Hey, John Keaveny here! Well, we made it to the first resupply! And even a bit ahead of schedule. A crazy start and bad weather weren't enough to trump hard work, long days, and southern hospitality that just won’t quit. Here are a few photos to add some context to the story, and we will be without a video due to the lack of IMovie. BUT, we have the Vicksburg Public Library, which will have to do. It has also been great to take our first layover day to repack food and rest bodies after thirteen days on the river. Below are more details on what we have encountered so far on our travels.
We stayed with Tom Candies and Becky Truxillo before leaving January 1st after putting the final touches on gear and enjoying their generous hospitality. We camped out at Burns Point Park on the Gulf of Mexico the night of January 1st and arose the morning of January 2nd to calm water on the Gulf to start the expedition. We paddled eight miles along the shoreline of the Gulf through some heavy fog and swampy waters needing some guidance; eventually from Reid Miller (thank God), a local hunter, who appeared with perfect timing to get us unlost and find the mouth of the Atchafalaya River Drainage connected to the Intercoastal Highway. The thick fog did not allow us to see much of the Gulf but we were able to spot a few gators as we navigated congested channels that led us to the Atchafalaya. We paddled up the Intercoastal another fifteen miles into the night. A barge gave a little warning horn as we paddled a water intersection right before our campsite at a boat landing where our new friend Lester offered a place to set up tents and get out of the rain.
It has been a quick learning curve as we passed barges and local fisherman asking if we need help and reminding us that we were paddling upstream. They think we’re crazy. Day two we were blessed with a strong tail wind and we were able to put the Wind Paddle sails to use covering about ten miles in some rolling waves before we shut it down for the afternoon when the river turned and the winds were no longer in our favor; an eventful start of the trip to say the least.
We paddled the Atchafalaya River for the next six days, up manageable current. Fishermen and hunters chatted with us as they passed by and we paddled the banks seeing old fishing lines and hunting camps. The camping was manageable as we became accustomed to 5 am wakeup calls and 7 am paddles usually lasting until 4 pm or 5 pm as the sunset approaches. We portaged and camped at the water control dam on north end of the Atchafalaya River near mile 320 of the Mississippi on the night of January 9th with the anticipation of what the Mississippi River currents had in store for us.
The Mississippi has been wide and we share the river with large barges instead of small fishing boats. They stick to the deep dredged current in the middle and we paddle the banks of the river hopping eddy lines and pushing through current around wing dikes. We spent one evening in Vidalia, LA at an RV campground where we greatly appreciated the extra help from Joe Coutermarsh, who was a huge boost to our spirits given the conditions. He helped move our gear and boats off the river from the landing ramp to a secure spot at the park, where we blew up the laundry room with our drenched cloths and ordered pizza while the dryers spun. It was an awesome night.
We have been able to move upriver at the pace we hoped for (around twenty miles per day) and are on track at our first resupply. The weather has been cold the past week; we have paddling with temperatures in the 30s and 40s during the day and had a couple frosty mornings where the temp has dipped in the 20s. One morning, our stuff was all completely frosted-over. Gear is holding up, though, and keeping us warm but we are excited about better week weather-wise that is supposed to roll through starting Friday.
Matt Hendrix is our Vicksburg, Mississippi resupply contact; a Mississippi River Angel indeed. He has been very gracious, opening up his home and allowing us to leave our food with him, as well as sleep, eat and relax at his house. Matt and Layne Logue, another Angel, met us at the river takeout with cold beverages and incredible knowledge and passion for paddling and the river. We loaded our boats and gear into their trucks and headed to Matt’s house where we ate some chicken spaghetti that his wife had prepared and spent the evening inside talking about the amazing network of people they are connected with along the river and learning a lot about life on the Mississippi. We are spending today updating our blog, responding to emails from followers new and old, getting our gear dialed-in, and food repacked to return to the river tomorrow. We hope to check out some of the history of Vicksburg this afternoon, prepare a meal and spend some more time with Matt and Layne learning about the river and the incredible people that enjoy it.
One last disclaimer: Please do not be offended if it takes a little while for us to respond to emails and the website via the contact page. Our only time-frame for returning all the emails are these resupply days, so don’t lose hope! We will be in touch, eventually.