Finding Flow on the Mighty MO

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Published on: Jun. 17, 2013

day is finally gone, and I drift for quite some time as I float past Rocheport at mile marker 186.5 — virtually the halfway point of the race. An eagle lands in its nest in high trees on the right bank. Numerous turkey vultures ride the thermals above the bluffs. Maybe they’re eyeing me as their next meal, I muse. At many points along this stretch, cyclists on the Katy Trail State Park seem to appear out of nowhere from behind forested banks. The Rocheport to Jefferson City stretch is one of the most scenic, with 100-foot-high bluffs along one bank, making it an unforgettable float with the moon as your guide.

The sky soon cascades into deep blues and purples with a sunset I will never forget. A full moon throughout the race allows paddlers to make miles until 3 a.m., or for some paddlers, to paddle all night long.

The navigation lights on the kayaks far ahead and behind me look like a faint string of Christmas tree lights curving their way down the river. The evening paddling on tranquil stretches under full moons renews spirits and elevates us. The slow meanders of the river seem to pull us along, with promises of new discoveries around each bend.

Soon, we ride atop the moon’s silver tongue on a river of black ink. My mind struggles to put a name to the blackened banks, the blackened river, the different shades of black, the empty spaces that are vacuum packed with absolute darkness. As the miles meander by, the only constant becomes the flow of this artery of the planet’s life force, immeasurable force flowing down deep, flowing forever, largely enveloped in silence.

This is a fleeting moment of disconnectedness with man’s worship of hurry, man’s constructed world of not enough time. But it is a palpable connection to what is real. Here, life around you has reached equilibrium. Life stripped to its simplest level of appreciation, where dipping a paddle into a silent, sleeping river is enough.

It’s 2 a.m. and the moon is dipping low. I make it to a broad sandbar at Marion Bottoms, mile marker 160, just above Jefferson City. A quick three-hour nap allows me to be up by 5 a.m., back in the boat by 5:15 a.m., and to make the Jefferson City checkpoint by 8:30 a.m. to meet up with my ground crew.

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