Yesterday was another day of completing our miles under sail. We awoke on the boat on the sand bar, happy to find the water had not risen, and after breakfast took off around 10am. I was on first shift and was proud of myself for some tricky navigating caused by sailing into the wind with a tug boat coming around a bend. With Kyle’s encouragement I was able to successfully keep us out of the tug’s way while still sailing the boat efficiently. The day went quickly and by 3pm we had reached our 30 miles and stopped on another massive sandy island. This particular island was a bit unique because the ground is a vast covering of dried and cracked mud. Some plants are really trying to grow through the tough mud, but it is mostly barren. I had some fun taking photos for a bit while Kyle worked in his notebook. We again set up camp a little different last night. Kyle was setting up our boom tent as a sun shade and when I got inside said excitedly, ‘I want to sleep in here!” Ten minutes later our bed was all set up on the dried cracked dirt. It was a sweet set up because our bed, chair, and cooking stuff all fit under the tarp, but it still provides the feeling of cowboy camping since it is completely open to the outside. I was pretty excited about the set up. In fact, as I write this, I am laying surrounded by blankets on our sleeping pads which are on the dirt. Even though I am under the tarp the sun is shining on my face and due to being exposed to the outside I feel much more intimate with the natural world around me. Kyle is in his camp chair in front of me cooking grits and brewing hot Colombian coffee which smells wonderful. I think I like this set up because I feel like I am in a fort 🙂
Last night before having a fire and cooking dinner we went on our usual exploration of the island. This time we were in for quite the treat! As we traversed the side of the island we kept finding beaver tracks and then in the trees above saw areas where beavers had downed whole trees. The shoreline got steep so we were scaling the side holding onto exposed roots when suddenly I saw a brown blob slide down the shoreline 10 feet in front of me and land in the water with a large splash. “What was that?!” Kyle asked and before I could answer a second brown blob started sliding down; this time much slower allowing the image of a beaver to crystallize in front of us before it plopped into the water below. I had never seen a beaver so close! It was spectacular. We both felt sort of bad for scaring them and messing with their evening so we turned back and headed towards camp. The sky again lit up with vivid colors, this time so much red and pink the sky looked like it was on fire.
Kyle just informed me the coffee is hot and ready. I smile in anticipation of holding the mug in both hands while inhaling the aromatic steam. There is a breeze providing a bit of chill in the air but the sun is shining boldly, countering the chill. I look forward to launching Solvi in the water and seeing how far the river takes us today.
11:30am: I just handed over the helm to Kyle who will now take an hour turn of sailing us into the wind. Usually sailing into the wind is a bit tedious, but today I am having a blast. The river is real wide and the land surrounding the carved river valley is steep, tall, and beautiful. The water is a bit choppy which provides some excitement as Solvi’s bow crashes down into the troughs of the steeper waves. Her foredeck gets splashed but we are dry in the cockpit. A tug pushing 49 barges just passed us and created a couple of 3-4ft. waves. I had so much fun sailing Solvi up and over them while trying to keep Kyle dry in the front of the cockpit. The sun is shining real bright and it is causing the surface of the water to glisten, sort of like a sparkle. Wearing black leggings, a pink long sleeve, and my sun hat the temperature could not be more comfortable. The wind countering the heat of the sun. Because we are sailing into the wind Solvi is rather heeled over, I sit on the high side of the boat to counter the heel a bit with my weight. Every once in a while an outrigger dips in the water and I wait for Kyle to release the sheet to reduce the heel by letting out some sail.
A curious thing happened this morning as we left our sandy island. We rowed out into the channel and then a mile down river until we reached a 90 degree right hand turn. Once we rowed around the bend we were greeted by a vastness of the river and shoreline we have not seen in a while. The river was wide and on one side a sand and clay filled bluff scattered with trees and vegetation on the top protruded quite high in the sky. And then suddenly I looked around and it was fall! The leaves were not the luscious green we have been seeing, but instead different shades of green with some yellow, orange, and reds. Now it is nothing like I am used to coming from Utah, but compared to what we’ve been seeing it felt like we literally rowed from summer into fall with one bend in the river. The change of landscape and temperature adds to this effect. Because of what feels like this sudden change, I find myself filled with a warm and tranquil feeling as I sip my coffee on this sunny fall morning.
At this moment I find myself sitting on a sandbar four miles North of Memphis, TN. We arrived this afternoon after completing about 16 miles, which was a nice half day compared to our usual 30! We are stopped outside of Memphis so that we can go in first thing in the morning and hopefully spend the entire day, if not two. We are both really looking forward to exploring this city, particularly because of the music history. Across from us is a barge dock that is busy and making lots of noise. I can see the city with the tall buildings, big bridges, and cars moving very fast. Honestly, I find it all a bit overwhelming after spending so much time in isolation and solitude out here on this empty river. Besides tug boats, we see absolutely no one. No boats, no people, nobody on sand bars. It seems to be just us out here on this mighty river and our pace of life has slowed so incredibly much that seeing airplanes flying full speed and cars driving 70 causes me a bit of uneasiness. Because of this I am feeling grateful that we stopped just outside of the city before going in. This way, we can have time to observe the hustle bustle from afar before diving right into it. It’s an interesting thing, living away from society for two months. I think it’s a part of traveling on such journeys and expeditions that many people don’t discuss. When you hear of someone going on a grand adventure, what happens after is often not heard of. Adjusting back into a society as busy and technology reliant as ours is a huge change and definitely takes some time. It took me almost two months to feel normal after spending three and a half months on the Appalachian Trail. I can’t even imagine what it’s going to be like after 6 months on the water! So because of the uneasiness and overwhelming feeling I get from just looking at a big city, I am very curious to see how the next few days pan out. I am sure they will be an adventure in themselves and as always I am looking forward to it. Onward!