June 20, 2010–Rip Rap Landing (Mile 265)

Made a leisurely morning exploration of Hannibal.  I am in the midst of reading Twain’s “Life on the Mississippi” and am able to glimpse some comparisons between his time and mine.  I contemplated the wharf area, long stretches of the pavement eroding away to reveal the old worn red brick beneath, and envisioned the sleepy Southern town bursting into activity at the sight of a steamboat rounding the point, black smoke billowing from her stacks (the result of pitch pine added to the fires to create a grandiose effect).  Freight and passengers exchanged in a teeming rush, the boat would cast off, and the town promptly returning to its somnolent state.  I received no such commotion at my departure.

The river had risen another two feet overnight, so I expected to make good time.  Hannibal is protected by a large levee, separating it from the wharf and railroad tracks.  Two large steel gates can be closed to wall the town off from the rising river, though at this point there is little to fear.  Twenty-five miles or so downriver I stopped in the town of Louisiana, much like Hannibal, but without the Twain legacy and the associated tourism and cash it brings.  It was Sunday late afternoon, and the town was absolutely dead.  Walking up Georgia St., the main avenue to the water, I came upon a narrow two-story brick building that had partially collapsed, revealing a pile of bricks, porcelain bath hardware, and archaic wallpapering.  I purchased a few provisions and moved on.

I was determined to make as many miles today as possible, which proved to be an error in judgment, as I pitched my camp in near darkness.  This resulted in my discovering much too late, and to my horror, that I had made camp in a dense thicket of poison ivy.  I was thus obliged to spend the rest of the evening bathing in four inches of thick muddy water, for to achieve a greater depth would have meant a long walk out into the channel in these flood conditions.  I have packed all tainted articles securely and will seek a laundry as soon as I can.  My bedding is once again completely sodden, though the temperature makes them unnecessary.  They do reek with a powerful odor, however.  Further dampening my spirits this evening, was the ominous rumbling and flashing which appeared all around me.  My campsite was mere inches above the water line, this area being quite flat, and I anticipate waters lapping at the edge of my tent presently.  I hope the remainder of the evening will not be spent sleeping in the boat.

Day 37:  44 Mi., 2 Locks

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