April 8: Put in at the Wood River Lewis and Clark Center, on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River, directly across the mouth of the Missouri. Crossing the Mississippi and entering the mouth of the Missouri proved a major challenge. I had to paddle into the teeth of a 20+mph wind which had whipped the Mississippi into something resembling the ocean in a squall. For the first time I was thankful that I had a lifevest. Richard begins his journey. Once across the Mississippi, tired and drenched, I had to face the wind and the stiff 5 to 6 mph current of the Missouri. After 5 1/2 hours of paddling, I had travelled 6 1/2 miles. Exhausted, I pulled ashore and set up camp. There, I almost ended the trip (and my life) prematurely when the butane gas cannister for my stove ignited itself into a huge fireball. Fearful that it would explode in my face at any second, I managed to kick it into the water. Fortunately, I had a back-up stove (with different cannisters) which has worked fine since. April 9: Faced strong headwinds again, but not as bad as yesterday. Made about 10 miles in 6 hours of paddling. I'm finding it difficult to develop a rhythm with my paddling. The wind is a hindrance, but equally frustrating are the countless exposed wing dikes that I must negotiate. Built by the Corps of Engineers to control bank erosion, they are normally underwater, but with the unprecedented low level of the river, they are all exposed. Not only do I have to go into the middle of the river to get around them, but getting around them requires maximum effort because at their ends the river has been constricted into a much stronger flow. At the midstream edges of the dikes, the current is closer to 8 or 9 mph. One of the dikes proved so difficult today that I couldn't get around it and I ended up crossing to the other side of the river to try my luck there. April 10: No wind today! I pulled into St. Charles at 3:30 to check in with Mimi Jackson at the Lewis and Clark Center, and to make some repairs. I discovered that not all of the dikes are exposed, and managed to put some scrapes and chips in the outer shell of my kayak when I hit several hidden rocks. In St. Charles I met Scott Mandrell and Dave Hibler, two men who worked with Ken Burns on his documentary, and who are local leaders in the bicentennial project to replicate the original expedition. They were both extraordinarily helpful with their information, time and support. A view of the Missouri.
April 11: Got a late start today. Dave put me up in his place last night, fed me a half dozen eggs this morning, and helped load my gear. I put in at 10:00 and made good time. I feel like I'm developing a rhythm to my paddling and a sense of what to expect from the river and the dikes. I made 12 1/2 miles in 6 hours, which is closer to what I'd hoped for on this section of the river. Not facing a headwind makes a difference. April 12: My best day yet. With a light breeze at my back and a good steady effort, I made 18 1/2 miles in 7 3/4 hours. I've seen a variety of wildlife: muskrats, otters, beavers, deer, and lots of birds, especially ducks, geese and herons. Unfortunately, it's virtually impossible to get pictures of them. My camera is excellent, but in the kayak it's unwieldy, and I have to store it in the cockpit rather than on the deck, where I'd have easier access to it. I would be better served with one of those small disposable cameras that I could just keep in a lifevest pocket. A view from on shore April 13: Another good day - 17 1/2 miles in 7 1/4 hours of paddling. When I don't have to face headwinds, I can make the progress I need in order to reach the Continental Divide before the first blizzard. I passed La Charette today, which for Lewis and Clark was the last outpost inhabited by Europeans. April 14: Mild weather, no wind, and 19 miles in 7 1/2 hours of paddling. I hope to increase my paddling time in the next two weeks so I'm doing between 8 and 9 hours consistently. It will be easier to do this as the sun rises earlier and sets later. Right now I'm building up my strength and stamina. Click here for days 8 - 14 of Richard's journal