Recently, one cool Saturday morning, I woke hubby from his beauty sleep. He popped awake and said, “Let’s take the kayaks to Fall River.” Now, one of my favorite things about this man is his spontaneity, even though it sometimes leads us WAAAAY down the road less taken. We’d never floated Fall River before, so we threw kayaks, gear, and some food into the truck and took off.
HA! If only it were that easy. Spontaneity does not mean prepared. Rewind that fantasy clip to reality. Two hours later we finally had our fishing licenses and parking permits, found all the tackle, packed and re-packed clothing and camping options, and eaten the lunch I’d packed. So I grabbed assorted, weird items from the pantry, thinking desperation is the mother of unexplained spousal disappearances.
Finally we embarked, with Hubby in the truck and me in the vehicle we call the Travelin’ Van because we needed a pick-up vehicle at the end of the journey. Hubby wanted to park at the mouth of the Fall River Reservoir, a trip of 14 miles if you believe the brochure, and if you believe that rivers travel in straight lines. We found the put-in to the Fall River and drove on to a wildlife refuge. We left the Travelin’ Van here, thinking that if we navigated this stretch pretty quickly we could always relocate and do another stretch. We walked down the bank to the water and put up a marker so we’d know where to pull out. Or so we thought. When you’re into spontaneity you don’t have to do a lot of unnecessary work like looking at maps. It bogs down the spur-of-the-moment feel of the adventure.
We drove back up river to the bridge and cheerily put in, exclaiming about our good fortune of a beautiful day and some free time together. The water was sluggish, but very pretty. And cold. We paddled, floated, fished, and wildlife-watched our way for a couple of hours. It was very idyllic. I have idyllic pictures to prove it.
About two hours into it we came across rapids. Whoo hoo! The trip was getting exciting! Now, to be fair let’s discuss what rapids really are. Any time the river constricts, experiences a change in gradient, or has obstacles, like ROCKS, it creates “vivid water”, or rapids. This is not whitewater. (If you really want to debate that, give me a call sometime. I’ll discuss anything over toasted marshmallows.) The water was slow, and the water level was down, which all sounds rather tame, except that the lower volume meant all the rocks were exposed. Thus, vivid water. None of the drops were huge, we’re talking Class I, maybe a couple of II’s, but we’re in Class ZERO boats. At one point Hubby got pushed up against some drift and his kayak broached. Yep, filled that sucker up with Fall River. Did I mention the water was cold? Soaked him all the way to his thermals. After a few of these, we pulled out to eat and get warm.
This continued till the bottoms of the boats looked like we had been attacked by something from a Stephen King movie. There are no pictures of the rapids, because I was too busy trying not to head-butt a rock. Eventually, one of us, perhaps me, says, “We should be getting close”.
Me, a little later: “Can’t be much farther, can it?”
Hubby: “I wouldn’t think so.”
There seemed to be no end to the vivid water spots. I’m thinking we really should have arrived at the van by now, so I asked Hubby, “Any sign of your marker?”
Hubby: “Marker? I thought YOU were looking for it!”
Me: “No, I thought YOU were looking for it!”
We had no idea how far we’d come, we only knew that our trapezoids were traumatized and our wrists were wrenched from fighting through the rocks. He’s thinking that he KNOWS the river comes out into the reservoir, and if we just paddle long enough we’ll get there and call someone to come get us. I’m thinking there’s no way I’m rock hopping in the dark and how long will he survive the cold night, ‘cause I’m not sharing my rain suit and dry pants. We came across fishermen whom we cautiously questioned as to our whereabouts, not wanting to look like total idiots.
The fishermen, in spite of our best efforts to be blasé, think we’re odd and possibly stupid. They informed us there’s a town “just a ways” up the road. Being a farm girl I can interpret those kinds of directions and I campaigned to leave the kayaks and walk out. After five hours of gripping the paddle, my opposable thumbs no longer oppose. Hubby agreed just as I got stuck on yet another stretch of rock. He gallantly offered to pull me across, but I stood up.
Hubby: “Sit down and I’ll pull you over to the bank.”
Me: “I am NOT sitting down, you are NOT pulling me out, and I want OUT of this boat!”
I splashed off, leaving him to beach both craft by himself. It’s terribly unsatisfying to stomp off in eight inches of water. You really lose the temper tantrum effect.
We started walking up the gravel road and had another of those truly touching marital conversations that make me love him:
Hubby: “Do you love me?”
Hubby: “Will you still love me if we’re looking for the van in the dark?”
We were wet, cold, and not sure if we’d ever find our boats again. Finally, we found the Travelin’ Van. Apparently we parked not on the river, but on a very wide tributary, thereby assuring that we would NEVER have found our marker. We went back for the kayaks, our gear completely undisturbed because no one is going to approach the crazy people.
We picked up the truck and headed into town for a barbeque rib dinner, because it was my night to cook. It was one of the best days of my life, and yeah, I would do it again in heartbeat, ’cause he gets the whole adventure thing.
Traci Schauf is a college instructor, freelance writer, amateur photographer, and obsessed outdoorswoman who divides her residency between Oklahoma and Kansas. With her family, she canoes, kayaks, bikes, hikes, backpacks and fishes. She hosts her own daily blogs about her family and outdoor life at http://momonvacation.blogspot.com and healthy living and fitness at http://community.wholeliving.com/profiles/blog/list?user=3q9603u0ypadw. She has been published in Country Woman, Family Fun, and Contempo magazines. Traci’s philosophy is “there is an outdoor activity for everyone, and everyone should be outdoors.”
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