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, July 30, 2012

Elk River Trip

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This trip to the Elk River on July 28th-29th started out as a bit of a gamble as I had not been able to contact the outfitter prior to our departure.  Their message said to "come on down" but driving three hours without having a reservation left me a little nervous.  The funny thing is it was the easiest shuttle I have arranged yet.  We drove in to Cowskin Canoes and within 10 minutes were headed up river to the Mt. Shira Access.

Mt. Shira is the access point I had taken out at on my solo day trip the year before.

We unloaded the car and watched our car drive off.  I loaded the boat while Colin practiced casting his fishing pole.  We paddled downstream through all of the day floaters.  There weren't nearly as many as last year, but maybe we just got out ahead of them.  Our first real stop was at the houses along the river in Noel.  We stopped to swim in front of the Cabin that belongs to some old friends of ours...though we have not talked to them in years.  Some of their neighbors were out and I had a nice talk while Colin played.  After 45 minutes or so we headed back down river to our big obstacle.  The Dam.

As we passed under the DANGER sign I hoped that it would be and easy portage.  No such luck!  I knew the water was low because of the drought, but there was virtually no water below the dam, just a bunch of pools.  I saw a small stream on the opposite side, but it wasn't even floatable.  We walked down the road through the River Ranch campsite until we found a part of the river that had enough water in it to continue.  It was about 1/8 of a mile down from the dam.  It took two trips carrying gear and one with the boat.  Colin was very helpful and took the water bottles the first trip and his paddle and fishing pole the second.  After 3/4 miles of walking we had the boat re-loaded, but were exhausted.

As we continued the water got really low and I had to walk the boat for quite a while.  The cool, but dangerous, part was that most of the riverbed was not gravel, but bedrock.  Unfortunately this was extremely slick and I fell right on my back once!  Made me wish I had some of these to try out (J/K)!

Our next challenge...after all, floating rivers is just a series of challenges...involved livestock.  We came upon a low and narrow section of the river that was blocked by about 30 head of cattle.  There was no part of the river that was open, and I was not about to portage around a bunch of cows!  I knew that cows were both dumb and that they were afraid of people.  I had Colin walk behind me and I let the boat float in front.  Most of the cows moved...until we cam to the calves.  There were 3 calves that didn't see why the should have to move from the perfectly cool waters of the river.  As the boat approached with me 10 ft behind their mother decided to let me know she was not pleased.  I tried to reassure her but they were not budging.  I pulled the boat back and walked out in front of it, instructing Colin to stay by my side.  As I started to approach they finally moved and we were able to pass.  Once we got to the other side she calmed down.  We soon came upon the owners of the cows and they suggested a place about a mile down river called Cedar Bluff for camping.

After paddling for a bit more we came upon the bluff.  There were three people swimming there and we introduced ourselves.  Colin swam and played fetch with their dogs as I setup camp.  After while they headed home and I began to cook our Mac and Cheese for dinner (Yum!)  Colin helped me gather some firewood and we had a small campfire.  He said he wanted a hot dog and I asked him if he was still hungry.  He said no.  I asked if he just wanted it because it was cool?  He said he did so after whittling the end off a good stick I roasted a hot dog for him.  We let the embers die down and he headed off to the ten to play his DS.  I doused the embers and finished preparing camp for night time.

As the sun set we laid in the tent and played.  He played DS for a while and then we watched part of Star Wars.  I was practically asleep before him!  It didn't feel too bad outside with a nice breeze but it was hot in the tent, even without the rain fly.  He dozed off shortly after turning off his movie, but I tossed and turned for a while.  I finally dozed off but kept waking up most of the night.  At 2:00 a.m. I heard a large pack of coyotes not more than 1/4 mile away.  Though a bit unnerving, I soon could tell they were headed away from us.  At 3:00 a.m. I heard them again, this time well down stream.  By 4:00 a.m. it finally cooled off enough that I needed to cover up and I slept soundly until about 6:00.  I managed to go back to sleep once more, but by 8:00 it was already too hot in the tent...and time to get up anyway.

I started packing up and Colin opened his eyes and told me he was still resting.  I finished packing as much as I could and began the oatmeal while he swam.  After breakfast I joined him for a quick swim to cool down and then loaded the boat.

A short paddle down the river led us to another beautify bluff and a great swimming hole with large fish jumping nearby.  Colin droped some of his granola bar into the water and soon the minnows were fighting over it.  It was a good experience for him to connect with the wildlife a bit.  The rest of the river was fairly shallow and wide surrounded by low farmland.  We came upon two people fishing who had put in at the 3 mile float.  Other than a family playing with their dogs along the banks they were the only people we saw on the river all day.  We stopped for one more swim and he enjoyed playing with the dragonflies.  They kept landing on his hand and he got a real kick out of it.  We even saw a beaver out gathering sticks, but he scurried off before we could get too good of a look at him.  It is these kinds of experiences that I hope will stay with him!

We cam upon Cowskin Access and there was a large group of people swimming.  I asked one guy if he would watch our boat while we walked up to get our car.  He suggested that I would probably get stuck and offered to haul our boat up in the back of his truck!  We greatly accepted his offer and were soon at our car and on the way home.  We stopped for gas in Neosho and then at McDonalds in Carthage so Colin could get a happy meal and the toy I promised him.  The rest of the drive home was him sleeping and me trying not to.  We got home, unpacked the car, and wen straight to the pool!

It was a good trip!  Lots of work at times, but well worth the effort.  In the end it was a very relaxing and rejuvenating trip.

Cedar Bluff View entire gallery

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