As we all know, life can "get in the way" of true happiness. I invite you to follow my posts as I try to reconnect with nature as often as life allows. Then,
if so inspired, pick up a paddle or pack and join me on an adventure that makes everything else fade away. -

Monday, December 19, 2011

Big Bend & Carlsbad Caverns National Parks

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I got the idea to take Colin on a trip to Big Bend National Park when my mom emailed me a photo from West Texas.  She had been doing some training in some of the smaller towns and thought the place was  beautiful...of course it is!  I had gone to Big Bend with my dad when I was younger.  We had camped in "the basin" only to find out there had been a mountain lion in camp that night.  We had gone across the border to Boquillas del Carmen, and spent a day rafting on the Rio Grande.  It was a fun trip and I was hoping to show Colin some of the places I had seen.

DAY - 1

We left home early the morning of December 10th and spent the day driving to my mom's in Austin.  Colin was very content watching movies and playing Angry Birds on the iPad until the battery died...then he reluctantly went to sleep.

DAY - 2

Sunday we left Austin with my mom and headed West.  We had a nice drive through the hill country before getting on I-10 and starting the transition to the desert.  We arrived at the park entrance around 5:00 p.m. and drove towards the Chisos Mountains.  Colin had been sleepling as we had entered the park but woke up as we were climbing into The Basin.

We got to the lodge around 6:00 p.m. and my mom went to check-in while Colin and I waited in the car.  As she was walking back to the car we had a little excitement.  A young black bear came wandering across the parking lot!  He headed into the trees and soon emerged 12-15 feet away on the rock outcropping above my car.  He began to eat the juniper berries and I began to snap photos.  Unfortunately the lighting wasn't great and he wasn't posing so the photos are not great, but fun none the less.  I figured this wasn't too out of the norm, but the entire kitchen staff was outside with their cameras so I guess seeing bear wasn't that to common here.  He was the 15th I'd seen that year (lucky me)!  He was around 6ft tall and 250 lbs. +/- if I had to guess.  Probably no more than a year old.  He finished his meal and scrambled back across the parking lot...not liking all of the attention he was getting!  We headed to our room to unpack and then back to the lodge for dinner.  Yes, we walked.  After a nice meal we went to bed...we had a big hike ahead of us the next day!

DAY - 3

Monday after a breakfast of eggs on the camp stove Myself, Colin, and my mother headed out to hike The Window Trail.  The Window Trail descends 800 ft from the parking lot to the point where all the water drains from The Basin into the desert below via a 75ft waterfall.  The hike is 5 miles roundtrip.  It should be noted that Colin was 3 years, 11 months at the time and that neither he nor my mother had ever done a hike this strenuous.  I was not expecting the pace to be fast, and was expecting it to take most of our day.

The descent was easy going and very enjoyable for all.  Colin found numerous rocks to climb and we enjoyed the scenery.  As we neared the bottom the valley turned into a canyon and we encountered steps cut into the slick-rock.  Colin and I scrambled down but my mother took some coaxing.  We got to the point of the "pour over" but stayed back as to not make grandma too nervous.  Had I a climbing rope and harness I would have been tempted to build an anchor and rap out to the edge where I could really get some good photos.  I did not.

After a brief rest we headed back up and I expected that it would be slow going.  I was pleasantly surprised that they both made really good time.  In fact, as I kept stopping to take photos I found myself having to catch up!  Colin decided he wanted to have some Mac and Cheese (the microwave type) that he had insisted on bringing along.  I was fully prepared to boil some water for him and make it but after a snack he decided he could wait for dinner.

We continued our climb back up the trail and by the time we made the fork in the trail to the campground they were worn out.  I offered to them that they could continue to the campground for another 1/4 mile and I would finish the steep uphill 3/4 mile climb to get the car.  They thought that was a great idea and we were both off.  By the time I picked them up and returned us all to the room to clean up they were somewhat rested.

We decided to go for a drive down towards Rio Grande Village.  By the time the car had moved half a mile Colin was sound asleep.  He had a nice little nap and we enjoyed the scenic drive.  The sun was beginning to set as we returned to the mountains.  When we got to the hotel room Grandpa was waiting for us.  He had driven out that day because he had to finish up some work on Sunday.  We all went to the lodge for dinner and Colin filled grandpa in on the grand adventures we had had so far on the trip!

DAY - 4

Tuesday we spent the day driving down towards Castolon and the Santa Elena Canyon Overlook.  This culminated with Colin "swimming" in the Rio Grande.  The last time I had seen the Rio Grande it was a decent sized river with moderate whitewater.  This day it was a total of 18" deep and 8ft wide.  Colin still enjoyed it!  After the swimming adventure we headed North and out of the park towards Carlsbad.  We drove through Ft. Davis and the Observatory before stopping for dinner in Pecos.  We arrived fairly late in Carlsbad but they had an indoor pool and I promised Colin he could swim.  We spent over an hour in the pool before retiring to bed to play Angry Birds.  This had become our new bedtime tradition on this trip.

DAY - 5

Wednesday we spent most of the day at Carlsbad Caverns National Park.  Roie, Colin, and I opted to hike down through the natural entrance and Grandma opted to take the elevator and meet us down there.  We had lunch in the cave and then walked the 1.5 mile trail exploring the big room.  After some purchases in the gift shop we hit the road and headed back toward Austin.  We stopped for dinner again in Pecos and Grandma and Grandpa drove back to Austin, but Colin and I stopped along the way as I was too tired to drive any further.

DAY - 6

Thursday we made it back to Austin and met Grandma for lunch after her board meeting.  That night we took Colin to Chuck E Cheese and he had a blast!

DAY - 7

Friday Colin and I headed for Wichita where we spent the night.  We could have driven home in one day but it is  along drive and I wanted to go one more place.

DAY - 8

Saturday we headed for Strong City, KS and the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve.  We spent a little time looking around and took a short hike before heading back home.  It was a nice week away seeing some beautiful places with my boy!

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Monday, October 31, 2011

Horseshoe Canyon Ranch Climbing Trip

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I had started going to the local climbing gym (IBEX) with my friend and neighbor Andy in early August.  I had only been climbing a few months but jumped at the chance to go climb some real rock.  We left on Friday, October 28th for Horseshoe Canyon Ranch and got there in time to get in half a day of climbing.  We checked into our cabin and waited for Andy's friend Bob to arrive.  The three of us headed up to The North Forty and they started me off with an easy 5.6, Cotton Candy.  I had gotten to the point where I could climb most 5.8's at the gym, but my first time on the rock was a bit scary.  First, most of the routes are a bit higher than the gym, and secondly, getting used to the feel of the rock and being able to grab anywhere (rather than having obvious holds in from of you) took some getting used to.  By the end of the weekend though I was hooked!  I ended up climbing the following routes Friday before we headed to The Ozark Cafe (the main restaurant in town, and excellent food!) for dinner:

Cotton Candy (5.6) | Sundial (5.7+) | Girth Hitch (5.7+) | Groovy (5.8+) - A

Saturday we headed back up to The North Forty for the morning, starting off on some easy 5.7's.  We ran into Paul from the gym and his family, as well as their friends Sarah and Roman.  We shared some belays and Sarah convinced me to get on The Greatest Show on Earth, my first outdoor 5.8.  I have to say I was a bit nervous, but did not want to be rude and pass on an offered belay.  After all, I was climbing 5.8 at the gym so I should be able to do it here too right?  It was a bit of a mental challenge, but I got to the top without any trouble...and my confidence soared!  I climbed the adjacent African Herbman, also a 5.8 before Andy, Bob, and I headed over to the East Side.  All in all I climbed 6 routes on Saturday with one failed attempt:

Tunnel Vision (5.7) | Little manly man (5.7+) | The Greatest Show on Earth (5.8) | African Herbman (5.8) | Rubber Chicken (5.6) | Gracie's Eight (5.8) - A | Montezuma's Toe (5.8)

Sunday Andy and Bob took me to Titanic Boulder for a photogenic climb of Squirrel Deck and then the two of them headed off to climb Gimp and Wheezer.  Knowing it was well beyond my abilities I headed back to The North Forty to look for Paul and family.  I found them on Cotton Candy and gave it another climb.  They were packing up after that to head home but Roman was wanting to stick around and climb.  Sarah agreed to leave her rope with us if we would make sure it got back to Paul.  Now, I had been seeing Andy and Bob take turns leading and then "cleaning" the route.  I knew I was not ready to lead, but cleaning seemed fairly straight forward and I had been trying to give it a no avail.  Andy and Bob wouldn't let me clean since I hadn't been taught...Sarah almost did but then asked if I had done it before.  When I said no she flatly refused and I could tell there was no point arguing.  Roman however was a different story.  Not only did I give him my first lead belay, but he was more than willing to let me clean the route with a bit of instruction.  Now I would not recommend that anyone clean routes on their first time out unless they are absolutely comfortable in their abilities and have received proper training.  I was completely comfortable, though not without a bit of nerves, and was very pleased to clean Paul's Redemption!  To me it was one more skill acquired and one more step to a life of outdoor adventure and the freedom that comes with it.  Soon, Andy and Bob met up with us.  They climbed Strongman and then Roman tackled a 5.12.  I ended up with only 3 routes that day, but was worn out none the less.  It was an excellent first outing...only it was too short!

Squirrel Deck (5.8+) | Cotton Candy (5.6) | Paul's Redemption (5.7) | Strongman (5.9) - A

[A = Attempted]

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Monday, September 26, 2011

Meramec River Trip

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Colin and I decided to go on one more river trip before fall turned to winter. We decided to head back to the Meramec River and chose the 20 miles upriver from Onagonda Cave State Park as our destination. This would be our longest trip of the year but we were feeling experienced and ready for it.

I told Colin that I would be picking him up early from school. He was very excited about this because it meant he did not have to lay down for a nap! I left work early on Friday, September 24th to pick him up and we headed home to load the car. We left town and headed towards Jefferson City. Not having a nap, Colin was getting very tired and cranky. Being that he loves pizza, I stopped at a Pizza Hut for dinner and he really enjoyed that! After we got back on the road he soon was snoozing peacefully. The only drawback to this was that it had taken time...and we were behind schedule. I tried making good time, but as we worked our way down to I-44 and then off onto highway H near Leasburg I began to think we were not going to make it to our outfitters, Ozark Outdoors, before they closed at 10:00. Then, as we were heading downhill towards the river I saw the cop, but too late. Sure enough I had been caught in the local speed trap. On a steep hill the speed limit dropped from 45 to 35 and the to 25 in a matter of a few hundred feet. The cop was very polite and when he saw it was myself and my 3 year old with our Kayak strapped to the roof of the car and I explained we were trying to get there before close he let us off with a warning. I was very pleased, but it was now 9:55 and I was not sure we would make it.

Fortunately for us, there was someone reserving rafts for the next day that was taking their time and trying to bargain their way into a bigger raft for the same price. So, by 10:20 we were finally able to check in. I arranged for our shuttle the next morning and asked if we could rent a cabin as I did not want to mess with setting up camp that night. They had winterized most everything already but had a hotel room just didn't have linens. Since we had our sleeping bags this was not a problem. So, just as we were finishing unpacking what we needed for the night it started sprinkling. By the time we were in our room it was a full on downpour! We got settled in and slept very peacefully with the rain outside. Good thing I went for the room as we would have been setting up the tent right as the rain hit!

The next morning we checked in and went to meet our shuttle down by the river. He rode with us to the Bird's Nest put-in and took our car back. There were two older gentlemen putting in for a day of fishing and they were very impressed that Colin was going along. We soon passed them and were on our way. The river was very scenic, and although the water was too cold for swimming, we stopped several times to stretch our legs and for Colin to practice skipping rocks. At one point we came across a rope swing and he really wanted to try it until I reminded him how cold the water was. He made me promise that we would go back next year so he could do it.

He has been a very good sport about the long days on the water, but it was on this trip that I really realized he enjoys the time in camp much more than beig in the boat. So, even though we had only gone 8 miles, I stopped when we found the perfect gravel bar with 4 hours left until sundown. He had lots of fun playing and exploring while I setup camp and made us some dinner. We have typically not done a campfire because it was always late and we were exhausted, but this time I thought it would be a special treat. We found some driftwood and soon had a nice little fire. He really enjoyed helping me cut the wood, and when he scraped himself with the saw he was pleased to see that I had brought band aids. After the fire died down and he tired of poking at the coals we retired to our tent to read stories and watch movies on the iPhone. The forecast had called for thunder storms so I turned on the weather radio. It seemed that they were coming our way, and sure enough we could see lightning to the South. Someone was looking out for us though because they stayed to the South and it never once rained on us in the night. We soon dozed off and slept peacefully.

The next day we slept in until after 8:00 and didn't hit the water until close to 10:00. We had a couple paddle by as we were making breakfast. They had put in just up river and had stayed not far behind us. After letting the tent fly dry in the sun we loaded up camp and embarked. The day consisted of even more gorgeous scenery and we took it all in with the occasional stop to play. Later in the day we passed two guys in a canoe and a younger girl (12-14) in he own Kayak. It was a blue Wilderness Systems Pamlico. Colin thought he needed one like that someday. I think he is right!

I had been a bit worried about having to do 12 miles on day two with our early stop the day before, but the river was flowing nicely with few obstacles so we made excellent time. We reached the car just after 3:00 and I took my time packing while he went swimming. He was freezing but didn't seem to mind! I got him into some dry clothes and he was snoozing before we hit the highway. He slept most of the way home and I enjoyed the quiet drive. This was the longest trip of the year, but it had been the one that was the most enjoyable and had the least amount of challenges. A perfect way to end the season!

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Monday, August 29, 2011

Yosemite National Park

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Where do I begin?  As with Yellowstone, I had been wanting to see Yosemite since seeing the Ken Burns Documentary The National Parks: America's Best Idea.  However, I do not think I was prepared for what I was about to see and how it would change me.  So, to back up a bit, I was working on a project in Roseville, CA and needed to fly out to do some field work.  I figured that with air fair already paid for to California this would be a good opportunity to see Yosemite.  So, after finishing my work on Wednesday I took Thursday and Friday off and spent August 25th and 26th in the park.

I left Roseville early, around 6:00 a.m. and headed South on Highway 99 towards Modesto.  At Modesto, I took 120 East and slowly began climbing into the Foothills.  The drive from the developed central vally into the grassy foothills was beautiful as "civilization" gave way to nature.  I remember seeing real estate signs advertising "ranchettes" for sale, and I imagined how easy it would be to live here.  Shortly after separating from highway 108 and passing through Chinese Camp the terrain started getting dramatically stepper as I passed by the Don Pedro Reservoir and started climbing into the high country.  I passed through the quaint town of Groveland and soon crossed into the Stanislaus National Forest.  I had forgotten how much I love the coniferous mountain forests with their rocky soil strewn with pine needles.  The only experience I can remember having with this type of ecosystem, other than brief hikes in various places, is at Philmont Scout Ranch.  I remember backpacking through this type of environment, though not as rich, and loving it.  While the deciduous forests of the Ozarks are beautiful, nothing compares to this environment to me.  The smell is intoxicating!

After a pleasant drive through the Stanislaus National Forest I passed into Yosemite National Park via the Big Oak Flat Entrance and stopped at the Visitor's Center.  Driving through the forest made me realize how important our national forests are.  Not only do these parks need protected, but they need a buffer.  It would not do for the park to be protected only to be ringed by resorts and other development.  Our national forests give us this buffer from "civilization" and are equally important.  My other epiphany came as I wondered around the small visitors's center.  Most people there were asking the rangers about hikes, obtaining backcountry permits,  and planning various adventures.  There were no large displays about the geology or animals, this was a place for people to plan adventure.  I would learn over the next two days that there is a very real difference in the use of Yosemite vs Yellowstone.  While Yellowstone is full of great backcountry adventure, I would say the majority of people there are sightseers.  The main use of the park is families driving from spot to spot seeing the amazing, easily accessible, features of the park.  Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of sightseers in Yosemite Valley. However, there seem to be an equal number of people there seeking adventure.  Climbing, Backpacking, Hiking; these are all common activities among visitors.

After leaving the visitor's center I was looking for some adventure of my own.  I continued driving down Oak Flat Road but turned off at Tioga Road as I had decided to spend my first day in the high country.  My breakfast was wearing off so I stopped at White Wolf Campground to get some lunch.  As I was purchasing a sandwich I overheard a ranger giving a family getting ideas for an afternoon hike.  After they had their plan I got some suggestions of my own.  The hike to May Lake sounded like a good start.  At only about 3 miles round-trip it sounded like something I could handle being that I was out of shape.  I headed down a somewhat rough road to the trail head and hiked up to a beautiful mountain lake and campground.  The lake was crystal clear and there were several one man tents pitched nearby.  This was a somewhat developed campground and I could see backpackers taking showers, doing laundry, etc.  The feeling of being on the trail came back to me from my youth and I longed to be able to head into the backcountry.  After enjoying the lake for an hour or so I headed back down to the car to see what was round the next bend.

I soon came to Olmstead Point and Tenaya lake.  I spent some time parked along the lake watching the climbers smear up the slab of Pywiack Dome above.  I had started going to the local climbing gym (IBEX) with my friend and neighbor Andy in early August.  Because I had just started climbing, I did not yet appreciate the history of climbing in this place.

I continued along Tioga Road through Tuolumne Meadows to the Tioga Pass entrance before turning around and heading back to Tuolumne Meadows.  I stopped in the Visitor's Center and picked up a copy of John Muir's "My First Summer in the Sierra" and "Yosemite".  I highly recommend the former for its well written tales of adventure.  The latter is more of a description of the flora and fauna and is not as exciting.  I also stopped in the gear shop / gas station and bought an ultralight cook set.

It was in the visitor's center that I learned there was a forest fire along highway 140 and in the gear shop that a climber said they had topped out on a route and saw a fireball to the West.  Before I had turned off onto Tioga Road I had seen signs indicating that they were doing controlled burns and there had been a slight haze from the fires, but nothing like what was about to happen.  As I drove back down Tioga Road and turned left on Big Oak Flat Road towards the valley the smoke started growing thicker.  Not horrible, but noticeable.  As I drove into the valley I made the loop once to get my bearings and then headed for the main dining hall to get some dinner.  This is when things got crazy.  I fond out that the dining hall, gift shop, and the lobby of the lodge were running on generator.  The entire valley was without power.  I still do not know if they cut power to the valley intentionally or if it was knocked out by the fire.  I did learn that the fire was from a motor home who's propane tank exploded along highway 140 outside of El Portal and that half of the town of El Portal had been evacuated.  My hotel for the night was in El Portal.  There were tons of people getting dinner, but it was slower than normal because of the fact that they were running on generators.  They were unable to run some of the equipment so choices were limited.  I ate as quickly as I could and then went to the lodge to see what the situation was.  Over half of the people were checking out and leaving and the others were making due with flashlights as the rooms had no power.  I drove towards El Portal to determine the situation at my hotel.  Turns out it was still open but also without power.  It took 45 minutes to check in and by that time it was dark and they had run out of flashlights to hand out.  I felt more relieved at having a room secured, and I had purchased Colin a toy headlamp at the gift shop that came in handy, so I headed back up the valley to do some stargazing.  There were gorgeous stars, but with the haze from the fire they were not much more spectacular than a midwestern country night.  I headed back to the hotel, toy headlamp in hand, and went to bed.

The next morning I woke up and the hotel had power.  Other than the haze in the valley and the buzz in the air from the excitement things were kind of normal.  We all knew that just down the valley there was a wildfire and that was threatening homes and was being fought around the clock, but those who had chosen to stay went on with their sightseeing.

This fire would come to be known as "The Motor Fire" and would not be contained until September 5th after burning 5,231 acres.  Thanks to YouTube we can see the beginning and the aftermath here.

I  started my day with a Cliff Bar and Banana breakfast and then headed to Bridalveil Falls, stopped to photograph El Capitan, walked to the base of Yosemite Falls, and then grabbed some lunch.  After lunch I decided I was going to hike the Mist Trail to the top of Vernal Falls.  I parked at the Happy Isles  trailhead and started walking toward the Mist Trail.  There was a group of four young backpackers heading out that were going out for two weeks and doing the entire length of the John Muir Trail (211 Miles).  This was the first time I had heard of the John Muir Trail and I was envious of their upcoming trip.  I began hiking the Mist trail as I daydreamed of heading into the backcountry.  The asphalt trail climbed up the side of the canyon to a bridge below Vernal Falls.  This was a good spot to rest, photograph, and get water.  From here the trail steepened as it climbed to the base of Vernal Falls.  At the falls the trail became a set of steps carved out of the rock (by the CCC no doubt) that climbs to the side of the fall with narrow ledges and old pipe railings.  Once on top, you can get right up next to the waterfall for some great views!  I was already exhausted, but wanted to see what was up the trail.  Just above the falls was the emerald pool, and then the trail pushed up through the woods toward Nevada Falls.  I fully intended to stop at the top of Vernal Falls, but my mind kept pushing my body to continue.  I could not stop until I saw what was around the next bend.  I finally threw in the towel at the base of Nevada Falls, as the climb was steep and I was exhausted.  I had only hiked 3.5 miles, but had gained 1,100 ft in elevation!  I headed back down the way I had come and back to the dining hall for dinner.  I had hoped to also hike to Mirror Lake, but had run out of day.  I made one final loop in the valley before heading towards Glacier Point.  I stopped at the tunnel view turnout for a breathtaking view of the valley.  Someday when I bring Laura and Colin I want this to be their first view of the valley, as it is wondrous!

I had a nice drive to Glacier Point and even saw a female black bear on the way.  I arrived just before dusk and spent about an hour and a half up there marveling at the views of the valley, the alpenglow of the mountains, and the crispness of the air.  From up there you get a view of Vernal and Nevada Falls that really puts into perspective how far and high I had hiked that day.  You also get an incredible view of the backcountry beyond that gets your imagination racing about the possibilities.  The view of Half Dome is incredible!  Have to hike that someday.  The view of the valley transforms from one of a lush green respite to one that comes alive at night with the lights of the tourists.  I spent time up there reflecting on all that I had seen and it solidified my connection to this place.  I was given a glimpse, but that glimpse is not enough.  I have to return and spend some time in Yosemite.  Not a vacation in the valley, but some real time in the backcountry getting to know this incredible place.  I went to Yosemite with curiosity and ended up leaving a piece of my soul.

I could have laid down on the ground and spent the night, but reluctantly I had to leave.  My flight was leaving Fresno at 6:00 a.m. the next morning and I was 3 hours away.  On my way back down from Glacier Point the reality of the fire came back to the forefront.  Two of the campgrounds along the road were closed because the firefighters were using them for rest.  They were running round the clock shifts, and I passed three crews of 5-6 trucks each on the way down.  These guys are true heroes.  Doing dangerous and tiring work in order to save homes, lives, and the places we love.  Once I reached the Wawona Road I could see the fires burning the hills in the distance.  Very surreal.

On my way out the South Entrance I drove to the Mariposa Grove.  Though it was dark I could see a glimpse of the Giant Sequoias.  Not enough to take in their grander fully, but enough that gave me one more thing to look forward to next time.  The drive out of the mountains was bittersweet.  It was a beautiful drive out of the mountains, and I was heading home to my family, but I was leaving behind one of the most amazing places I had ever been.  Someday I shall return.

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Monday, August 22, 2011

Meramec River Trip

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It had been a long time since we had taken a company trip.  So, with some of my co-workers having expressed interest I organized a company canoe trip.  I decided that since there would be several kids that we would return to Meramec State Park for their 5 mile float.  This was where Colin had his first float trip at 18 months.  It is a very family friendly section of the Meramec River.  We all met at our 3 reserved campsites on Friday night, August 19th.  Saturday morning we were greeted with a thunderstorm, and many wondered if we would be able to canoe that day.  Having faith that it would clear up we made breakfast under the canopies and it soon quit raining. By the time we put in at the Sappington Bridge Access it had turned into a beautiful day!  Though the trip was short, and I had to stay in a campground with the noisy campers, it was a very nice trip visiting with everyone around the campfire.  I hope to get everyone out again next year!

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Monday, August 1, 2011

Gasconade River Trip

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After hearing me talk about taking Colin on canoeing trips my neighbor Chris decided that he and his son Benjamin would like to join us.  We took off Thursday July 28th and headed down to his family's cabin at Lake of the Ozarks.  We had a nice dinner out and spent part of the evening out on the water.  Very relaxing!  I can see the appeal of having a weekend getaway.

Friday morning we headed down to the Boiling Spring Campground on the Gasconade River.  We had arranged for a 14 mile trip and after a short wait for the owner to return we headed to our put in.  All of us had a nice day on the river, especially the boys.  We stopped to swim several times and even spent some time fishing.  Colin caught his first fish and then reeled a few more in!  He was very excited!!  Towards the end of the day as we were looking for a good campaing spot we encountered a 3 mile stretch of river that was SLOW and swampy.  In fact, we found a spot that we thought was clean enough for a swim and within a few minutes I had a leech crawling up my arm...back in the boats boys!  So, with the sun beginning to set we settled on a less than ideal gravel bar and quickly setup camp, made dinner, and went to bed as the mosquitos started to swarm.

Saturday on the river was enjoyable, without any of the slow swampy sections to slow us down.  We had gone 8 miles on Friday so we only had 6 to go.  It was very hot out (high 90's) but the water was cool and enjoyable.  We had an especially nice rest at the confluence of the Gasconade and Big Piney rivers.  We finished up at the Boiling Spring before heading back to the campground and on to the lake house for dinner.  After dinner we went swimming and took the boat out.  Colin got to go tubing for the first time (with me), and after the initial fear, he decided it was very cool!  It was a very nice and relaxing weekend!

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