In this report, I was hoping to draw some comparisons to the mountain trips I have enjoyed over the past 18 years. This was not possible because the adventures are so different. However, the lessons I learned from the mountains helped get me through the tough times I experienced on the Mighty Mississippi. See “Lessons Learned from the Mountains.” Most especially, I knew I had to stay calm, carefully evaluate options, pray diligently, trust in the Lord and give thanks for deliverance. In the end, this strategy worked perfectly, as it always does.
The trip was never just about enjoying the sights and sounds of the River. The views were spectacular, especially in the Upper Mississippi. But, they did not change much from beginning to end. For most of the trip, I saw the bow of my canoe, the River all around me and the shore lined with beautiful trees and foliage. I saw deer, eagles, herons, ducks, geese, turtles, feral hogs, raccoons, snakes and even an adolescent alligator. I never saw bears, foxes, coyotes, muskrats, bobcats, otters, wild dogs or beavers, although I dragged my canoe over many beaver dams.
As I progressed further south, especially below St. Francisville, Louisiana, the River widened considerably and the trees and vegetation gave way to heavy industrial sites, with smoke belching from smokestacks and wastewater spilling into the River. At the same time, the River traffic increased substantially, and my focus turned to avoiding towboats pushing barges, tugboats positioning barges in front of towboats, paddleboats and giant ocean-going ships plowing their way up and down the River. When these vessels passed, I had to negotiate my way up, over, around and through turbulent water and giant waves trying to throw me into the rocks.
What I enjoyed most were the people I met who live in the cities and towns along the River. They were so interested in my journey and promised to track my progress through my blog and keep me in their thoughts and prayers. Many of them invited me into their homes, provided tours of their cities and even gave me the keys to their cars. Newspapers in Bemidji and Wabasha ran stories of my trip and I participated in a podcast hosted by my taxi driver in Vicksburg. I was overwhelmed by this Midwestern and Southern hospitality. It is impossible to complete a trip like this and not return with renewed hope in the essential goodness of humankind. I was also eager to stop in the towns and cities along the River and learn about the rich history of these venues. I hope some of that history came through in my reports and will inspire you to see for yourself. My reunions with family in Memphis and New Orleans were the highlight of the trip.