For 30 years, award-winning reporter Paul Meincke covered local, national and international news for Chicago’s ABC7. He retired in 2015 and is currently in the midst of another adventure: a canoe trip with three friends along the length of the mighty Mississippi River, from Lake Itasca in Minnesota to an area south of New Orleans. He’s posting his adventures on Facebook.
On Wednesday, we caught up with Meincke via Skype from Alton, Illinois, just upstream from St. Louis, to find out how the trip is going—and what inspired him to pick up a paddle this summer.
“I think if you have a spark of adventure in your soul you need to pursue it if you’re able, and I’ve been very luck in that regard. So, why not?” he said.
Meincke and his companions—all of them in their 60s—are averaging about 25 miles a day. They’re roughly halfway through their 2,200-plus mile trip, Meincke said.
“We had budgeted about 71 days,” he said. “We’re learning that we’re not going to do it in 71 days—we’re going to be a few days longer than that.”
The group is holding up well, he said, despite the occasional soreness. On July 4, they paddled 55 miles, and now “our arms feel like noodles,” he said. But they’re taking breaks, staying hydrated and eating well. “We’re gaining weight, I think,” he chuckled. “We’re eating too much.”
While they may go for “long periods of time” without seeing other people on the river, there has been no shortage of wildlife sightings. Pelicans, a beaver, river otters and lots of eagles have highlighted the trip so far.
“I am astonished,” he said. “We all know that eagles have made a comeback, but they are everywhere.
“It’s just been nonstop wildlife,” he said.
Those they have met along the river have been curious about the trip, he said, and quick to offer food or run them to the grocery store.
“This whole journey, apart from its education value, has reaffirmed for all four of us, each of us, that there are good people out there.
“Everyone has been so kind,” he said.
We’ll continue to check in with Meincke as his trip continues.
July 6: As more cruises and kayaks join commercial barges on the river, some tour boat operators are concerned about safety. Learn the “rules of the road” for Chicago waterways.
Feb. 22: In the depths of a Chicago winter – and especially when there's a winter heat wave – sometimes you just have to get outside. But what if you’re not one for skiing or skating? We decided to go fish.
Aug. 31, 2016: Soak up the last weekend of summer by getting out of the city and off the beaten path. We’ve got six destinations for the perfect weekend trip, whether you prefer hiking, rafting, biking or just lazing the day away.