The Hard-Core Four went on the summer float last weekend. Left Friday morning for the Alley Spring Campground, and filled Skyler (Molly's replacement -- that's Kristie's car) to the gills with the grammy bags on top. They hold most of the actual camping equipment.
We were there by 1:00 or so in the afternoon, got camp set up, and then went down to sit in the Jack's Fork River in the shade with a few brewskies on a beautiful, hot, sunny afternoon.
By 3:30 or so, a thunderstorm peeked over the ridge and we headed back to the campsite. It started to rain shortly before we got there. The rainfall was moderate, but we were able to avoid most of the raindrops by staying under the larger trees and didn't have to retreat to a tent. The lightning stayed distant.
We started a fire to make a good bed of coals for cooking, and Kristie got busy doing BBQ chicken after the bed developed. We just stuck the cans of beans on the grill, open, to heat up. She had also brought a lovely potato salad. Needless to say, dinner was very good.
We had paid for the canoes when we got in to Eminence, and picked up some ice. I also got a sized pair of river shoes -- the ones I'd gotten back in Columbia were merely "large" and too big.
In the morning we had Kristie's traditional pancakes along with bacon and Vicki's boiled eggs. I boiled water with my Heinekeg alcohol stove for coffee, and we went to get picked up for our river dropoff at 8:30 am -- our earliest pickup since we've been going with them.
We were on the river a little after 9:00 am and headed for "the chute" which is only a half mile down the river. It's a sharp bend with a "chute" of water that starts at the bend that you can float on your noodles and ride the current. Then you get out... and do it again. Kind of like a dog chasing a ball. We'd brought the springfloat floaty things for the girls, but it turned out they preferred the noodles and Ryan and I liked the spring floaty things.
After several runs Ryan noticed a Midland Water Snake sunning on a willow root in the water at the beginning of the chute. They're non-venomous ... but at that point Vicki was done with the chute. She's ... not a snake person. I had to do one more run past the formidible 12" monster just because. We continued down river to a gravel bank with a nice swimming hole on the outside bend and just settled down to be outside on the beautiful river, in the shade ... swim ... whatever.
A few groups went by. Nobody was obnoxious. There was a buzzing coming from the woods behind us ... it was a bunch of bees pollinating wild grape vines. And about 11:30 we got a fire going using flint & steel & the vasaline-cottonball method. Got the grilliput out and cooked some dogs about noon. And of course, chips. And cheese cubes.
We headed out again after another dip (we didn't wait an hour, either. shhhhhh!!!!) and found other gravel banks and swimming holes. Float. Swim. Dry. Swim. Float. Later in the afternoon we ran across some paddlefish -- a little unexpected -- in a deep hole maybe 10-15 feet deep. Two of them were about 4-5 feet long, and the other three were 2-3 feet. There were some people jumping off of a large rock by the pool. It didn't seem to bother the fish. We got the noodles and the floaty things out and cruised over the fish and just generally relaxed and talked. Eventually I had to jump off the rock before moving on. I cannonballed in to the 7' hole and we continued to the next inviting gravel bar.
We dragged bottom a few times, but only had to get out once where a tree had completely blocked all but a very shallow portion of the river and it was JUST shallow enough that you couldn't make it through.
I think this was the most fun we've had on the actual float. Part of it was because we got to spend more of the day on it. I think part of it was because we were able to plan the day better. I'd brought the GPS and just left it on the whole time, so we knew where we were on the river at all times. It's only a 7 mile float (6.8, to be more accurate) and our moving time worked out to be 2 and a half hours. Meaning you can basically fiddle-fart around on that float and as long as you've made some progress you're not far from the end if you're really just "done" and want to go back to camp. We stretched the day out well.
Went back to camp and Kristie & Vicki made up the poor boy packs and threw them on the coals of the fire. Dinner was good. Then when it got dark, s'mores. Ryan & Kristie crashed a bit after nine. Vicki and I made it to about 10:00.
Then in the morning the sad breakdown and breakfast at Ruby's T&T. And off to home.
The drive back is always quieter than the drive there. But we talked off and on. And then took the wet stuff out, cleaned the tent footprint tarp. And it was all over.