August 1

Times, they are a changing. For today. I was up and on the water by just a little after 7. I was cranking the miles off. It felt good to be getting miles done again. I even found a new fun activity!I learned that when a barge passes and puts off a huge wave train wake for a mile if I time it right I can paddle into it and it's like a rollercoaster. I was rolling over the top of the wave then down into the bottom then back up. Probably a 10 foot drop in between.Quite the rush. But I knew what was waiting for me when I got to Baton Rouge. Everything, everyone I have talked to has told me horror stories about the rest of the river starting in Baton Rouge. Several people paddle the entire Mississippi River from the source in Minnesota and get off and take the Atchafalaya River to the Gulf just to avoid this section. That doesn't make sense to me, but paddle your own paddle, that's what I say. The section between Baton Rouge and New Orleans is known as the Chemical Corridor. Cancer Alley. It is the home to some of the largest oil refineries in the country. Producing over 500,000 barrels a day. Several of the other largest chemical companies in the county have plants on the river as well. Another one of the major challenges is that it is the furthest point that ocean ships can reach. So between the chemical plants and shipping port it gets quite hectic. Apparently the 10 mile stretch through down town is so cluttered it's basically a suicide mission. So of course I was taking that route. As I was about 5 miles out I was heading down a straightaway before I made the 90 degree turn to the gantlet, I was on the left hand side and I needed to be on the right. I was waiting for a barge with no containers to pass to cut over. I heard my marine radio kick on. When I listened I heard a captain talking to another captain. He said "hey just to let you know we got some dumb a** in a kayak out here, I'm not sure where he will be when you get here but I wanted to give you a heads up."I quickly looked around to see where the other kayaker was. I got really excited as I haven't seen a single person paddling the entire river. When I realized that he was talking about me. I thought I would respond. After all it is the polite thing to do. I got on my radio and said "this is the dumb a** in the kayak, I'll be on the downstream right side of the river". I wanted to add a few other things but had to get ready for battle according to the river experts. I strapped my sandals on, put my phone in my life jacket, tied anything loose in my boat to something, and put my tracking device around my neck thinking that I might have to hit the SOS button if things go south. I rounded the turn and headed under the bridge that starts the 10 mile stretch. (Authors note: Jack Kerouac allegedly relieved himself under that bridge as stated in his book On The Road). I could see massive metal structures and had my head on a swivel. I paddled with ease expecting that at any moment a boat would come flying out of nowhere like a medicine ball on a rope trying to knock me off a balance beam. I kept going and saw a work boat approaching me. He didn't see me and was heading right at me. I figured his wake was going to swallow my boat. When he was about a football field away he must have seen me and cut to the middle of the river. As he passed he slowed down, blew his horn and waved. Must have just been a warning. I continued down passing between these massive structures that looked like space stations. The city skyline kept getting bigger and bigger. Closer and closer. Finally I was in the heart of it. My knuckles were white with anticipation of the "big one". Still nothing. When I got to the next bridge I had to make a decision. I could go on the east bank and go into Baton Rouge, Go to the West Bank and stop in Port Allen, or just keep going and pray I survive. I passed on leaving my boat under the bridge in downtown Baton Rouge and chose for Port Allen. There was a Walmart close by so I made the call. I paddled through some containers lining the shore and beached my boat. I found a dirt road that led to the main road and it was only a little over a half mile to "The Walmart". Thankfully this dirt road wasn't overgrown. I got some food but they didn't have the one thing I really wanted. A phone USB charger that uses AA batteries. I feel I am running low on extra juice and it's supposed to be cloudy with rain for the next few days so I'm not sure how much power I will have. Of course they didn't have one. I left a little disappointed but saw a Hardee's across the parking lot. When I walked in they had a counter that had plugs. They even had straight USB ones. It was a sign. I dump out my bag and started plugging in everything I could. I thought about sitting there all day but was worried about my boat so I bugged out. As I was walking back I realized that the terror of the Baton Rouge harbor was the most over rated thing since Y2K. I got back on the water and had about 10 more miles to where I wanted to camp. This was a cool paddle. I was weaving through containers and past ships. It is amazing how massive these things are. And just when I thought I was going to get the award for furthest traveled, I see the back of the largest ship and it says Hong Kong. After I paddled out of the harbor I was back in the wilderness. Kind of. I was closing in on 50 miles and started thinking about how great of a day it was. I relaxed and enjoyed the sunset. It was almost completely dark when I got to the sand bar where I was going to camp. The first one was mud so I pushed on to the second and my last chance for several miles. Everything I had read said it was the best spot within 100 miles. I pulled up on it and got out. My feet sank right away. I figured if I walked through it I could get to solid ground. That was not the case. I kept getting deeper and deeper. Calf, knees, thighs then almost to my waist.One thing I know is if you are in quick sand or mud and get in over your waist you are done. For a moment I thought I was almost done. Every time I would pull my foot out I would go deeper. I was back towards my boat and felt my sandal slipping off. That was not an option. I'm not going to lose one of my custom Chaco sandals. I haven't lost one sandal since I quit drinking. I freed my sandals and threw them in the boat and climbed on. It was a struggle. I paddled around the point and found solid ground. All I could think about was the quick sand scene in Blazing Saddles where he says, "damn near lost a $400 dollar push cart.”Well I damn near lost a $100 Chaco Sandal. I got my tent set up but my shorts were still covered in mud. I figured I would just take them off and rinse them in the river. Well wouldn't you know when I was about to drop my drawers 4 barges started Blazing up and down the river past me. I stood there getting eaten alive by mosquitos waiting for them to pass so they didn't spotlight me in my birthday suit. I decided to just take them off and get in my tent and change. I'll have to figure it out in the morning but it's better than getting bug bites in places I don't want them. All in all it was a good day on the river. 215 miles to the gulf.