Saturday, August 28, 2010

Squiggly Blue Lines

Has it really been over two years since I last posted to this blog? I'm surprised Google hasn't deleted it for lack of use! My excuse is it's been a busy time with lots of major changes. In 2009 my wife and I stopped complaining about the noise, pollution, congestion, traffic, high taxes, and general lack of personal liberty in NJ and acted on our desire to spend the remainder of our days living out in the country. So we sold the big house and moved west. About 1100 miles west. We now live in a modest home on a few acres in the middle of the Missouri Ozarks. We raise chickens, eat food that we grow in our garden, and see the Milky Way every cloudless night. The nearest town (population 555) is eleven miles away, which gives a clue how rural we're talking about here. Property taxes are about a tenth of what we used to pay in NJ, and the cost of nearly everything is significantly less. So far, it seems we made a good choice on where to move. But the purpose of this journal is to chronicle our recreational pursuits, so let's move on.

The dog days of August are perfect for escaping daily routines and making time for some R&R. Head to the beach, do some fishing, recline in the shade with a good book... there are countless ways to slow down the pace of life and enjoy the outdoors before another summer fades into fall. After several consecutive weeks of unrelenting extreme heat and humidity, the return to normal temperatures was a welcome relief. A cool front came through a few days ago and brought with it some delightful weather. That's all the prodding my wife and I needed to dust off the kayaks and plan a float trip down one of our local rivers.

South-central Missouri is somewhat of a paddling mecca. Folks come from far and wide to patronize the dozens of rental / livery services that get you equipped and on the water for a fee. As you might expect, there is very good reason for this popularity. The area has some of the most incredible scenery to be had anywhere in the country. Indeed, the US National Park Service oversees sections of both the Current and Jack's Fork Rivers as a means to protect the natural beauty found along their banks. You can click on the photo below for a larger view or go HERE for a downloadable hi-res pdf map of the area.

With 150 or so navigable miles of river to choose from
within a 30-minute drive, the next question becomes which section(s) to do first. Alley Spring is one of the prettiest and most interesting places we have seen since moving here a little over a year ago. In addition to the spring itself which has an average daily flow of 81 MILLION gallons per day, one will find a 100+ year-old mill, hiking trails, a picnic area, and a campground. Our familiarity with Alley made it a natural choice so we paddled the section from there to the town of Eminence. Why had we waited so many months before making time to paddle? The scenery was simply awesome. Unfortunately we had no camera along on that trip, but those few hours on the water is all it took to rekindle the paddling bug. We promised ourselves we would do it again very soon.

Providentially, we recently met a local couple who are also avid kayakers. They have extensive experience with these local streams and graciously offered to "show us around". Al and Pam are great folks from New Orleans who chose to retire in Missouri primarily because of their fondness for the local waterways... our kinda people! It didn't take long before a plan was hatched and we were sharing adventures together. The pictures that follow are from the second and third trips we did with them. Don't forget that you can click on any of the pictures for a full-sized image.

ready, set, ....go!

The stretch of the Current River described herein begins at the Cedar Grove put-in near the tiny town of Jadwin. Dent County road ZZ ends right at the river. Yes, that's double Z as in zebra. They use letters instead of numbers to label some of the roads here in Missouri. :)   Our takeout point the first day was at Welch Landing which is a short distance off County Road K near Aker's Ferry.  Our put-in the second day was at Akers and our takeout was at the Pulltite rec area located at the end of County Road EE.

just another bluff

Portions of this river route are very canyon-esque. Vertical rock walls rising straight out of the riverbed are common on the Current and Jack's Fork. There are also more than 6000 caves in Missouri with a high concentration of them in this particular area due to the karst topography of the region. Some of these are accessible directly from the river.

vanilla, cherry, lemon, or lime?

These yakkers are a colorful bunch, aren't they? Polyethylene is a wonderful thing! I thank God for making all those Tyrannosaurus Rexes every time I slip into my sleek, waterproof, incredibly durable kayak. :)

our tourguides

Speaking of Divine Providence, our newfound friends Al and Pam are graciously showing us the best places to go and the many hidden treasures along the way that we would otherwise paddle right past. We thoroughly enjoy their company and look forward to many more float trips together.


Case in point, here they are leading us through one set of particularly treacherous rapids. Just kidding... I don't think there is even a single "class 2" rapid to be found on these rivers except perhaps in early spring or immediately after a heavy rain. The turbulence in the photo above is being generated by Welch Spring which adds an average of 105 million gallons of water per day to the Current River's flow. We all took turns "surfing" the twelve-inch waves.

a pleasant surprise

We unexpectedly got an up close and personal view of an American Bald Eagle on this trip. He/She remained still for the camera as we glided quietly 20 feet below his/her perch. I've watched the live nest-cam feeds that are available on the web, but this is the closest I've ever been to one in real life. Pretty awesome!

a pretty sight

Horseback riding is another way to enjoy the beauty of the Ozarks.  People come from all over tarnation to participate in organized trail rides and pack trips up to a week long.  The folks in the picture were locals just out for a Sunday jaunt close to home.  There are also two herds of wild horses that wander free in the area.  We hope to encounter them along the river someday.

young buck with no fear

I was sure this whitetail would bolt as we approached but he seemed as interested in us as we were in him.  We glided past only thirty feet from this handsome fella.

Caves are cool !  Caves that you can paddle right into are even cooler!  This one was simply amazing.  Once beyond the mouth it opens into a large cavern.  As you can see in these pictures there was plenty of room inside for all four of our boats.

there's no place he'd rather be

So that's it for this installment. Hopefully I'll be able to add more interesting stories and pictures in the coming weeks and months. Stay tuned!


Dave Bachman said...

Al and Pam - It's the "Show Me State" (go figure)

Paddling into a cave - awesome.

Still in NJ said...

WOW!!!!!!!!! So glad that you are getting out and enjoying one of the very reasons you went to MO! Can't wait for the next chapter in the adventures of Lorenzio!!!!!
BUT................... Where is Zeke??? Doesn't the Lorenzio product line carry kayak canine carriers??????????