On a whim, we decided to hit the Current River with a group of Neil’s friends this weekend. They are camping and floating weekend warriors, often starting as early as January and sometimes taking trips in late November as weather permits. With my crazy schedule this semester, this is the first time I’ve been able to go, so I was determined to make it, come hell or high water. Little did we know, one of those situations would be greeting us very soon.
With all the rain we’ve had in the past month, the river was quite swollen. One one hand, it made the normal shallow points in the river easy to navigate in a canoe, a perk that allows consistent momentum and little worry about scraping the bottom of the river. On the other, it required close attention because the river was moving FAST. The first 11 miles of our 22 mile float were swiftly over in a matter of several hours. A quick look at our Garmin GPS indicated that without paddling, we were floating at a rate of 5-6 miles per hour. Definitely more of an amusement park water ride than a lazy river float.
I was not the only new member along for the trip, Clive also made his debut on the river this weekend. We’ve been wanting to get him on a trip to get a sense of how he’d do in more remote camping situations, and an overnight float seemed the perfect short test run. The only sticky point was the whole floating part. If you remember from a few of our trips (here and here) last year, Clive is not a fan of the water. So how would he fare in a canoe?
Lucky for us, Clive took right to canoeing. After a few minutes of nervous shaking after drop-in, he was quickly diverted by the tour of what had to have been his nose’s paradise. He just kept smelling and smelling, watching the world go by and having someone paddle him around. He is a spoiled pup after all.
While Clive took to floating like a champ, we were unprepared for the weather. After being spoiled with warmer temperatures all week, they suddenly plunged into the 50’s on Saturday. On the river, it felt more like lower 40’s. Despite Neil’s calm and happy demeanor in this photo, we were freezing. Look at his purple legs and you’ll understand why he switched to pants on the next stop. The photo bombers behind him had the right idea.
We saw some amazing sights. Beautiful cave openings flooded with bright aqua water in the rocks and freshwater springs. This was the biggest one and there were about six canoes and kayaks in there.
I also saw my first Brood 19 Cicada of the season. I work in a plant sciences and entomology department, so I’ve been hearing a lot of about their impending arrival. They are here a little earlier than expected, and are a lot bigger than I remember. Don’t worry, it was dead, I just couldn’t help but get a macro shot of the wings, aren’t they beautiful?
I snapped a shot of my finger, which was completely numb after about an hour. I’ve had frostbite before (its basically a rite of passage in Minnesota), and this is the closest I’ve felt to having it again. I wanted to remember my finger in case I lost it.
About a quarter of the way into our float we had our first and only dump of the trip. A dump is when someone overturns, usually as a result of hitting something in the water, or something in the way of the path. In this case, it was tree that had recently fallen over the water. One of Neil’s friends, Justin, brought his cousin, Kaycia, and she followed Neil’s brother Ben into a more narrow pathway and got snagged by the tree, which overturned her kayak. Poor girl was soaked to the bone and her kayak quickly filled with water and started to sink as it kept moving down river. Justin quickly retrieved it while Ben got her to the nearest sandbar. Justin towed it ashore, emptied the water, then decided to swim it upstream to her.
Grazy bastard! That water was freezing! Don’t judge, but I couldn’t have done it. Maybe I’m just not that good of a person…
With two of our group members soaked, and the cloudy day quickly growing darker, we decided to make camp at the next sand bar and get a fire going.
With the brief appearance of sun, the smorgasbord was on! If Clive had any doubts about camping, they were quickly gone when he realized there was people food to be had.
Matt quickly became his new best friend. He had hot dogs and snacks!
“What do you have that I can have?”
Stringing up a pineapple. Apparently this is a Futurama reference? Anyone? I was just ready to eat it. Fresh pineapple has to be my favorite fruit.
Neil sliced it up like a pro, I was so proud. It was a sticky mess though. Pineapple is not really an optimal camping food choice. Its deliciousness redeemed it though.
How about some pineapple and kielbasa kabobs with complimentary penis jokes on the side? One can not expect to camp with men without such topical entertainment.
We ate so much food! I was SO stuffed and didn’t partake of nearly 1/3 of what everyone brought to share. I love the simplicity and informal nature of camping food. No one is pretentious, everyone shares, and everything cooked over a fire has a beautiful flavor.
Oh look it’s me! Neil snagged the camera to get a few shots and got one of me before I noticed. Is it weird that this is my blog and there are rarely any pictures of me?
Water brought to us by Ben. This is a really sweet device that Neil and I would like to someday add to our inventory. It’s called the Katadyn Base Camp Water Filter. It’s great when you’re in large or small groups. There’s no pumping or repetitive trips to the river to filter enough for a CamelBak or Nalgene bottle. Simply fill the bag and hang it, and it filters as you use it.
We sat by the fire late into the night and finally passed out around midnight. I always fall asleep early on trips and wake up around 5 or 6 am. Maybe I should sleep outdoors more often?
The next morning…
No, raccoons did not get into camp, this is all us. I can’t decide whether to call this “Beer-nado” or “The Morning After.” I think it is accurate to say we had a great night.
Bacon and eggs for breakfast, with a twist…
…in a bun with a hot dog? I stuck with eggs and salsa.
Soon it was time to hit the river again and head home. Clive was suited up and ready to go. He even hopped in the canoe on his own. I’m so proud of my little water dog! We’re definitely going to get him a better float coat for the next trip. This one is great for little lake trips, but he’s in need of something more serious and better fitting for movement. We’re eyeing The Big Eddy by Ruffwear, but are open to suggestions if you have any!
So even though it was cold and we didn’t swim and really didn’t see a lick of sunlight, we had a great time. The river was quiet, we rarely saw another soul and it was great to really feel like we were leaving civilization and spending time with friends and each other. This was my first Current River trip, and of the rivers I’ve canoed in Missouri thus far, this has been my favorite. We’re definitely going to have to save a little money and expand our inventory to include kayaks and a canoe. The further we dive into camping and backpacking the more we see our gear needs changing. It doesn’t help that companies are constantly putting out great tools that make packing and enjoying the trip easier!
Stay tuned, I have a few new camping recipes to share! I’ll give you a hint: browned butter and bourbon…
If you’re interested in canoeing the Current River, you can find more information and trip planning routes and tips here.