Jacket cover credit: Barnes and Noble
My first surprise in this book appeared when I opened the cover. The author, Karl Adams, had autographed the title page of a copy of his book and presented it to the Collins Memorial Library at the University of Puget Sound. I now had this gift in my hands thanks to the interlibrary loan program.
This was one of those books that was hard to put down. Part of this, I guess, is that it closely relates to the kind of paddling expedition that I’ve dreamed of doing. In fact, dreaming is where this story starts. As a youth, Karl had often dreamed about the expeditions that early explorers had made across our country, explorers like Ponce de Leon, Nunez Cabeza de Vaca, Hernando de Soto, and Lewis and Clark. When he retired in 1985, he decided to put together a trans-continental trip that would combine all of their routes from the Columbia River of Washington and Oregon, to the southeast coast of Florida. The route would take him up the Columbia River and Snake River. He would then portage his kayak 355 miles through the mountain passes of the Bitterroot and Rocky Mountains, pulling his kayak up through passes that reached 6,325 feet in altitude. Once he reached the Missouri River, he would paddle it to meet the Mississippi. Going down the Mississippi, he would turn up the Ohio River from Cairo, IL, for 46 miles to meet the Tennessee River at Paducah, KY. This he followed for 215 miles to meet the entrance of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway, which would take him to Mobile, AL, and the Gulf of Mexico. Turning east, he paddled the West Coast of Florida. His intention was to continue south until he rounded Cape Sable, the southern most point of the U.S. mainland, but an approaching Hurricane Floyd had him divert into the Okeechobee Waterway, which cuts across the lower part of the Florida peninsula. He rode out the storm in a motel in Stuart, and then continued south to Miami to conclude the trip.
In all, his trip would take him 5,111 miles in 201 days. He made great time during the trip, making an underway daily average of 40 miles a day. The hardest part of the trip, he said, was pulling his kayak and a couple hundred pounds of gear through the western mountain passes. The second hardest part of the trip was getting the cooperation of his wife. She threatened to divorce him when he proposed the idea of the trip, again when he bought the kayak, again when he started, and again while he was underway and vowed to continue. By the trip’s end, she decided to remain married to him, but only on the condition that their marriage would be on a daily basis. Each morning after the trip, she would let him know if she would remain married to him for yet one more day.