Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A debt of gratitude (section by section)

Well, here it goes. I have divided the trip into a couple of sections: Planning, Upper Missouri, Lower Missouri, Lower Mississippi.


Thank you to Carol and Dave Diephuis, some of my greatest supporters and my aunt and uncle. From the first time I told them about the trip they were supportive and provided me so much guidance both in the planning and during the trip. I would also like to thank them for contacting so many of the media groups on my way down the river.

A special thanks to Dean Pearson of the University of Virginia Medical School. Dean Pearson was willing to allow one of his students to head out of school for a year and I sincerely appreciate his support.

I would like to thank the following doctors at the University of Virginia who encouraged me to pursue this challenge: Dr. Holstege, Dr. Calhoun, Dr. Schirmer, Dr. Friel, Dr. Hallowell and Dr. Hedrick.

Brett Beel and Jim Heckman, my roomates at the University of Virginia, who were gracious enough to allow me to store all my gear and a 17 foot kayak in our already small and cramped apartment. Thanks hombres!

Thanks to all my classmates at UVa med! You all know who you are, who never told me the idea was too crazy. I consider myself privileged to have been able to spend the past three years with you all.

Thanks to Bill Thompson at Rocky Top Rec in Charlottesville, VA. Without all the training I did beforehand I would not have been able to finish this trip. An "old" man once told me that a person can do anything for three months!

Upper Missouri

A special thanks again to my Dad here too! He helped me drive from Charlottesville to Three Forks, MT in a two day push and then drove my truck back down to CO! Thanks again Dad.

Norm Miller: Person, Paddler, Legend. Norm contacted me shortly before the trip started with a huge email with photos, advice, places to see and places to avoid. Not only is Norm a paddling animal (he paddled upstream from St. Louis-Three Forks) but he is also incredibly nice and helpful to fellow paddlers. Norm helped put me in up at Three Forks, MT and drove 3hrs north to help portage me around Great Falls. In addition Norm put me in contact with many of his friends further on down the river. Norm, thank you very much for all your help!

Thanks to Jason Savage. The photos were awesome! Thanks a bunch.

Thanks to Mark Schaefer, Park Ranger at the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument. Mark came by and talked with for awhile during my rest day in Ft. Benton about all things Upper Missouri river. Thanks for the advice!

Thanks to Tara Waterson and all the folks at the Fort Peck Marina. In addition to great hospitality they are truly wonderful folks. The burger was excellent after Ft. Peck Reservoir!!!

Zane Squires. Wow, what a paddler. I bumped into Zane at the Ft. Peck Marina and we hit it off right away. Zane is paddling down in a canoe behind me with his dog pickles. Zane, thank you very much for showing me around Ft. Peck. Even more, thanks for the great company and advice about the river. It truly is about the experience and not the end result!

Thanks to all the folks in Culbertson, MT. What a great bar-b-que and barn dance.

Special thanks to Linda Godejohn who helped me resupply in Williston, ND. Thank you very much.

My Uncle David Johnston. Dave helped me with so many aspects of the trip I didn't know where exactly to thank him. Dave was super supportive early on in the planning and helped put me in contact with sponsors as well as provided some experience with trip planning. Dave really put a cherry on top by driving down from Minnesota to Lake Sakakawea, sitting in a small aluminum canoe for 5 hours and praying to the gods of the lake while motoring out to find me in the middle of nowhere. Dave even brought steaks! Dave was my support during the overnight paddle to finish off Sakakawea and I am so thankful for all he did to make this trip a success. Thanks Dave!

Another thanks is appropriate here for my Mom who flew out to meet me when I arrived in Bismark. Thanks Mom!

I would like to thank the following folks in Bismarck: Gail and Ed Breckel Laurie J. Edinger, Vern Fetch, Colleen and Jasper Kleinjan. Thank you all so much for your hospitality.

Many thanks to Ben and Rick Nelson for their hospitality, coffee and a ham sandwich.

Thanks to John Adler and Pat Wellner for their hospitality in Pierre. Go Missouri River Pirates!

A special thanks to Kelly and Becky Lane. I had such a wonderful time getting to meet you both and "crick" boating was awesome. Kelly Lane, who has Parkinson's is truly an inspirational human being and I felt privileged to have been able to meet him.

Lower Missouri

Thank you to the Lewis and Clark State Park Rangers John, Austin and Dale for helping me around Lewis and Clark Lake. You guys rock!

Thanks to Redetta and Roy Jensen for helping me resupply in Yankton, SD.

Special thanks to Lynn Scott, Dave Olson and Rebel. Thank you for your hospitality after Lewis and Clark Lake in Yankton. I would also like to thank you for all the words of support and encouragement both in the trip and with life in general. Thank you for the steaks and twice baked potatoes in Omaha too! They were delicious.

Thanks to Paul Guggenheimer for his continued support of the project and great interviews!

Thanks to Zeke and Chelsea in northwestern MO for the birthday breakfast!

Special thanks to Kara and Chris Athey for letting a dirty river rat stay at their pad in Kansas City! Thank you both very much for all your hospitality.

Special thanks to Gary and Marsha Leabman from Spirit Hill Guest House. They took me in for a day, organized a fundraiser, organized a flotilla, and showed me one of the more beautiful views from their front porch on the entire Missouri River. Thanks!

Thanks to Susan Haley for a wonderful massage!

Thanks to Elaine Hinds for helping contact local media.

An incredible thanks to Judge Dave and Mrs. Janet Hoven who shuttled me around the greater St. Louis area for 5 days. They not only took me into their home but organized a party for me and had such wonderful hospitality.

Thanks to Niels van den Boogert for helping organize transport of the Mary Agnes from New Orleans.

Lower Mississippi

Thanks to Jay Boyd for a delicious bar-b-que in "the Cape."

Special thanks to Betty and Michael Rudolph (aunt and uncle) who drove out from Washington D.C. to come say hi. Thank you very much for the hotel room and the good laughs around the greased food of Caruthersville!

Special thanks to my Grandma Margaret and Walter who drove from California to see me just north of Memphis. Thanks for the McDonald's and the great memories!

Special thanks to John Ruskey of Quapaw Canoe Company. John provided inspiration, guidance, advice and true Southern hospitality in the home of the Delta Blues, Clarksdale, MS. May the river be with you!

Thanks to all of the kind folks of Tito's Sandbar!

Special thanks to Michael Beck of Baton Rouge, LA. I really appreciated you taking me around the town and showing me what Baton Rouge had to offer! Thanks also for the advice about Venice.

Thanks to all the kind folks of the Cypress Cove Marina who provided awesome hospitality and help in finishing off my trip.

Thanks to Marc Trembly for helping me get my boat back from New Orleans, LA to CO!

Another special thank you to my parents who made my homecoming in New Orleans possible. Meeting with Grandma and Grandpa, Jared, Mark, Cody, Rick and Erin meant the world to me. Thank you once again.

Finally I would like to thank everyone who has been following along this blog for the past 3 months. It certainly has been a wild adventure and I hope that you all have enjoyed following along. On days when I was just too tired to paddle one more stroke, knowing that you were all there with me got me into camp. Thank you all very much.


Joe Forrester

A debt of gratitude

Well bloggers, what a week it has been!

After the several days of celebration in New Orleans with my brother Jared, parents, grandparents, Mark, Cody, Rick(the designer of the website, and his wife Erin, I have finally arrived back in Colorado. Even though the sunburns and soreness have started fading, my mind still is caught by the river. I wake up at night confused about where I am, thinking that I need to paddle another 60 miles tomorrow! With time I know that these dreams will pass, but for now they remain a part of me. That being said it is time to thank all of the folks that made this trip a success. This will be long, so hold on tight. I am going to do a general thanks first followed by my corporate sponsors, followed by blog divided by sections of the river.

First I would like to thank my parents, Joe and Bonnie. They have been my greatest "sponsor" on the trip and without their financial support this trip would not have been possible. More importantly though they are the ones responsible for instilling in me the stubbornness that allowed me to push as hard as I did. Their love, support and guidance kept me strong when I was tired and I am eternally indebted to them for their support of such an "adventurous child". I know that it must be very difficult to see your son do such things, and I thank them for trusting me and giving me the chance to see what I can accomplish.

Next I would like to thank my brother, Jared Forrester. Jared is single-handedly responsible for the extremely high quality blogging that allowed everyone following along to enjoy the trip. Not only was he working full-time and applying to medical school, but he also found the time to put together the blogs you all came to know and love. In addition, I became closer to my brother than ever before on this trip. We talked every night, and when the going got tough he provided the motivation to keep pushing on when I was too hot/cold/tired to continue on. Jared, thank you for all you have helped me with.

I would like to thank my grandfather, Joe Forrester, for allowing me to tell so many people about such a personal issue. Not everyone would allow their life to be broadcast over the internet, let alone the disease that they face on a daily basis. Thank you for all your support.

Finally, I would like to thank everyone who donated to the National Parkinson Foundation on behalf of Paddling for Parkinson's. Without your generous support we would never have raised $20,000! Way to go team! We did it!

Now I would like to take the time to thank my Corporate sponsors:

Rick White, the owner of, was the mastermind behind the website which allowed everyone to follow along with the journey. When I originally contacted Rick in January 2009, I threw out some ideas for the website and Rick just took them and ran with them. Rick not only created the website, designing the map tracking function and integrating it seamlessly, but he also put up with my relative lack of computer knowledge, helping guide me through the site construction. Rick was incredibly easy to work with and always found a way to get information in a coherent fashion so that you all could follow along. Without Rick and, the trip would not have been what it was for everyone following along. If you liked the website, kick Rick an email and let him know. He truly is a computer stud!

Current Designs

Without the support of Mike Cichanowski and Jake Greseth of Current Designs, this trip would never even have gotten off the ground. When I first called Mr. Cichanowski and discussed my trip with him he immediately agreed to help me out with a reduced price boat and Jake Greseth helped make that happen. My Storm GT "The Mary Agnes" was the perfect boat for this trip. She had enough room to allow me to carry enough supplies for the journey, but was sleek enough to make paddling a relative breeze. What I was most impressed with was her durability. While I tried to be as kind as possible to her, scree, rip-rap, and concrete are a part of life on the river. She withstood a ton of stress and is still kickin! If you are interested in a boat I would highly recommend you check out Current Designs really make a great product and the staff is awesome.

Werner Paddles

Thank you to Jim Miller and Werner Paddles. When I first contacted Jim Miller the response I got was where do you need the bent shaft Camano sent to and when does it need to get there. Jim Miller at Werner Paddles was very supportive of the trip. My bent shaft Camano was a lifesaver. I have had two shoulder reconstructions and too many dislocations to count and I was apprehensive before the trip about how my shoulders would hold up to such repeated abuse. While I was tired at the end, my shoulders, elbows and hands felt better than I expected. Even with my vigilance about stretching, I attribute this absence of chronic injury to paddling with a superior paddle. The bent-shaft Camano was awesome, and I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in paddling longer distances.


A special thanks to Blake Longworth and Casey Worzella of NRS. These guys rock! They provided almost all of my soft good gear I needed for the trip. When I needed a new PFD sent out upon arriving in Washington, MO, Blake sent out the Clearwater PFD right away. Switching to that PFD made paddling much cooler and helped allowed my body to paddle better. The FullZip SeaTour Jacket was essential to my survival when I was snowed on up in Montana and kept me dry in the deluges I experienced in Nebraska. This jacket rocks, check it out! NRS also provided me the NRS deckbag which became like a second piece of clothing to me. I was able to keep all my deck gear organized in one place which was critical in allowing me to paddle the distances I did each day. NRS Neo Tour spray skirt kept me dry and warm in the cold weather up in Montana as did the Mamba mits. NRS was so supportive of my trip and I am very thankful for all that they have done for the trip. Make sure to check out their website!

Standard Horizon

Thanks to Jason Kennedy at Standard Horizon. Like Jim Miller, when I contacted Jason Kennedy, I received the reply, where do you need it send and when does it need to get there! The HX471S was a superior product and directly contributed to my safety and success on my 3,461 mile river odyssey. There are two occasions in particular that highlight the necessity of having such a dependable VHF radio. While I was crossing Lake Sakakawea in North Dakota, I was hit by several large storms, some producing very high winds (75-85 mph) frequent lightning and heavy rain. I depended on the ability of the HX471S to provide reliable access to the NOAA weather reports in order to stay on top of the weather. This reliance became most poignant when a tornado touched down 2 miles from my camp.

The second example of when the HX471S was an essential piece of gear was during my passage through the lower Mississippi in New Orleans, Louisiana. New Orleans is an incredibly busy port with significant tow, barge and super-freighter activity. Being a 17-foot kayak passing through these waters is akin to an ant attempting to cross Times Square. My safety directly depended on my HX471S because this was my only way I could communicate with the tow and super-freighter captains. Without the dependability of the HX471S I have doubts as to whether or not I would have made it through New Orleans safely. Thanks to Standard Horizon and Jason Kennedy!

The Medical Center of Aurora

Thank you to John Hill, Bill Voloch and Jennifer Barry of the Medical Center of Aurora. I approached Mr. Hill and Mr. Voloch about the trip, discussed what I was planning and they asked how they could help. Not only did they provide a significant financial donation to the National Parkinson Foundation on behalf of my trip, but they also sent me a soft-shell jacket and quick-wick tee shirt which I wore all the time. Mr. John Hill also provided a recommendation, suggesting I contact Hilleberg Tents about a potential sponsorship. Thank you to John Hill, Bill Voloch and Jennifer Barry for their support!

Hilleberg Tents

After talking with John Hill of the Medical Center of Aurora, I contacted Petra Hilleberg of Hilleberg. She agreed to provide me a Nallo 2 GT tent at a reduced cost. On an expedition as long as this trip, the quality of a tent is put to the test. I was not disappointed at all. Not only did the tent repeatedly withstand 50+ mph winds, but also made it through a tornado. I was a little concerned before the trip about how the tent would handle repeated sandbar camps, but once again I was proved wrong. I did not have a problem with any of the poles and had only one zipper get stuck which is pretty amazing. I was very happy with the Nallo 2 GT.

Conway Shipping

A special thanks to Conway Shipping for helping me get the Mary Agnes back from New Orleans, LA to Denver, CO. They made the whole issue of shipping a 17 foot boat a breeze and I am very thankful for their help.

Stay tuned to the next blog for section by section thanks.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Final Day

Hello to all you bloggers out there from New Orleans, LA!

Well, yesterday was officially my last day on the river. After the 5 day push from Baton Rouge to Venice I was exhausted and needed a rest day before the final push from Venice to the Head of Passes. The folks at Cypress Grove Marina ( were incredibly nice and it was great to just kick back and the marina and recuperate. On the night of the 3rd, I could barely sleep. I was nervous and anxious about the final twelve miles. While the trip had been an overwhelming success from both a fundraising and safe travel perspective, and most would say that stopping in New Orleans would have been sufficient, I knew deep in my heart that those final twelve miles had been what I had been holding on to for the past several hundred miles. I had thought so long about what the Head of the Passes must look like, and what it would feel like to finally have finished the river. Many a sweaty night had been spent in the tent, surrounded by mosquitoes, dreaming of those final twelve miles.

One thing that I have come to appreciate on this trip is that each successf
ul day is a gift on the river. She(the river) always has tricks up her sleeves and passage is never guaranteed. All night long I quelled my own self doubt and was grateful when I finally fell asleep.

(Sunrise on Cypress Cove Marina)

At 5:30 am I woke in the dark and started getting together what I would need for the day. I brought my tent and stove in case of an emergency, some water, minimal food, my .mp3 player, my Standard Horizon VHF, and the camera. Any other superfluous gear was left behind. After gobbling down two breakfast sandwiches and coffee at Cypress Cove, I got into the Mary Agnes for the last time and started paddling back out the Venice Jump towards the Mississippi. She might have flowed down a bit further but she was still there, waiting for me to make my final move.

Pointing the nose of my kayak southeast toward the Gulf, I had a stiff headwind. The current had died down to near non-existence and I found myself reminiscing about the reservoirs as I paddled in the early morning sun.

(Paddling toward the Gulf and into the storm)

The closer I came to my final destination, the more ominous the weather became. Clouds started stacking up on the Gulf and I could start to see lighting. Counting out the distance, I knew that most of the strikes were over 5 miles away, but nonetheless I became increasingly concerned. By the time I had passed Pilot Town, about two miles upstream from the Head of the Passes, I wasn't sure if I would be able to finish; the weather looked ominous. I even took some rather depressing footage of myself lamenting the fact that I had paddled so far only to be turned back in the last mile.

As I waited around Pilot Town, the weather began clearing a bit, a sucker hole formed. I knew that the time had come to make a decision, that my chance to finish was presenting itself. I also knew that I would not have much time. I left the west back and headed out into the middle of the channel paddling hard. The wind had kicked some pretty rough seas and it was hard work churning myself out to where the Head of the Passes started. When I arrived out in the middle of the water, at the end of the Mississippi River, at the end of my journey, I
stopped for a moment and looked around. The three passes lead out to the Gulf, I could smell the organic salty breeze of the Gulf storm, and I knew that I was done. Deep in my soul I was content. I had found where this river had led me, and I knew that I was done.

(The final bouy down at the Head of the Passes)
(At the Head of The Passes and the End of the Mississippi River)

It seemed that mother nature herself agreed that the Head of the Passes would be the furthest I would travel. As I sprinted back to the shore, the sucker hole that had drawn me out to the Head closed and the sky became dark. Rain started pouring down and lightning filled the Southern sky. My fears of the night before had come true, this river that I had come so attached to was testing me once more. I paddled hard back upstream until I was comfortably out of range of the lighting and then opened the sail. I have not yet found the words that appropriately describe the satisfaction I felt as I sailed on the upstream side of the squall edge back up to Venice. Perhaps I will someday, but for now, that is a feeling and experience that just "was".

(The storm)
When I arrived back in Venice, I sat up on the deck of the Harbor Seafood and Oyster Bar and just relaxed. Phone calls started pouring in, and I talked with family and friends. The folks at the Cypress Cove Lodge gave me a room where I could take a shower and nap, and before long my mom, brother and buddy Cody showed up.

Mother (Bonnie Forrester), Joe, and brother (Jared) at the Cypress Cove Lodge in Venice, LA. (Photo courtesy of Cody Nenadal)

We strapped the Mary Agnes on top and headed up to New Orleans where the rest of party awaited.

Now, here is the plan for the next couple of blogs. Over the next several days I will be writing several blogs looking back over the trip including several Top 10 lists, gear reviews and most importantly a Thank You blog. So, even though the paddling is done I will still be active on the blog over the next several days so make sure to check back in.

Paddling done,


Friday, September 4, 2009

Rest Day in Venice before the Final Push!


Here is just a quick update, before a blog entry upon Joe’s completion tomorrow morning. Joe did make it to Venice on Wednesday night after a long push. It was a precarious paddle as there were some interesting critters joining him while paddling. Multiple alligators and bull sharks were in the water, making for a stressful day and utter delight upon pulling into Venice late Wednesday. He arrived just as dusk was arriving and was a little stressed by not immediately finding the lodge. After some night time detective work, Joe was able to find the Cypress Cove Lodge and unpacked after the strenuous last few days from New Orleans. He was so relieved to camp up and get some well deserved sleep that he took a rest day today (Thursday) and will be paddling the final 12 mile stretch tomorrow (Friday) morning.

Joe is so excited to see the Gulf of Mexico tomorrow, which will complete his paddle down the Missouri/Mississippi Rivers! Hard to believe that around 3 months ago, with the help of Norm Miller and the older Joe Forrester, he put-in at Three Forks, Montana.

A "clean cut" Joe before departing down the Missouri River on June 2, 2009. Top Picture is with Norm Miller, bottom picture is with our father, Joseph Forrester

In reaching the gulf tomorrow, he will then have to make it back to Venice, LA for pick up. He will hopefully get a ride back from a boat, and if not, he will do the 24 mile roundtrip as the final day of paddling.

We are flying out to New Orleans early tomorrow, which should give us enough time to drive down to Venice, pick Joe up, and drive back to New Orleans before it gets too late. Once back in New Orleans, Joe or I will make a blog entry and look forward to celebrating and updating the community at that time.

One last paddle on,


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Departing New Orleans on approach to Venice, LA


Joe has now passed through his original goal of New Orleans and is within a couple days reach of the final destination of the trip: the Gulf of Mexico! The past two days have been hectic on the river. Barges and super freighters have made for slower and more stressful paddling. Having to avoid these huge structures, while still putting in long miles, have made Joe very excited for the completion of the journey. The man made river traffic was not the only sighting on the river yesterday; Joe spotted a 7 foot alligator close by to the kayak. He was both excited to see it while apprehensive of approaching too close to this common inhabitant of the swampland of Louisiana. Joe passed by the animal and continued on, in his words, “playing Frogger with the other river traffic.”

Usually, without too much planning, Joe can find a suitable sandbar or campsite to set up for the night. That was not the case last night as Joe had to spend a restless night camped in the industrial section of New Orleans. He got very little sleep, always on edge from the river traffic and “unique” camp surroundings. He set out this morning, super tired from the night, but ready to push on through the swamp.

(Paddling through downtown New Orleans)

(The third nearly full moon I saw. A superfreighter is in the distance)

Today (Tuesday), Joe again encountered heavy river traffic. He received a warm welcome from the ships today though. One barge gave an encouraging honk, followed by the Captain coming out on deck and waving him along. The port authority also flashed their lights, recognizing the tiny red Mary Agnes on the water. Once past the main industrial section of New Orleans, the traffic calm slightly and Joe was able to better appreciate the river jungle that is surrounding him. Joe likes the finishing environment: every minute presents another challenge that is keeping him vigilant. The swamp is different from every other place on the river thus far. “Everything tries to eat you out here….I’m getting no rest or relaxation because I’m always doing something,” referring to the alligators, mosquitoes, and river traffic that are making this section interesting.

The Mississippi River Delta from space (photo from

Tomorrow (Wednesday), Joe will make a push to Venice, LA, the final civilization stop on his journey. The town is 46 to 47 miles away from his current sandbar campsite.

(Sandbar camp. The crawfish crawled from the water through my camp. This photo was taken when the water was low)

(This what I did when I was awoken by a crawfish in my tent. I think I was pretty sleep deprived at this point)
(The midnight intruder)

(Sunset from the sandbar camp)

He will try and rest up at the Cypress Cove Lodge before a final push to the Gulf. Joe will then try and arrange a ride back up to Venice, where we will pick him up and take him back to the Big Easy to celebrate this amazing accomplishment.

(Getting close to the Gulf)

As for myself, I begin my travels from San Diego, via Denver, to New Orleans tomorrow morning. I will have limited internet access over the next couple of days, but will be sure to update you all on Joe’s completion of the journey. Joe would like to thank everyone who has been emailing and calling him with congratulatory remarks; he really could not have done it without all your support, hospitality, companionship, goodwill, and generosity! Also, Joe would like to thank the barges and port authority for the relatively safe passage through this busy thoroughfare. This journey has been simply amazing and I look forward to a final update once Joe looks out on the Gulf of Mexico and returns safely to Venice.

Paddle on,


Monday, August 31, 2009

From Baton Rouge to outside of New Orleans


Hello again, this is Jared back on the blogging after Joe’s stay in Baton Rouge. The trip is now entering the final week, after a solid 87 mile effort by Joe this weekend. On Saturday, Joe set out from Baton Rouge, ready to get back on the water after resupplying and having a great time with Michael Beck. Joe would like to thank him for the great Southern hospitality and companionship after his leg from Clarksdale to Baton Rouge; everything was much appreciated! It was great to get out of the tent, especially with the warming weather and humidity, and sleep indoors.

Joe paddled 37 miles on Saturday, passing by a Carville, Louisiana. The small town was once home to the National Leprosarium, a location where patients afflicted with leprosy were quarantined and studied from the 1890’s to the 1980’s. The Leprosarium was established in order to understand, identify and treat patients suffering from the bacterial infection. There was much stigma at the time of the contagious nature of leprosy, later refuted with some of the information gleaned here. One large discovery was the effective treatment of leprosy with dapsone, an antibacterial drug first synthesized in 1908 by Fromm and Wittmann. The drug was synthesized years before Paul Ehrilich and Gerhard Domagk, both of Bayer, would learn of the antibacterial properties of various sulfonamides in the 1930’s (A great book on the Bayer discovery is titled The Demon Under the Microscope by Thomas Hager). Information on the dapsone can be found here. An interesting article about Stanley Stein, who was quarantined at the National Leprosarium, can be found here. A more in depth history of the facility can be found here, as well as information about the National Hansen's Disease Museum, which currently is located on the grounds of the old Leprosarium (official Museum website here).

Today (Sunday), Joe traveled further, paddling 50 miles down the Mighty Mississippi. There was an incredible amount of river traffic today. Barges and super freighters were numerous on the river, requiring Joe to spend time and energy avoiding the large obstacles. The weather was great though, and should continue through the week. Currently, Joe is camped around mile marker 140 in St. John the Baptist Parish. Tomorrow, Joe’s goal is to camp up somewhere in the New Orleans area, hopefully passing by the English Turn Bend. I will hear from Joe sometime at the end of tomorrow’s travels and look forward to updating the community at that time.

Paddle on,


Friday, August 28, 2009

Baton Rouge Rest Day

Hello to all you bloggers out there from Baton Rouge, LA!!! 230 miles separate me from the Gulf of Mexico and 130 from New Orleans, LA.

Right now I am taking a rest day and refueling my body and mind for the final push. I am staying with a local river rat Michael Beck who has very graciously offered his house for me to stay at.

(Michael came to meet me out on the river, here we are approaching town)

(Michael Beck's kayak transport vehicle getting ready to take me to some air-conditioni

As Jared has been describing to you all, I have been putting in a number of long days back to back to back. The heat has superseded the level of uncomfortable and for several hours each day stretches into the dangerous. As the humidity increases sunscreen stops sticking to my body because I am sweating so much so I have been starting to blister on the backs of my hands from the sun. In addition, I am going through a remarkable amount of water in order to stay hydrated. In order to prevent becoming hyponatremic with the incredible amount of water loss I have been having to mix in gator-aide to every other liter bottle I drink. Nevertheless I am enjoying the paddling on this section of river.

Each day from Clarksdale to Baton Rouge was beautiful in its own way but the unifying theme throughout this section of the river has been the unexpected remoteness. With thick jungle growing on either bank and islands with white sand interspersed throughout, I feel like I am not in the South but in a remote jungle somewhere. White egrets are now common place, and the blue herons are large enough that they might easily be mistaken for pterodactyls. The gar pike that surface around my boat have become rather large, and the cicadas are deafening at night. Every night I have to be in my tent by "bug-30", that special bewitching hour when the 6-legged demons that have lain dormant during the day take back the territory they believe rightfully theirs. Even 100% DEET doesn't seem to stop them.

(Two large oil tankers on the other side of the river as I approached Baton Rouge. They are HUGE compared to the Mary Agnes)

My stay in Baton Rouge has be en very restful. Michael has been gracious enough to take me out to dinner, put me up at his place and help me make my final resupply.

(Yappy and Fox, Michael's two vicious attack dogs protecting my kayaking gear)

We have toured Spanish Town, seen the artwork of Sam Corso(, walked through the capital and, most importantly for me, enjoyed the benefits of air-conditioned living.

(Louisiana 's State Capitol Building)

(A view of the river at night from the top floor of LSU's downtown art building)

(A view of the old capitol. Apparently Mark Twain was not an avid supporter of this building stating he wished that it would have burned to the ground.)

(Hanging out on the top floor of LSU's downtown art building with the river behind me)

As I mentioned above, my body needed a break too. My hands and shoulders, albeit strong and conditioned at this point, are starting to groan a bit in the morning when I wake up. They seem to be telling me that they are ready for a little bit of a break from this paddling business.

So, here is my plan for the next week. After leaving Baton Rouge, I will probably spend 2.5 days getting to New Orleans weather permitting. I am going to paddle through New Orleans and continue on down to Venice, LA. Venice is the furthest point that one can drive down the Mississippi. From Venice, which I hope to reach around Weds/Thurs, I will paddle another 12 miles down to the Head of Passes, the official end of the Mississippi River. From the Head of Passes, I will head down South Pass for about 4 miles until there is a cutoff where I can bump out to see the Gulf. At this point, the hard part starts because I will then have to paddle upstream the distance I traveled from Venice, about 16 miles. I am hopeful that I will be able to hitch a ride with a tow or a fishing boat but it might just be good old fashioned elbow grease that gets me back. On Saturday, my grandparents, parents, brother,Rick White (designer of the website and owner of and friends Mark and Cody are going to be meeting me in Venice where I will be saying farewell to that muddy river whose water now flows through my veins. All of this is weather permitting of course, but the forecast looks good.

Jared will be taking back over the blogging until all the family arrives in New Orleans.

The countdown from 230 miles has begun. For comparison, this same distance was reached before I arrived on Ft. Peck Reservoir some 2.5 months ago. My how time flies.

Paddling on,

Joe Forrester

Thursday, August 27, 2009

A Quick Update


Joe is doing well today after another solid 60+ mile effort on the Mississippi. He will be able to give a better update tomorrow when he arrives in Baton Rouge, LA for a one night stopover. Aside from resupplying, he will try and upload some more photos and do a blog update.

I received some new photos today and updated 3 previous blogs: Joe's stay in Washington, MO, Joe's Depart from the St. Louis Area, and Joe's rendezvous with Betty and Michael and Grandma Margaret and Walter. Feel free to click the links and check out the updated photos.

Paddle on,


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Past Vicksburg, MS and Natchez, MS (Mile Marker 328)


I was able to speak with Joe briefly the past two days, after two great efforts on the Mighty Mississippi. The calm weather has continued for him, affording him great scenery, cooler weather, and long miles. On Monday, he put in 63 to 64 miles, ending up a little bit below mile marker 390. As stated before, he passed by the historical Civil War battle site of Vicksburg, MS.

(Cooking dinner on a large sandbar upstream from Vicksburg)

He unfortunately didn’t have time to stop in town and see the famous siege caves of Vicksburg. In the spring and summer of 1863, the Union Fleet on the Mississippi and the U.S. Army surrounding bombarded Vicksburg with heavy artillery shells. The constant shelling forced some of the residents to live in caves to avoid the shrapnel and artillery fragments. A great website, with quotes from the diary of Mary Loughborough, the wife of a Confederate officer at Vicksburg, can be found here.

Mr. Tom Lewis standing in front of a cave on Grove Street, Circa 1890’s. (photo from; another great website for history of Vicksburg, MS)

Joe camped up downstream of Vicksburg on Monday night under cool skies. He said it was downright cold compared to earlier evenings, reaching a chilly 55 degrees. The great paddling weather fueled another solid effort today (Tuesday), allowing Joe to get to mile marker 328.

(Camp outside Douglas bend)

Today, Joe passed by another large town in Natchez, MS. The town was much less impacted by the Civil War, but has an interesting history nonetheless. The city is named after the original Natchez Indian Tribe that lived in the area prior to the takeover by French, Spanish, and English forces. The United States finally took control of the area with the Treaty of Paris in 1783. The area was very important in the early cotton trade as it, along with parts of Georgia and South Carolina, was instrumental in the development in hybridized cotton breeds. These breeds made it more economical to grow cotton in the United States, as compared to the earlier generations of cotton. A final interesting fact is that Natchez was home to the filming of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, another traveler of the Mississippi (Also the novel I’m working on). Most of the information was taken from here. Feel free to click through all the links as Natchez and the surrounding Mississippi valley has some great history. Another great website can be found here.

As for the upcoming days, Joe predicts he’ll be entering Baton Rouge, LA on Thursday night/Friday morning.

(Camp on a peaceful island in the river just north of Baton Rouge)

( A large storm that hit me a day out from Baton Rouge)

(Looking out on the storm after it hit me)

Joe has plans to stay for a night and resupply in town; therefore, with a full cell phone battery charged, I will be able to relay a bit more information on Joe’s day on the river.

Some great news for the fundraising effort……Scott Deig, CEO of Triumph Hospital in Aurora, CO, set up a bake and burrito sale with benefits going to Paddling for Parkinson’s and the National Parkinson’s Foundation. The sale was a success and raised $500!!! A big thank you goes out to Mr. Deig and all those involved with the bake sale; the help is very much appreciated. I will speak with Joe briefly tomorrow and look forward to updating the community at that time.

Paddle on,


Monday, August 24, 2009

Into Louisiana


With the great push over the weekend, Joe has now entered Louisiana, his final state in the paddling of the Missouri/Mississippi River systems! After setting out from his campsite at mile marker 576 Joe put in another longer day on the river, paddling between 63 and 64 miles on Saturday.

(Paddling with tunes and the heat)

He had a great day, meeting multiple great folks on the river. Some of those folks invited him back to their hunting club for the night and they all had a great time. Joe would like to thank all those at the Worthington Island Hunting Club, his hosts for Saturday night, for all their hospitality and company. It was a great way to cap off another great day on the lower Mississippi. The Hunting Club crew also left Joe with a nice Jeopardy fact, August is National Catfish Month. For more reading on the catfish, visit the following website:

(The Tito's Sandbar crew before they took me to Worthington Island Hunt Club)

The cloudy, cooler weather continued for Joe on Saturday, affording him the longer miles. The northwest breeze took some of the strain off the shoulders, allowing Joe to sail for a better part of the day.

Yesterday (Sunday), Joe put in a 59 mile day, ending up at mile marker 454. His cell phone was running low on battery when I spoke with him; therefore, it was brief conversation. He did say that the great paddling weather continued. It should be similar today, allowing Joe to hopefully get below mile marker 400. Joe is currently around the historic city of Vicksburg, MS. You can read about the city's importance in the lower Mississippi valley and its large role in the Civil War here.

With the great weather and effort over the weekend, Joe has put himself within a 4 to 5 day reach of Baton Rouge, LA. From there it should only be a few more days to New Orleans and a couple more to the Gulf Coast! Today's conversation should be a very brief, due to the lower cell phone battery, so I will be updating the community in a couple of days time.

(Another beautiful sunrise on the Mississippi)

Paddle on,


Saturday, August 22, 2009

Onward from Clarksdale


Jared here with an update after Joe’s two day stay over in Clarksdale, MS. He would like to thank John Ruskey so much for his hospitality and help with the lower Mississippi. It was a great two days, highlighted by the great company of John and his family as well as the warm reception of the people of Clarksdale. He had a great time in town at the local blues clubs and the Delta Blues Museum, making for a great couple of days. Everyone was so generous and it was such an unexpected highlight on his trek since St. Louis. If anyone is ever planning a canoe trip on the lower Mississippi, Joe highly recommends using John and the Quapaw Canoe Company. They do a phenomenal job on such an impressive and historic river. His website can be found here. A cool article about John can be found here. Again, a huge thank you to John for all his help in Clarksdale and on the lower Mississippi.

Joe, with Emma Lou in the Canoe, at the Quapaw Landing on Thursday

Joe in the background, Emma Lou in the foreground, on Thursday

After a failed attempt on Thursday, Joe was able to get back in the water yesterday (Friday) after a hearty paddler’s breakfast of Buffalo Burgers, fried eggs & hashbrowns made by John and his wife. With a cold front moving in, weather looked great and Joe was able to crank out a 62 mile day after saying his goodbyes to John, his wife, and their daughter, Emma Lou.

On Thursday before deciding to call it a day and try again on Friday

It was a little cloudy, providing him cooler temperatures and allowing him to put in such a long day. The weather should be continuing like this the next couple of days, so Joe tells me he’ll try and put in as many miles with such great conditions.

Last night Joe set up camp on a sand bar on the Arkansas side of the river, near mile marker 576. He had a nice little swim in the river after dinner. What a nice way to end a great day on the Mississippi! As he was leaving the water though, he saw a 5 1/2 foot gar surface, just where he had swum. Apparently, John says that they, along with alligators, are this far up the Mississippi, so Joe will have to look out for these as he continues on.

Today (Saturday), Joe continues to put in the miles, with a goal to reach mile marker 510. If he is feeling good, Joe said he will try and get below the 500 mile marker. I will speak with him later tonight and look forward to updating the community at that time.

Paddle on,


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Clarksdale, Round 2

Hello to all you bloggers from Clarksdale, MS!

Well, my original plan was to hop on the water this morning and put in some miles but the weather had other ideas. After John Ruskey from Quapaw Outfitters dropped me off at the landing we launched our boats. John and his daughter were going to paddle the section below Island 63.

(John and his daughter, Emma Lou)

However, within minutes the clouds raced in and the wind picked up. The sky turned dark. John, who had paddled a little ahead of me to where the backwater meets the river, said "You know, you can always come back to the house and go out tomorrow."

(John Ruskey's home in Clarksdale)

This was a decision point for me. Continue on and get "weathered" or go back to town. Early in the trip I would have said "paddle on!" but experience on this river had made me more cautious. Deciding to wait out the storm from Clarksdale seemed to be not only safer but also more enjoyable as well so I turned the nose of the Mary Agnes back toward the Quapaw Landing. As we pulled the boats out of the water the heavens unleashed, and rain started pouring down. I hate to not be paddling, but the river was teaching me a lesson.

(The mighty Sunflower River coursing through Clarksdale)

(View of Clarksdale)

So, now, here I sit, drydocked. One more day of the blues, rest, and relaxation will only fuel my progress tomorrow!

Joe enjoying some blues in the home of Delta Blues, Clarksdale, MS

Until next time,


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Memphis, TN to Clarksdale, MS


Joe continued with good weather on the Mississippi, continuing past Memphis and stopping in Clarksdale, Mississippi tonight. Monday was a longer day than usual, paddling between 62 and 63 miles. The reward for the extra distance was worth it though. Joe said his campsite, located 11 miles north of Helena, Arkansas, was his best yet on the trip. It was 30 feet up on a sandbar and after setting up, Joe went for a swim in the river and washed his ever growing hair. He had a great dinner, setting out on the sandbar until the mosquitoes forced him back into the tent.

In today’s (Tuesday) paddle, Joe passed by St. Francis National Park, one of the smallest national parks in the US. It contains mainly old-growth forests, consisting of Shortleaf pine and a few different oak species. The St. Francis National Park is also the only place in the National Forest System where the public can enjoy the Mississippi River from the shoreline. More information can be found here, as well as a photo history of the Park here.

Confluence of St. Francis and Mississippi Rivers; near St. Francis National Park (photo by Doug Wilhite from

Joe completed today's 40 mile paddle outside of Clarksdale, Mississippi. In doing so, he passed by a multitude of barges making their way up the river. To avoid them, he had to cut to the inside corner of the river to avoid the barges’ dangerous propellers. Unfortunately, it seemed that an 8 point buck ran into those propellers today. As Joe was pulling into island 63, near the Quapaw boat landing, he came across the buck, which was stuck in the mud. After trying to free the buck with his kayak, he realized that the back end of it was destroyed by propeller blades and would not survive too much longer. As unfortunate as that was, he continued on and was picked up by John Ruskey, founder and owner of the Quapaw Canoe Company.

John is friend of Norm Miller, the Montana native that helped Joe put-in back on June 2nd in Three Forks, MT and portage of Great Falls, MT. Some videos of John can be found here: Canoeing the Mississippi with John Ruskey, John Ruskey the Riverman, and another video Canoeing the Mississippi with John Ruskey. John will be hosting Joe for the next day as Joe will be hanging out and resupplying in town. Joe’s two water jugs have holes in them, due to wear and tear, so Joe will be repairing those in town. Clarksdale, Mississippi is a very cool town as it is the birthplace of Delta Blues. The Delta Blues Museum is in Clarksdale and there are plenty of blues festivals in town. Many famous musicians are from or passed through town. A more recent musician that is associated with Clarksdale is Nate Dogg, of the rap trio 213 of Long Beach, CA. A more famous member of the group is Cordazar Calvin Broadus, aka Snoop Dogg.

A great photo of the Ground Zero Blues Club in Clarksdale, MS (partly owned by Morgan Freeman) (photo by Thomas Johnston from

Joe will be back on the Mississippi on Thursday, barring any bad weather. If he gets internet access tomorrow, check back for a blog entry. If not, I will be back at in a couple of days and look forward to updating the Paddling for Parkinson’s community at that time.

Paddle on,

Monday, August 17, 2009

From New Madrid, MO to Memphis, TN


Joe had a great weekend full of paddling on the Mississippi, through Missouri and Tennessee, as well as two family visits. On Friday, Joe was able met up with Betty and Michael and on Saturday, Joe met with our Grandma, Margaret, and Walter. Betty and Michael were traveling through the south for a weeklong vacation and Grandma and Walter were on a cross country road trip, having already traveled 2500 miles from their home state of California!

Joe had a great time with both groups of family and was great to have them there for this last leg of the journey.

Michael and Joe with The Mary Agnes

Betty, Michael, and Joe near Caruthersville, MO

On Friday, Betty and Michael set Joe up with a hotel room and went out for a dinner, a much welcome break from camping out under the mosquito net and eating tuna for dinner. Unfortunately all the hotels in Caruthersville were booked, so they headed down the interstate and got a room at a local hotel. They had a good dinner; Joe said the fried okra hit the spot after another 50 plus mile day on the river. The company was even better. Betty and Michael were there to send him off at the Gourds concert in May and it was awesome to see them again, this time after paddling since June 2nd. After the great night with Betty and Michael, Joe was sad to say goodbye, but ready to get back on the water and put some miles in.

On Saturday, after a 64 mile paddle, Joe was able to meet up with Grandma and Walter. It was a more challenging rendezvous due to poor cell phone service, but with some great help from Uncle Dave Diephuis and others, they were able to meet up on the Big Muddy.

Grandma Margaret and Joe

Walter and Joe

It was great for them to get together, each with their own long trek underway. After some late night McDonalds, Joe turned in for the night under the stars. Unfortunately, when he was sleeping under the mosquito net, he rolled out and awoke at 2 am with a mosquito feast underway on his face.

A little tired and itchy, Joe said goodbye to Grandma and Walter in the morning and paddled 42 miles today (Sunday).

Joe making his way on the Mississippi (photos courtesy of Betty and Michael Rudolph and Margaret Johnston)

He wanted to thank again both groups of family members for the company, support, and great times. It was a real treat for him to have both help him out. The visits re-energized him mentally and physically, exciting him for the final family rendezvous in New Orleans in a few weeks. Joe also wanted to thank Grandma and Walter for the great plums they gave him as he departed today. When I spoke with him tonight, he was setting up camp at Loosahatchie Bar, just outside of Memphis. He was excited to arrive in Memphis and looking forward to continuing down the Mississippi tomorrow. His goal is to make it Helena, Arkansas. I will speak with him tomorrow evening and look forward to updating the community at that time.

Paddle on,