Blogging is like going to the gym. Each can be fun while doing it, and even more fun once finished, but getting started can be a bear and too often is postponed with the excuse: “It’s been a month since the last effort; one more week won’t matter.”
And therein lies the rub. I left the river in early August, but only now am wrapping up the river posts. A number of you enquired as to whether things are okay, to which I reply: “Yes, thank you, and I apologize for shirking my duties.”
Over the last month I spent two weeks in Memphis catching up on work, then two more in Texas visiting family, and now am in the Texas panhandle camping at Palo Duro Canyon State park. This week kicks off a new 10 week trek – a road trip – with blog posts of its own, but first the river posts must be wrapped up!
The new trip promises to be scenic, so please ride shotgun with me as we travel through parts of Colorado, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. We will descend into canyons, climb mountains, and explore indian ruins, old trails, water falls, state parks, quirky towns, and more! So, without further ado …
It was a lazy departure from Shoquoqoan boat club, for several reasons: it was a holiday weekend, several club members trickled through and chatted while I packed, plus the prior day’s feasting and late-night socializing took a toll on my vigor. But the lack of urgency was due also to a sense of contentment. Each day people show me kindness. River life is good.
Burlington’s downtown area is too far removed from the river to be seen easily by canoe, but it has many structures on the Register of Historic Buildings and the town itself offers a high quality of life – recently placing in the top 100 of America’s best small towns. Stopped to stretch my legs for a few minutes on this island, but found it so pleasant that I stayed the night – and then another night. The sandy soil was great for going barefoot, the tree canopy provided shade all day, and a steady breeze kept things cool and bugs away. It was a sanctuary for me and the birds.In case you wish to use my island one day: of the three islands west of Dallas City, it is the smallest and westernmost. There was a band playing in a riverfront tavern in town the first night, and their songs carried easily over the half-mile of water separating us. They were good, and one reason I stayed. The other was to rehab my knee. I severely wrenched my left knee 10 days earlier in a dock incident. Walking barefoot in sand helped. There were signs of another tribe at the south end. This looked to be a ceremonial site, for fire-building and chanting. When I heard drums beating, I knew it was time to go.The red buoys had flags left over from the 4th of July. You can see how much higher this buoy sits versus the one in an earlier post, where only the fins were visible. The high-water level is receding somewhat, but with it goes the current.
A Swivel bridge, with two levels of traffic. This is from the downstream side. Earlier, when I approached it, a horn sounded. Unsure what was up, I looked all around, anxiously. Eventually realized that it signaled a barge approaching, and was likely a warning to cars that traffic would soon be halted – for a long time. They would wait 20 or 30 minutes, as the barge was headed upstream and traveling slowly. I sympathized with the drivers, having waited on more than a few barges myself. It reminded me of traveling down the interstate and seeing cars at a standstill on the other side. My heart always goes out to them, but mostly I’m glad it’s not me over there.
Stopped downtown along the river and wandered ashore for grub. Caught a glimpse of this sign a few blocks down a side street. Wow, score one more for little diners!I think a mom and two daughters run it. Nice people, and other folks in there seemed to know each other for we all chatted. Great meal, including a strawberry dessert, with real whipped cream. Afterward I ducked into an Aldi grocery next door for staples, then strolled down Main Street. Faeths has what you need for when the zombies come.
The last part of the day was a grind. Pushed hard to make Nauvoo before dark, but failed. The current was weak, had to slog to cover the needed distance, had to make unanticipated stops due to an upset stomach, temporarily lost my kayak paddle (don’t ask, I carry a backup canoe paddle but spent 30 precious minutes searching before locating the lost kayak paddle near the bank). Then could not get ashore at the spot on the map closest to the campground where I intended to stay – the water was too shallow, full of vegetation, and the riverbottom was too mucky for wading. Had hoped to hit land at that point, stash the canoe, then hike a half mile toting my gear. There was never going to be an easy way to the camp, but this made matters much harder.
Kept hugging the bank until finally able to land almost a mile downstream of my preferred spot, darkness closing in. At this point I wanted to have a good cry, but there simply wasn’t enough time. So I strolled up to this house to ask if I may pitch my tent on the riverbank in front of them. Dan rubbed his chin and said that would not work, there were laws against camping there, but what is the problem? Explained the situation, to which he replied: “that’s not a problem, leave the canoe here by the house, throw your gear in the pickup and I’ll take you there.” Dan’s great, great grandfather built this home, one of the first in the area. In fact it’s the oldest one in the county still inhabited by the same family line. The first part was built in the 1820s, with an addition around 1840. Dan and Deb added a ground-floor bedroom a few years ago, for Dan’s now 89-yr old dad, but dad doesn’t need it. He lives in his own home and even comes over most days to putter around the yard and mow grass. They have several acres mowed, and 80 more running up a hill behind the house into a meadow. Original section
View from kitchen table. These pics are all from a few days after our first meeting, after they contacted me about coming over for dinner one night – roast beef! Dan’s a high-school shop teacher, Deb taught science for years but now is retired. They have two sons and grandkids