Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Sky is Falling

At the 1 AM check the water level had risen four feet up the bank, though only a foot in depth. At my 4 AM check the river had only advanced another couple of linear feet and half a foot in depth. If the water did rise to a point that we would have gotten flooded it wouldn’t have been a torrent, but rather a trickle which gave us comfort as we slept. I did however keep my knife at hand in the event I would have to extricate myself from the tent in a hurry. Other than having to put our kayaks in the water in a different spot, the rising water played no role over night. The morning was a different story.

We didn’t exactly get a jump on the day, but we were still hoping to crack into the 300’s of miles to go by the end of the day.

The current was running hard with the rise in the water level. The warm temperatures must have caused some snow melt further north and assisted in pushing us along at one point over 10 miles per hour. We were moving. The heavy winds that were forecast didn’t materialize in the morning as predicted, much to our pleasure. Despite not having gotten an early jump on the day as it was forecast to be quite windy and figured it would be a short day, it seemed that we would make some time and turn it into a full day.

While stopping for lunch in a sheltered stand of trees I checked the weather radio, which was spewing as if the sky were falling: “cover all exposed pipes, bring in all pets, be sure the elderly have a working heater”. It was forecast to be the coldest night of the year, but this was Louisiana and not Minnesota. We could handle low 20’s.

In rounding the bend on a section of river we ran aground on a massive sandbar, I could see birds standing in water up to their ankles, but thought we had paddled far enough towards the channel to find the deeper water. Had we come through yesterday we would have been on dry land. I managed to clog my skeg with sand and was forced to leave it retracted. In the variable wind the nose of my kayak was being waggled around like the wattage needle on a parents stereo when they have gone away for the weekend.

We had reached what we thought would be a good daily mileage goal by lunchtime, but in the afternoon a heavy wind caught up with us. It was only on a several mile section of the river and we even had a side of the river on which to find shelter, but we were caught by surprise. We battled to the proper side of the river which was a third of a mile away. I seemed to only paddle on the left side of my kayak to fight the wind from muscling me in that direction. It did a number on my shoulder that after the rest in Greenville had felt so good. As soon as we neared the bank the wind was shut out by the trees on the side of the river. We were able to hug the shoreline for the remainder of the day.

We opted to end the day somewhat prematurely as we wanted time to set up camp and collect the necessary firewood as Jack Frost would be nipping our noses when the sun slid behind the tree line. By the end of our somewhat shortened day we still managed to bite off a 46 mile chunk of the river. In the last three days we had knocked off 130 miles. We can cover some good distance if we have even marginal conditions.

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