Sunday PM 9/4/2016
Around me I hear a consistent symphony of crickets and sequaidas with a random note thrown in by the splash of a fish or the call of a barn owl. Every once in a while I hear a sound such as a train or a boat passing by that remind me that it isn’t just Kyle and I alone in our little boat. We are currently sitting in Solvi, on our sleeping pads and sleeping bag, with the mosquito net and boom tent draped around our sleeping area. Kyle is reading a book and I am writing. When I look out the small opening of the boom tent to the stern I see the most vivid of colors. A hue of pink is being over taken by a deep orange. The orange fades as it gets higher in the sky until it becomes a pale blue that is changing each moment until it will soon be too dark to see. We are in a slough off the river. A slough is sort of like a side channel, but around here there are no markers and they aren’t traveled very much. We have spent our day hiding in sloughs because the wind has been so strong against us. Even though the sloughs aren’t as straight as the Mississippi channel, it has been completely worth it. One for the reprieve from the wind, but two because it has changed the scenery immensely. The sloughs we are traveling through are narrow and surrounded by steep shore lines of grass and mud. The trees seem to be older, wiser. The vines that cover the trees have a sense about them that makes me feel they have been growing much longer than I have. There are very few boats and evidence of human existence is minuscule. As we row through the narrow waterway and follow the bends in the waterway, I have a sensation of peace. Like nothing in the entire world could be more important and special than what I am doing in this moment. The boats we do see are different. They pause to talk to us, they slow down or speed up to reduce their wake. It’s as though we are all traveling on the slough less traveled and it has proved to be pretty awesome. But, it hasn’t been all wonderful hiding in these sloughs. Between the sloughs we often had to come out into the open channel where we were greeted by strong wind and way too many powerboat wakes. It was so difficult to row against. Constantly being pushed backwards because of the wind and rolled around and pushed close to shore because of the wakes. I was tired, Kyle’s back was tired. We found ourselves frustrated at times, but then happy and giddy at others.
Monday AM 9/5/2016
Sometimes I feel like when I write I make this journey seem easy and simple. It is not. I am not quite sure how to illustrate the ruggedness or difficulty it has provided. And I don’t write about it often because the good times are so incredibly good that they outweigh the hard times. But in reality we have had some really tough days. At times I find myself exhausted, sick of being in the little boat, dirty with sweat, sunscreen, bug bites, poison ivy, and the mud that has seemed to fill the creases in my feet regardless of how hard I scrub. I can’t begin to tell you how sick I am of mosquitos and spiders. I’m not scared of them fortunately, but they get old when they are constantly landing on us and all of our stuff. Then there are the hatches. Kyle did an amazing job on the hatch sizes because they are as big as they can be and still be structural strong. But they are still small for the size of some of our gear. When I am exhausted at the end of the day and have to climb half my body into the forward hatch to retrieve something that has fallen, I find myself cursing and frustrated. When the wind just blows against us all day and whether we are sailing or rowing just can’t get away from it, it is tiring. Finding campsites has been fairly easy, but finding decent campsites with level ground that isn’t muddy and covered with bugs and poison ivy can be difficult. Figuring out how to shower, where to use the bathroom, and how to keep some sort of hygiene can take time. But even with all these things, these things that happen almost every day, the idea of doing anything else has never entered my mind. Sure, I threaten to quit, but only quit for that day or that moment.. Not the trip. I honestly don’t think there is anything that would cause either of us to quit unless it was really serious. The difficulty and ruggedness of this journey is just a small portion. In fact I almost feel slightly guilty expressing them in writing because the big picture is so incredibly amazing. The sun rises, sun sets, the colors on the water, the leaves blowing in the breeze, the shear beauty of the shore line we see everyday, the feeling of accomplishment when we complete 22 miles of sailing directly into the wind and waves, the moments like I find myself in right now, this is why we continue. As I write this I am sitting in my camp chair on an island in between Iowa and Illinois. There is no development around me. No boats, houses, or people. Kyle is doing his own thing for a half hour (we try to give each other a half hour of alone time a day) and I am looking out over the water. The sun is slowly leaving for the day and it takes it’s time setting over the bluffs. The orange of the sun is reflecting in the water and creating a pink and blue reflection. There is a slight breeze, just enough to keep the mosquitos away, and it creates a ripple texture on the water’s surface. I have head phones in and am listening to Xavier Rudd. Solvi is to my left, the tent is to my right. Everything I could possibly need is within a couple yards of where I am typing.
This morning started out rough. The wind was against us and we were trying to row and in the gusts it was so tiring. We decided it was time to sail because rowing was just too much with the gusts. So we set the sail and spent the rest of the day fighting our way into the wind. We made it 22 miles, despite how many times I said “Oh look! Sand. Let’s camp for the day.” Even though I kept talking about stopping, because that’s the easy thing to do, I wanted to push on. We did, and it was worth it. The wind direction changed just during the last couple hours and we were actually on a beam reach. We worked so incredibly well together sailing Solvi today. Kyle was on the tiller and I was on the main sheet. In the gusts I would let out the sheet and he would point up river. It took some time but we found ourselves completely in sync. I was so proud of how we maneuvered the boat together in such high winds. When the day started coming to an end we found a sandy spot to pull off and at that moment had a tug and barge behind us. We had to maneuver quickly as to get to the shore before the tug’s wake. Everything happened really quickly: drop the sail, take out the dagger board, untie the oars, tie the tiller, pull up the rudder, and start rowing. We did it fast, smooth, and it was pretty awesome. We cheered and gave each other a big high five because of how great we did. We then spent our early evening hours showering, setting up camp, and making dinner. The showering was rather entertaining. We felt it was time to get real clean with soap and shampoo and all the fancy stuff, so we were going to go for a swim on our sandy beach- the water is rather clean and clear in this area so we take advantage. Well I started walking out into the water and found out that the ground was mucky a couple feet off shore. We made the decision to use our bailing buckets so we could just take the surface water that was clear. I laughed so hard throughout the whole process. Pouring cold water over our heads is way different than jumping right in. Very hesitantly we poured the water over ourselves and soaped up. I don’t really know why it was so funny, but I was thinking of what we must have looked like to the tug and barge that were passing by. Two people standing on the shore of the river, shivering, giggling, and dumping water over themselves. It was a blast. And now I feel so incredibly clean- crazy how a couple days of not showering will make you feel when you finally do! Anyway, I could continue this rant for a while. But my point is that things are tough. Days are hard. I am exhausted. Our boat is small. Our living is rugged. Water, food, showers, bathrooms, trash cans- they are all a bit more difficult to find. But it is so incredibly worth it. This is a tremendous journey we are taking together and I personally, am growing immensely as a person. My confidence is increasing, my worrying is lessening, my ability to let go fully is high. My ideas of what is important in life are clearer. Pushing myself to limits of discomfort, fear, and uncertainty is teaching me to live in the moment. More than half of my day is spent in amazement of how beautiful everything is. How wonderful it is. How glorious. I thank the universe every day for providing us this earth. So as the fiery orange ball of light disappears behind the bluffs completely I am left with a pink sky and pink water below. I will spend the next few moments reflecting on life’s path while taking deep breaths and saying my gratitudes for the day.
Journal Entry Monday AM 9/5/2016
The colors in the trees are subtly beginning to change. As I sit in Solvi, tied to a tree in small slough, I observe the tree above me. Some leaves are still green, but a lighter, airy shade. While others have begun the process of changing, creating them to be a mixture of yellow, green, and a hint of red. The ones on the water’s edge are a light red all the way through. The leaves dance in the breeze and the sun warms them as it is warming my face. Kyle is cleaning our sleeping bag with soap, water, and a rag. The pot behind me is beginning to squeal, letting me know the water is almost boiled. The sun is getting brighter and it seems to be blasting away the few lingering clouds. Scattered leaves, bright with color slowly flowing past, resting on the water’s surface, taking a ride in the current. Their path is unknown, and I wonder where each lone leaf that left it’s home in the trees will end up. We bid our final farewell to Wisconsin yesterday and just as the leaves flowing gently on the water’s surface, I am also unsure of where we will end up. South somewhere 🙂 This makes me smile in anticipation of what Iowa and Illinois will bring. Onward.
Journal Entry AM 9/6/2016
We cleaned the boat this morning. Took everything out of the boat until she was empty. Kyle would take a sponge and wipe and I would follow with the shammy until her varnish was real shiny. Took a little while to get all the sand, mud, and grime that had accumulated over the past few days, but when we were done Solvi looked rather fresh! We carefully put everything back in its place and got underway. I find myself sitting in her cockpit while we sail down the river feeling a familiar sensation. I have the same feeling I used to get on a Sunday afternoon after cleaning the house. Everything smells fresh and shines a bit. As the breeze blows across my face and over Solvi’s shiny, clean varnish I close my eyes and imagine Sunday afternoons in my very first apartment. Carpets vacuumed clean, the vacuum streaks still visible, surfaces dusted and wiped, candles lit, and the windows and balcony door open letting in the fresh air. “Solvi’s varnish sure is glowing today,” I hear Kyle say behind me. I grin and soak up the feeling of familiarity and memory while the cool breeze takes me back in time. We are on our way to Savanna, Illinois to resupply and find Internet. Today is a beautiful day! Enjoy the fresh air and do something that makes you smile 🙂
P.S. Wanted to give a big thanks to Pam at the Chamber of Commerce in Savanna Illinois for some wonderful hospitality, conversations, cold sodas, and information on the upcoming River.