Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Summer Float 2010

Last weekend Ryan, Kristie, John, Ali, Kevin, Marken, Brian, Kristin, and Vicki and I (nice size group!) headed down to Alley Spring and the Jack's Fork River for the traditional summer float trip.

It was a bit disjointed, schedule-wise this time.  Kristie couldn't get off until 2:00 on friday.  Kevin and Marken couldn't leave St. Louis until about that time either.  Ryan and John went down early, and Kristin, Vicki and I were going to head down in Brian and Kristin's Cherokee around noon after Kristin got off work and we packed the jeep.

Brian was going to go with Kristie and Ali (heh, "Kristie Ali") around 2:15.   Turned out Brian could go with us at noon after all... well ... 1:00.    Kristin got off a little early and we loaded up the grammy bags (with tent/camping/float equipment) on the luggage rack and tied it down, and got the rest of the equipment, clothes, and coolers in the Jeep.

And the skies openend up and drenched everything.  Seriously, I'll bet we got over 1.5" in 40 minutes.  Fortunately, we put any bedding in the grammy bags inside dry bags... well almost everything.  Brian and Kristin's big pillow wasn't. 

The rain continued all the way to Rolla, but we saw little or none past there.  The optimistic GPS had estimated a 2.5 hour drive... it ended up being more like 3:20 ... which is about what we're used to.   Part of that was because we got behind a horse trailer as soon as we turned onto 19, which went all the way to Eminence.  Apparently they were not familiar with that country driver courtesy of pulling over and letting people by occasionally when you're driving so slowly, and 19 is a windey, windey road.

Got to Alley Spring Campground site 411 (a very nice double-site) and Ryan and John, who had gotten there about 2:30 -- had the Williams popup set up and John and Ali's tent.   The awning was out and the party lights were up.  Vicki had wanted this new Coleman Instant Tent she saw at Sams Club and she bought it, and we brought our old tent for Kevin and Marken.  Between the six of us we had all three set up quickly.  Then Kristie arrived.  Ali was hungry so the Williams and the Sowers stayed back and ate.  The rest of us were hot so we went down to the swimming hole and talked and had a few brewskis and watched kids jump off the rocks into the deep pool below.

About the time we were done (7:00pm) we left for the campsite and crossed paths with the rest of our crew coming down to swim.  A bit out of synch -- but considering the different arrival schedules not totally unexpected.   We went back and had our brats and chips and by the time we were done it was getting dark and the rest of the crew came back.  A little camp fire time, s'mores, a little pickin' on the git-tar in the background behind the conversation.  And people started to turn in.
Because Windys was coming to pick us up at 8:00 am!  It was the latest pickup they could do for Bay Creek that wasn't TOO late (like very late morning).

We had forgotten to take the (hanging) trash bag to the dumpster, and of course the ever-present opportunist raccoons showed up as soon as everyone had turned in.  They came out of the switch grass (I didn't know we had that in Missouri but apparently we do) and rooted around for anything that might have food in it.  The coolers were bungied, but one was able to reach the trash bag.  I got up and stared it down with the flashlight, then grabbed the bag and picked up the trash and walked it through the dense fog out of the loop to the bin.
It was a pleasant night, all things considered -- very humid, but actually a little cool by morning.  Unusual on the Summer float, and in stark contrast to last year.  I had the fan on (battery operated) just to circulate the air in the tent because it was so damp, and the typically warm-blooded Vicki was getting a little snuggly by morning. She was actually a bit chilly!

Had breakfast -- eggs, and yogurt and fruit for us, breakfast buritos, I think, for the Sowers... and I can't remember what the Williams had but I don't think it was pancakes this time.  And they have that nice stove!  Windy's showed up and loaded us up and 30 minutes later we were putting in at Bay Creek.

It was a pleasant day on the river.  Sunny.  Very warm but not too hot.  Nice breeze, cold water, lush green vegetation.  Ryan and Kristie were in their kayaks and the rest of us rented canoes from Windys.

And as usual we spent the day riding chutes on the noodles, and swimming in holes.  We had sandwiches, fruit, and chips, and cookies for lunch -- the sandwiches had gotten soggy in the cooler.  Apparently the wraps weren't water-tight.  Ziplocks next time.   Dry ice would rock.  Wish they had dry ice in Eminence.  We had used it for the trip down since it takes up less room and ... of course ... doesn't  melt wet.  Handy.  It lasts about as long as regular ice.  Which means about all day, keeping things fairly cold for 12-18 hours.

The river was about as low as you'd want it for a float - relatively normal for this time of year.  A lot of people wouldn't like it because there was SOME dragging in shallow spots, and in a couple of spots we actually had to get out and push.  But we do this part of the river because it is less crowded and there are lots of nice swimming holes.  It's really more of a swim trip than a float trip.

The last stop we made there was a bit of a non-obvious backwater on the far side of the gravel bar where there was an eddy in the current.  We got in, and it was kind of convenient for me as I was floating in my noodle ring.  I could easily stay near the rest of the group where they were standing and sitting in the water -- I would let the back-current take me upstream a little ways, then paddle out just a little ways into the main current -- which would carry me back down stream, and I just floated in a little oval.  But after about a half hour I noticed what looked like a piece of debris on my right foot.  I went to brush it off and it not only didn't come off, it wiggled.  It was a small leech.   I knocked it off, and the water cleared like someone spotted a Snickers bar in a pool.   I was a little surprised but not shocked when I thought about where we'd stopped and the slow current by the shore and the relative abundance of organic material.  Don't stop in anything like a backwater.  That's where you'll tend to find these things, apparently even if it's just an eddy in the river.  Note to self...

We pulled out around 3:30.  The various showers and naps took place and we started a fire to cook our poor boy packs on.  We also needed ice, and Kristin wanted to phone home (which you pretty much have to go to Eminence to do, on the lookout on a hill about a mile north of town).  So Kristin and I took off to get it.

But apparently I had put Brian's nice Gerber camp axe on the bumper of the Cherokee, and it was unsurprisingly NOT there when we got back.   Brian and Kristin made a trip back to go hunt it down, but I imagine it fell off before we even got out of the loop and somebody said "hey, sweet hatchet!"

The clouds got dark and the wind kicked up.  We felt a few tiny raindrops and heard a rumble of distant thunder.  We quickly set up Marken's canopy -- but we lucked out.  The storm passed to the north and west, and all we got was the gust front and some nice cool outflow air.

People started turning in around 9:30, me just after 10:00, but Kevin, Brian, and John stayed up around the fire until after midnight.  And this time, the trash had been moved.  But... apparently the Oreos had gotten soggy and someone didn't know not to dump them in the campsite.  They will next time!  They were dumped at the edge of the woods next to Kevin and Marken's tent, and they got to hear the raccoon feast all night.  I'm sure those were some happy racoons!

The Willams & Sowers had eaten easier food than we did.  The packets (potato, onion, peppers, and brats/hamburger meat + butter) take about an hour too cook, and these took longer because the fire wasn't really ready when we started.  But they were quite tasty.

Everyone broke down the next morning by 8:00, and we were on our way to Alley Spring to take the traditional Mill shot ... then to Eminence to Ruby's Sarah's Ruby's T&T (fantastic place for breakfast in Eminence.  Good buffet food.)  We knew it had been sold, but apparently it was sold to Ruby's daughter Sarah.  We mentioned that it was now "Sarah's" to the waitress, and she said it would be Ruby's again in early July.  Ruby's buying it back.  Eh.  It's all in the family.  So we asked about the T&T, and they said originally another couple -- a Tammy & Tim, I believe, had owned it.  They still live in town but they own other businesses.

Drove back to Columbia, put the tents in the driveway to dry thoroughly, and napped.  Had to run out and drag them in around 5:00 when a thunderstorm blew in.

We're still tired.  It went too fast, as usual.  But it was good summer fun!