Magic on the Low Water Mississippi 2023 ~ from Possum's Log
Lower Mississippi River Dispatch No. 922 "Voice of the Lower Mississippi River" 25th Anniversary of the Quapaw Canoe Company Clarksdale, MS ~ Memphis, TN ~ Wilson, AR ~ Vicksburg, MS photos & text (c) 2023 Layne Logue except where otherwise noted
Possum's Log, Stardate Oct 16-21, 2023, in the 25th year of our service to our Queen the Mighty Mother Mississippi! In this issue the mighty Water Possum (Capt. Layne Logue) describes the day-by-day action and adventures of a week-long low water expedition on the Lower Mississippi River: namely this year's edition from our good friend and fellow earth traveller, Dave Cornthwaite and his 2023 Magic on the Mississippi. (We are in another historic low water year, so this is also important photo & written documentation!) For video clips and more photos, go to Layne's Facebook or Instagram Page. We all knew Water Possum was a fine gentleman and all around good-hearted man. But did you know he also plays guitar? And is also a great writer & journal keeper? Keep reading below as the Mighty Possum curls his tail in the wee-wee hours before first light, and wets his pen, and shares the story:
Magic on the Mississippi Oct 16-21, 2023 Magic People 2023: Dave Cornthwaite Bex Gunn Anna Pumer Bex Sims Jonathan Scully Barry Smith Pete Barty Becky Deeley Forrest Ann Carter Arthur Murphy Gilly Spence Kev Lochun Joanna Moore Céili Hale Mighty Quapaws John “Driftwood” Ruskey Heather “River Otter” Crosse Mark “River” Peoples Layne “Water Possum” Logue
Magic on the Mississippi River!
Day 1 of 6
Paddled 11.2 miles today
Dave Cornthwaite and his amazing group of people from England! Also joined with us… a couple of local USA people too… that saw this trip and decided they wanted IN! (Smart people!). Launched at Quapaw Landing (Helena gage -4.4!! Wow). We have 3 voyageur canoes and 3 stand-up-paddleboards. The wind was strong in our face for 4-5 miles… it was choppy water and it didn’t help with the northbound towboat making big waves. But the SUPs did great! Then the wind died down a bunch. We saw a pair of bald eagles right before our Island campsite… that was a great blessing! We landed at our campsite close to sunset. We quickly setup our tents and made the kitchen. Heather Crosse made her special seafood gumbo recipe with shrimp, crawfish and ahi tuna! Served over white rice! It was incredible! Sunset was amazing too. Pelicans came by to say hey. Most everyone is still at the campfire enjoying the fire and darkness (no moon). The coyotes are howling and there is a hoot owl close by. Good night from the Magic on the Mississippi River!
Ps… we miss you Emma Karembo Cornthwaite And Nick Burrows!… Becky said hey from you! Love you brother!
Pss… I missed last years Magic on the Sip… and this year… doing this trip brought back all the great memories of my first two trips with you Brits! Andy Lean, Anna Keoshgerian, Jay Hall, Rachel Rowson, Helen Spencer, Simoné (sp?), Scott L Wallis, Ian Preedy… so many other great friends!
Magic on the Mississippi River! Day 2 of 6 Paddled 6.4 miles (10.3 km) today Low morning temp of 44 degrees (6.67 °C for you Brits 😁) No moon and the stars are in full view at 5:00am. I missed the memo of meeting at 6:30am … so I got up as we usually do at 5am. But the campfire wasn’t going… no coffee… no ….. body. lol. So, I got the campfire going and started taking pictures of the stars with the surrounding area. At 6:30am, River and John showed up and wondering why I was there early. lol. No worries. River started frying bacon and I cut the apples for the Tower Rock Crunch (fried cinnamon apples and toasted oatmeal). Breakfast was amazing! That’s one of River’s original recipes. The topping of strawberries, blueberries, kiwi, BACON, orange slices and honey… was awesome. We all break down our tents after the dew evaporated from it. And loaded up the kitchen and all the dry bags and shoved off! There was a lot of towboat traffic and there was 4 northbound pulled over for a southbound coming thru. Stopped at a nice sandbar for lunch that had a nice gravel bed. As we setup… they treasure hunted for fossils, petrified wood… etc. Back on the water in an hour and made our campsite island at 2pm. This is another island campsite. These islands are BIG and have huge sandbars(because of very low water). We set up our tents and River and I got free time from John & Heather. They setup the kitchen. So River and I got to take a 1.5 hour nap!!! It was BEAUTIFUL! The breeze was lightly blowing thru our tents and we had wild birds and woodpeckers all around us (in a nice way). I heard cheering like a soccer game … they were playing a game on the sandbar that had the word “Piggy” in it. One thing I forgot to mention yesterday… apparently British people LOVE milk in their coffee and tea! And guess what we didn’t bring! Yep. MILK! The mutiny was averted when they figured out they couldn’t actually leave us. So, we remained friends. I have an idea to find a towboat parked and call them on the radio and ask if I can “borrow” some milk… because of some British people need it in their tea. I’m not sure how that is going to be received by the towboat Captain. But that is our QUEST FOR MILK. This sounds like a Monty Python skit. Sounds like fun to me. To be continued… Dinner tonight was my wife’s family recipe: vegetable beef soup… and I made some without beef (vegan style). We ate it all. River chopped garlic and boiled it in olive oil and we poured it over toasted French bread. It hit the spot! Everyone is around the campfire telling stories and talking about the day. Towboats are still running right now (they run all night). And because we are not around any big towns … we don’t have any light pollution… and the stars are all visible! The sky is incredible and we like to say that we “Sleep in a billion star hotel”. As I write this in my tent… the crickets are chirping and frogs are making noise too. Good night from the Magic on the Mississippi River!
Magic on the Mississippi River!
Day 3 of 6
Paddled 8.0 miles today.
Every night.. the coyotes howl and bark… and i was able to record them. So the first video will be dark… but you can hear the coyotes. I love hearing the coyotes howl! It really reaffirms to me that I am in 100% nature.
Today… I’m going to talk about some of our day to day operations we do on our canoe camping trips.
Cleaning dishes, Dutch ovens, cutting boards, knives, tables etc: we use the sand from the river to rub/scrape away the food. Then rinse with river water and air dry on the tables. Every person is responsible for cleaning their plate /bowl and eating utensil. We clean everything else. The Dutch ovens can require more “elbow grease” (hard work) especially after fried bacon. FYI… Our Dutch ovens are actually anodized hardened aluminum… not cast iron.
Wednesday morning… same thing as yesterday. Sunrise 7:09am. Wake up 6:00am and enjoy the quiet darkness. River gets to the campsite first and starts the campfire. Cuts up the 3 lbs bacon into small pieces. Gets hot water boiling, coffee and Ginger tea going. The twilight of the sun brings light and the birds start singing. I cut up apples and pineapple for the Tower Rock Crunch (oatmeal). People start to mosey in and are drawn to the campfire. We have a cooking fire and a community fire. Sand tends to get into the food when we have one fire. Today’s low morning temp was 11.1°C (52°F) and the high temp today will be 25.6°C (78°F). It will be a little breezy on the river today with a 10-15 mph SSW. It’s 10:00am and our tents have dried from the dew… so, me and River will breakdown our tents and pack out our gear… and head down to the kitchen/canoes and get ready to pack it all up again into the canoes.
We launched from our island and the wind was the predicted 10-15 mph. It was right in our face. The canoe’s handle it easily… but the SUPs had to work hard today. We paddled ahead of the SUPs… so we stopped paddling on the river and just started to drift. And while we were waiting for Jo, John and Bex (stand-up-paddle boards) catch up to us… John got out his guitar and played some river tunes! The SUPs were still back pretty far back there… so we decided to make land and have lunch. After lunch …everyone but River and I went on a nature hike. (We needed to watch the canoes). We had a powwow after lunch about the Thursday possible rain and where we wanted to camp out and be protected from it. So we decided to paddle another hour to reach a good campsite. The island is awesome. We parked our canoes and SUPs in a nice cove and it was low enough to pull up our canoes and set up the kitchen in a great spot overlooking the river. Then the island had a fairly steep rise by 30-40 feet. We all went up there and found our own private area to set up our tents. There was plenty of driftwood… also known as firewood. So we all collected enough firewood for cooking dinner, night fun and morning firewood to cook breakfast. We always cover our morning pile of firewood with a tarp to stop dew from wetting the wood. River made spaghetti and his handmade meatballs… served with French bread topped with fresh chopped garlic and olive oil… and shredded parmesan. River rationed out the large meatballs to 3. But there was a bunch more for seconds.
While eating around the campfire… funny English (British) words became a topic of conversation. “Having a SCRAN” is eating a little food… was one example.
Another cool thing… Starlink (satellites) passed right over us! It was big and easy to see.
There is a slight chance of rain coming in the morning from 3am to 9am… and I HOPE it rains! I love the sound of rain hitting my tent fly. And if it drizzles to 9am… we get to have a late wake up time! Wooooo!
After they ate and we cleaned up the kitchen… and batten down the hatches in case of a storm. And I’m tired… so it’s time for me to go to my tent. I say goodnight and left the campfire ring of paddlers.
It’s dark now in my tent and I can hear the paddlers laughing and having a great time. The coyotes start howling… and we can’t have that in OUR neighborhood unchecked!… so the Campfire Pack of Paddlers start howling back! They did a really good job at mimicking the coyotes! It all got quiet after they replied back. I guess the coyotes were confused … or scared! While writing this in my tent… the bushes and weeds outside my tent started leaf crunching and rustling like footsteps. It’s an armadillo for sure. They bulldoze into the ground/sand looking for food. I poke my head outside my tent with a flashlight hoping to see it… but it stopped walking and eventually walked away. A barred (hoot) owl is close… and a screech owl lets out a call too. Then it’s quiet and just the crickets chirping. It’s really peaceful and relaxing hearing the crickets while I sleep. They chirp all night. Good night from Magic on the Mississippi River!
Magic on the Mississippi River!
Day 4 of 6
Paddled 0 miles today! Woo!
Today we are going stay on the same island to rest and relax and take a hike around the island.
Around 3am… light rain came tapping on my tent. And it drizzled on and off till 6am. It couldn’t have been a little heavier rain for me… but was still very nice! At 7:00am, I walk to camp and see River chopping bacon. There 2-3 paddlers at the campfire. They are in charge of getting hot water and tea. As I was walking down… I noticed a towboat parked on the other side of the river from us. Ah ha!!! The Quest of the Milk is looking good! John Ruskey comes down and he noticed it too! He said talk to the Captain and I’ll go over on my Stand-Up-Paddleboard! So, I call the M/V WHIT GOLDING and politely explain our dire circumstances… I mean British people may die here if they don’t get milk in their tea! The Captain says… sure. No problem. Come on over!! John gets in his swimsuit and paddles over! I take pictures and everyone is excited. John makes the milk delivery pickup and paddles back to us! The last 10 feet … John does a 360 donut on the SUP and falls into the river! We all cheer! Dave flew his drone and captured some great video too.
The Quest for Milk is COMPLETE! Breakfast is still Tower Rock Crunch and finish breakfast and John & Heather take the group for a 2 hour island hike. I heard they got real close to a big beaver. Lunch upon their return and some swimming is going on now. Dave and Bex Sims did a headstand in the SUPs. Dave has never been able to do it and Bex showed him how. See video. John & Heather are cooking tonight’s dinner. Raft Potatoes. It’s cheesy potatoes with eggs, bell pepper etc. John made this when he was rafting the Mississippi River with his friend Sean Rowe. John tells River and I … y’all are off till dinner is ready! Wooooooooooooo! Am I taking a needed nap? No… I’m writing a song. Behold…. Our first song as a group. John brought his guitar and Heather brought her bass. And I brought a guitar. So.. we formed a band. Captain Red River Otter and the River Rat Medicine show Premieres tonight! Riot on island 63 (Written by Water Possum) It was October …. 2023 The news came out…. There’s no milk for the tea I heard “how can that be? No milk for the tea?” I’m Sad to say it’s true … not even for the coffee! There’s a riot going on… There’s a riot going on… There’s a riot going on….up on island 63. Cause there’s no milk for the tea! Just the next day… As the sun came on out We spotted a towboat…. I said Driftwood I got you a route! So off Driftwood went… Into the dark river With a smile on his face… HE said I CAN DELIVER! But there’s a riot going on… There’s a riot going on… There’s a riot going on….up on island 63. Cause there’s no milk for the tea! The Towboats name … Was the Whit Golding And they saved the day… From the British rioting! But we remember that day… On island 63 When they heard the news… There’s no milk for the tea There’s a riot going on… There’s a riot going on… There’s a riot going on….up on island 63. Cause there’s no milk for the tea! (Blues Brothers “Riot in cell block number nine”. That’s what I based it off of) After dinner we jammed! I taught the Brits the chorus and surprised them with the lyrics. … and now we just got through playing around the campfire and it’s WAY past my bed time. It takes a ton of energy to guide and cook and clean and carry the kitchen. But we had a blast around the campfire. I evenplayed harmonica … and btw… I don’t play harmonica. But I gave it a go! Beautiful day on the Mississippi River. Btw… Anna reads out my daily “Possum’s Log” by the campfire. Thank you Anna… you make me smile SO BIG! Good night from Magic on the Mississippi!
Magic on the Mississippi River!
Day 5 of 6
Paddled 12.5 miles today
During the night, several flocks snow geese flew over our tents. You could hear them from far away. It’s like the Canada geese but without the honk and a higher pitch frequency. It’s amazing that they fly all night.
I get up at 6:00am and John already has the campfire going… and water ready to boil. The twilight of the sunrise lights up the river in brilliant oranges and blues. There are no towboats going by… so, it’s a very peaceful quiet river… with the occasional water wave splashing on the shore. Groceries are getting down to last bags… but River bought the right amount of groceries and we brought the right amount of water too. For 18 people, we brought 90 gallons of water for 6 days. (Our summer rule of thumb is 1 gallon per person per day). But that’s close enough. On colder days or not hot days… we don’t drink as much.
Today was a little hot day on the river. So… it became a swim day on the river … while we’re paddling. Hijinks ran amuck and people on paddle boards were getting knocked off. Although the river was a little chilly… it felt great after a few seconds in it.
We saw our first flock of pelicans (American White pelicans) sitting on shore. They have a 9-10 foot wingspan and are the second largest wingspan in North American behind the California Condor. They need that wide wingspan to lift that heavy body.
When we stopped for lunch on a nice big sandbar… the Coast Guard Kanawha came by and was setting the Red buoys. That was cool to see. I have a river friend that is a Master Chief for the Coast Guard boat Greenbrier. I told him that Chris Stover needed to tighten up. He got a good laugh from it. And now I’m river friends with Senior Chief Joesph Moore on the C/G Kanawha!
The sun got hotter and the breeze was here and there. And no clouds in the sky. I didn’t look it up…. But I think it got to 85 degrees today (29.4 °C).
We found a possible campsite… and then we paddled down for what we thought was a better campsite. But we voted and decided the first campsite better. So… we paddled back upstream for 30 minutes to the first campsite.
John and Heather setup the kitchen and River and I made the dinner. Taco Night! Taco meat, tortillas, refried beans, black beans, shredded cheese, salsa, lettuce and chopped onions. It was so good!
We all sit around the campfire eating our tacos and watched the awesome sunset!
We quickly cleaned up the kitchen and off to our tents we go.
Since it’s our last tomorrow… us guides have to be packed out at 5:30am. This makes sure that the Magic group can leave at the required time.
Right now… There’s something walking around my tent. I think it’s a whitetail deer. It ran off. Me, River and John & Heather all camped on top of the bluff in the woods. Everyone else camped on the sandbar below us.
Good night from the Magic on the Mississippi!
Magic on the Mississippi River! Day 6 of 6 Paddled 10 miles today to Finish at Terrene Landing (north of Rosedale). Our last day with Dave Cornthwaite’s Magic On The Mississippi. River and I are excited it’s our last day… I get to go home to Vicksburg to see my wife, Claire and River gets to go home and watch all the recorded football games. We both LOVE where we are going! It hurts having to say goodbye to our new friends that we’ve shared so many great experiences together… and learned about each other. But this is the timeframe we have together … and we can happily say we maximized it to the fullest! The Mississippi River flows thru them now and these memories with always be closely to our hearts. Today is John “Driftwood” Ruskey’s birthday!! 60 years young! Early rise at 4:45am on island 69. No moon and it’s dark dark. Pack my tent and gear …. In the dark dark. lol. Did I mention it was dark? It is! …and very little dew on my tent. That’s awesome. … and try to find my way down the 30 foot slope covered with “Which Weed” and tall grass. I couldn’t find our “path”… so I just blazed my way thru it. I might have fallen down a couple times on my butt. But we’ll keep that a secret right here. At the campsite, John has the campfire going and Dave slept next to it last night. It’s 5:30am and time to get an early start so we can get this group on time for their next adventure. Breakfast has been reduced to “Tower Rock” … no “Crunch” (bacon)… as supplies are dwindling down. We even heated up leftovers from Raft Potatoes. Which was so good again. Plenty of oranges though… this group didn’t eat a lot of them. As soon as we start moving plates and bowls… making a small racket… people start coming down to the campfire to enjoy each second of the last day. John Ruskey gets on the guitar and keeps us happy around the campfire. and while we prepare breakfast. A Bald Eagle has made several passes over us and we wave back each time. We use the name Wambli. It’s a Lakota Sioux Native American word for Eagle. The river is busy with wildlife today. Snow Geese have flown by too. There are big hugs going around and a few tears too. It’s starting to get light and most people are at the campfire getting tea and coffee. The sunrise was stunning one with a dark burnt orange color. Very similar to our sunset last night. As we’re eating breakfast … just downstream 75 yards at the shore and steep river bank… a family of beavers came down from the woods to swim (maybe escape predators … which they might thought was us). They mainly sleep in the day and come out at night. We guess Mom is the biggest one and has two kids to watch over. They swim in the water and walk around on the river bank. It was fun to watch them. John draws out our last stretch of river in the sand and explains the Big Island which we are near. It’s a 20,000 acre island formed by the White River, the Arkansas River and the Mississippi River. There’s a fishing tournament going on today and we see 4-5 fishing boats. And hear the annoyance from the towboat Captains on the radio and even hear the towboats give out several one horn blasts. Meaning “you gotta move”. Earlier … we heard a towboat give a 5 horn blast… at Scrubgrass Bend. That’s equivalent to your Mom calling you by your full name, shaking her finger at you and getting a switch to whoop your butt. Towboat’s are saying loosely “you are going to die if you stay there”. I thinks that similar to a Moms warning of “I brought you into this world and I’ll take you out of it too!” All three canoes are packed: Glacier (blue), Parakeet (yellow) and Grasshopper (wooden) and we got three people on the three SUPs Bex Gunn, Joanna and Dave. We are a river caravan! Anna Pumer, Kev, Gilly, and Céili are my crew and they amazingly and quickly came up with a Sea Shanty song about “Layne and Driftwood adventures getting milk for the tea” and Driftwoods birthday. It’s so good. I filmed the first verse… but they made 2 more later just as good! I can see why sailors and pirates like to sing on boats. It’s fun and it tells your story of adventure! We pass by the confluence of the White River which has a Lock & Dam for rowboats wanting to get to the Arkansas River and then the old White River that has turned into an island back channel for the Mississippi. Sea shanty for Driftwood Johnnie Sing to the Sea Shanty tune (Written by Anna, Kev, Gilly and Céili on Captain Possum’s canoe Glacier while paddling the Mississippi River) Verse 1 There once was a ship on the Mississippi And the name of the game was milk for the tea Layne called ahead to the whit golding and hatched a plan that morning Chorus Soon then the Driftwood comes paddling with milk and rum Round Driftwood spun and spun And fell in to the water Verse 2 There once was a man who turned 60 Right on the banks of the Mississippi His name was John driftwood ruskey So we hatched a plan that morning Chorus Happy birthday chum, we hope you enjoy some tea and rum Thanks for all you have done You’re a legend on the water Once the first verse and chorus was set… Anna called Bex Gunn and Joanna over on their SUPs to teach them the song. We stop on a nice sandbar for a Smudge Ceremony with sage and got a nice group picture. Then Dave gets out his drone and has us hop around and then says scatter! We all run in different directions and twirl around like we’re butterflies crossing the river! It was hilarious! And I can’t wait to see the videos that Dave edits!! We go around Victoria Bend in the river. It’s fast! This is notorious section on the Mississippi River for shoaling and CLOSING DOWN THE RIVER! (Because it’s too shallow for towboats to pass. YOU SHALL NOT PASS! Is what it says from time to time). There’s several really nice house up on the Left Bank Descending and some people see us and wave. We said our “Whoo Whoop!” back at them. Terrene Landing is up ahead on the tall left back. Probably 50 feet high from the river surface right now. The boat ramp ran out of room because of the historic low level… so they added some articulated concrete mat to extend the ramp. Our 20 ft trailer still drops off into the steep river! So we needed some help pulling the full loaded canoes onto the trailer. Our trailer gets two canoes on it and we pull up one at a time. Smooth Ellis is our shuttle driver and pulls us right on out! We have to adjust the canoes and move the heavy weight into the front of the canoes on the trailer and secure any lightweight stuff from flying out on the road trip back to Clarksdale. On the road! It takes around 45 minutes to make it back to Quapaw Canoe Company in Clarksdale, Mississippi. We’re sharing pictures and videos and laughing at our adventures. At Clarksdale, We’re in full unpack mode! River sets up and makes lunch. Everything gets put away and we say goodbye to our new river rat friends! John’s birthday party is tonight and they don’t want me to leave… so…They all surround me and give me a huge group hug! (They might have been trying to kidnap me. from leaving). That’s the best way to be appreciated! I don’t need to be paid in dollars… just hugs! I miss you all… Dave, Anna, Gilly, Kev, Céili, Bex, Bex, Joanna, Becky, Ann, Barry, Pete, Arthur, John … and feel blessed you were a part of my life story for six days. Cheers and hope to see you again! WHOO WHOOP! Captain Water Possum
…Continued from Anna Pumer Downing
The final day on the river Mississippi… I’m currently at Memphis airport wishing I was putting up my tent in a sandbar! Layne left us before the party so I’ll add the details of the evening…
We got to John’s house in Clarkesdale, which is a huge lodging ranch so we all had a bed and a shower - luxury!
We then headed out for dinner, then went to a bar called the Shack Up Inn, which was 10 miles away, so rather than get cabs we all hopped aboard the big canoe that was on a trailer towed by John’s truck and rode in (illegal! 😂) style to the bar! We sang all the way, and when we got to the chorus of Proud Mary we happened to pass under a bridge with great acoustics so John stopped the car while we bellowed out the chorus. I have a video of it!
This bar we were going to had been hired out for a birthday party and we were invited. Word got around Clarkesdale so fast that it even got back to our group 😂 “did you know we have 14 Brits coming tonight?!” “Yeah… that’s us” 😂
We got to the bar and it was so American 😂 I’ll do another post with my own photos and videos so you can see the place. Blues bands played, and we danced. Bex Gunn beat Dave Cornthwaite at ping pong which he’ll never live down. Talking of which, that night he agreed to have a showdown with Céili Hale, who is a champion doughnut hole eater. Her record is 48 in 3 minutes 42!! He woke up this morning very much regretting agreeing to it, so decided that a race to eat 6 was a more sensible option. Of course Ceili won 😂 excellent tactics that have to be seen 😂
We then sang John his sea shanty that we wrote on a canoe, and brought multiple people to tears! Another video I’ll add to the next post!
What a bunch of legends everyone in our group is. I have so many lovely new friends! ❤️ can’t wait to see you all at Yestival!
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