Today was pretty good. We got on the water around 9 and had a strong tail wind which helped us scoot along at a pretty good clip. We stopped several times to stretch our legs and take Reggie for a walk. Before long we had made it 35 miles and we're about to enter Alton, IL. At about 4pm we started looking for a place to camp because we were unsure of the camping after Alton or the Mel Price dam (which was only a short distance away). As such we pulled up along a very small patch of sand surrounded by poison ivy which was not ideal but would do for one night. It was to the side of Harbor Point Marina and we were unsure if we were on their property or not. As such we asked and were told it should be fine. Camp went up quick and as we started cooking dinner a man on a ATV approached. We both assumed he had come over to tell us we had to leave, this however couldn't have been further from the truth. His name was Keith and he was on the board of directors for the marina and just wanted to come over to say hi and find out what we were all about. We talked for a while and he told us we could take a hot shower and to let him know if we needed anything. Keith had been living their since 1992 and had seen a lot happen and change on the river. Keith was such a genuinely caring man. He was concerned about us approaching the chain of rocks and was planning to look into options for us. He said he would come by tomorrow morning to say hi and check to see if there was anything we needed. Although he is not an official "river angel" his kindness and genuine desire to help others seems to fit the bill.
Day 58: Chain of Rocks and Big Muddy
This morning we were visited once again by Keith and promptly thanked him for letting us take a shower the night before, it was wonderful! He told us that he looked at the chain of rocks saw our intended portage route and agreed that it looked ok but would check it himself on his way to work. As we finished packing Keith took our empty water jug and filled it for us which was great because he threw it on his ATV instead of me having to carry it. When he came back we chatted a bit more, he gave us his card with email and cell phone insisting that we call him in an hour and he would tell us about the chain of rocks and then later so he knew we were okay. Keith is one of those people who by his very nature's loves others and has a big heart. Then we were off once again, down the river. We planned a short paddle, around 15mi to the Chain of Rocks. The Chain of Rocks is a large pile of boulders and debris that spans the entire width of the river, is extremely dangerous, and is portage by those who don't paddle the shipping canal. That morning I had contacted river and paddling legend Big Muddy Mike. He agreed to pick us up and let us camp at his place for the night and tomorrow to wait out the rain forecasted for Saturday. Mike and his friend Jannette picked us up later in the afternoon and wow, what a character! This guy was full of energy and it was clear he cared about paddlers. We went to his house set up our tent. Later we ate a amazing fire cooked meal of diced potato, onion, green pepper and pork chops! The four of us shared wine, food, and stories till late into the night. Janette nothing short of impressive as well. She told us about her amazing adventure from the true source of the Missouri River all the way to the Gulf of Mexico, a 200+ day adventure which she essentially did alone! They imparted wisdom unto us about paddling, the river, and life in general. They told us about the "post expedition blues," and how to work through it. We will rest here again tomorrow and then Sunday tackle the port of St.Louis and experience the Big River!