Last Friday,[by the time this posts, it will actually be Friday before last. Sorry George.) five intrepid adventurers set off for three days of floating and two nights of camping on the Jack's Fork river near Eminence Missouri. That's not an exact total count on the river, just the only ones I'm sure of. Seeking to be on the river around noon, the plan was to meet at Harvey's canoe rental at 11:00. Your humble narrator arrived promptly at 10:36 (don't trust mapquest, btw) and proceeded to pay Harvey his rental fee, eat peanuts, drink beer, smoke and photograph hummingbirds for the next hour or so until my droogs, that is, the rest of the party arrived. (Ed. If you need a cheap point and shoot camera, I highly recommend the
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FP1. $140 delivered from BuyDig.com.)
This is not all presented as an accurate timeline. I reserve the right to relate stories, anecdotes, or thoughts as they come to me. That may not necessarily be in precise chronological order. However, I'll strive to keep the play-by-play in order, at least.
Anyway, we embarked on the canoe trip around 1:00, so we had plenty of time. We got a light sprinkle about an hour or two after we got on the water, which coincided with lunch. We collected a bit of firewood while George took a brief nap. One of the most critical aspects of river camping is making sure you have enough firewood. That entails collecting it wherever you find it throughout the day and porting it downriver until you find your campsite. This is important...it will come up again.
After a nice break-in afternoon of canoeing, we found a good campsite about five (5) miles downriver from our starting point. We did 24
miles, it should be mentioned. That's listed as a two day float, but we figured on two days worth of rowing and a day worth of partying so it worked out just right. Plus, it's the same trip as last year, so we knew what we were looking at. Mostly. We had adequate wood, good supper, cocktails, and conversation which all combined for a great first night. No rain, but the air was amazingly thick. I was raised in a swamp and I still couldn't breathe. Sleep was challenging. Getting up to go to the toilet is a pain when there's no toilet. But, at least nobody shit on themselves...as far as we know.
Day two (we referred to it as Saturday, in our catchy river slang) started out beautifully.
The fog had lifted, the sun was shining, and it was getting hot enough by 9:00 that we pulled our chairs back into the shade behind the campsite. Much nicer. (RT and Bill demonstrate the pose and position.)
Around 11:00 we had eaten, smoked, relaxed, and got everything packed and started meandering back toward the river. Getting going again is one of those things that's never really stated, it just sort of happens. Someone loads a tent on their canoe. Someone else loads a bucket later on. Eventually everything is half packed, everyone's eaten, you've had your forth smoke and second shit of the day already (or more) and everyone knows it's time to go. [It's all guys, there are shit jokes, deal with it.] This spontaneous exodus is amazingly consistent with the occurrence of the temperature becoming too fucking hot to sit on the sand anymore. (I'm not saying there's a causal relationship, just pointing out the coincidence.) Now, some of you anal types may hop up, eat, pack, and go. That mostly defeats the true enjoyment of canoeing and camping...the relaxation of not being on a schedule. Well...not being on a schedule...along with beer, not showering for days, and no cell phones, traffic, work, or signs of civilization. Just hanging with the boys with no plans except to keep matriculating downstream.
At this point, I should point out the wisdom of sunscreen. Click here for an excellent treatment of the subject. I got the speech from Sadie, and there are questions as to the origin, but it appears to be Baz Luhrman presenting it. Anyway, during the Saturday morning prep, as Bill was applying sunscreen he noticed that there is an expiration date on it. Wow! Who knew? Sunscreen expires?!? I was amazed. Anyway, the expiration was sometime in 2008. We judged it still good, since we weren't the guinea pigs, but Bill would provide an excellent test subject. However, I was reminded that I also needed to apply some high SPF. Digging out the BullFrog 30, I looked for an expiration date, something it never crossed my mind to do before. Hmm, 2001. Probably still good right? Everyone agreed, especially since I was the one risking lobsterization from inadequate sun protection. And believe me, I turn red. I mean fucking REEEEDDD. I fucking glow in the dark. So, I was quite happy to conclude that for the record, I don't think it expires. I came in Sunday afternoon with no burn whatsoever. And if my pasty white ass doesn't burn, the sunscreen is good. Damn good. Moving right along......
Dammit! I just lost two pages of shit because fucking blogger wouldn't save. I'm less than thrilled. The "national park concealed carry and Bill's colon" rant just bit the dust. Fuck. I may try to recreate it later. For now, narrative.
So an hour of typing later, I'm still, Moving right along...
Sunscreened, fed, and rested we set out for beautiful day of rowing. We were hoping to make it farther than last year, when we left far too much to do on Sunday. We also starting drinking, some more than others. RT decided this year that no particular hard liquor sounded good, so I just took beer. The other guys went more the other way, with lemonade and vodka being the prevailing theme, with little (Sean) or no (Andy, George, Bill) beer. The downside of drinking hard liquor is this. The river. The sun. It's hot. You sweat. You drink a lot. It's got vodka in it. Oops. Which I believe is what George said when he told me Andy went over. Mostly. Had to drag the canoe out and dump it, but didn't get a complete submersion of the canoe. Considering his BAC at that point, it's actually quite an accomplishment.
Here's Venus from Friday night.
George and I found a nice shady soft beach and pulled in for lunch. Everyone else eventually caught up, and we took a break in the shade. I proceeded to sample natures most perfect food, the MRE. It was some kind of chicken stuff and was quite fulfilling. It even had coffee. Sweeeet. Meanwhile, after a few staggering trips between canoe and shade, Andy finally found his comfortable place flat on his back in the rocks. (Unfortunately, I didn't get the camera unpacked. Damn shame, that.) He was still conscious, so we let him be. Until he started snoring, then we woke him up with wisecracks, some of which may have included the point that we didn't really need to haul him, we just needed his canoe.
Then, from the middle of the beach came a bellow from Bill, "GET HIS WOOD!" (Remember porting firewood, Andy is very dedicated to the craft. He had a shitload.) Anyway, that started us all on a laughing jag like a bunch of crazed hyenas. Andy even laughed uncontrollably flat on his back with his eyes closed, so we figured he'd be better after his nap. And indeed he was, and came out better for it with the wisdom he gained. The wisdom which is this...
[Long had I known the secret, but none would believe my knowledge. But I alone had the experience and I alone knew the truth. Then Friday afternoon, George also learned this astounding knowledge, and we two knew the secret. The last to gain entrance into the circle of knowledge was Andy, and on Saturday afternoon, he too learned that the sandy/rock beaches of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways are as soft and comfortable as the welcoming bosom of Mother Earth can be. It conforms to your body and holds you as gently as the long grass holds the fawn.] This is especially relevant in certain situations, such as when one is drunk. Sometimes on the river the heat and rowing can make you 'over tired' as well. And if you're 'over tired' or OT'd, the beach is especially welcoming. I discovered this the first time I OT'd a couple of years ago and have tried to share the knowledge since. Now two others know the truth. If you're drunk or OT'd, just find a spot on the beach. I predict RT's SIL will need this information next weekend, so I'm pleased to be able to pass it along.
After we were all squared away, we set out making some really good time. We passed the beach where we camped last year and I was personally hoping for 6 more miles, or so. We got 'em. We started looking for beaches about 4:30 and didn't find one we deemed acceptable until close to 7:00. We were pretty much done eating before full dark, and we had a lot of firewood. I estimate approximately a metric fuckload, or somewhere in the vicinity. Plus Andy's camp chair gave up the ghost, so that's more fast burning fuel. Let's just say, we had to move the chairs back from the fire a couple of times.
Sunday morning dawned and that was most of the excitement, except I did catch one bass. Sean fished seriously and got a bunch, but I only got the one to be able to claim I fished, as well. So, we packed up, and got underway in no particular hurry. Some light rowing and we were making pretty good time. Found a nice spot with some shade for lunch and about a mile before the end we found a most excellent swimming hole. The current was steady, but it got over 8' deep in the middle and felt wonderful for about a half hour.
We hit the takeout point about 4:00 and got packed and on the road with plans to hopefully be able to fit in another trip later this summer. I'll mention it if it happens.