With our 4th child’s high school graduation looming on May 27th, hubby wanted our family of 9 to go on an outing, or on an adventure, if you will, as we were all gathering that week for the big event on Friday. Since child #3 recently began his chef career, and only has Mondays off, hubby chose Monday, May 23rd as the day for our family to canoe and kayak down part of the Current River.
We live in South-Central Missouri, at the foothills of the Ozark Mountains. The Ozarks are filled with a lot of spring-fed rivers and streams, which are popular for canoe, kayak, and float trips; a float trip is just that, normally done in the height of a hot, humid Missouri summer, one gets into a large inner tube, and just floats down a river. The Current River, which we traveled on, is part of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, part of the National Park Service.
I awoke early that Monday morning, getting up at 5:00 am, and as I do when worried about something, I prayed that morning, that we’d be able to successfully do this activity, that no one would drown, that we would all have great memories from this event. With our older kids approaching their mid -20s, and our youngest 13, who knows how many vacations we can actually all gather together for in the future?
We left at 8:00 am and got to the canoe/kayak rental business-Jadwins-by 8:40. Soon, we were all fitted with life jackets, handed our paddles, and climbed into our watercraft, Hubby and I in a canoe, each of our 7 kids in their own kayaks. When I say kayak, I don’t mean the traditional type where there is a “lid” or cover over one’s legs. These kayaks were made of a heavy plastic, and our kids sat down in their kayaks, with a preformed chair back that they could rest their backs against. We left the shore of the Current River at 9:00 am. By 9:05, the first of many capsizes happened.
We had brought a Rubbermaid tote box and lid with us, and it held the picnic lunch, and some other items we didn’t want to get wet. We also brought another waterproof backpack to hold sunscreens, and a package of bottled waters. Luckily we were always able to save these items whenever the capsizes happened. The water that day was ice cold-it took my breath away and I couldn’t speak! Our trip soon took on a pattern. We’d be paddling along fine where the river was deep, with calm waters, and a gently curving channel. However, when the rapids appeared, with shallower, clear waters, and lots of logs jutting part way into the channel, or large brush piles, one of us would get stuck, in these water “hazards” and then capsize. We’d all work together and grab gear as it was being swept downriver, help the capsized person(s), get to a sandbank, and rest for a few minutes. Then we’d get set up again, and off we’d go.
We did manage to eat the picnic lunch around noon on another sandbank. At this point, I let out a few tears and complained to my hubby how this event was stressing me out tremendously and not at all fun and relaxing like I thought it would be. Watching one’s kids capsize, get trapped by logs and brush, is not a fun sight to see. We were all getting very tired, and realized that some of the kids belongings did manage to get swept away to never be seen again by us: an extra t-shirt, a water bottle, various slip-on sandals, and hubby’s prescription sunglasses. I recalled that the canoe rental worker who had driven our family to our launch site had said that as we approached a bridge downriver, to get out at that area, 4oo ft. from this bridge, as there were culverts closer to the bridge and one didn’t want to get sucked into one. I began a mental mantra,”Get me to that bridge!” I think some of our kids began the same mantra. After we got back on the river, the paddling did go better, the river seemed to lose some of it’s hazards, and by 2:30, we saw the bridge. A “Hurrah!” broke from our ranks as we saw the bridge and we made a beeline to the shore. There were some picnic tables at that spot on the shore, and we could see a wide path that had been made in the surrounding woods to a roadway. We had been advised by Jadwins to portage our equipment near the bridge in order to get to the other side of the river. With only hubby wanting to go on, the rest of us informed him that we were tired and ready to stop for the day. We agreed that if none of us could get a cell signal and call Jadwins to pick us up at the point where we were, then we’d go on down the river. Luckily, oldest daughter was able to get a signal, and we were picked up 20 minutes later, after portaging our equipment to the roadway and the awaiting Jadwins bus and trailer.
After hearing about our troubles on the river, the canoe rental employee did mention that the river was 6 in. higher than normal due to all of the recent rains. He also added that it’s not for the faint of heart or novice canoers/kayakers. After we got back to civilization-aka Salem, MO, we went to the local Wal Mart for new slip-on sandals. Then we went to the Pizza Hut for dinner-sitting in that restaurant and eating that pizza had never been so appreciated by me, before! We then went to my hubby’s co-worker’s hunting cabin that we had signed up for to spend the night at. With a thunderstorm ushering in the night, we all turned in.
Looking back now at our adventure, I can say I am proud of my family. During our time on the river, whenever someone paddled into difficulties, the rest gathered round and helped. No one yelled at anyone, or belittled those who kept having troubles manuevering. Many hugs were given and at the restaurant, all agreed that memories had been made this day. Psalms 127: 3-4 mentions what a blessing children are to a family. From the NIV translation: “Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from Him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.” Re-reading that verse and with how our children reacted to one another and to their parents during our Current River trip cheered me as to our family’s love and loyalty for one another. Looking back, a stressful day for me, yielded a wonderful view of my family in action.