Polar Explorer Eric Larsen
Day 6 & 7
Eric Larsen
03 July 2020 | Kansas
With 40 miles left of road hiking ahead and an increasing heat index, we made the decision to switch back to bikes for the final push to Topeka. Gus was still feeling the effects of heat exhaustion and I had developed a fairly severe set of swollen feet and ankles due to, I believe, a bunch of chigger bites. It was so hot and humid the night prior that I couldn't sleep in our tent - even with the rainfly completely off. Needless to say it was the right decision not to continue hiking.

"You look like you're 90 years old from the ankles down," Gus remarked as we loaded our gear into our bike packing bags. i laughed out loud at the comment, but inwardly I was nervous that my feet and ankles would become a bigger problem. On longer adventures, little problems very quickly become bigger ones if not properly cared for.

Luckily, our route to Topeka was almost straight North and the hot wind was at our backs pushing us along. We rode on more amazing gravel roads that were often so narrow and tree-lined that we were riding in a tunnel of cool shade despite the 95 degree temperature. In Topeka, we were able to follow smooth downhill bike paths nearly to the put in.

Tanner met us there with the canoe and we quickly switched gear and shoved off. I am always amazed at the feeling of that transition from land to water. In the canoe, we were fluid, another molecule of water traveling with all the other molecules downstream. The Kansas was a little above average water flow so the sand bars were mostly covered and we made good time. A few hours later we rendezvoused with Tanner again for some help around the Bowersock dam and then we were off and paddling again. We wanted to make miles but it was getting dark so we found a low exposed sandy spot and made camp. 40 miles by bike. 28 by canoe. Not a bad day.

We woke early again hoping to make miles before the wind picked up. We calculated that we might be able to make all 48 miles to the Missouri border in one push. Then tried to quell that idea. Anything can happen over the course of the day and we didn't want to give ourselves false hope. Still, we stuck to a rigid schedule of paddling and breaks as I monitored our progress on my Garmin inReach. Half way through the day it seemed like we might have a slight chance. Eating lunch while drifting down a long straight stretch with a tailwind increased the odds. By the time we reached Water One Coffer dam, we knew we could do it.

We spent the last few miles admiring the river. I love flowing water and the Kansas did not disappoint. In no tome, we were at the confluence of the Missouri, the exact same spot where Lewis and Clark had camped. Adventure truly is everywhere.
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