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Finding Flow on the Mighty MO

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Published on: Jun. 17, 2013

Bandaged, blistered hands. Sunburns. Numb hands and feet. Dehydration. Heat exhaustion. Elation. Huge smiles and hugs with cheering ground crews — the ones who make it all possible.

I have always been more of a float-trip guy, happy to drift with a cold beverage in hand. I entered the MR340 once because it seemed too insane, too irrational, too, well, right up my alley. My first year, I signed up two weeks before the race and showed up in a borrowed boat. I have been fortunate enough to finish each year since. Now I’ve just finished my fourth MR340 race. I found out early on that my place in the race is squarely in the middle of the pack — but no matter.

I find myself going back each year not only to test myself against the river, but to paddle with my amazing river tribe, and to push myself to extremes seldom explored in daily living. The MR340 reminds parts of me lying dormant that there are still rivers, indeed deep parts of myself, that remain unexplored, and that pondering unfathomable questions on endless rivers is sometimes better than finding the answers we seek.

What is it all for? Entering the race, let alone finishing it, is not about one thing — it’s about surviving the early morning wisps of fog-shrouded doubt, it’s about feeling the slow, almost imperceptible, warmth of the day start to build at dawn, it’s about embracing the hope to be found before the day’s headwinds awaken from their nightly slumber, it’s about facing the moments of despair on 108-degree afternoons, the moments of bewilderment that are soon followed by unexpected deep resurrection, when new-found reserves of mental and physical strength emanate from behind dusty, forgotten doors.

Focusing on simple tasks such as paddling, breathing, hydration, calories, and pace with no distractions from the outside world can be a very liberating experience. The race is about all of that. Not one thing, but many — the chance to face all that is ‘to be alive’ in a beautiful setting among friends.

Plan Your Own Missouri River Adventure

If you are interested in floating the Missouri River for an afternoon, or even from border to border at your own, self-guided pace, visit the Missouri Lewis and Clark Water Trail website, developed by the Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Conservation. It includes maps, tips, and other useful information for planning your Missouri River paddling adventure: dnr.mo.gov/ water-trail.

Discover Missouri’s rivers and streams with the updated and revised Paddler’s Guide to Missouri. Detailed sections include northern streams, the Missouri River, and floats from all corners of the state. Each waterway includes easy-to-read maps, descriptions of access points, camping, state parks, and conservation areas along the way. Gorgeous color photographs in this new, revised edition will make you want to float Missouri’s rivers soon. Available for $8 from Conservation Department Nature Shops and online at mdcnatureshop.com.

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