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,

Friday, August 14, 2009

Past Cairo, Illinois to New Madrid, MO


Well, it is official, Joe has begun the last leg of his journey with the start of the lower Mississippi. Similar to Huck and Jim in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Joe passed by Cairo, Illinois and continued on down the Mississippi. Although his pass by was a deliberate one….New Orleans or bust! The river is unbelievably large now; Joe says it approaches the horizon on each side. Sometimes it is as if he is not moving, feeling so small because of the size of the river. The current is fast moving, although it is hard to tell with no point of reference.

The Confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers (Mississippi River on Left, Ohio River on Right) (from NASA)

Last night (Wednesday), I spoke with Joe while he was camped up, 6 miles south of the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers. There was a muskrat cruising around in the water and birds taking a dip before sunset. Even though it was sunny all day, the humidity was down, affording Joe a great day on the river; no more talk of the unbearable heat (although I’m sure that could change soon). The night continued the great weather, with the temperature dipping down in to the 50’s. Joe camped out under the stars, saying they were unbelievable, brilliant from being away from the city lights. He could just hear Seven Bridges Road by the Eagles in his head as he was lying out. You can listen to the song here.

Joe continued on the Big Muddy today with another long day. He put in around 50 miles, ending up camping near New Madrid, MO. Today ‘s weather was more of the same, very welcome as it should be heating up by Sunday. Tomorrow (Friday), he will be meeting up with our aunt and uncle, Betty and Michael of Washington D.C., who are on their own adventure through the south right now. It will be great for Joe to see some friendly faces tomorrow and reenergize him before a push to Memphis and continuing on down the Mississippi. His goal tomorrow is to reach Caruthersville, MO, putting him in good shape to reach Memphis Saturday or Sunday. I will hear from Joe tomorrow, probably after his meet up with Betty and Michael, and look forward to updating the community at that time.

Paddle on,

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Crystal City, MO to Cape Girardeau, MO


Since the last post, Joe has been on a physical and mental grind on the Mississippi. The weather was miserably hot and humid for him on Monday; Joe said, “it’s so hot out that I think my eyeballs are sweating.” Monday was, what he felt, his hardest day, mentally and physically so far on his journey. I spoke with him midway through the day, when he was waiting for a storm to pass, and he still felt no relief from the heat, feeling as if he was in a sauna all day. After our midday chat, the weather and his mental state improved. It was still a hot night, but the cooling of the weather helped him physically recover.

Today (Tuesday), Joe felt more relief from the heat. The morning was overcast and cooler, affording him a great morning on his approach to Cape Girardeau. He felt better both mentally and physically, seeming reinvigorated after a cooler morning. Joe met with a local journalist, Kit Doyle with the Southeast Missourian Newspaper, who snapped a few photos.

Joe in Cape Girardeau (All photos courtesy of Kit Doyle/Southeast Missourian Newspaper)

Joe is currently camped a few miles outside of Cape Girardeau and excited about his entry into the lower Mississippi tomorrow. Since St. Louis, he has paddled 130 miles and his goal tomorrow is to camp up below Cairo, Illinois. Cairo is the town where the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers meet, further widening the Mississippi.

In his journeys today, Joe stopped on Grand Island in the Mississippi. It is a noteworthy location as Gary Lucy, the painter Joe met in Washington, MO, has a great painting of the island and was memorable to him. Joe also stopped at the Trail of Tears State Park, a historical area marking a dark time in our country’s history. The park marks the site where the Cherokee Indians crossed the Mississippi in the winter of 1838-1839 under Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Act of 1830. Thousands of Cherokees lost their lives in this forced relocation of the Native Americans for the encroaching white settlers. More can be read about the park and the Trail of Tears here and here.

As stated above, Joe will be entering the lower Mississippi tomorrow and I look forward to updating the Paddling for Parkinson’s community at that time.

Paddle on,


Monday, August 10, 2009

Depart from St. Louis to Crystal City, MO


Hello, this is Jared, back to blogging after a week break for Joe's stay in the Washington/St. Louis, MO area. He had an amazing time in town and would like to thank all for their support and generosity, especially the Hoven's for the great hospitality and company.

Joe's put-in on Sunday with the help of the Hoven's

Saturday was a great celebration as Joe's college friends, who drove straight from Colorado, met up with him at the County Fair where the Steve Miller Band was playing. The concert and, more importantly, the company were great and it was hard for Joe to depart from St. Louis. He had a little taste of normal life, after over 2 months on the river, and it was bittersweet to begin the Mississippi River.

Joe departing down the Mississippi (the last photo really shows how small Joe and the Mary Agnes are compared to the Mighty Mississippi)

The hot weather continued for Joe yesterday (Sunday), remaining in the 90's, feeling like 100 degrees F with the humidity. Fortunately, NRS shipped out a Meshback PFD, a life vest that will provide more relief from the heat than his old lifejacket could provide.

Joe sporting the new NRS meshback PFD (photos and video courtesy of Niels Van Den Boogert and Janet Hoven)

Joe put in the Mississippi at 11:30 am on Sunday, a later start than usual. He paddled 33 miles, ending near Crystal City, MO. Today (Monday), his goal is to make it past St. Genevieve, MO, hopefully totaling 50 or so miles. Joe has also solidified his itinerary for the rest of the trip. He hopes to arrive in Memphis August 17th and finish the trip Labor Day weekend in New Orleans, with weather permitting. I will speak with Joe later tonight and update the community at that time.

Paddle on,


Friday, August 7, 2009

Washington, MO rest

Hello all from sunny Washington, MO,

Well, the past four days have been incredible. Judge and Mrs. Hoven have been doing an excellent job fattening me up and showing me the sights and sounds of Washington, MO.

Joe at the landing in Washington, MO

On 8/5, Mrs. Hoven took me into town to see the art studio of Gary Lucy. Gary is a famous painter of all things Missouri River and he had been following along on the blog. Gary took the time to show me his studio as well as his current pieces and then we talked for awhile about the river and ocean adventures. Here is the link to his sight, Check out the art work, it is really fantastic and you can see artistic renditions of many of the areas that I have passed by.

Most of the rest of Wednesday was spent unloading all of my gear; sorting things I need from what I don't need. I have removed the following items from my gear: -15 degree sleeping bag, all cold weather clothing, maps of the Missouri, books I have read and excess warm weather clothing. In their place I have added a very lightweight sleeping bag, a mosquito net, a new pair of shorts and a new shirt.

Joe's set up in the lawn of Judge and Mrs. Hoven in Washington, MO

On Thursday, Mrs. Hoven and I went into St. Louis where I met her parents, Rosemary and Bill Jones. Mr. Jones is himself a river traveler, he motored a boat with his friend Wayne Smith down the Meremac River to the Gulf of Mexico. He fondly recounted his trip and certainly made me excited for the upcoming section of river!

Today, Friday, is promising to be a very great day. Mel Jones, one of my grandfather's college friends will be stopping by to check out the kayak and eat some lunch. In addition, my college room mates, Dave Hoven and Joel Irby drove straight through the night from Boulder, CO to come say hi. I talked with them briefly this morning before they crashed for a bit but we are really excited for a fun weekend in Washington.

Clockwise from Left: Dave Hoven, Judge Hoven, Joe, Joel Irby (photos courtesy of Judge and Mrs. Hoven and Niels Van den Boogert)

This morning, Mrs. Hoven dropped me off at the Washington County Fair where I had an interview with Diane Jones of KLPW 1220Am radio to talk about Parkinson's as well as my journey. The interview was great and the fair grounds looked fun; I can't wait until Steve Miller Band plays on Saturday night!

Well folks, back to adding more music to my .mp3 player.


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

A trip to the confluence: Hermann to St. Louis

Hello to all you bloggers out there! Time to tell you what has been happening for the past several days.

On 8/2 I awoke to the smell of fresh coffee. Ambling out through Spirit Hill guest house I walked out to the deck and joined Gary, one of the owners of Spirit Hill, for a morning viewing of the river and some coffee. As the morning sun was rising over the Mighty Mo, Marsha came and joined us and we had breakfast overlooking the river.

For much of the morning we spent time preparing for the evening's party. There were two excellent diversions, a fantastic massage from Susie at the Arbor Boutique Spa ( and a chance to meet some folks with Parkinson's in Hermann. The massage, my first ever, was quite an experience. I left totally relaxed and my muscles felt like they were healing. Next, Gary and I went to visit with Gary's mother as well as several gentlemen afflicted with Parkinson's at a nursing home in Hermann. I was very touched by their kindness and thanks.

After another lunch at Spirit Hill on the deck, we continued getting ready for the party. The Current Designs Storm GT "The Mary Agnes" received a good cleaning and my Hilleberg Nallo GT was set up in preparation for showing them off.

By 5pm, Alex Luft from the online Hermann Newspaper, the Hermann Muenster, came by to talk about the trip. Alex had just moved to the area and we had quite a good talk. Near the end of the interview a totally unexpected event occurred. Rita Grider, the daughter of my grandfather's brother, stopped by to say hi.

Joe and Rita

She drove down from Champaign, IL. This was such an incredible surprise because Rita had been such a supporter of the trip from the very beginning. She had been emailing my story out to newspapers and other media as well as emailing me letters of support. It was very, very nice to finally meet her in person and thank her for her support.

Shortly after Rita arrived, the other guests started arriving. As the evening sun started setting over the Missouri River and the beautiful gardens of Spirit Hill started glowing, I answered questions about the trip, about Parkinson's and had the chance to talk with so many great folks from the Hermann and St. Louis area. I would like to thank Gary and Marsha for organizing this truly special experience. We raised $346 for the National Parkinson Foundation!

On 8/3 I had a special paddling privilege. Gary had organized a large flotilla of kayaks and other boats that would accompany me to New Haven, MO.
(The Flotilla Prepares to Leave Hermann)
Among the paddlers were Gary, Tommy, Joey, Steve, Karen, Julie, Suzie, Alex, John and Amy. What a great group! All levels of paddlers were represented. We had kayaks, canoes and a really pretty motor boat. Laughter filled the river valley and we paddled down passing bluffs and sandbars. Luckily we dodged a thunderstorm and then enjoyed a great lunch at New Haven.

The flotilla broke up a bit at New Haven and I was accompanied by Amy to Washington, MO. By this time the temperatures had started to climb and the sun was getting hot but the paddle was fun nonetheless.

At Washington, I was greeted by Karen, a reporter from The Missourian as well as Mrs. Janet Hoven and Katherine Graham. Judge and Mrs. Hoven, the mother of Dave Hoven (my college roommate's mother) would be hosting me in Washington after I arrived in St. Louis. Katherine, the Hoven's neighbor was one of the most spry 90 year olds I have ever met. She nimbly hoped up rock steps and was a real pleasure to meet. After the interview, Mrs. Hoven handed me some water as well as homemade peanut butter cookies and two succulent peaches. Peach juice dripping from my face we talked for awhile before I headed back onto the water. I was headed toward the Augusta/Klondike ramp.
(Klondike/Augusta Ramp)

The afternoon paddle was quite pretty and the sun set, basking the river in a warm glow. As I pulled into the Klondike ramp, I was greeted first by a couple of dudes fishing on the river who showed me some Missouri hospitality and invited me over. After talking with them for a little bit, both Judge and Mrs. Hoven showed up for a picnic dinner.

We sat down at the river enjoying great company and food as the sun set and the stars came out.

Early the next morning I put-in. My goal was to paddle to the confluence of the Missouri and the Mississippi, some 56 miles downstream. I was a little apprehensive as the weather was calling for severe thunderstorms. Luckily though, the weather gods looked favorably upon my trip and I enjoyed a pleasant paddle to the confluence. Wading through the thick Missouri mud, I climbed up on the most downriver section of land separating the Miss and the Mo and just took it all in.

It had taken me 63 days to paddle the 2,321 miles from Three Forks, MT to this point. What a ride!

Unexpectedly, my travels for the day were not finished. Judge Hoven was originally planning on picking me up at the confluence. Unfortunately though, when I arrived at the confluence I found the State Park closed. In order to meet Judge Hoven, I would have to make a 4.5 mile portage which wasn't really an option. After talking with Judge Hoven, we decided that I would paddle down into St. Louis where he would pick me up.

Tired and muddy I got back into the Mary Agnes and started hoofing it downriver. This was one of those times that my training, both mental and physical, paid off as I pushed my body further than it wanted to go. I pushed hard, and speedily portaged the Chain of Rocks, a dangerous feature on the Mississippi. This was my last portage on the trip. WWWWAAHHOOOO.

As I continued on into St. Louis, the Arch slowly came into view. I had been dreaming of this moment for some time and I was a bit overwhelmed.

However, I was so exhausted that I really just smiled and kept paddling. Judge Hoven was waiting for me down at the waterfront and we loaded the boat and my nasty smelling gear. Whew! I had made it. My 56 mile day had turned into a 72 mile day with a portage but I had arrived safe and sound. In celebration Judge Hoven took me out to eat before my drive back to Washington.

So, there is the synopsis for the past several days. I am so thankful for all of the folks who have helped me out in Hermann and Washington as well as the folks who donated at the Hermann Party.

I am going to be blogging later this afternoon as well as during my stay here at Washington with the Hovens' so stay tuned.

I want to leave you all with a quote from David Miller used in his book The Complete Paddler when he discusses paddling the entire Missouri.

"If you have made the distance from Three Forks to St. Louis, what have you accomplished? I have talked with several paddlers who have made the trip and reflected on these conversations for common themes. What follows is a distillation of experiences.

First you have made more than just a river passage. With or against the current, you have learned to read the river well enought and that new lessons are always just ahead. Now you have learned to move in cooperation with the twined currents of wind and water. For so long you sat at the air/water interface, subject at times to brutally uncooperative flows of energy that support the environment. You have learned flexibility and greater patience, and have experienced long periods of silence. You watch the sky and water; you pay attention to the rustle in the brush. You watch for snakes. You forever look and see elements of your world differently. In addition, it is fairly safe to assume that you have become a river rat.

Second, you understand that any day on the river can be at once a test and a lesson. You have had time to sort out which is which. You may find that you are quieter, and that you look more carefully at faces. You appreciate signs of weathering - the crows feet and undereye tracks of those who have spent time outside. You, and fellow voyagers, will forever have Missouri River mud flowing in your veins. You know more profoundly than anyone reading a historical account, looking at the river on a map, or driving along a highway, what a long passage is truly like on this river.

Third, after you return, people hearing about your adventure will ask you what it was like. How to reply? A meaningful response is difficult.....I cannot get it right, not yet at least. Perhaps I'll someday assemble the right combination of anecdotes to give those asking a glimps of the beauty, the silent endless miles of Dakota barrens, the sweat, the mud, the discovery of a single tree for shade, the burning heat and cottonmouth of thirst, the unrelenting bastard headwinds, the shoulder pain that you mentally can no longer numb, the terror/joy of racing with a storm tailwind up then down waves at an insane velocity, and the full body cry of relief when the dam at the end of a 250 mile long reservoir comes into sight. All these things have to be wrapped into the telling.....

....You understand that you do not conquer or bag this river as some might think about a successfull ascent of a high peak. Succussfull passage is earned because you approached the river with respect....Your passage was aided by prudence, reasoned judgement, good seamanship, the kindness of strangers, and, if you are honest about it, finish this river understanding that it granted you passage."

- David Miller, The Complete Paddler