Cole's parents picked us up at our final campsite, we got a hotel, and then we relaxed for a few days. It took a while for the sense of accomplishment to sink in, but couldn't be any happier about the way that our journey went.
Here's more about our final week...
- Started in Natchez, MS, Ended just north of New Orleans, LA
- Miles: 265
- Average: 53 miles/day
- Points of Interest: Natchez (MS), Baton Rogue (LA), New Orleans (LA)
The Last Week
The next day we woke up to more rain. We got a late start, but still managed to paddle a significant amount of miles. We found camp about 20 miles from Baton Rogue. In celebration, we lit up a few cigars, made a big dinner, and relaxed under the full moon.
After finding some calm water, we took a break. We hated the River at that moment, and on top of our exhaustion, we needed water. So, Adam, in his grimy, muddy clothes and unkempt hair, casually walked into a really nice casino and made a beeline for the public restroom. To the surprise of a few customers, he filled up a few jugs of water from the bathroom sink and then casually strolled out of the building like nothing happened... Just another day on the river.
- The face of the water, in time, became a wonderful book--a book that was a dead language to the uneducated passenger, but which told its mind to me without reserve, delivering its most cherished secrets as clearly as if it uttered them with a voice. And it was not a book to be read once and thrown aside, for it had a new story to tell every day.
Notes from Week 9
The river from Baton Rouge on down was when we felt in the most danger. Tugs are crossing back and forth between the riverbanks and moving cargo around. The barges are some of the biggest that you'll see. The ocean freights are monsters in the water; they're silent and very fast. BE CAREFUL.
Camping gets more difficult
Between Natchez and New Orleans, finding suitable camping spots can be a bit challenging. You will need to sometimes get creative, by either camping near a factory or on a very small piece of flat land. We recommend looking for camp slightly earlier than usual along this stretch of the River.
The stretch of river from Baton Rogue to New Orleans is commonly called "Cancer Alley" by paddlers. It's heavily populated with tons of factories and you can nearly drown in the odor of the chemicals. I would think twice before bathing in the river at this point or trying to filter drinkable water out of it.
Things to do in New Orleans:
Drink a Hurricane Have beignets and cafe au lait at Cafe du Monde Enjoy a celebratory drink (perhaps the historical Sazerac) at the carousel bar in Hotel Monteleone Go to Frenchman Street for great music Catch a great view of the city from the top of the Tulane parking garage Other food options: Dante's Kitchen (for weekend brunch), The Gumbo Shop (cheap New Orleans' food), The Rum House (for tacos), Port of Call (great atmosphere, burgers, loaded baked potatoes), Magazine Street (cool shops and restaurants), Maple Street (college bars), find a place to get oysters in a half-shell
Looking back... A reflection on our journey
The last night on the River had an odd feeling about it because it didn't feel like we had really just paddled the whole Mississippi River. It reminds us of a quote from Gretchen Rubin: "the days are long but the years short." Some of our most specific memories are the worst days that we had: the day we almost died, when we got dehydrated, when we nearly lost all of our gear. Yet, overall, this trip was an incredible one. We will miss the people, the beautiful landscapes, the river's challenges.
Overall, we couldn't be happier that we successfully navigated the length of the Mississippi River. We can confidentially say that it was the hardest thing we have ever done. Would we recommend it to others? Yeah. Why not?