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 (http://www.cypresscovevenice.com/) 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,

Joe





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