Day 82, August 19
Measurements: turbidity at Yellow Bayou: 35cm. Nitrate at same location: 2ppm. Miles today: only 17, but felt like more.
It started raining on me last night around the time I got in the tent, and kept it up most of the night. I'd put the rain fly on with all of the stakes available, and it worked great. I stayed totally dry. I also stayed completely mosquito-free all night, despite the fact that there wereseemingly thousands of them between the tent mesh and the rain fly. In the morning, when it was light enough to see, I found that a huge clump of them - I'm talking like at least a dozen, probably more - were gathered right where I'd been exhaling through the mesh, drawn by that sweet, sweet CO2.
As it got lighter, I realized that I did not have to brave this swarm in order to go to the bathroom. They had made it almost effortless to kill them all, by crushing them between the mesh and the fly. So that's what I did. It was a slaughter, and I did not feel bad about it in the slightest.
I ate breakfast in the tent - overnight oats, tea, tang. It was fine. The rain kept coming sporadically for a few hours, so I decided to wait it out. I was in the tent until around 10am, when it finally started to clear up a bit. I got out on the water very late, for a night not spent in a town, at around 11.
I took measurements, a tow passed by, and I concentrated on paddling. I'd intended to take this little tiny side channel, but there was an old sign near it warning that it was a private canal, so I stayed out on the main drag. I saw some more alligators, some more interesting flowers, a few cypresses, wading birds.
At around 1pm, I made it to another place where I had a choice between channels, and chose the smaller of the two, something called Riverside Pass. It was much narrower, with a slightly slower current. Just lovely. There were a couple of houses out there, on islands. They must be cabins? I couldn't tell. One had a washing machine right out in the yard out front. Another spot had a largish boat up on land, with a black square building-looking thing built into the top of it. Stuff is interesting down here.
But by far the most impressive, most beautiful part of the day came when this Riverside Pass side channel met another, even more to-the-side channel, which was essentially a cypress swamp. I took that opportunity gladly, and was just blown away. There were massive, just gorgeous cypresses rising straight out of the water the whole way, covered in Spanish moss. The spaces between them were full of old cypress trunks (I think?) which are strongly angular and almost look like stalactites. Today's picture is one of many I took in that area.
Eventually, I rejoined Riverside Pass, and then the main channel of the Atchafalaya. At that confluence there are a number of small buoys with little flags, marking where there are sunken vessels under the water. All I could see was the corner of a barge.
Around the next bend, I started to be able to see Morgan City. Around the bend after that, I could see much more of it, and also Berwick across the river. These waterfronts are very industrial, which is to say incredibly ugly, at least to me. I saw several tows, some moving and some not, as well as my first glimpse, far to the south, of an actual oceangoing ship. Not a huge one, I think maybe a fishing vessel, but still.
I found a fishing pier with a little rocky shore near it, right under the bridges that connect Morgan City and Berwick, with the flood wall open, and got out. As I did, a few people came up to talk to me. The first, a middle aged woman, talked to me about kayaking where I'd just been, and other nearby places, and where do fish for catfish. Next, a couple of boys around maybe ten years old biked up with a fishing pole, and we chatted as I converted everything to road mode. They were pretty impressed by my journey, but seemed not to have actually heard of that far-off place called "Minnesota." One had been born in Vicksburg, and was very interested to learn that I'd just been there. They were absolutely wowed by the Brompton.
I rode off through downtown Morgan City, which is right behind the flood wall. The city is very flat, as you might expect, which is a good thing for me because the shifting on the Brompton is now entirely busted. There appear to be some open businesses in downtown, but there are even more on the busy road to the east, strip-mall style. Your usual fast food and such.
I biked over there to visit a CVS that has a UPS pickup spot in it. Sam had mailed me a package containing the foam pads and straps for putting the canoe on a car, for when I rent a car to get to New Orleans, and then rent another to get home. The package was there, which felt pretty cool.
I then biked up to a Deluxe Inn, which is where I'd made a reservation. It's always funny when places have names that are exactly the opposite of what they are. This is one of the least "deluxe" motels in the world. But again, my nearest comparison is a tent, surrounded by mosquitoes, covered in sand, so it feels luxurious to me.
After unloading everything, I went to a tolerable but not great Mexican restaurant, to the grocery store for a few supplies for my run to the Gulf, and then to a weirdly empty bar, where I drank one beer and left quickly.
I also reached out via the Mississippi river paddlers Facebook group to see if there's anyone in the area who would be willing to have me drop off some stuff that I don't need for the trip to the Gulf and back. I won't need the bike, for example, and there are a number of other things I could certainly do without. And I will want to be as light as possible for the return journey, up against the current. A guy responded, and he's not only willing to hold onto my stuff, he's willing to come meet me to grab it, which means that I can also part with the trailer wheels. Pretty sweet! The plan is to meet him tomorrow at 11am, at the boat ramp.
Back at the hotel, my keycard didn't work. Turns out the problem wasn't the keycard, it was the door itself. The lock is out of batteries or something. They had to get the housekeeper to let me in with a physical key, and she warned me not to let the door close again with myself outside. Pretty Deluxe!
I spent some time sorting my stuff - mostly food and clothing - into the pile that's coming with me to the gulf, and the pile that's staying with the guy. Sam had also packed, along with the foam pads and straps, a few oreo cookies. I ate them while watching the end of Shawshank Redemption on TV, and fell asleep very early.
The plan for tomorrow is to get out on the water at around 11, after unloading the things I don't need, and paddle the 25 miles down to the Gulf, to a place called Plumb Point, and camp there, looking at the ocean. The ocean! I'm looking forward to it.