More often than not, I’ll come across the story of a true outdoorsman that makes me want to relinquish my title of “Kentucky Adventure Representative”. There is literally a state (and country) full of people living the outdoor lifestyle better than I could ever imagine. Lately, I read a tale from my hometown about a fellow sailing down the Mississippi by way of paddleboard (!). Here’s the article by Charlotte Smith, as originally published in Western Kentucky’s oldest newspaper, the Hickman Courier.“Paddling” down the Mississippi Gnade finds refuge in Hickman
“Everyone in Hickman has been so nice,” said Garrett Gnade, a west Texas traveler passing through town last week. “With a storm approaching I needed to get out of the weather and Hickman was my safe haven for a couple of days.”
Since Gnade was traveling the Mississippi River on a 12 foot stand up paddle board he looked pretty disheveled and was covered in mud. “They don’t call it the ‘Muddy Mississippi’ for nothing,” he said. “I looked like a hobo, but as I traveled the streets of Hickman on my way to Broadway Pizza people waved at me, making me feel very welcome in this little river town.”
Gnade decided to order a pizza, something that hasn’t been on his menu during the last 151 days when he began his journey. While ordering he inquired about lodging and was given the name of Pat Parnell from the employees at Broadway Pizza.
On Wednesday afternoon, Jan. 25 Parnell opened up one of her apartments located on Jackson Street to Gnade. “It was nice to get out of the elements and I have been spoiled by the comforts of a mattress underneath me,” said Gnade, who usually camps out at night and keeps warm and cooks by a fire he builds.
Gnade began his “Mississippi Source to Sea Expedition” on August 28 in Lake Itaska, Minnesota. “This is the first source of the Mississippi River,” he said. “It is about five feet wide at the start and only six inches deep.”
Unseasonably warm weather and the rise in the Ohio River, which flows into the Mississippi, has aided Gnade in his journey aboard his stand up paddle board, which resembles a surfboard. “It has the same exact design as a surfboard, but on a different scale,” he said. “It has the same lines of a surfboard, just exaggerated.”
During the day Gnade wears a wet suit to stay dry, just in case he falls in. Keeping his gear dry is another concern of Gnade’s, who watches for debris as he paddles his way downstream toward New Orleans, Louisiana.
Gnade started his journey on an 11-foot board with a partner. “My partner became ill and the weight of my gear became heavier, so I had to switch to a 12-foot board to accommodate the 65 pounds of gear,” he explained.
He is carrying solar chargers, GPS equipment, and a water filtration system. “I have been filtering water from the Mississippi through ceramic and charcoal,” he explained, This enables Gnade to safely drink the water from the river.
“It has been pretty amazing to watch the changes in the river,” he remarked about his experience so far. “I have noticed changes in the color of the dirt to the accent of the people.”
Raised in west Texas, Gnade is a contractor who spends most of his time in Hawaii and Austin, Texas. This is a totally different climate than what he is use to.
This is Gnade’s first time on a water journey. “I am an outdoor-type person. I love to hike,” he added. “I recently joked with my mom that my work as a contractor is definitely easier than this journey on the river.”
Gnade plans on arriving in New Orleans in about 20 days. “Once I get there I plan on hanging a left,” he said with a smile, “toward Key West, Florida.” His final destination.
During his journey Gnade has been compiling information for research and development of stand up paddle boards. “They are mostly used in salt water,” he said. “I would like to see more people, especially kids, notice them and use them in all types of water and on lakes and rivers. It would be great to help kids put down those joy sticks and enjoy the great outdoors on a paddle board.”
“These boards provide a good core work out,” he added. He knows this first hand because he has had to contend with the winds coming from the south, instead of the north.
Things have gotten a little easier for Gnade. “It is nice to have some current and free flowing river like I have now,” he said. “It is totally different from when I first started.”
Gnade is also hoping to break some world records once his journey is complete. “I took the winter off to set a series of Guinness Book of World Records,” he said. He hopes to complete the longest fresh water trip, the longest saltwater trip, the longest overall trip, and the smallest vessel to do – all aboard his 12-foot stand up paddle board. “The trip has been previously made on a 14 foot board,” Gnade said.
More kind and genuine compassion was experienced by Gnade when Mike Sheehan, owner of Hickman Hardware assisted him with his gear and offered to take him to the other floodgate if the water wasn’t deep enoughfor him at the one by the hardware store.
“This town is the best kept secret on the Mississippi,” said Gnade before he boarded his board and paddled away.
Special thanks to Charlotte Smith and staff at the Hickman Courier.
Who helps the bridge over troubled waters when the bridge itself has been troubled? Crews from several agencies began combing over the wreckage within hours of it taking place. Luckily, no one was injured though cars were traveling across at the time. I came to the scene after the crowds had come, taken their novelty picture, and left. I felt for the towns and small shops that depended on the traffic the bridge provided. The layoffs that had already begun to occur. The state park that sits within earshot of the waves lapping against the bridge piers.KenLake State Resort Park sits on highway 80, surrounded by panoramic views of Kentucky Lake. It was built nearly 20 years after the span. By then, the Tennessee had been dammed and along with the Cumberland River being dammed, Kentucky was two lakes richer. Visiting KenLake is about like visiting history itself. The hotel building still holds onto 1940s charm and looks like it belongs on a naval base in Key West. Go around back and find a faded shuffleboard plot and a basketball court that has no doubt seen jump shots since Adolph Rupp was still coaching in Memorial Coliseum. But wait a minute. That’s what makes this place so great and nostalgic. It’s not another cookie-cutter chain hotel that looks the same as a hundred others. KenLake has style. And along with its steel shod neighbor down the hill, it will make it through this tough stretch of road just like it has weathered times good and bad for nearly 60 years. Show your support by visiting the lakes area. KenLake has over 30 cabins and dozens of rooms on site. Free breakfasts and free sunrises every morning. And if you squint your eyes just right, you can still see a ‘53 Corvette driving over a bridge into the horizon, a young couple cuddling after a day at the park.
Thanks again, Kentucky.
-Special thanks also to John Rittenhouse and Tammy Nanny for a great stay at KenLake.
-*Note: Prior to recent events, the Eggners Ferry Bridge was scheduled to be replaced by a new span in 2017. The timetable may now be moved forward.
THE OFFICIAL SITE OF THE KENTUCKY DEPARTMENT OF TRAVEL
Capital Plaza Tower 22nd Floor, 500 Mero Street, Frankfort, KY 40601