This photo, taken by Evan Walton just south of Quincy, Illionois, has reached the final round of SUP Connect’s SUP Photo of the Year Competition.
If you like the photo and can spare 5 seconds it would be great to immortalise this Summer’s Mississippi River Expedition with a winning photo!
One month ago today I woke up at 6am in Venice, Louisiana. The night before I’d arrived after dark having paddled a few metres short of 60 miles in 15 hours. Tired but exhilarated, it felt like I’d passed an exam. For 82 days the Mississippi River had grown, pulling me with it, and suddenly I was there, less than 30 miles and one day’s paddle from the Gulf of Mexico.
It’s a large chunk of a year to spend on the move; living out of dry bags, camping on sandbars, learning every day how to negotiate fast-flowing water and sharing an industrial navigation channel with barges and ships that always threatened to draw me under their bow.
And then, all of a sudden I was there. Paddling into the Gulf, jumping on a boat and zooming back upstream, crawling into bed, up early to catch a flight, two days later landing back in Heathrow to a greeting from my Mum and a homemade sign. Boom, I was home. It was done.
Thankful for the September sun I spread sodden camping gear out in the garden, and then set to work. Writing, planning, lecturing. Past expeditions have ended without a plan and time passed without reason, what a waste! This time the only downside has been a lack of chance to digest exactly what has happened this Summer. I look at the pictures and it feels like someone else’s expedition, who is that man standing on that board?
One month on it still hasn’t sunk in. Several of my toes are still numb, the joints in my fingers still ache, I still miss attaching my hammock - my bed - to trees just metres from my river. I may have reached the sea but the journey isn’t quite over yet.
Yet again, my life has changed and I’m not sure how to keep up. It’ll be a few more weeks before I’m ready to announce a new expedition but in the meantime I’ll get back to work and trying to make sense of it all.