Week One – The beginning
On January 03, my river rat friend, Bret, picked my up from Stori’s house. We took my kayak across Lake Pontchartrain to the Rigolets Marina. Crossing Lake Pontchartrain with the wind conditions was just not advisable. Bret hung out with me as duck hunters were pulling in their boats. They asked where I was off to kayak. Bret told them as I was packing my kayak to go. My nerves were stirring, but I was off. I pushed off on Expedition Inspire.
My Seaward Kayak is 19′ of a pure expedition kayak. It is long, slim, mad meant to move. I had all my gear in the hatches and a lot more on the top deck. I weighed it down a bit with sand to have it sit lower in the water. This kayak has a very high weight capacity. That being said, I am also 6’4″ and 264 pounds. The height will not change, but the weight will. I have a lot of upper body that made the first few day interesting. I did not, but I am very quickly developing my core strength. My core will be solid in about a month. I made it past Little Lake and Pearl River. The river was running quickly due to the rain from up north. I was on the lookout for camping locations. One side of the river was a grassy marsh and the other was a thin strip of land for the railroad tracks. I neared the river facing the Gulf of Mexico. The trip was on. I went under the tracks and saw some hard land, but I was not excited about it. I turned around and headed 100yards back upstream. I saw this thin grassy area that had a big log that would protect me from any incoming water. The land was raised off the river as well. I pulled my kayak in between the log and the land and tied it up for the evening.
I was feeling a little off that day, but I realized I had not ate or drank enough. I think it was the nerves and lack of sleep from the night before. The sun was setting and I knew I only had a short amount of time to set up, eat and turn in. The sun set at 5:10 that evening. I am fortunate enough to be quick with my gear set ups and making dinner. I polished off a MRM protein shake and set up my bivy sack for sleep while the food was cooking. I ate and just smiled. The mosquitos were out in force. I figured I would’ve a little blood back to Mother Nature for the experience I was happening. Don’t worry, I plan on this being the only time I do that. I was told of wild boars and gators were where I was sleeping. I pushed my luck and hoped for the best that night. I ended up getting an amazing and long nights sleep.
The next day, I left late. I was simply enjoying the location where I was set up. Once I took off, I noticed the winds were going to be a challenge. I crossed Heron Bay even though it was choppy and risky. I was still getting the balance down on my kayak. I made it across without spilling and landed on the other side of the peninsula. I set my tent up on the marsh. I had a great view of a beautiful southern sunset. It was going to be a little windy and chilly that night, so I turned in by 6:00. I woke up from there to the winds howling at me from the northeast. This was going to make my go up the coast quite challenging. I hugged the coast but managed to tip near shore. I fought it, but my body just got tired. The water was cold, but not like the Pacific Ocean. I managed to get back into the kayak as I could stand where I spilled. I got back in and headed out to sea. I had done this when I was on the Pacific. The Gulf is not the Pacific. There was an erratic lake like chop hitting me from the front and side. I spilled again. This time, I grabbed my kayak and swam to shore. I was in the water for 20 minutes.
I landed and was not happy. I was cold, tired, wet, and miserable. I actually questioned what I was doing. My best friend called me and was quick to give me some tough love. She said I can cry over it for an hour and then figure out how to make it work or quit. This was not what I wanted to hear, but she knew me well. I do not, have not, and will not quit. The exception is if I die, come way too close to dying, or lose my arms. I set up my tent and got out of my wet clothes. Once out of the wind, my mind began to work towards a positive solution. Giving up is just something I do. I had about 2 more hours of light, but decided to call it for the day. That night, it got down to 33 degrees with a heavy wind. I pulled my ivy sack into my tent to give me more warmth. This is where a 4 season tent would come in handy.
The next morning, I decided to cut throughout the marsh. It would add some extra time, but I would be out of the wind. There were a lot of tight turns, which my kayak is not designed to do, but it was so peaceful paddling throughout the marsh. I know I will not have many opportunities to do that in the future. I made it through it and came upon a marina. I met some local guys and they got a few images of me. I paddled up a channel, and I see this guy working on his boat. I asked him if he knew anybody in the houses so I could stay on dry land that night. He told me I could come aboard and stay on his boat. Jeff, just turned in his apartment keys and this was his first night on his boat. He is retired Air Force and was a good guy. He had a pork loin in the crock pot, but that would not be ready for awhile. So, we went to the Silver Slipper Casino. He was a dealer there for about two years. He got a couple comps and we enjoyed the buffet. I was simply grateful for not only a place to sleep that night, but a good meal. Jeff drove me around the area to show me what I would be paddling in. The water was busy, but completely manageable. I was excited about being able to simply pull up to the beaches and land. No surf. No monster swells. Just pull right on up. We stayed up talking about the boat life for both of us and about life in general.
The next day, we spent some time at his friend’s place, Pee Wee. Pee Wee had made it through Katrina. His town was ground zero for that storm. He had plenty of stories and insight about those events. It was a pleasure just to listen to him talk. I decided to take that day off. That evening, he interviewed me and we stayed up talking late into the night. He is a good guy that has a fun new lease on life with his boat, the Miller Time. The next morning, the fog had moved in. I wanted to launch, against my own better judgment, but I did anyways. I said my see you alters and headed out. Once out in the main water, I could not see 20′. The fog was thick and not letting up. I was having a challenging time keeping any balance due to not being able to see any type of horizon. I called Jeff and headed back. We ended up running around that day and then heading out that night. It was Friday. We went to Bay Saint Louis. We bounced between a couple bars and had a good night. The next day, I was off. I moved down the coastline and made it to Bay Saint Louis. I made it to their marina and tied up. I talked with a few people that evening, but it was cool and I wanted to turn in early. I ate and crashed out to the sounds of the wind and the live music in the city.
I woke up in the middle of the night. I heard my kayak banging against the pillars. they did not have floating focus like on the west coast. I had to reposition it before heading back to sleep. I could feel the cold front beginning. It is winter here in the South and I am paddling through it. I took off in the morning and only made it to Pass Christian. I was fighting 20-30 knot winds and the cold. There was a small craft advisory, but I needed to push onward. I made it to the harbor and locked my kayak up for the night. This is where good things happened. My best friend put out a call for anyone in the area to possibly host me for the night. It was going to drop down to 27 degrees that night. That is border line too cold to camp with the current gear I have. Her old friend from elementary school has a father-in-law who has a dad in the area. So Stephanie (Jen’s friend) got hold of Tony who got hold of Jim. Jim picked me up from the marina and brought me to the Bay Town Inn Bed and Breakfast in Bay St. Louis for the night. They got me a room and I was able to stay warm for the night. The place is owned by Nikki Moon and she could not have been more kink. She is a southern woman in all the best ways.
I have been on this expedition for a week now and I have already met some of the kindest people. I always say that there are good people everywhere, you just have to get out to go meet them. I know I will be able to meet some amazing people on this journey. I am talking with them and documenting the entire trip. I will develop a more strait forward approach to my weekly updates on my blog. I will spend some time on each Sunday writing about my week. If I have a random great day, I will be posting about that as well. This is going to be a long and challenging journey. Time to go enjoy the ride.
Never. Miss.A. Moment.
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