an hour. Once we got back on the water, it continued to rain off and on for a few hours. The wind pretty much died down and we had very calm water for the rest of the day. We got to our lock for the day and had to wait about half an hour before we could lock through. We figured that wasn’t so bad since there was a barge in the lock and another waiting on the other side to come through. Right after the lock, we had to paddle off to the side, as the waiting barge started heading for the lock. We stopped for lunch and we heated up a can of soup since SweetPea was chilled from the rain. It stayed cloudy all day, which generally kept the temperature cool and nice for paddling. In the middle of the afternoon, we came to the town of Burlington and stopped at a place for a drink and an appetizer. We always enjoy the day more when we can pop into a town for a treat and a short break from paddling. We headed out just after 4pm and paddled until about 5:30pm when we found a great campsite. It was so pleasant paddling in the late afternoon that we could have paddled longer, but we wanted to have time to play cards before it got dark. It was another day spent mostly in sloughs instead of the main navigation channel. We hope this kind of paddling will continue.
Day 37: 30 Miles
It is starting to get lighter a bit later these days. As we headed out at 6:45am, it was just starting to be light enough to start…we really wouldn’t want to start any earlier. We know some folks paddle in the dark, but so far we haven’t been too interested in that. The water was really calm and the temperature was great in the morning. We were only in the slough for a few miles and then spent the rest of the day in the main navigation channel. It was super quiet on the river and only saw a barge and a steamboat in the morning…otherwise, it was just us on the river. We took a few long breaks in the morning, but still managed to paddle 15 miles to Fort Madison by 11:00am. We were meeting Safety today, since he got back to IL last night. We got lunch and resupplied before Mace drove home and we paddled off. We were really bummed to say goodbye to Mace. It has been so much fun to hang out with him on this trip. We always laugh a ton and just feel happier when we spend time with him. The afternoon had us going by Nauvoo, which is a town of historic significance for Mormons. We could see the big Mormon temple in town from our canoes. We got in a bit of a pickle in the evening, as we started to think about camping. There are train tracks on the Iowa side right next to the water, so we couldn’t camp there. On the Illinois side, there was a road right next to the water, making it impossible to camp there. And there were no islands to camp on. So, we ended up padding into a little creek and finding a place to camp. We are obviously on private property, which we don’t like, but we weren’t going to have another option before it got dark. The weather prediction for tomorrow is thunderstorms and strong winds, so we’ll have to see how far we manage to get.
Day 38: 28 Miles
It rained pretty much all night, but luckily it had stopped when we were packing up. There was about seven gallons of water in our canoe this morning after the night of rain. It took us a few extra minutes to get the canoes sorted out, but then we were on our way by 7am. It was less than five miles to our first lock of the day. It rained off and on and we were constantly taking our ponchos on and off. We were able to go straight into the lock which was good. This lock was our biggest drop (35 feet!) since our very first lock. It is always cool to be in such a deep lock when the water has been taken out. The rest of the morning continued to be rainy and grey. The big surprise after the lock was the sudden presence of the jumping asian carp. They were completely crazy, jumping so close to our boats and even over our boats sometimes. Beardoh got hit in the side twice by fish jumping and one hit his paddle causing him to drop it. SweetPea had a fish head butt her in the chest and knock her paddle out of her hands. They kept startling us, it was amazing we didn’t capsize just from flinching from the flying fish. We kept laughing at the sheer insanity of the fish. We learned that the fish are going to be a presence for the rest of the trip. Not really something we wanted, as their jumping can be a bit unnerving since they are so big and they can jump up to 8 feet! We got to our second lock in the middle of the afternoon and had to wait about an hour and forty minutes. Luckily there was a sandy beach where we could wait. We were mostly wet, so we got a bit chilled waiting to go through the lock. The wind really picked up during our wait and it was really strong after the lock. The water was so choppy with swells that were several feet high. We ended up stopping just before 5pm since we didn’t want to keep paddling in the wind. The campsite is pretty swampy and gross, but it will be fine for the night. Two milestones for today…we have a new state on our right: Missouri (Illinois is still on our left), and we passed the 1,000 mile mark on the river!
Day 39: 13 Miles
Today was challenging. When we woke up, we could hear the wind blowing pretty hard. We still decided to paddle, because we only had about a half mile in the main navigation channel, and then we would be able to get into a slough, where we hoped the wind would be less. The half mile on the navigation channel was brutal with winds so strong, SweetPea was worried the canoe would flip. But once we got to the slough, the wind was a bit better and we felt ok continuing on. The flying fish were back today and we counted over 100 jumping near our boat in the short day of paddling. Qball and Safety had two land in their boat…we assume it will eventually happen to us also, but we are dreading it. The fish are so annoying, because whenever they jump after a period of quiet, they give us a mini heart attack each time. After the slough ended and we were heading back into the main navigation channel, the wind was so fierce, we were practically paddling in place. We didn’t get more than 50 yards before we had to pull over…there was no way we could paddle in that wind. As it started to rain, we decided to go back into the slough about 100 yards to a landing we had spotted that had a privy. Going just that short distance was harrowing, and we decided to hunker down in the privy while it rained. We ended up playing cards for about three hours until we felt that the wind had come down a notch. We figured we would give it a try, and if it wasn’t good, we would find a place to camp. While it wasn’t good, it was doable at a very slow pace. We ended up making it about three miles before calling it quits for the day. Another super frustrating day on the river during the time that we were paddling. The day at least ended on a positive note with town food for dinner since we are camped close to the town of Quincy.
Day 40: 18 Miles
The wind died down before we were even asleep last night and it remained pretty calm this morning. We only had two miles to the lock this morning and we were able to just paddle right in after Qball called them…perfect! We learned yesterday that the asian carp tend to hang out in the shallow water, so our strategy today was to paddle further from shore than we normally do. We are trying to avoid having them jump on us and in our boats and it seemed to work out good. We only saw three fish jump today versus about 100 yesterday. This strategy won’t work in windy days when we need to stay close to shore, but we’ll deal with that when we have to. In any case, it was nice to have a relatively heart attack free day. It was really quiet on the river today which we were surprised about since it was a weekend day and a beautiful day. We were able to get to Hannibal by noon and left our canoes at the municipal harbor. This afternoon we played tourist for awhile, going to the Mark Twain museum and boyhood home. There were also other notable historic buildings to go through, as well as paintings by Norman Rockwell (the originals)which he had done for illustrated versions of several Twain books. It was a pretty interesting and enjoyable afternoon. Now we’re ready for an evening of relaxation.