portfolio > gone on the river

day 46
day 46
July 14, 2022

Day 46, July 13
Measurements: turbidity 33cm (same as yesterday, interestingly) at Denmark Island.

I took my time getting up this morning, treated myself to grits with greens and the rest of that weidly wonderful Buffalo Dill jerky.

It was hot again, but a little bit less hot than yesterday. By noon, I reached Louisiana, Missouri. I'm tickled by the fact that this town has the name of a different state, and went on Twitter to see if people could suggest other similar patterns, and folks did. Why is this fun? I'm not sure, but it is.

I went up into town in search of a coffee shop that google maps seemed to think was open. It was closed. Instead, I ended up at the Steamboat Bistro, a pretty nice place in downtown. Unfortunately, they didn't have anything for a vegan on the menu but the peanut butter and jelly sandwich from the kids' menu. I ordered two of those, and they were actually pretty amazing. The server kept bringing me sweet tea refills, which was, well, sweet. Eventually, she just went ahead and left the carafe. She also filled both of my water bottles with ice, and then topped them off with water, something I appreciated for hours and hours that afternoon.

After lunch I walked around a bit, including to the post office to mail a postcard, which felt wonderfully archaic.

Louisiana does not appear to be doing particularly well. The one grocery store within walking distance was, well, strange. It was a combination grocery store, fishing/bait shop, junk shop, hardware store, gift/knickknack shop, and video rental store, and did not appear to be doing any of these things well. The public restroom on the waterfront was, by far, the worst I've seen in a long time.

A guy called to me from shore as I left Louisiana, saying he'd seen me on TV. So the story Zach, the reporter in Quincy, had taped a few days earlier had run! It was a fun bit of serendipity, because Zach had told me he grew up in Louisiana, MO.

As usual, the current faded to nothing as I approached lock and dam 24. Something very interesting happened at the lock. After I pulled the signal cord and waited for the guys to "flip the lock" as the person who talked to me put it (make it so the water level in the lock matches the upstream side, rather than the downstream, in my case), I let go of the ladder as I saw the doors begin to open. I drifted slowly away from the wall and the ladder set into it, when I noticed movement down at the waterline. It was a snake! Had it been there the whole time, next to me? I don't know. But I did get to watch this snake start to - no shit - climb the ladder. It was something else.

At the bottom of the lock, I stopped at the little town of Clarksville, MO. For the first time on the trip so far, I tied up to a staircase going down into the water. I walked up across the train tracks into town, to a bar called Cherry's. They were perfectly nice, if a bit insular-seeming. I had a beer and refilled my water bottles, then set back off.

A boat was circling back and forth, at high speed, going both between the shores and up to the dam and then downstream a bit. I couldn't tell what they were doing, other than repeatedly subjecting me to their wake.

A wind started to come up as I reached something called Slim Islan, so I ducked off the main channel and into the backwater between several islands - Grimes, Slim, Willow Bar (the umpteenth Willow Bar I've seen so far) and McCoy. I was looking for a good site, and kept seeing sites that looked good, but holding out for better, and trying to make it to thirty miles for the day.

I'm glad I did, because as I pulled past McCoy Island I saw the loveliest site of the trip so far, maybe. It was a long point of land on the tail end of McCoy Island, with the main stream moving quickly on the left side and the backwater channel I'd come down on the right. On the mainstream side, the water got deep quickly, and the bank was nicely sandy. I decided to swim.

I learned a trick on a Boundary Waters trip long ago, which we call (sort of sophomorically) "water diapering." You put your legs through the arm holes of a life jacket, and can comfortably "sit" in the water. I did that, floating down from a spot upstream to the tip of my site - or that was the plan, anyway. I got out a bit earlier than intended when a fish did one of those dramatic splashes right next to me. That was enough, and I got out.

I should note that my experiences with jumping fish are continuing and, if anything, intensifying. I've had the same fish jump multiple times in a row beside me, like a dolphin. Earlier today, when I was turning the canoe to the right, a fish actually jumped over the bow of the boat. One of these fish is going to jump into the boat with me at some point, I can just tell.

Another wildlife tidbit: some pieces of driftwood become dragonfly hangout spots, little "lovers' lanes" for dragonflies. I say that because it appears to be all couples, as I float by.

For dinner I made an absolutely delicious potato and veggie meat hash, with peppers, chipotle pepper, paprika, sage, and fresh onion and garlic. Man it was good. Good thing, too, because it's also breakfast tomorrow.

The moon came up just after I got into the tent. Very nearly full, and bright orange. Very intense.

Also intense, in a much smaller and more inexplicable way: the sand in the tent was jumping. But only when the light hit it. I can't explain it, but I did take a video to prove that I'm not losing my mind.

Tomorrow: I want to make thirty miles again.