LoveYourBigMuddy 2013, Blue Moon loaded on the Lower Mississippi. This year on the Mississippi all gear lays below the deck. I hope to scale down by half. Maybe.
I think it will hit me hard, the reality of living back on the river again. I still feel a disconnect between my teacher life and long-distance river expedition. However, In three more days the school year will end (on Thursday, May 19) and the freedom to relax and focus on the Great River Mississippi will be all mine. Short-lived, though, as we will be heading right on up to Lake Itasca, Minnesota, on Monday. Packing will likely be somewhat of a grab-n-go affair as I sift through my gear, currently laid out in an organized mess, but all in one place. Basics. Think: Basics. I need to travel trim and light. Can I do it? Oh, I can do the paddle, but trim and light??? Big challenge-haha!
Resting spot for my paddling gear. Grab ‘n Go will by my ‘MO’ (method of operation) this weekend.
Today is drizzly and cold in Columbia, a far cry from the warm sunny days of last weekend. I am trying to imagine that it’s just another day on the river, and rainy days will be a common, and even frequent, occurrence. An unexpected cold front with lots of wind necessitated a paddler rescue on the upper Mississippi a couple of days ago. He barely escaped hypothermia. I’m a bit of a fair weather paddler, but who isn’t? I love paddling in pleasant weather- sunny, colorful, peaceful and glassy. HA! I know I need to psych myself up for the miserable conditions as well. Paddling in rain is pretty cool if you can stay dry.
Near Tower Rock on the Middle Mississippi during my LoveYourBigMuddy Expedition (2013). This was a pretty good storm that I sat out for a bit, then paddled on, then it finally drove me to shore when the lightning started. I don’t mess with lightning on the water. Soggy day.
This storm was a soaker. I paddled about six hours in the rain on my way down to Memphis, also on expedition in 2013. I spent an extra night on the river just drying out and recouping. This spray skirt did not keep me dry.
My external rain gear, Kokatat hat and Patagonia GoreTex, keeps me pretty dry, for the most part. Oh, and, not that I have ANY fashion sense, but my hat matches my new spray skirt. Heehee…
Last week my beautiful custom-made sprayskirt arrived from Eddyline Kayaks. They really wanted to get Blue Moon back out on the big river. I had decided to paddle my plastic Prijon Seayak, so I explained that I could take Blue Moon, an Eddyline Shasta kayak, but I will need to be able to paddle in the rain and stay dry, which meant I would have to have a bomber spray skirt. So, they asked a high-quality New York-based company to design a custom skirt for me. Seal Sprayskirts and I brainstormed about what I needed, and this skirt is the result of our mini think tank, and their quality skills. Isn’t it wonderful? And, thank you, Eddyline Kayaks, for the awesome paddle to go with.
I will be protected from rain and sun over my extra-large open cockpit, but when it rains I can just slip my top-skirt right over me and velcro it tight.
I am feeling really good about paddling in the rain. By doing so I can still make the much needed miles I will have to paddle daily, minimum 35 but more likely over 50.
Time is of the essence! The luxury of laying over extra days will not be the case this trip. I need to keep paddling. August 8 is my drop-dead deadline to be back in Columbia, and preparing for school will be again my priority. Paddle paddle!! In fact, Guinness World Records is working with me to create a new title for fastest time down the length of the Mississippi River. The old title about “rowing” down the river just was not acceptable to me, so I asked for some changes. Canoe and kayak paddlers do not row, we paddle. We do not use oars, we use paddles. And, some delineation needs to be made for solo or team, assisted or unassisted, male or female. Guinness changed the title to “fastest down the length of the Mississippi in a canoe/kayak. I am still waiting on the regulations they are designing. Let’s hope they took the other qualifiers into serious consideration. Nevertheless, I may be “setting” a record under the new premise, one which will be quite easy to break, I’m sure. This is what I wrote to them regarding the title change needed:
Dear Guinness World Records:
I am contacting you with regard to: Application Reference: 160214002217ffsk
I have searched for the world record of the Fastest time to row the length of the Mississippi River – individual, but nothing comes up in “Explore Records” on your website. I know of the “team” that set the record of 18 days, but I am frustrated with the 42-day “rowing” record of which you speak, or mention.
Please understand that this is an UNASSISTED solo attempt in a KAYAK, which is propelled with a “paddle” and not oars. This is also a female solo attempt. This is an event that I encourage you to currently monitor or, at the very least, that you should be incorporating into your program. The sport of paddling canoes and kayaks is booming right now. Assisted and unassisted attempts are better represented in separate categories due to the difficulty comparisons. Unassisted paddling is down to earth, is as close to the sport’s original purpose as possible, and is extremely difficult and challenging.
Please consider my attempt as a gender specific, “unassisted,” paddling attempt that will be challenged by a multitude of females in the future as more and more women step out of their comfort zone and pursue their dreams, their wildest dreams!
Also, I would love to see the details behind the current “rowing” the Mississippi River record. Rowing really needs to be in a different category than paddling. They encompass two different purposes, styles, and experiences.
Thank you for your time and consideration of my request. I look forward to hearing back from you soon. My launch date at Lake Itasca is May 25, six days after my school year ends (I am a 7th grade Science teacher).
Warm regards, Janet Moreland
The new title for the record is now (drum roll please):
“Fastest time to travel the length of the Mississippi River by canoe/kayak”
Good. I’ll take. We’ll see what happens. Setting a record is not my priority, but it’s a motivator.
And, YES, the paddling world is booming. We saw a big representation of our next paddling generation at the St. Louis Earth Day Festival on April 19. Several of us river advocate groups, and me as an individual, developed a “neighborhood” for people to visit and hang out around. Thousands made their way through the neighborhood and TOO MUCH FUN was had by ALL!
No child was left behind when it came to grass paddling at the STL Earth Day Festival 2016 in Forest Park. All of the children were eager for the opportunity to take a virtual ride down the river.
This kid’s a natural!
For the love of paddling, kids flocked to my boat as well as Big Muddy Adventures‘ June Bug voyageur canoe next door. The Great Rivers neighborhood was busy, and FUN.
Special thanks to my niece, Rene Freels, who has come on board as my project manager. She is promotion and fundraiser knowledgeable, and she has really good ideas. One of which was the idea of me getting a booth at the Earth Day event! AND, the notion of putting out a donation jar, which raised over $200 at the event. She has also guided me to an application for a National Geographic Explorers Grant as well as a Timmissartok Foundation Exploration Grant.
AND, that’s not all, Rene also convinced me to enter some photos in The Mississippi River Photo ShootOut contest, for which I had three of my photos accepted. One of them, December Chill, won a first place in the Scenic category. Rene has good ideas! Check it out, NatGeo!
December Chill, taken near Helena, Arkansas, December 2013
The Mississippi River Photo ShootOut Exhibition will take place from May 14 to June 18, 2016.
Photos will be on display at the following locations:
- Great Rivers National Museum in Alton, IL
- Jacoby Art Center in Alton, IL
- The Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary in West Alton, IL
Stay tuned, there’s more to come…be sure and “like” my LoveYourBigMuddy Expedition Facebook page where you can follow me down the Big Muddy…Mississippi, that is.
Do what you love, and love what you do!
(See you on the river!) (yep, soon)