Babbs in the Woods: One river + a few friends = a good time

proisbarb-fly-fishingWe’ve just had one of those weekends where I’d much rather have been on the river with friends than dealing with water damage at the ranch and settling the estate of a loved one who once lived there — watching a U-Haul pull away with the kitchen table where the family gathered for daily meals and the piano that I played while we all belted out Scottish ballads. It makes me long for memorable weekends, like past times on the rivers of Missouri with friends.


When you head out to meet with friends on a gravel bar situated below an awesome bluff near a spring … When the food is hot and the drinks are cold … When your friends pull up their chairs and share their marshmallow sticks with you … When someone starts telling “Little Johnny” or “Nasty Nicky” jokes … When the bullfrogs lure you into the canoe for a frog gigging trip … All this and more – it all comes together on the gravel bar with friends.

Not only have I learned a few jokes from my pals, but also, since a lot of them are outdoor writers, I’ve learned a few tips about packing the right stuff for an extended float trip. Some of the stuff I learned from experience. I’ll share some of these tips with you, and you can take it from there and find your own friends for your own gravel bar excursion.

First, forget about packing underwear. You don’t need it. Wear an old swimsuit, and take another one along for good measure. Wear clothing that is demure, or as the yuppies would say, “Khaki and fossil are in, Babe.” The fish, supposedly, have a hard time figuring out if you’re one-with-nature while wearing earthy colors, but you will be spotted a mile away in your Ocean Pacific duds in the zaniest neons.

Get some water shoes that will swim with you, not pull you to the bottom of the deepest part of the river. Shell out $40 for Tevas™ or their equivalents, because they’ll last a lifetime and they even feel good if you slip them on your feet after a long day at work. Plus, these watershoes have Velcro™ enclosures for when you get really old and can’t bend over or see your feet. Or, buy the aqua socks at the local discount store for $10, and prepare to replace them every year or two for the rest of your life—as your feet grow.

Buy sunscreen from this year’s lot. Yep, the sun is still shining in September. Last year’s lot may have expired, and you don’t want to find out this little fact after a day on the river. Don’t use the spray stuff, either, as the results tend to be blotchy. Because of my use of this new spray-on technology, my son looked like he’d been stood in front of a tennis ball machine and whacked with 100 tennis balls. He was not happy about this new look. He’s a teenager.

Don’t forget to put a strap or a shoelace on your sunglasses, and wear a hat with a brim that goes 360 degrees around your head. Rednecks don’t only get their names from sitting on front porches, drinking beers, and having belching contests.

Frog legs always taste better cooked by a friend, in this case, Bill Cooper, on a gravel bar! Photo by Bill Cooper.

Frog legs always taste better cooked by a friend, in this case, Bill Cooper, on a gravel bar! Here are the Bairds enjoying frog fare. Photo by Bill Cooper.

Get yourself a polyester sleep sack from the local discount store. It rolls up into a little wad and you don’t have to take the same sleeping bag your son took to Boy Scout Camp. Remember, that’s the one that didn’t get aired out.

Put everything into one of those big waterproof bags. Otherwise, you’ll spend a half-day double bagging everything with trash bags that tear easily.

Buy a little dual-fuel camp stove and use premium gas for the fuel. It burns hot and fast and is a lot cheaper than the special, expensive stove fuel.

Take along flour tortillas for lunchtime sandwiches and for suppertime fajitas.

Take a big enough cooler so you can sit on it in the middle of the canoe while on a midnight gigging trip. Fashion your own gig from a broomstick and a frog spear. Stick a piece of Styrofoam on the business end until you are ready to employ it, so you don’t skewer someone you love with it.

Always pack Skittles™ for quick energy.

Don’t plan on sleeping well, even if you have the best “earthpad” in the world. Someone in camp is going to snore, and it’ll be the guy/gal in the next tent.

Finally, and most importantly, leave the outside world back there somewhere, and as you approach the put-in point, start clearing your mind of worries. Concentrate on getting to know your friends and family better, on laughing so hard at times that your stomach hurts, and on enjoying what really matters.

You know what that is, too.

~Barbara Baird


  • About Barbara Baird

    Publisher/Editor Barbara Baird is a freelance writer in hunting, shooting and outdoor markets. Her bylines are found at several top hunting and shooting publications. She also is a travel writer, and you can follow her at


The Conversation

  • Women's Outdoor News says: September 15, 2009 at 7:47 am

    You’re right, Holly! What was I thinking? In fact, I routinely carry a pair in my toiletries bag — for when I’m around the ladies who snore at hunting camps … really.

  • NorCal Cazadora says: September 15, 2009 at 7:39 am

    Ohh, that sounds sweet. It’s only the third week of school, and a river getaway sounds heavenly. Except for the snoring. For that, I add one item you forgot:

    Earplugs – not just for the shooting range!