These posts are being put up from the Vicksburg office of the Army Corps of Engineers. Thank you Mark Richter for all of your help!
Day 16: Kentucky Bend Bar to Arcadia Point, MS (50 river miles)
The morning was chaotic. By this point in the trip Sarah, Patrick and I have a routine down. Each camp item gets packed away in a specific spot in the boats. Each drybag has to go in the proper order or things will not fit. Some things remain in the boats at all times. On this morning our routine was broken because Patrick had to empty his entire boat the previous afternoon. At the end of the day he found that the hold of his boat had filled with about an inch of water. He emptied everything out to try to find the leak and make repairs. His boat is still leaking but it appears to be more of an annoyance than a serious safety issue. Even with a complete repacking we left the beach by 8:00. By 10:00 it seemed like the sun was set to broil. We applied 50 SPF sunscreen nearly every hour and still the backs of our hands and our forearms burned. Sarah's lips began to burn despite applying sunblock chapstick constantly. We dipped our shirts into the river to stay cool and the wet fabric dried in less than 30 minutes. Paddling in the heat was draining but we were pushing hard to make it to Vicksburg, MS by the 4th of July. Around 1:00 we paddled into a swampy inlet to eat lunch and escape the sun. The only shade was among the mud behind the trees. We found a few logs to sit on to keep us from sinking completely into the deep mud. We have eaten lunches in a lot of beautiful settings on this trip but this mud pit was not one of them. All around us there were animal tracks. We have seen so many animal tracks in the mud that we almost stopped taking notice but now we have been noticing a new kind of track...alligator! Alligator tracks have a way of making you take notice. We kept our eyes open for gators as we ate our beans and rice but all we saw was a crawfish scuttling through the muck.
After lunch we returned to the sun. It only got hotter as the light breeze completely died. I found myself looking at my watch every ten minutes, hoping the day was closer to sun down and then being disappointed to find that it was only ten minutes closer. This heat was made worse by the fact that we were running low on water. I had finished the two liters that I had on deck long ago and was starting to think about the unpleasant realization that we were going to need to ration our water to make it to Vicksburg by the end of the day tomorrow. Around 5:00 our team morale was low and we were all looking forward to getting off of the water. We spotted a private boat ramp on the nautical chart and chose it as our ending point for the day on the chance that it may have a drinking water source. Many of the private boat ramps on the charts have been in the midst of vacation cabins and have had water available. The charts have proved to be very accurate. The only time they have been inaccurate so far we ended up in a tight spot hunting for the non-existent Thompson boat ramp in Missouri. This was the second time that the charts have been less than accurate. There was no ramp. We did spot a house and pulled onto a sandy bank to investigate.
The house proved to be in a state of abandonment. The grass was overgrown and buzzing with mosquitoes. There was a water tank atop a crooked wooden tower. PVC pipes led down from the tank to a tap. When I turned the rusty spigot we were disappointed to receive about a cup full of brown murky liquid. This was not the campsite we were hoping for. Even though we were dreading it, we returned to the kayaks and paddled on with less than an hour of daylight remaining.
We paddled two more miles around a bend and were disappointed to see miles of dense forest lining both sides of the channel. We were very close to facing a night with very little water on a steep slope with no space for tents. We all paddled in silence. Then we saw something in the distance.
A few miles up we spotted a clearing. In the clearing stood a large house. New hope for a campsite returned to our kayaks. It turned out to be better than we could have hoped for. As we got closer, a man ran out to the water’s edge and waved us in. Almost as soon as we stepped on to land, Glen, Althea, Bobby and June were insisting that we come inside the large house get cleaned up. We spent the evening talking, eating and drinking with our new friends. Once again we were shown the meaning of Southern hospitality.
Day 17 We made it to Vicksburg, MS! Happy 4th of July! (33 river miles)
Only 337 miles to New Orleans! Look for a big post with lots of pictures when we get there!