St. Charles, Missouri
December 9, 2023
I’m resting comfortably in St. Charles, looking forward to the Christmas celebrations going on in this beautiful, historic city, which was formerly the Capital of Missouri. Here is how I got here.
December 6. I paddled from Hermann to New Haven, where I was greeted by Steve Ohrt and St. Louis Bill, my paddling companions when I was up River. We then went to Astral Glass, owned and managed by Lance Stroheker and Gary Rice. Lance made a room available for me in the back of his glassblowing shop. Bill, Steve and I were given glassblowing lessons by Lance and Gary and we each made a Christmas ornament. I was then given my purple hat in a ceremony led by Gary. The purple hat is given to every paddler who completes the Missouri River from Three Forks, Montana to St. Louis. I was touched and honored by this gift. Both Lance and Gary are truly warm River Angels and fantastic glassblowing artists. Shane Camden, the owner of Paddle Stop, hosted a great dinner for us at his boat building facility. Shane is also an gifted artist who builds canoes, kayaks and paddle boards.
December 7. A group of us paddled to Klondike, about 25 miles down River. St. Louis Bill and Steve were in a canoe, Mark Fingerhutt was in a kayak, Shane and Rachel Bartels were in a canoe and I was in my canoe. We left my canoe in Klondike and drove back to New Haven to spend the night. Shane hosted a dinner for a large group of people for a presentation by Scott Miller, who was part of a team that set the speed record for paddling the Mississippi River. I reunited with my old pal Jerico who attended the program.
December 8. The morning started with a call from David Miller, who wrote the book “The Complete Paddler.” This book is the definitive guide for paddling Mighty Mo. I consulted the book often. What an honor to speak with a legend. I also met “Big Muddy Mike,” a legendary paddler who runs a paddling company in St. Louis. I met Mike in 2019, when I was paddling through St. Louis on the Mississippi River. Steve then drove me to Klondike so I could resume my journey. I departed at 9:45am and arrived in St. Charles at 3pm. The trip was not without incident as the Missouri River took one more swipe at me to throw me off its back. I pulled over to shore to pee. I had one foot in the canoe and one foot on shore as I pee’d. The current then started to pull my canoe back into the middle of the River. I tried to muscle the canoe back to shore, but the current was too strong. I did the splits as long as possible, with one foot in the canoe and the other on shore, but it was hopeless as the current was too strong. I was pulled into the water alongside my canoe. Fortunately, my feet touched the bottom of the River and I was able to pull the canoe back to shore. I re-boarded, but was drenched, head to foot. Bob and Tim Foster helped me bring my canoe into the Lewis & Clark Boat House Museum in St. Charles, and Bob drove me to the Comfort Suites in St. Charles.
December 9. My original plan was to end my trip at the confluence of the Missouri River and the Mississippi River, which is 30 miles downstream from St. Charles. I received an eloquent plea from Norman Miller to paddle down to the Arch in St. Louis. See his message below. Out of respect for Norm, based upon his knowledge, experience, competence, kindness and care for all paddlers on the Missouri River, I changed my plans. Tomorrow, I will paddle to the portage at the Chain of Rocks, spend the night and paddle to the Arch on Monday. I should arrive at the Arch around noon.
St. Charles celebrates the Christmas season like few other cities in America. They name their celebration “Christmas Traditions,” which is an apt description. Most of the activities take place on historic Main Street, which is lined with beautiful, historic shops, stores, bars and restaurants. The Christmas parade starts at noon and is followed by events such as Christmas Readings (e.g., “‘T’was the Night Before Christmas”), Sounds of the Season, Caroling, Photos with Santa and ending at 4:30pm with a Candlelight Procession. I feel blessed to be here for this celebration on my Missouri River journey, which should have ended months ago. “All things work together for good for them that love God.” Romans 8:28
In the afternoon, I toured the Lewis & Clark Boat House Museum where my canoe is stored.
Norm Miller’s Message:
“I know you are planning to the confluence, but would sure hope to change your mind for St.Louis. The city was there before the exploration of the Louisiana purchase and is the Gateway to the west. L&C, and all later explorers such as Colter, Drouillard, Jim Bridger, William Ashley, Joe Meek, Manuel Lisa, The Chouteau’s, the list goes on, all went back to St Louis. it’s tradition! The history and ghost that haunt that river have a special place in returning “home” to where the entire dreams and spark of adventure began for this country. I hope you consider your historic descent ending in St. Louis too. It’s fitting with the last 220 years of exploration on the river. My 2 cents. Cheers and congrats on your journey.”