I was sitting around last week, thinking, “Hey! I don’t really have anything planned the next couple of weeks, how about a quickie trip up to Iowa or something?” Then I got an email from my friend, Barb, who is an expert canoeing fiend from way back, inviting me on a trip to the Buffalo National Scenic River this last week. I got home a couple of hours ago.
We started about 5 hours southeast of Kansas City, in northern Arkansas. Barb, Kerry and I had caravanned down and arrived at Tyler Bend campground at the middle Buffalo about 4 o’clock and met Jim, another paddler from the KC area. We all got acquainted, set up camp, had supper and strategized for the morning.
I bought my Canak, as I call it, about 3 years ago. It is a 12 ft, Native Watercraft, Tegris recreational kayak. It has a kayak hull but open on top like a canoe. It's very stable in the water, which is a good thing considering what a rookie I am. The other good thing – it only weighs 35 pounds! I can carry it with one hand tied behind my back, literally. It has taken a bit of a beating (I’ve gotten stuck on submerged trees, hit rocks, dragged it over sand and gravel and dropped it) but it still looks sharp, due to the very strong material invented by the manufacturer. There are all sorts of floatable things available, including inflatable kayaks that are easier to transport, but I love my little boat.
I wondered how I was going to do this with Olga, my Roadtrek. I used to go canoeing, and tent camp, by car with a top rack. (I enjoyed it very much, but I’m sort of over tent camping now; spoiled by my RV.) I realized that the Canak might just fit inside! So I measured and knelt down to the god of Sizes and by golly it worked! I lower the bed in the back, open the back doors and slide it in on its side, over the bed and right down the aisle. She goes to about the end of the bathroom so I can still use the side door and even open the fridge a bit to get a cold drink while traveling. I put a blanket over the bed and also one where it leans on the cabinets so nothing gets scratched or dirty, and Voila!
I don’t need to take my gold tuille evening gown, tiara, satin slippers and all that fancy-schmancy stuff when I am canoeing. Basically shorts, t-shirts and sandals so there is plenty of room for my paddles, life jacket, etc… The first time I did this, about 2 years ago, it was my very first trip in my brand new RV and I even had a passenger. We fit everything in just fine- her canoe came down with Barb.
When I get to a campsite, I just unload the canoe and put it outside. If I worry about someone filching it, I have a bike lock that can attach to the trailer hitch. I can’t haul canoes back and forth, but I have carried 6 other paddlers so I felt good that I could chip in with shuttling duties.
I belong to the Ozark Waterways Wilderness Club, which was founded decades ago to keep the Buffalo River in Arkansas from being dammed, and eventually was also instrumental in the river becoming a National Park and Scenic Waterway.
We paddled 2 days on the Buffalo and 1 day on the north fork of the White River. Kerry left and we met 5 other people for 2 days on the Eleven Point. Then back down to me, Barb and Jim for 1day at the head waters of the Current which was a bit tricky as it is narrower with lots of trees down due to heavy rains and recent flooding.
Over 50 miles and 5 campgrounds, some of which were free. 3 of the rivers are National Scenic Waterways and all were gorgeous. Most were spring fed so the water was nice and cold making paddling comfortable and swimming refreshing!
We visited many of the springs- incredibly blue and green water and some with remnants of old mills. Lots of trout, herons, kingfishers and eagles and otters. Much of this was in the Mark Twain National Forest- home to plentiful wildlife, caves, trails, lakes and rivers.
There are loads of campgrounds and accesses, but not a lot of showers if you’re doing state and national. No problem for me with the Roadtrek! I also cooked up some great, hot dinners for some of the other tent campers with my groovy kitchen. And I was glad to shuttle folks back and forth over rougher roads that big RV’s wouldn’t handle.
All in all, a fantastic week and I didn’t dump my Canak even once!!!!!