My blue Kayak was swiped from Stratton State park in the one hour we were setting up cars. I set it off under the bridge behind some rocks... but probably should have hidden it completely. I figured leaving my business card on it might help, but I was obviously wrong. I reported it to both Kayak Morris and the local police (both of whom were surprised that someone would do it, so hopefully it's rare for the area). So be warned, a public park is not a safe place to drop a boat for an hour unattended. It's a shame that people like that exist, but it is a part of the world we live in.
My friend Steve fortunately did not leave his boat behind, as we met in Marseilles and drove back. His kayak was brand new, so I['m actually thankful our mid morning audible saved his boat. We would continue the trip after I purchased a replacement on the fly from Menards. It's a 10.5 footer, with a built in hatch. It is a big step up from what I had. Honestly, I w as going to replace the old kayak someday, I just wish i got more than one winter's use out of it. It was a $170 mistake, and I'll never make it again.
After that whole debacle, time was short, so we went upstream from Seneca. Since the Illinois river has almost no flow, it wasn't a hard paddle. We stopped short of the 3 mile paddle to Johnson Island, and instead found a decent beach space to camp at. No traffic noise was nice. The weather held up overnight, although the temp did dip into the upper 20s. That froze all of our packed liquids.
The next morning, we rolled out about 9:30. The rain started at 9:45. The freezing sleet rain started at 10. We hustled back to Seneca, and took a break. With the west to east wind, we were struggling. When we hit Seneca, it was about 11. We made the calculation of 7 miles to go, about 1.5 miles per hour means 4-5 more hours on the water, in the freezing rain. We wimped out and called it a trip. Which I am okay with, because paddling at full strength for 4 plus hours in freezing temperatures and hard rain is hypothermia waiting to happen. Especially when the river path would dictate that it would be Marseilles or bust.
Overall, it was the worst trip I've been on, between the robbery and the weather cutting it short. What I learned:
-Don't leave a boat by itself for longer than say 15 minutes in a high traffic area.
-Pack waterproof gloves for colder paddling temperatures.
-Seneca's boat launch has NO overnight parking. Fortunately Steve wasn't ticketed or towed.
-The Illinois river has basically no downstream flow. A headwind on that river is a killer.
-Marsielles's middle eastern conflict wall is a decent take out parking location. You have to go around the rapids from the dam, and have to portage over Bell Island to get to it though. It's not awful, but also not a great option. High walls on the Illini stat park side makes exit challenging on the other side.
While it was a tough trip, we did have some fun camping overnight, and I learned some lessons, so it wasn't all for nothing.