They say if you can keep up a habit for two weeks, you’ve got a better chance of making it stick. Over two weeks in and I’m feeling sticky. Adjusting well to a day spent paddling and seeking shade and contentment beneath the grand river sycamore, locust and sumac. Commercial traffic has been agreeable, the largest tow seen yet 4 barges wide by 5 long pushed by a massive twin engine boat.
The line from Apocalypse Now, “Never get off the boat” seems to lilt into memory when a town comes into view. There is this constant desire to bypass the commotion, complexity and costs of a visit to town. My joy can be found on a sandbar or shaded beach twicefold than touring a revitalized riverfront with new electrical plugs stuffed with mud from the most recent flood. There’s something magnetic about the rich smells of wetland forests, colorful bouquets along shore and decadent clouds overhead.
Retracing the efforts of Lewis and Clarke, I too paddle my way South down “The Long Reach”, a nearly 30 mile stretch of straight river. A headwind makes matter more challenging at times but helps to retain the memory. I’ll have to download their journals for future comparison.
In some areas, signs of recent flooding and bank loss are significant. This exposed root network is a work of art but a sign of environmental disturbance by man.
I found camping on NPS’s Blennerhasset Island, settled by the traitorous Harman Blennerhasset who conspired with Aaron Burr to form a southwest empire. Although his mansion has been ruined by flood and fire, the grounds here are fit for royalty. Plump wild turkeys roam the grassy woods and an 8 point buck eyes me from the woodline. There are an estimated 300-600 deer on this 3 Mi long island alone! A campsite beside the ruins of the Neal House served as my home for the night, the ruined manor once housing none other than poet Walt Whitman. The forest is rich with fruit and nut trees like the Buckeye and Paw Paw.
A daily round of thunderstorms seems to sweep the area which either allows for time spent in the boat under an umbrella or pulling out and stretching the legs.
I haven’t once set up my tarp shelter as the umbrella is so quick and easy. Sailing as of late has been non-existent owing to a constant headwind. There has been ample sunlight for charging but my solar panel is sorta lame. Ordered a new Radio antenna to Evansville, IN which seems so far away but I know will be here sooner than I think.
Last night as I set up camp, I found a used needle that had floated up onto the beach. What more shocking evidence of the region’s opioid epidemic than this. Another solid argument for good footwear. It is said that rivers are the unoncious of society manifested. Just across the river was a balanced log aboard an abandoned pier, a reminder of apast high water mark.
Eight Mile Island was only a half mile long but offered this great break from the hectic power plant coal barge traffic. Often time I won’t remember much for hundreds of miles of river but these little chutes stay with me.