Wow, can’t believe it’s Monday mid-morning and that I’m back home with a soft bed, plumbing, and my kitties. We had a great time. A tiring, but great time.
Friday am we left home bright and early. Way too early. Like 6 am. By 12 we had dropped our car off at the parking lot at the end of our expedition, and driven to the start. We loaded 6 people, one dog and food, tents, and other necessary equipment into the two canoes and hand-built by my father-in-law kayak and headed out. The sun was shining, the river was flowing and we had a long ways to go. 11 miles to be exact before we hit our first campsite.
Now I’m not going to be all macho and tell you I paddled then entire way, because I didn’t. This was no youth group day trip from New Life Island. And my arms haven’t not been doing too much working out, other than stripping layers and layers of wallpaper. But I probably paddled….85% of the time. All three days. Bryan would not stop. Bless you Bryan.
I’m still a little in awe that I (along with Bryan) managed to propel ourselves, the canoe and maybe 80 pounds of gear down the river for thirty miles, using arm strength. I can feel a vast improvement in my arms when I flex. haha. But seriously.
By four we reached our first stop, at a bend in the river. We unloaded our stuff, carried it up the river bank, scouted out firewood and set up. Across the river were some Bald Eagles, down stream just a bit were some beavers. It was hard to believe that after the hours of paddling I’d want to get back into the canoe to paddle around a bit before dinner, but I got in with Bryan (sans my paddle) and we explored the other side of the bank a bit, found some little streams and got hit with an amazing waft of cedar trees. I had no idea they smelled so good before they were milled. The tree in our backyard certainly doesn’t smell like that but the forest of them certainly made an impression. A good one.
After a dinner of hamburgers, but missing mustard, the best condiment was hard work. Hard work along with fire roasted burgers, and tomatoes from the garden and I was full. And tired. We all were.
Bed before 9. Bed being a camping mat and two blankets. It was pretty comfortable on the grass outside our house, but on the dirt floor of a forest, not so much. The noise of the bugs outside our tent quickly put me to sleep, though the comfort level of the bed and the start of a downpour had me tossing and turning through much of the night. Nevertheless I awoke relatively rested to a steady rain. It wasn’t going to the relaxing morning around the fire Bryan had described, and the idea of no fire in the pouring rain seemed pretty miserable. I couldn’t help but think of my warm bed back home, and how there wasn’t an end of the rain in sight (I had kept my cell with me to check the weather, though it was off most of the time), and we were in the middle of nowhere, eleven miles downstream from one car, and nineteen miles up-stream from another. That meant there was nothing to do but go on. And I had resolved myself before the trip that no matter what happened I was going to stay calm, cool, collected and cheerful. So I put on my rain jacket and went out to greet the morning, and the family. Maintaining my refusal to be anything but cheerful made any hint of ‘miserableness’ fade away.
Unfortunately in our exhaustion last night we had forgotten to put the camp chairs under the kitchen ‘roof’ so every one was wet, but Chelsea (girlfriend) and Mark (brother-in-law) got a fire started in spite of the wet wood, and Kent (father-in-law) kept the coffee coming. Darlene (mother-in-law) broke out the french toast and bacon.
After a little while we paddled on. Around 12 the rain broke, the water and trees were sparkling and three hours later we made it to our second campground. Setting up camp, placing chairs just-so in the sun to dry and gathering firewood took hardly anytime before we were relaxing again. I read, Bryan fiddled with the fire, the rest of them paddled around the island. Later we went for a swim before dinner, more reading and hanging out. A strong downpour came through, threatening to flood the camp but the boys dug trenches with their feet around the camp while us girls stayed huddled under the roof in our oh-so-dry chairs. Bed time came and with it, a much more restful night’s sleep.
Sunday broke with sunshine, a warm fire and coffee. Lots of coffee. The fog on the river was thick and was fun to watch as it blew upstream. Reminded me of mornings here at home, along Long Island Sound. This was the kind of camping morning Bryan had described. One I would enjoy. Before too long we were packed up and ready for our final leg of the trip. The clouds were beautiful.
I felt like a conqueror of the outdoors until we paddled under I-80 and reached hordes of people swimming in the river where we were going to take the canoes out of the water. I still was a conqueror though. It was a trip that was not without it interesting moments. Moments that will become family stories, not dissimilar from my first sailing trip with Bryan. It was a bonding moment for sure.
As glad as I was to get home into my bed, it was a bit sad to have the fan for noise and not the katydids. My arms are glad for the break though. And the solid night’s sleep was amazing. Camping will probably never be my thing, but I’m pretty proud of myself. I went into it, knowing it was way out of my element, got thrown a couple of curve balls (like 11 hours of rain) and still kept smiling. All in all, it was probably the best way the first trip could go. I got over my ‘never been camping’ and ‘camping in the cold rain’ over at the same time, so most trips from here on out should be pretty painless, or at least ‘old hat’.
The pretty views made up for the inconveniences though. Have any camping stories to share?