Day 54: 37 Miles
We had a pretty awesome time in Memphis with Michael, Virginia and Charles. They were amazing hosts and made sure we got a taste of all the good food Memphis had to offer, including catfish, fried chicken, dry ribs, wet ribs, pulled pork, BBQ baloney, gumbo, grits and even omelettes made with eggs from their own ducks. Needless to say they completely spoiled us. And it was fun to just hang out and get to know them a bit. SweetPea is the latest casualty of the cold that is going around, so she rested a good bit of the time, but it was good for all of us to just have some down time for a day. We are all growing weary of this trip and ready to be done. Staying with such great River Angels, made it even harder to motivate ourselves to get back out on the river today. Leaving Memphis, there is a distinct lack of food and water options for awhile on the river…we’re carrying water for a 200 mile stretch and carrying food for a 300 mile stretch. That is way more food than we have carried on any other section of this trip. So, when we left, our canoes were pretty weighted down with extra food and full water jugs. The wind was pretty strong as soon as we started and the wind created some pretty rough swells. We had to pull over within a few miles, because Daisy (Qball and Safety’s canoe) was too weighted down for the rough water. She rides pretty low normally, so there isn’t a lot of extra wiggle room for extra weight. We ended up moving some of their food into our canoe and we decided to just drink from their water jug until the weight is back to normal for their canoe. Luckily, Memphis’s industrial harbor is not on the MS, but instead is on a lake connected to the river. That spared us having to paddle through another big city harbor. The wind kept up the rest of the day and we were happy to get to camp shortly after 5pm. The area where we are camping appears to be the depository of logs and trash from previous floods. The ground is so covered with debris and trash that it was hard to walk around as we looked for hang spots. This afternoon, the face of Qball’s paddle finally split in two pieces. It had been looking ready to split for awhile but today it finally happened. So he wrapped it back together with duct tape and hopefully it will be as good as new. Today’s milestone: after just a few days in TN, we now have Mississippi on our left.
Day 55: 39 Miles
We had great temperatures for sleeping last night. It was cool when we got up, but not too cold. As soon as we paddled out of the cove where we had camped, we immediately felt the strong winds. Sadly, it was just a taste of what the day held in store for us. Depending on how the river turned, we either had really strong headwinds, really strong crosswinds (we have decided that this is the worst), or calm waters (definitely the minority for today). Sometimes the wind was so strong it created big waves that were a bit nerve wracking. Both SweetPea and Safety (both in the bow of the canoes) were getting pretty wet from the water coming over the bow. At certain points, the wind was so strong, we were barely making forward progress. One four mile stretch took us about an hour and a half to paddle! We decided to end the day early (about 3:45pm) when we saw a casino and knew they had a buffet. None of us were particularly starved, but we figured it would be a nice treat after the really hard day. Now we are camped in the woods near the casino. The wind is finally starting to die down for the night. The forecast looks like we’re in store for another windy day tomorrow. Yuck.
Day 56: 45 Miles
We could hear the wind blowing this morning while we were still laying in our hammocks…not good. But, we were pleasantly surprised when we walked down to our canoes and noticed that it wasn’t as windy at the river. We were glad to start out with some calm water. Overall today, our time was probably split pretty equally between paddling in strong winds and fairly calm water. Even though we probably had more calm miles, the windy miles just came really slow and took us awhile to get through. There was quite a lot of barge traffic again today. We had to stop on a sandbar at one point to let a barge come through a pretty narrow stretch of river. When we were done with lunch, we ended up waiting an extra half hour to let two barges go by. Near the end of the day, there was an Army Corps Of Engineers vessel in the river holding up traffic in both directions. We’re not sure what the boat was for, as it looked different than the other two dredgers we’ve seen. In any case, we were the only ones who could get through since we don’t need to be in the navigation channel. But as we passed it, we could see the the line of barges down river…we counted eight, but there could have been more around the corner. We stopped right before the mayhem of barges, since we didn’t want to be weaving around them. We’ve heard traffic moving again since being at camp, so things should be fine for us when we leave tomorrow.
Day 58: 42 Miles
As we headed out on the river this morning, we got a better look at the Army Corps vessel as it was parked near where we camped. It looked like it was a vessel for laying concrete tiles on the bottom of the river. They use these tiles to help prevent erosion of the shores and the navigation channel. It was pretty cool to see. We figured that they ended up closing off the navigation channel again today, as we saw no barges going our direction. There weren’t too many in the other direction either, so it was a bit quieter than normal in the river. Once again, the wind has made for a terrible day. While we had short bit of calm, most of the day was spent paddling against really strong headwinds and crosswinds. It is just such a beat down, and it is pretty frustrating that we can’t make the miles we want. These past few days since we left Memphis have all been really hard and make us just want this trip to be over so badly. We ended up stopping for the day around 3:45pm, because the wind had just burned us out. We had a nice time chatting over dinner and then played some cards. The wind has died down to nothing in the evening, which is ultimately kind of annoying knowing how windy the daytime can be.
Day 59: 27 Miles
Well, the weather has won again. The day started off really clear and only slightly windy. There was quite a bit of barge traffic, so it seems that things are back to normal. Clouds started to come in during the morning and we got a few sprinkles, but we seemed to be on track for reaching Greenville today, where we will be able to fill up our water jugs. Shortly before noon, as we were looking ahead at the shoreline for a lunch spot, we heard thunder for the first time today. We started paddling for the nearest shore, figuring that thunder usually goes with lightning. Then it seemed like the sky just opened up and completely downpoured. We got to shore as it started to lighten up, so we were able to eat lunch in peace. Then the rain picked up again and when we looked at the forecast, it seemed like it was going to continue raining with lightning storms all day. Since the temperatures aren’t very high today, we figured it would be best to just set up camp and hit the water again tomorrow. There was a lot of discussion and frustration in making that decision…we all just want to finish up as soon as possible and any delays in miles is hard to accept.
Day 60: 53 Miles
As we were walking to our canoes with our stuff this morning, we crossed paths with a hunter heading out for the morning. We were all surprised to see each other, and after a few pleasantries we all went our separate ways. It was a really cold night last night and SweetPea never managed to warm up her feet overnight, so that kept her awake a lot. We put on all of our layers as we started out this morning. There was a nice breeze at our backs, which made for quick miles into Greenville where we stopped at a campground and filled up our water jugs. The rest of the day had us with either a crosswind or a slight tailwind. Before lunch, we experienced our biggest waves so far, when we passed a barge and then had a submerged dike in front of us that we didn’t see until it was too late to avoid it. The swells were probably six feet and we went through three big waves before it mellowed out to just normal rapids. Qball said it looked like Beardoh was five feet in the air while he couldn’t even see SweetPea as our canoe went down between waves. Luckily there was no problem, but it was just crazy waves. We’ve gotten pretty used to four foot swells, but this was a lot bigger. It never really warmed up today and the wind was really cold, so we didn’t take very long breaks during the day. We are camped at a pretty unfortunate place tonight. While it looked good from the water, the only good camping near the canoes was right on the water, which is too exposed to the wind for us. So, we walked around a lot and finally found some good hang spots but we are probably over a quarter mile from where Qball is camped and we have no idea where Safety camped. It is just funny sometimes when we have to scatter to find a campsite and we end up having no idea where each other is…we just all meet up at the canoes in the morning. Today’s milestone: instead of Arkansas on our right, we now have Louisiana.
Day 61: 53 Miles
Today was the calmest and most pleasant day we have had in awhile. Last night was really cold, with a “freeze advisory”. We both slept in multiple layers and even started the day paddling with two pairs of pants on and three jackets. The wind was really calm and it was really easy to navigate around the barges. While we were eating lunch today, we noticed a paddler on the other side of the river (the river is so wide these days it can be a mile or more across the river). We pulled out the binoculars to get a better look and tried to get his attention by waving. We were so excited to see another paddler, since the last time we saw someone else paddling was north of Minneapolis. We don’t know if he saw us waving, but we caught up with him, Gene, after lunch. He is on day 209 of his trip down the Arkansas River (this just joined the MS river two days ago) and down to the gulf. It sounded like he has had an epic journey so far. He was in a kayak and had cobbled together an outrigger setup with branches, duct tape and string. He built it once he got to the MS river and realized the big waves he was in for with the barges. He was pretty loaded down and going at a slow pace, doing about 20 miles a day. He said he was doing this trip in memory of his two children who had passed away. It was good talking with him and definitely the most interesting thing that has happened to us on the river in awhile. The rest of the afternoon went smoothly and we got to camp just after 5pm. We had an amazingly easy time finding our hang spots, given the trek to our sites the past few nights. We had dinner on the beach and even cleaned up the canoe. We took a bunch of photos of the canoe so we can make a Craigslist ad to sell it when we finish. We only have a few miles to Vicksburg tomorrow and our hotel room is already booked. We are all excited for a town day.
Day 62: 7 Miles
We got up at our normal time even though we only had a few miles to go. We were anxious to get to town and figured we could find a good breakfast. It was calm and clear out this morning and it was a quick paddle into town. We were able to pull off the river right near the casino where we are staying and hide the canoes in the bushes. We had a nice breakfast and then were able to get into our rooms really early. Definitely a great start to our (almost a zero) rest day. Now for the final planning for the last stretch of the trip. Yeah!