It was April 1983 and I had just completed what I considered was enough of my college education, I hopped a bus in Prescott Arizona for Chicago. The idea was to head there and work for my brother in law as a carpet installer. I arrived in Chi-town safely and worked for a while with my bro in law but, well, people and things being what they are the Job didn't work out for me so I decided to take a river trip.
I had read a story or two about river travel and I think it was the story called "ultimate canoe challenge", which inspired me most.
Anyhoo, I purchased a Kit from the Folbot company (http://www.folbot.com/) and put the thing together in my sisters back yard. I cant remember exactly but it took me 5 days or so to assemble the boat.
My brother Arthur loaded me , my boat and all of my gear into his station wagon and drove me to the Fox river near Aurora, Illinois. Art pushed my boat from shore he shouted "I wish I was going with ya", secretly I wished it also. Had I known that in later years he would not be able to enjoy the outdoors, I would have made an effort to have him come with me, on at least part of the trip.
My brother and me shared many hunting, fishing and camping adventures over the years . I can with out a doubt credit him and my brother Dale with teaching me about the value of freedom, to appreciate nature, to take people at face value, and to never assume.
My decent of the 3 rivers Began around the end of April 1983 at about 2 pm. I paddled down the Fox until it began to get dark then beached my boat on small island and set up camp.
I built a small fire on the up stream end of the island, made coffee and some grub, then took in the setting sun and the subsequent stars. In the gathering twilight i can remember listening to the maple and cottonwood leaves dance on the breeze and watched the night hawks and bats swoop and dive above the river catching insects.
It was an interesting and fun evening, I was alone but not lonely, content and at peace. I mean , after all I had myself for company.
The next leg of my journey down the Fox river took me to a Dam near Sheridan, Il it is near the confluence of the fox and Illinois rivers, and just up stream from "Starved rock" state park. I portaged myself and my gear around the lock and dam then proceeded down stream.
Upon entering the Illinois river I noticed it was a beautiful and enjoyable to paddle. I had a surprise tho when I saw a dead Pig floating in the river, kinda scared me though, at first glance, I thought it was a person. needless to say i was relived to see it was porcine.
My camp was again on an Island in the river, after setting up my tent and "grubbing up" ,I noticed something interesting, there were several Owls which began to serenade me with their hoots and calls. These birds kept it up for quite a while and I was glad for their company.
I made myself busy by setting out all of my wet gear to dry over night. It was a some what feeble effort due to the humidity of summer. The Midwestern USA, in summer has some of the worst humidity I have ever experienced, right on par with places like Singapore, Qatar, or the Philippines.
Over the next few days I slowly paddled my way down to the Peoria dam near Pekin, Il. I ditched my boat in the weeds and hiked to my sisters house in Mapleton, Il about 5 or 6 miles up the trail.
My brother in law brought me back down to the river and we got my folbot loaded into his pick up. I spent the next few day exploring the historic areas around central Illinois. I visited fort creve coer, Cahokia mounds, and Dickson mounds.
I also took the time to attend a family reunion and do some fishing with my favorite brother in law Jerry. He is a good guy but never understood his attraction to my sister - to each his own I guess!
After a few days among family, I was feeling restless, so, Jerry and I loaded my boat and gear back into the pick up and he drove me back down to the river south of the Peoria dam. I cant remember the name of the park but the area is pretty with lots of lakes and ponds.
Thinking back on it I didnt paddle too far that day because I found a cool island, and actually spent 2 days camping out there and gorging myself on the food Jerry insisted I take along. Living was easy and I was not pressed for time so I just enjoyed my environment and my solitary freedom.
Eventually I headed out, there was a sudden storm one day where I was forced to beach my boat and throw up a tarp quickly to shelter from the storm, the water was a bit rough and I was not interested in getting struck by lightning. it was my 1st camp on the bank of the river.
After the storm while I was setting up camp a guy in a power boat came up and asked me if all was OK, I explained what I was doing and he seemed interested then passed me some Busch Bavarian beer (a local favorite), and some canned food.
I gratefully accepted his gifts and was immediately reminded that God works in mysterious ways and will definitely provide. I am not a religious person by any means but I have had more than my share of experiences where it seemed that the hand of divine providence was present.
We said our good byes, and I thanked the gentleman again for his generosity, he wished me good luck and expressed his envy. I continued to paddle down the river to the Alton, Illinois area, I had and accident with a submerged log and managed to puncture my boat and had to repair it with some car seat vinyl and rubber cement. while I waited for the repairs to set I ditched my gear and hiked up to see the legendary paisa bird.
The remainder of my time on the river is a blurr of camp sites, folks I met, fish I saw, deep woods, mosquitoes, ticks, fire flies, going with out food or water for a couple of days at a whack, and the overwhelming sensation of FREEDOM.
All in all I hung out on the river a total of 55 days, I got tired of being wet, the mosquitoes were really bad, The portaging around dams was tedious and tiring, and I was looking elsewhere for adventure.
I ditched my boat along the river and wrote a note on it in pen;
paddled this boat from northern Illinois
via the fox , Illinois and the mighty Mississippi rivers
taking 55 days.
Whom ever finds this boat is welcome to keep it.
I packed up my gear, then hiked up to the road from the river and proceeded to hitch hike back to Chicago. While in the city, I saw some bicycle messengers riding around, I applied for and got a Bike messenger job with a company called "Minute man", I worked in the city as a messenger for 3 years - in the winter. My summers, were spent as a wilderness guide in Montana.
But that is another story.