Monday, July 27, 2009

Big Piney Float June 28, 2009

It was a gorgeous Sunday morning in the Ozarks. We loaded up the fiberglass "Joe Whiz" canoe on the Jeep Cherokee and fought our way through all the church traffic to meet up with Terrie and Mike in the Price Cutter parking lot in Waynesville. Today's float was special because it was my nephew, Kyle's, first river adventure. A week shy of his second birthday, he was ready to start following in his Daddy's footsteps to become a river rat.

Terrie's fiance, Mike, is originally from Arizona, but he is a very outgoing guy and probably knows more people in my hometown than I do. He also knew a back way to a place that we used to go mudding at near the Big Piney River known as Mayfield Crossing. The dirt road beside Spur Cleaners leads to this area but after September 11, 2001 Fort Leonard Wood has closed access to most of the dirt roads that lead onto the installation. Mike was able to reroute us through a newer housing area off of Texas Road and back into the Mayfield area. Finding a way back into one of his favorite haunts made Jeff grin from ear to ear and he happily splashed and threw mud as he followed Mike through the puddles.

Kyle was excited to finally be out of his car seat but was not as excited when we then strapped him into a lifejacket. He and Terrie and Jeff splashed in the water a bit as we did final preps of getting the canoe off the Jeep, the two man kayak off the Surbarban, coolers loaded and the wrapping of valuables in ziploc baggies. We plopped Kyle into the very front of the canoe, in front of me and shoved off. He was content the first few minutes, taking in the water and Terrie and Mike in the yellow kayak beside us. Then he realized that Daddy was in the very back of the canoe and he wanted to be back there with him. I distracted him with a piece of ice from the cooler. This turned into an all day game of open the cooler, get a piece of ice, throw it in the river. I must have 70 pictures of that kid from that day and in 60 of them he is opening a cooler. He floated part of the way up front with me and after our first gravel bar swimming party he got in the back with Daddy. Daddy lets him move around more in the canoe than I did so he was a happy camper. He also enjoyed having easier access to the cooler for ice.

We stopped twice on this trip to let Kyle play in the water. Kyle got a kick out of seeing Popeye, hip deep, in the water with his fishing rod near the "old old Route 66 bridge". We floated to the Elbow Inn but we hadn't planned our trip very well. We didn't realize that the gate was locked so we portaged the canoes and supplies up from the river, and through the narrow stairwell that cuts through the buildings of the bar. Terrie, Kyle, and I camped out on coolers in the parking lot while Mike and Jeff went back to Mayfield to retrive the Jeep. We were unofficial greeters for the Elbow several times as we explained to people that yes, they were closed, but they should definitely come back when they are open because the food is excellent and the beer is cold. Jeff and Mike returned, with the Jeep splashed in mud all the way to the roof. We had everything loaded in a few minutes and Kyle was sound asleep in his car seat before we even reached the Devil's Elbow Bridge.

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