Only the top fins of the buoy are showing here; usually another foot or two is visible. The high water and stiff current are submerging it. A paddler’s mind has plenty of time to wander, and this one wonders how much tension is on the cable. What if it snapped? Would the buoy launch from the river like a poseidon missile? It’s not irrelevant, for I frequently pass right next to them. What if one launched and landed on me? Game over! Of course the odds of that are slim to none, and there’s probably a million other more important things to focus on in a river with high water. But I gave the buoys a wide downstream berth for a while anyway. The Coast Guard maintains a nine-foot channel in the river. The green buoys mark the western edge and the red ones mark the eastern. It’s normal to hug one buoy line or the other, for that path captures the better current of the channel yet also offers the ability to move away swiftly should the situation warrant. And in case you wonder, the channel is almost always the fastest path downstream. Sometimes another channel is shorter, and it appears that the current should flow down it well, but there are usually wing dams on the secondary routes in order to keep the flow down the boat channel – especially important when the river level drops. The buoys are helpful, but also evil: they will eat your boat. Countless times I’ve been sure one of them would pass well clear of me, but then when I glance over a minute later it appears that I am heading straight for it. Beware the buoys!
Family I met on the river two days ago. We paddled separately during the days, but things worked out such that I spent two nights in a row camping on islands with them. They were loads of fun. The group consisted of grandma and grandpa, daughter-in-law (their son died six years ago) and four of the five grand-kids ranging in age from 14 to 20. Grandma and Grandpa are originally from Minnesota and once paddled the river regularly, but had not done so in six years. The grandkids talked them into this trip, and everyone had a blast. The second night we sat around a raging campfire way too late and sang every song we could think of – it was a very good night.
A dam with the gates open due to high water – trying to facilitate the flow downstream. Technically, no boats should pass through them, motorboats or otherwise, but people do. There is no submerged obstacle, but the currents can be tricky.
Camped in New Boston the next night, on a small spot of grass sandwiched between the marina and a fisherman’s campground where I was permitted to use the shower facilities. Pitched tent then trudged off in search of food and wifi. Found a nice restaurant/bar and met this fellow who offered a ride back to my site, offering historical tidbits as we motored along. Nice car! It sure felt small, though. I think it is a 1957, and it’s for sale. Pony up $42,000 and you’re riding home in this creampuff. Am feeling strong now. Feeling literally 10 years younger than when I started the trip. Have lost 20-lbs, my vision is improved (no staring at a computer screen?) as have my hearing and sense of smell. I’ve traded less than two months of my life to gain back 10 years. That’s a good trade. However, though my stamina and paddling technique continue to improve, am doubtful I could keep up with Dale and Richard.
Those guys were once world-class athletes, and they are advanced paddlers. Most people know of Dale’s exploits (held his breath underwater for six minutes, international spearfishing champ) but Richard is no slouch. He attended University of Memphis on a track scholarship (high hurdles and relay team) and is still strong as an ox – his nickname in high school was “the bull”. He was a fullback, and known for barreling straight ahead and running over anyone who got in his way.
At best, I’m an intermediate paddler, and was always playing catch-up. They were patient, but I would have held them up. Departed the next morning at dawn, to be greeted by this monster coming up behind me soon after shoving off into the mist. Then visited with with Nessie, a monster of another sort.
A comical scene occurred as I was tying-up the canoe in the little alcove under that cottonwood tree. There was barely room for my canoe to fit parallel to the bank, which was necessary to extract various items prior to hiking off for a spell. Being the Fourth of July, boats were constantly running up and down the river and their wakes were a nuisance. When the canoe is parallel to the bank, it’s fully exposed to river waves and they can throw the boat around – it’s dangerous. So all at the same time I’m watching the boats and their wakes, trying to find various items in the boat, while balancing precariously on slippery rocks just under the water’s surface. At some point, as I’m leaning over and pushing gently on the boat to keep it steady, it becomes apparent that I’ve pushed too far and very soon will either need to let go and fall face-first into the water, or launch myself into the boat bunny-hop style. The former offered no real harm and would probably even improve my appearance a bit. The latter risked turning the boat over and spilling all manner of gear into the water. So I launched. There were a couple of big bobbles but then all was steady. No way I could have done that if I’d thought about it first. Am pretty sure there is a merit badge for that, and if not then there should be. Saw these two ladies enjoying a picnic lunch at the table, with a tablecloth laid out and all sorts of tasty looking home-cooked dishes. I imagined them to be spinster sisters who have been coming down to this spot every year on the Fourth of July, just as they did when they were young girls. They groaned when I told them I absolutely HAD to take their picture. Then the couple to the right arrived and eased their way down onto the bench, so I backed up and put them in it too. After walking off in search of food, I saw these two ladies. They were chatting and one asked the other: “how is the water?” The friend didn’t know so together they checked it. They probably also would be horrified at this pic, but they never knew. Main Street. Found a restaurant by the water but they stopped serving minutes earlier. BUT, they spoke of a town-wide fish-fry about a mile down main street. Score! Abe Lincoln spoke at this town square once, as did Barack Obama.
Cute couple in front of me spoke up and introduced themselves. Don and Bo were kind enough to share a table with me. Very much enjoyed chatting with them. I think they are a couple, they certainly seemed good together.
The goal is to push the red barrel toward your opponent. Heading back to the boat I stopped at the local grocery to pick up a slab of ribs bought earlier on my way TO the fish fry (I was afraid they might sell out if I waited) plus other items and headed downstream. It’s always a good feeling to top off the food supply.
Can’t say enough nice things about Eric and Jo (the couple in the foreground) at the Shoquoquon Boat Club. They were super hosts, and in fact everyone I met there was friendly and helpful. I got a kick out of the club’s name. When pronounced correctly it sounds a lot like they were saying: Chakka Khan