The Mississippi River – America’s Bustling Highway
If America has a pulsing artery through which flows the country’s lifeblood… it is the Mississippi River. It is truly a living, breathing beast of burden which sculpted our history, favorably sustains our present dreams and promises to serve up an enviable future for countless generations to come.
A Texas paddler boldly proclaimed, through the Internet, that the Big Muddy was beckoning him to come eagerly explore its waters, shores and people. In preparing to satisfy his obsession, he was seeking a few stout-hearted kayaking companions with aspirations of plying notable stretches of this awe-inspiring waterway. Colorfully stated, these would be those restless souls with fulfilling this epic adventure written on their respective Bucket Lists in indelible ink. Plus, having the time required to make it happen was one of the most critical considerations.
Upon reading of his quest for expedition team mates, my excitement burst loose with the massive energy and ravenous appetite of a feral hog. For I am one of those hopeless (or, perhaps, incredibly blessed) souls with incurable wanderlust, self-powered boating and primitive camping know-how, free time and an incredibly understanding soulmate (i.e., my beautiful and tolerant child bride, Donna). Thus, I reached out and met with him to see if our ambitions, abilities and aptitudes for river exploration were a suitable match for developing a cooperative endeavor of such broad, swift-flowing dimensions.
After a pair of long lunch meetings, we concluded that neither of us could, in the near term, get away for the 45-60 days which would probably be needed to make it from either the stream’s headwaters to a favorable take-out in St. Louis, Missouri, or go from St. Louis to New Orleans. But likewise, both of us felt that we could not afford, at our ‘golden’ ages, to let the 12-day window of opportunity which we did have during what was left of this very year slip away without moving forward with our shared dream.
So, we agreed to leave Southeast Texas on August 29 on a sharply-focused scouting mission which could, and should, leave us better prepared to undertake a measurably more intense kayak-facilitated adventure in 2020. So, our first objective was to drive the 1466 miles to Lake Cass, Minnesota as fast as the law and our physical endurance would allow. From this staging area, our defined goal began with a short paddle across Lake Itasca, a fabled member of Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes, to the relatively understated birthplace of one of the world’s mightiest rivers.
This floating pilgrimage to, refreshed by fall-like temperatures, took us over a calm fluid surface, through swaying stretches of wild rice and up to a fairy-like field of stepping stones. At this sacred site (aka water worshippers mecca), a bevy of tourists festively scampered about, while others frolicked nearby in the chilly lakeside pool. There, just beyond this rock bridge, lay a narrow streambed which inspiringly reflected the frothy joy of freedom each precious drop of water enjoyed upon escaping the confines of the lake and scurrying northward (yep; the river flows north for a good bit before turning southward towards the Gulf).
The following eight days were zealously dedicated to learning as much about America’s water-filled interstate highway, as possible, before steering my trusty old pick-up on a direct route to Bay City. As partners in this grand recon mission, Doug from Clear Lake and I agreed that this “Get-Acquainted” enterprise provided both of us clear-cut snippets of understanding and appreciation with which would serve us well in carving out more expansive plans for an aquatic journey of extended duration on the back of Old Man River. With soaring anticipation, and with his enthusiastic cooperation, the exciting discoveries of 2019 and the stirring possibilities unveiled will be portrayed, in stimulating detail, in later guest contributions to the Tribune. So, stay tuned in sports fans!