Day 15 – Last Day on the Mississippi

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I’ve gotten too used to flying down the Mississippi, where miles zip by, fun whirlpools whip around magically appearing as mad crazy swirling water that whips itself into perfectly round holes. It’s the only place I’ve been able to make good time despite a strong wind in my face. Northbound barge wakes provide plenty of opportunity for fun; their swells varying in steepness. Sometimes I’ve managed to surf them when the barge is going my way.

Chelsea and I have been sleeping a lot at little riverside parks. She’s had great luck with towns letting us crash even in their gazebos, which is where we are now, in Cairo. Gazebos rock because they provide additional coverage if it rains and the tents don’t get saturated with the dew from the grass. Lauren Townsend from back home sent us this little fascinating article about Cairo- http://www.atlasobscura.com/places/cairo-illinois

The city has two parks, or maybe is it two state parks in its confines. The park where we’ve spent the night is at the confluence of the Mississippi and the Ohio Rivers, so we both have views of both the rivers from our temporary homes-hotel rooms in a bag. It’s a pleasant spot, but there are no bathrooms, not even a port’o pot. I’m thankful we have a shower in a bag, even tho there aren’t any woods close by where one can rinse off with any modesty. Fortunately the trees are big and old and one can manage to strategically place oneself behind them so as to be sort of hidden. So entertaining!
From this vantage point I see that the Ohio River is not moving as fast as the Mississippi. I have about 30 miles or so to paddle up it. That will be a vastly different experience than going down the Mississippi. I certainly won’t be making the time I did on the Mississippi; I’m looking for my time to be cut down by more than half, and am thinking that even today’s 30 mile paddle might be a reach, given this current.
I’m hoping the tow captains will be as patient with me as on the Ohio as they were with me on the speedy Mississippi. I won’t be able to cross channels with any speed and I’ll need to keep to the banks a little closer, to stay out of the current as much as possible. If this south wind that’s blowing continues to blow it will surely help push me along; fingers crossed for that!
Maybe one day I’ll come back and start a journey from the confluence down to New Orleans, maybe that could be a family project. Another fun one would be the head waters to the spot where Big Muddy Adventures launches their moonlit paddles. That would be a hoot, as a family we could pop the “chain of rocks.”
The barge traffic wasn’t as heavy as in previous days on the Mississippi, but it doesn’t take many to make it interesting. One tow captain referred to me as “no bigger than a speck on a man’s butt” when alerting other captains that a paddler was on the water.  I appreciated him passing along that info, just as I’m sure they were happy to know I wasn’t going to get in their way.
Yesterday’s stretch was pretty stinking fast, despite the wind and some phone conversations where I had to stop paddling. I also snagged a photo of one of the many buoys that I’ve seen littering the banks. During times of flood of barge strikes they become unmoored. That Mississipp is no joke. I’ve never seen so many buoys on the shore.
It’s time to break camp and get moving, we are on our own for breakfast; yesterday Marty, one of the locals who came out to chill at the park in Ste. Girardeau, brought us biscuits and gravy- my absolute favorite! So we gobbled up our biscuits and scooped up the remains of the gravy with rye bread and we were set for the day.
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