OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - Clouds cover the sky as a lone kayaker nears land. Though his day at sea has ended, he's far from home.
Jake Stachovak is on the journey of a lifetime, kayaking around the Eastern United States. He traveled South down the Mississippi River, and is currently headed East along the Gulf Coast. He'll pass the tip of Florida and head North up the Atlantic Coast, then follow the Hudson and other rivers West to Wisconsin. He expects to return in October.
"I started in a town called Portage, Wisconsin," Stachovak said. "And I'm headed back to the same town."
He's already had his share of setbacks. A December blizzard forced him to drive a portion of the route. Further south, he encountered some surprising perils.
"What I didn't expect were some of the troubles I had in some of the towns here," Stachovak said. "I had my gear stolen in one town, and I got pepper sprayed in another town."
Thanks to some early planning, he's met more friends than enemies. Before his departure, he contacted paddle clubs and outdoor shops in all 22 states along his path. He's made many friends along the way, as evidenced by the wealth of handwritten notes on his kayak.
"Stay dry," said one.
"Travel safe, compadre!" read another.
Countless others said "good luck" or "have fun."
His welcome in Ocean Springs was no different. Melissa Johnson took him in and introduced him to local paddlers Friday night.
"He's out there doing something like that, you gotta show your support for something like that," said Nicholas Kinderman, a local kayaker.
"People like Melissa taking me home to dry me out and feed me and give me a place to stay, the hospitality has been unbelievable," said Stachovak.
Stachovak said he's learned a lot along his journey so far.
"It's made me realize that I can do what I set out to do," Stachovak said. "I have a lot of doubts, a lot of different parts of this trip. And all the worry and stress that I had when going through those sections was kind of for naught. There's not as many dragons and fire and brimstone things out there as you might imagine. You can do a lot of you just take it day by day."
Weather permitting, he sets out again Saturday morning. His next stop is Alabama.
Stachovak blogs almost every day on his trip. You can find his blog on his website by clicking HERE.