Sunday, April 24, 2005

Jack's Fork River, from the Prongs to Alley Spring
This stretch of the river is only navigable from spring through early June, and has an amazing reputation, so Billie and I have been trying for years to make it happen. But it's pretty rare to find a Spring weekend in Missouri that doesn't have at least one thunderstorm, and a thunderstorm is serious bidness when you're camping alongside the river in flash flood country.

This year, dammit, we were going to make it. Plans were made, food was prepped, dry bags were dug out of the closet and stuffed with camping gear. The forecast, miraculously, was clear, thanks to a high pressure area coming down from the north.

The distant peal of bells could be heard when we invited Nicki, and she said, "You do know it's supposed to be a lot colder this weekend, right?" Yeah, sure, it'll be fine. What could possibly go wrong? And then, again, when Billie said, "30 miles is a long trip for a kayak, isn't it", I heard those damn bells. 30 miles? Even for two days, that's quite a haul! Nevertheless! Be resolute and steadfast! Be stupid, even, if that's what it takes!

Nicki's kayak strapped to the top of Christie's CR-V, we head out Friday night through the rain (but it's supposed to clear up!). Not quite feeling the courage of my convictions, I dig out the weather radio/walkie talkie and turn it on to hear a robotic voice announce "record colds are expected tomorrow night with a low in the lower thirties. Low lying valleys in the Missouri Ozarks may read significantly colder temperaturs into the mid twenties. Farmers and gardeners are cautioned to protect young plants and new growth against freezing." Huh. On to the campsite! Billie and Emily await!

It was still raining when we woke up in the morning, but we were (mostly) undaunted. At least, none of us was publicly daunted, though we did wonder if Brett would be crazy enough to join us.

He was.

So off we went, the six of us, for 36 hours (or so) on the river. Yes, it turns out, 30 miles is a long trip, even for two days. And, yes, it was really fucking cold when we woke up Sunday morning. This was actually the first time I've ever had to shake ice off of the tent while on a canoe trip. In April.

I'm tired, sore, dehydrated, and seriously sunburnt on my face and the backs of my hands. Mostly, though, I'm in awe of my wife, who came of age in Louisiana, where a 25 degree night is a disaster of biblical proportions, who until this weekend had only car camped, and never camped in cold weather, and had never in her life done a two day float covering this kind of mileage. She broke a lot of personal records this weekend, and did it all with a smile. Well, most of it with a smile, and the rest with strength and resolution.

And for the record, all the rest of the world is a rough draft, and this particular 30 miles is what God was really trying to get at.

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