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Kayaking the Tallahatchie: A Tale for the Brave

 
Mosquitoes. Hordes of them. Thousands, no-millions. As thick as the night sky, they descended like the blood-thirsty vengeance of mother nature herself. For six long hours we suffered through the plague of insects. I tried everything I could think of. We emptied a can of 40 percent Deet repellant. We wrapped ourselves in our hammocks. At one point I even tried burying myself and smearing my body with mud. 
Never before have I ever wished it would rain while I was camping, but that night, that God-forsaken night, I begged for it. And it did. Not, of course, enough to drive the horde away. Let it never be said that Madison Ruthven is no kind of philanthropist. That night, my friends and I generously donated blood by the gallon to the esteemed mosquito population of the Tallahatchie River Area. 
We put in at Graham Lake, off of C.R. 297. The plan was to paddle seven miles down the Tallahatchie River, hit Sardis Lake and paddle another two or three miles to Hurricane Landing, the pick-up point. 
I set off with my colleagues and close friends Joe Box and Brad Davis, expecting a leisurely trip down a lazy river. The first half of the trip was, indeed, as leisurely as the river was lazy. We stopped twice; once to take a dip to alleviate the heat, and once to hydrate under the Tallahatchie River Bridge. 
The old railroad bridge spans overhead with decrepit foundations rising from the riverbanks like moss-covered monoliths, conjuring feelings of a long lost glory. It’s one of the more picturesque parts of the river.  
After paddling a few more hours, we stopped to make our camp on a sandy river bank. We made a make-shift tent out of tarps and paddles, got a fire started and set some trout lines in the river. 
We settled in for the long haul and began to amuse ourselves in various ways. You’d be surprised at how entertained three grown men can be by lighting sticks on fire. 
Then, at dusk, it started.
Having grown up in Mississippi, I’m no stranger to mosquitoes, but these were not ordinary. Throngs of the voracious demon spawn overwhelmed us, their ravenous hunger only matched by our fervent bloodlust as we slapped, punched, bit and kicked the hell-bugs into submission. I’m pretty sure I spin-kicked, like, 92 mosquitoes to death that night. Alas, our efforts were in vain. Their numbers outmatched our ninja-like prowess, and at 2:30 a.m., we broke camp, loaded back into our kayaks, and set off once more.
We paddled on an eerie, barely visible river until sunrise, only to find that we had missed our mark by miles. We dragged our kayaks to the shore to lick our wounds and design a plan of action. 
We eventually settled on ditching our kayaks and setting off on foot to find civilization. We struck out through fields of vegetation seven feet high, thick with dew-covered spider webs and so dense we couldn’t see our feet in front of us. 
After trudging through three-fourths a mile of the everglade-like mass of weeds, we finally found some abandoned dirt roads. Which promptly ended. Defeated, we slogged back through the devil-flora to our kayaks. 
Long story short, we paddled through the rain, and eventually found a boat landing.
So why the hell did we do a miserable thing like that? If we had stayed in Oxford last weekend and gone to The Square, or whatever, I would have forgotten every mundane thing that happened within a month. The cluster-cuss that was last weekend will be seared in my brain until the day I die. It was a learning experience, and we came out the better for it. 
We had, for lack of a better word, a real adventure. I’ll take an unforgettable weekend like that over the monotonous buzz of an unremarkable bar any day. 
That being said, I think I’ll go hit up a bar. Mosquitoes won’t touch you if your blood is mostly alcohol, right? 
Madison Ruthven writes for the DM and cage fights nature on a whim. Ask him out for a drink at mdruthven@live.com. For the full article, visit the DM online.