Two Rivers

Eminence, MO – June, 2016 Both the Current River and the Jack’s Fork are lovely, clear, clean rivers that are very popular for floating. Since the Jack’s Fork joins the Current just outside the little town of Eminence, the town is also very popular with floaters who can arrange to float many miles of either river from this location.

We had originally planned to float on the Jack’s Fork from Alley Spring into our camp in Eminence the first day, a Saturday. But some good friends who visit Eminence regularly explained that was the most crowded float in the area. They suggested a float on the Current River from Two Rivers, just below where the Jack’s Fork joins it, to Powder Mill.

This is the view of the rivers joining at Two Rivers. The Jack’s Fork comes in from the left of the photo and the Current from the right.

two rivers

There is a campground here, a store, and outfitter. They agreed to shuttle our vehicles to the take out for $45 each. It was an 8 mile drive to the put in and a 14 mile drive back to Eminence at the end of the float. For this minor inconvenience we had a beautiful section of the Current practically to ourselves. We did pass a large family on a couple rafts and we saw a few boats, but much of the day it was just our group of nine.

The float was about 7 miles long. The water was wide enough in this section that there were no tricky turns, hard to negotiate root wads, or difficult rapids. It was a lovely peaceful float.  There were lots of tall bluffs.

current

A highlight of the float was when a bald eagle flew directly over our group while we were stopped at a gravel bar. He was only about 30 feet above our heads so we got an amazing view of him as he passed. He flew to the other side of the river and perched high up in a tree. He stayed there until we left but was too far away for us to get a picture of him with our phones.

The next day we chose to float out of our camp in Eminence. We shuttled our own vehicle down to the same place we had put in the day before, Two Rivers. We had a few less people in our party on Sunday and were able to get all the kayaks and people that were floating that day into one vehicle. So we only had to move one truck to the take out before putting on the Jack’s Fork.

We had another beautiful day on another beautiful river. This 8 mile float was more crowded than the previous day’s float but still not terrible. The Jack’s Fork is a smaller river so there were more difficult sections to contend with.

We saw a capsized canoe tangled up in a root wad but some guys got it out as we approached. And there were tales of inexperienced kayakers capsizing in the same spot. But most of the river was fairly easy for anyone with paddling experience.

The Jack’s Fork has plenty of beautiful bluffs.

And rocky overhangs.

Our friend Amy got this awesome panorama with her phone showing most of our group and our rainbow of boats.

Our favorite float on the Jack’s Fork is well upriver of Eminence. Highway 17 bridge north of Mountain View to Rymer’s is the float we recommend most. We hoped to float that section this summer but ran out of days on the calendar. Maybe next year.

One con of Eminence being such a popular town is that it can be hard to find a decent campground or a room when you want. Everyone we spoke to said that Harvey’s Circle B was the best campground but I tried calling them dozens of times and there phone was always busy. I found Arrowhead Campground on an outfitter’s website. It had some bad reviews but most of the complaints were about their bathrooms and cabins.

We had no need for either so I made the reservation. They charge $28 for a full hookup site plus $8 for each adult over the first two. The sites were shady, roomy, and a short walk from the river.

It turned out to be a pretty decent campground. My only complaint was the flies. We fought them all weekend and on the morning of our departure they literally ran us out of camp. I’d consider staying again but take an arsenal of bug spray with me.

Beaver Lake & the White River

Eureka Springs, Arkansas – June, 2016 A couple of our friends wanted to dive a local lake. I’m not a huge fan of lake diving so it’s got to be pretty near perfect conditions for me to agree. We picked a beautiful weekend and the clearest lake in our vicinity and made it happen.

Here is the Beaver Dam with Beaver Lake behind it. The arrow shows where we dove. Beaver Lake generally has the best visibility of any of the local lakes.

On this trip the vis averaged 15-20 feet. We chose to dive on a Friday and arrived at the site around 8 am. Luckily we had it entirely to ourselves for a couple hours.

The site which I believe is called Dam Site North Bluffs Park had many items purposefully sunk by local divers. There was a large houseboat, a jet ski, and an airplane fuselage among other things. Our favorite was a VW Beatle.

I know that is a horrible pic but it is a fairly good representation of what things look like in the lake. We were able to find most of the items that were there and then we returned along the shore and stopped to feed hot dogs to the fishies. Here is our dive buddy, Danielle, with one of the many fish friends she made.

I was enjoying the fish immensely until one of the perch mistook my ear for a piece of dog. I didn’t realize they had teeth! We did see several really big fish but none of the larger ones stopped for a snack.

This is one of the two best lake dives I’ve ever experienced. The other was also in Beaver Lake where they have sunk a school bus and placed mannequins in and around it. The bus is only accessible by boat though. If you want to dive any of these places C&J Sports will turn you on to all the details.

More friends joined us on Friday night and we planned a float for Saturday morning. The White River flows from the Beaver Dam when the Corp of Engineers chooses to release it. There is no current to speak of when they are not releasing water.

We put in just below the dam. All of the following pictures were taken by our friend Amy who had the foresight to bring a phone. Here’s a pic she took of us at the put in with fly fisherman wading behind us.

The water is incredibly cold because it is released from the bottom of the lake. It actually hurts to wade in it. But on a hot June morning floating through the mist created by that cold stream was like having outdoor air conditioning.

We planned a short 2 mile float since there would be no current. They were scheduled to release water that afternoon but we had no intention of floating past lunch. Being on a river too cold to comfortably swim in on a 100 degree day was not our idea of fun.

So we slowly paddled the two miles in a couple hours. There were plenty of places to stop. The rocks at one stop looked like they had been purposefully placed there.

We saw lots more fisherman but only saw one fish caught all day. Jim didn’t have any luck at all and soon quit and just enjoyed the view. The scenery all along the float was breathtaking.

The water was crystal clear as well. So the scenery under the surface was equally intriguing.

In the afternoons we stayed cool by hanging out in the lake. Our favorite spot is the gravel bar on the island where the Dam Site Lake Campground is located. Since only campers are supposed to use it, it is never crowded.

We weren’t able to get a campsite on the island this particular weekend so we were staying at the Dam Site River Campground in the Parker Bottoms loop. This gave us access to the gravel bar on the island however.

Even though this campground wasn’t our first choice, it turned out it probably was the best alternative for us. Did I mention it was HOT? The lake campground has little shade and we likely would have baked. All the sites at the river campground were under a canopy of very tall trees. The electric only sites were just $20 per night.

The river ran beside the campground but there was no reasonable access to the river from it. But a short ways down the road past the campground was a beautiful access where you could fish, enjoy the cool breezes off the chilly water, or even dip your toes in if you were feeling really brave.

The Elk River

Noel, Missouri – June, 2016 Jim and I are planning to spend June and most of July around southern Missouri. We are looking forward to spending some time with our friends and family, especially our granddaughter. But we are also very excited about spending time on the many beautiful rivers here.

We have been surprised how few beautiful, clear, floatable rivers we’ve encountered in our travels thus far. We can count them on one hand. The San Marcos, the Colorado River, the other Colorado in Texas, and the Chatoogo are the ones that spring to mind. There were some possible candidates in the state of Colorado but the water there was pretty high and very cold when we visited in May.

We have always taken the rivers of our home state for granted. Most of our lives we’ve lived within a few hours of dozens of beautiful floats. I can easily think of 6 rivers just in southern MO that are so clear you can easily see the bottom most of the time. I like to see what I am swimming in and what might be swimming with me.

The rivers in South Carolina’s lowcountry really brought this point home. They have blackwater rivers which are exactly what they sound like. The water is dark as night and you can’t see a foot into it. Not a place I’d want to stick a toe into, and I wasn’t too keen on kayaking them either. You have to assume there is always a possibility, however remote, that you are going into that water you are floating over.

I’m afraid if I went into the drink in a blackwater river I’d have a heart attack imagining what might be swimming around in there with me. Alligators are a very real possibility in SC. Even though the reasonable part of my brain knows they aren’t likely to attack a person, I don’t think that is the part of my brain that would be in control if I unexpectedly found myself immersed.

So while we are back in our home stomping grounds we hope to visit some of our favorite floats and share them here. I encourage anyone passing through, or near, southern MO to stop for a while and see what it has to offer. And if you are passing through this summer and need any ideas about what to visit or want to see if our paths are going to cross feel free to comment or email us.

Now I’ll tell you about a beautiful place that we only just discovered. Our friends asked us months ago if we wanted to join them on the Elk River in June for the Chicken Coop. Huh, the Chicken what?

It turns out that last year they stumbled upon an annual dart tournament that has taken place in Noel, Missouri for over 30 years. We have no real interest in darts but they promised us it was a redneck party that was not to be missed. So we said “what the heck, count us in.”

The people involved in this event take over Wayside Campground the first weekend of June. Our friends have visited this campground several times and claim that on normal weekends it is not terribly busy. But on this weekend we knew not to expect any privacy and we were right. We had tents pitched all around us.

The campground was $35 per night for water and electric. Like so many riverside campgrounds rustic is a nice way to describe it. It’s a gravel bar with water and electric and not much else. But the staff is super friendly and it’s in the perfect location. There is a small dam that makes the water in front of the campground lake-like and perfect for swimming. Here was the view from our camp. There is another campground across the river.

To get to the campground you have to drive along a road with this scary bluff sticking out. Even though the sign says there is a 13’10” clearance it is still nerve-racking to drive your rig under because it looks so much closer.

The dart tournament consisted of a large tent with maybe 30 dart boards being played all hours of the day and night. That is why we insisted on a campsite as far away as possible. People were driving in and out all the time but that didn’t bother us. We walked down each evening to see what was going on but didn’t spend a ton of time there. The tournament did host a good band on Saturday night and some fireworks that we saw from our site.

We had super neighbors. We shared their campfire Saturday night and were treated to a midnight snack of the best BBQ ribs I’ve ever eaten. Yes, we can’t believe we stayed awake ’till midnight either!

The river was the big surprise for me. I just didn’t have very high expectations for it. But it turned out to be very clear, clean water with some stunning scenery along the way. Since I didn’t expect it to be very scenic I didn’t take a camera, or even a phone, so I missed some really beautiful shots. I stole a few of my friends’ photos and took some later from the bank.

There were many beautiful bluffs.

The water was generally very calm. It flowed slowly but steadily. So there was plenty of time for visiting with friends.

This river does have a well-deserved reputation as a party river. We generally try to avoid crowds on rivers but every now and then we just embrace the crazy and go with it. This was one of the wildest river atmospheres we’ve encountered. I mean loud music, occasional public nudity, don’t bring your grandkids kind of crazy.

Jim had fun catching more than a dozen fish even though only one would have been large enough to keep. We did chat up some of our fellow floaters now and then and met a nice, young couple from Kansas among others. This would be a really beautiful, likely serene, weekday float which is how we hope to experience it next time we get a chance.

Rainy Days

Missouri – May, 2016 We arrived in Missouri in time to spend the week ending on Memorial Day at our family’s home on the Current River. It rained for most of the time that we were there so a good bit of our time was spent watching the river rise and fall. But it was a great place to meet up with friends and family, hang out, and catch up.

The river got low enough one day that we did float it. When the river is high it can be a boring, short float. The water moves so fast and since all the gravel bars are under water there is no place to stop. But we had friends along that made it fun and we found one great little gravel island to hang out on for a while. The river was roaring by us on one side but on the other was a perfect stream that we could cool off in.

That night the sky let loose with another round of storms and the river rose pretty steadily for the next several days. They actually closed the river, or at least barricaded the public accesses to it, over the Memorial weekend. I’m sure that put a kink in a lot of holiday plans.

We were watching the river forecast pretty closely since our camper was parked on its banks. The river would have to get to 13 feet before the camper was in any danger. But our river bank is higher than the yard we have to drive across to get to it. So at 10 feet the water starts backing up into our yard cutting off our exit.

We weren’t terribly concerned because they were forecasting it to top out at 8 feet. But as the days and the rain wore on we got more nervous, especially when the river reached their forecasted height time after time and they would raise the forecast once again.

It finally quit raining but the river rose for another day. It topped out at 11.5 feet. Not sure I want to ever cut it that close again! We got one more dry day and then it was supposed to start raining again. Thankfully that was enough time to let the yard dry out a little so we didn’t make a huge muddy mess pulling the rig out.

At least we had a nice house to enjoy while we watched the rain. My family built an adorable 2 bedroom home several years ago and we all share it as a second home. I enjoyed just puttering around the house. It was nice to have a washer/dryer at my disposal. And I took long luxurious showers and baths enjoying having more than 10 gallons of hot water at a time and the ample sized tub and shower.

We sloshed back and forth between our rig and the house many times a day. Most days there was a stream running through the yard that we had to wade through. We got pretty sick of mud and I literally got sick with a yucky cold. But it was still a great week.

We didn’t have any solid plans until the next weekend so with a few days to kill we headed to one of our favorite rivers that wasn’t flooded. The North Fork of the White River is smack dab in the middle of the state and flows almost straight south for about 20 miles before it runs into Norfolk Lake just north of the Arkansas state line.

It is a very clear, cold river with excellent trout fishing. It was a little high so Jim didn’t bother trying to fish this trip. We absolutely love to kayak this river but since I was fighting a cold and it was a bit on the drizzly side we contented ourselves with driving around visiting some of our favorite places. Since we were there mid-week we only saw a few floaters

There are many beautiful bluffs along the river.

Patrick Bridge is a low water bridge that you can generally float under or if the river is too high you can easily port over it.

One of the special places on this river is Althea Spring. It is a short walk from the river just below Patrick Bridge if you are floating by or can be reached from the parking lot for the Patrick Bridge Access.

After a long, hot float in the summer it is a cool, shady place to explore. The water comes out of a hill with a gentle gurgle then flows toward the river a bit before reaching a small dam built by a private individual who owned the property from 1958 to 1977. It was a domestic power plant.

You can imagine how cold that spring water is. But on a hot, summer day you can usually find people playing in the waterfall. One of the fun things about it is that you can wade across the stream below the fall and climb into the concrete structure on the right and actually get behind the waterfall.

At the end of the day Dawt Mill is a great place to relax and have a beer. On weekdays it is a little slow and they close at 3 but on summer weekends you can hang out on their deck overlooking the river and watch the floaters. Here is a view of it from across the river.

We checked out their campground thinking we might stay there on a future visit. I definitely cannot recommend it. It is very cramped and pricey. I don’t know how we’d get our rig out once we got back there as the road around it was so tight I wasn’t crazy about driving the truck around it. I wouldn’t take a trailer back there period. A small motorhome would probably be OK.

After visiting Dawt we loved our site at Sunburst Ranch Campground more than ever even though it is a little rustic and the bugs are occasionally thick. They charge per person and the rates are higher on weekends. So for our water and electric site we paid $33 per weekday night. It is owned by a very nice, young couple that have always gone out of their way to make us feel welcome.

Edisto Beach State Park

Edisto Beach, SC – April, 2016 After our chilly weekend at Myrtle Beach a few weeks ago we were watching and waiting for some decent beach weather. Just as the weather was improving, we saw a 3 night opening at Edisto Beach State Park’s beach campground. When we stayed here last fall we had to stay in their Live Oak campground, a half mile up the highway from the beach. We really wanted to return but stay in one of the 75 beach side sites. Edisto Beach State Park is only 50 miles from our property so it was mucho convenient.

Our site, number 58, backed up to the marsh that fills up with water at high tide. The site was near the limit of what we are willing to pay for a campsite. It averaged $58 per night after all fees and had water and electric. But you cannot beat the convenience of walking past a couple rows of campers and over a dune and being on the beach. If one of you gets tired or bored they can just go back home without making the other one leave. If Jim wants to go fishing, there is nothing stopping him.

Last time we were on the east coast Jim saw a guy with a great beach cart that carried all his fishing gear and stuff. He has been looking for one with the right features and price ever since. He finally found exactly what he wanted for about a hundred dollars at Dick’s Sporting Goods near Brownsville, Texas. We have used it a couple times since, to carry our chairs and cooler to a nice riverside spot in Texas and to get our stuff to and from the camp’s laundry. But this was to be the cart’s true beach debut.

The big wheels were a must and worked great even in the loose sand. The cart folds down pretty well but those wheels still take up their fair share of the basement.

Totally worth it though when you can easily haul two chairs, fishing gear, and a cooler past the crowds on the beach and nab a secluded spot to spend the afternoon.

We spent our first full afternoon at the beach; sunning, fishing, generally being lazy. Here is a pic of one of the many beach accesses. We loved the dead tree and yellow flowers.

The next day we loaded up the kayaks and drove a couple miles to where the state park has a boat ramp on Big Bay Creek. From there you can paddle up the creek or out to the mouth of the South Edisto River and on into the ocean. The creek has more of a tide than a current. So our plan was to put in and float upstream with the tide, wait for the tide to turn, and float back with the tide.

It was a wide creek with grassy marsh on both sides. We floated up the creek and were passed by a group of dolphins.

There were at least four of them. We saw quite a bit of them for about a minute but they were fast so it was hard to get any picture at all especially since all I had was my iPhone.

After we floated past the state park’s property there were a dozen or so private docks crowded on one side of the creek, each with a long wooden sidewalk built between it and a big house back in the trees. Many of the docks had impressive boats. After them we had the creek to ourselves again.

We only went about a mile and a half and then tried to stay out of the current and wind that was pushing us upstream and wait for the tide to turn. There was such a strong wind coming up the creek that even when the tide turned and water started flowing toward the ocean the current wasn’t strong enough to counteract the wind. So we ended up having to paddle against it all the way back to the boat dock. We weren’t totally surprised by this outcome and were grateful we hadn’t gotten too far from the takeout. Next time we’d like to float toward the ocean just before low tide and hope the wind and the tide will carry us back to the dock with less effort.

Besides the dolphins we saw in the creek, we saw a lot more wildlife in general on this trip than we did during our last visit. We saw a huge turtle swimming in the ocean one day. The campground also has some very aggressive raccoons (the squirrels aren’t exactly shy either). This big fella had no problem walking into people’s camps in the middle of the day and rummaging through their things.

We were careful not to leave any trash out but Jim forgot to put his fishing gear away one day and they ate/stole/are wearing his plastic lure and they broke one of his poles, probably trying to get away after getting tangled up. Thankfully he was able to repair it.

When the tide went out the marsh behind our camp became a mud field. We were sitting there one afternoon and realized the whole thing was moving. There were a kazilion crabs about an inch wide, each waiving their little claw at us. How friendly!

The park’s learning center is located near the boat ramp. It’s definitely a must see if you visit. It’s much nicer than we expected. They have a beautiful building with a nice back porch full of rocking chairs.

They also have lots of live snakes, fish, and such in aquariums. Glad this fellow is no longer in that category.

The place has some beautiful murals and displays like this cool boat.

We had a wonderful three days in Edisto Beach and look forward to visiting again.

Texas’ Colorado River

Columbus, TX – February, 2016 West of Houston a short ways is the Colorado River, no relation to the more famous river by the same name out west. This Colorado River starts and ends in the state of Texas. We decided to spend a week at the Thousand Trails Colorado River Campground since the weather was looking promising, the river looked like a good one to kayak, and the campground was practically free with our membership.

The town of Columbus is fairly small and has many charming characteristics. It has the basic necessities: a far from super Walmart, two grocery stores, three Redbox. There are lots of beautiful old homes and a quaint town square with a gorgeous courthouse.

It is located between the banks of the river since the river makes a dramatic curve, an oxbow, north of town and returns on the other side of town.

We are always on the lookout for such a place where we can put the kayaks in on one side, have a pleasant float, and then take out on the other side and just walk back to get our truck. This place is perfect. It’s a 6 mile float but only a 1 mile walk between the two accesses. The walk is through the small town and the only downside is that you have to cross two bridges, the longest one had absolutely no room for pedestrians. We pondered this problem at length.

We looked for another access with no luck. We studied the nearby railroad bridge which had a nice wide platform you could walk on but also had a no trespassing sign. Jim was willing to walk the railroad bridge. I was willing to chance the highway since the cars can move over but a train cannot. We each thought the other was completely insane. We did agree if we only had a bike the bridge could be safely ridden over.

We had called the outfitter in town, Howell Canoe Livery, and left a message early in the week to ask about water conditions on the float. They didn’t open until Thursday so when they called back and said they’d help us shuttle our truck for only $10 we agreed our safety and marital bliss was worth that much.

We put in on Friday just before lunch. We only saw 3 other kayakers all day. The river was low but we never dragged. It was mostly flat water with only one or two minor rapids.

We watched this bird struggle with his meal for quite a while. No wonder, that’s a pretty big catch for someone with no teeth. He finally managed to swallow it.

The Colorado is considered a good bass river but the outfitter said no one was having much luck recently. Another kayaker that put in just after us and fishes the river frequently said he hadn’t caught a fish all year. So Jim was pleased that he caught 3 bass that day, the first before even leaving camp.

Earlier in the week we put in at the campground’s boat ramp one afternoon to see how far we could get up river. Jim has a trolling motor on a custom mount he built for his kayak. It is really great on lakes but can get him upstream in a river if the current is not too strong. In the slow stretches he can even tow me. Here is the view from my position of leisure.

I use a retractable pet leash as a tow rope. Jim seemed to take issue with being literally on a short leash when we first set up the system. It works well and he got over it. We do get some looks from other floaters and usually a comment or two. But on this day there was not another person on this stretch of the river and the only looks we got were from the many cows that stared at us from the river’s edge.

We got about a mile and a half up stream in an hour. We had plenty of battery power left and could have gone farther but it was already 2 o’clock. I paddled about half the way and let Jim tow me the rest.

The only problem with the motor is that it gets in the way of Jim’s paddling.  So he motored most of the way and only paddled in a couple places it was too shallow to run. There were very few places that had a strong current so we could have made it without the motor if we chose to.

Over the next two hours we floated back to camp and stopped at one gravel bar. Besides the cows we saw lots of turtles, two huge red headed woodpeckers, and a muskrat.

We visited Houston a couple times during the week to pick up this or that. Houston has about every store you could ever want. I had read about a restaurant in an old movie theatre that I wanted to visit. I decided it was a shame we had been to Texas twice in the last year and hadn’t gone to a Tex-Mex restaurant.

The restaurant was fun. They showed an old western on the screen while we ate. The food was pretty good and reasonably priced.

We thought we might go downtown after lunch but decided the trip from the store we wanted to visit to the restaurant was sightseeing enough. The fastest route was by a tollway that was exclusively for those with a prepaid tag. We really didn’t mind taking surface streets because we wanted to see more of Houston. What we saw was the grittier side of Houston, many miles of adult bookstores and strip clubs.

I’m sure if we had more time we would have found a lot of things we enjoyed in Houston but they sure don’t make it very easy to get around this city.  My biggest issue is with their toll roads.  They have many toll roads around the city and their system is not visitor friendly.

Most of their toll roads do not have manned toll booths.  They have entire highways that require you to pre-purchase a tag in order to access them.  This requires a one-time fee of $15 plus a deposit into your account of $40!  Ridiculous!

We encountered the same issue last year in Austin.  One particularly bad traffic day we said to heck with it and took the unmanned toll road.  We got a bill in the mail months later.  Ten dollars was high for 8 miles of toll road but better than being stuck in gridlock for hours.

Some of Houston’s roads say that you need a tag but it turns out that they have toll express lanes and you can in fact use the free lanes without getting charged a toll.  When a highway says things like “last free exit” and “EZ Tag required” I tend to believe it and get off the highway if there is another alternative.

After our first visit I went to their website to try to make sense of it.  It was not very helpful. So I called and waited 30 minutes for a customer service agent to answer my questions.  She was nice and helpful.  But it didn’t change the fact that their whole system sucks the big one!

The best advice she gave me was that if I chose to take a toll road, or inadvertently ended up on one, to just wait a couple days then give them a call. They would then be able to tell me what I owed and take a payment over the phone with only a $1.50 service fee.  OK rant over.

Sunny And 75

It’s a holiday when we’re together, I wannna stay with you forever. Somewhere, somewhere sunny and 75…” Joe Nichols

Riviera to South Padre Island, TX – January/February 2016 We had two weeks of pretty perfect south Texas weather. All but a couple days were sunny and mid 70’s. Better yet the nights were mild and rarely got below 50.

We arrived at Seawind Campground on the banks of Baffin Bay exhausted from three long days of driving. We were greeted by a warm wind and flowering trees. Seawind is right next to the bay with only a public park separating it from the water. We had a good view of the bay from our site although we were separated from it by a tall chain link fence.

We were soon walking along the shore enjoying the balmy afternoon. When we awoke the next day to a 65 degree morning we couldn’t even wait for daylight to get moving and put in a couple miles.

We were rewarded with a beautiful sunrise. The park has a long fishing pier and a little strip of beach that disappears when the tide is high.

After two nights and one full day of rest we were ready to move on to our original destination. Our plan was to stay just north of Brownsville for a few nights at Palmdale RV Resort while we explored the area and decided where we wanted to spend the time we had. We really enjoyed this park. It was friendly and had a great heated pool.

It was only 26 miles to South Padre Island so we considered staying there and driving to the island a few times. The reality was that the drive took forever with all the speed zones. We drove out first thing to check out the available campgrounds and knew we didn’t want to make that drive more than necessary.

We decided to move to the county’s Isla Blanca Park for the few days that promised the best weather. They have sites from $30-40. We were surprised to find a premium beachside site available and gratefully accepted it. It had full hookups and included cable.

Our only concern about this park was that several reviews mentioned an odor. We checked it out on our first visit only briefly and agreed there was a slight odor we could live with. After getting set up we took a stroll around the park and quickly found the smell we had read about.

On the bay side of the park is a fenced in area where I presume they treat the sewer. It reeked and we walked quickly away and avoided that side of the park the remainder of our stay. If we had gotten one of the sites on that side of the park we would have complained about the odor too. Actually we would have moved, to the mainland if necessary. It was nasty!

But on our side of the park the world was lovely. The ocean breezes smelled sweet, the sun shone, the beach was a short walk away, and it went on for miles. There was no end to the beachcombing that could be done here.

On the very southernmost point of the island, inside the park, is this beautiful memorial to all the seamen that have sailed out of this port and never returned.

Jim finally succumbed to the call of his rod and reel. There was a long jetty at the end of the beach that was said to have good fishing.

He set off to the end of the jetty the first morning. He returned a couple hours later having enjoyed his outing but with only one fish story to share.

He hadn’t gotten a single nibble and the other fishermen didn’t appear to be having any luck either. However at one point several of them started catching pufferfish. Since the spines of the puffer are poisonous he was entertained watching them try to get them off their lines and return them to the water without getting stuck.

Just north of town is an area where you can drive on the beach. We loaded up our chairs and a cooler and headed there in the afternoon. We pulled out onto the beach and soon staked out a great spot. It was a gorgeous 75 degree afternoon. The wind was a bit chilly but I planted our chairs beside the truck and it blocked most of it.

It was a fun beach with people driving by and a couple kite surfers floating by. This sand surfer had a very interesting homemade, wind powered contraption.

We had a great afternoon and managed to get a little sun.

The next day we put our kayaks in on the west side of the island in the Laguna Madre, a coastal lagoon. The weather was warm again without a cloud in the sky. We paddled up wind for a mile or so then let the wind blow us back past our put in. The water was surprisingly clear and despite paddling quite a ways from shore I don’t think it was ever over our heads. Jim saw a ray and a few fish jumped around us.

On Monday the weather was expected to be rainy and cold on the island but only 26 miles inland it reached over 80 degrees. We moved back to Palmdale first thing that morning before the rain came. It was a good deal at only $23 PN for full hookups with Passport America. The residents were entertaining and we had a fabulous afternoon visiting with them around the pool.

We explored the Brownsville area. Other than pretty decent shopping options I wasn’t terribly impressed. We drove out to the Brazos Island State Park which is the southernmost beach in Texas. It goes all the way to the Mexican border at the mouth of the Rio Grande River. It was a pretty and fairly deserted beach you can drive on. We chose to walk the beach as the tide was coming in and it was pretty narrow in places.

Since we eventually have to make our way north we decided to spend a few more days at Seawind, another great deal at $18 PN Passport America. It is only 8 miles off the highway and we really liked it there. We enjoyed more long walks along the shore. There were lots of birds.

None particularly special but entertaining none the less.

We had lots of colorful visitors to the fence outside our kitchen window. They would not come around when we were outside so I finally shot some through the glass.


We had a lovely two weeks in southern Texas. Almost every person we met exclaimed about the great weather they are having this year. Apparently the last couple years weren’t this pleasant. We are grateful to be living the way we are so we can just move when the weather doesn’t suit us.

Heaven

Cheyenne to Flaming Gorge NRA, Wyoming – September, 2015 Jim appeared mildly alarmed when I looked at him one afternoon and stated “I want to be more adventurous in our sleeping arrangements.”  Relief registered on his face as I went on to explain I thought we should be more daring in choosing boondocks. We were about to make our way across Wyoming and I had my eye on a couple of free camping arrangements. The weather was perfect for boondocking and Jim was agreeable.

Our first destination was Cheyenne. We expected to get there around lunch and needed a place to leave the trailer while we explored the town, then we planned to move on first thing the next morning. I saw Sierra Trading Post listed under overnight camping on my Allstays app. It looked great and a heck of a lot better than a Walmart. When we arrived we discovered it had a huge empty lot for RVs. The employees were also incredibly friendly and the store was pretty great too. They sell sporting goods and apparently do a huge amount of business online. The further you went into the store the bigger the discounts got.

I wanted to check out Cheyenne’s free botanical gardens. What we found was a lovely park that included walking trails, a lake, and the gardens. A big part of the gardens were closed for construction but what was left was very nice. My favorite part was the children’s garden. It was beautiful and extremely well planned and appealed to the child in each of us.

We returned to our home in the parking lot. We were joined by a motor home and a semi later that evening. It did turn out to be one of the louder places we have slept. Semi-trucks carrying goods to and from Sierra’s warehouse drove right by our rig all night long. But this minor inconvenience was worth the savings.

Our next stop was Flaming Gorge Reservoir. We aimed for a dispersed camping area on the west side of the lake called Buckboard South. I had reviewed the satellite image and thought it looked pretty safe. We actually did have some close calls on the road in and could have found a better route to our campsite if we had scouted it better, but it all worked out. We had a great spot right by the water with this view.

Which got even better at sunset.

We didn’t see another sole the whole first day. The next day we went for a walk and discovered a neighbor just a half mile from us. While kayaking we discovered there were about a dozen campers on the peninsula. The best campsights were at the very end but they also had the nearest neighbors. I liked our private site back in the cove.

We finally got our replacement solar panels installed. While working on the roof we discovered we had an audience, this pronghorn.

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We also saw about a million rabbits. They looked like a cottontail but were as big as jackrabbits.

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But the best part about this boondock in the middle of nowhere was the night sky. I woke up at 2 am one morning and stepped outside. It was amazing! I had been dying to play with the settings on my new camera so I dragged it and a tripod outside for about an hour. Jim was sound asleep and every time a fish jumped behind me I just about had a heart attack. I have a lot to learn about night photography. I believe a bit of beginner’s luck was involved when I captured a shooting star directly over my rig.

Not 20 minutes after I got back to my warm bed I heard a lot of scuffling noises outside. The next morning we discovered coyote tracks around camp and their hairs on our grill. Glad I didn’t run into them while I was out there!

Misery

Missouri – July 2015 When we headed to Missouri a month ago we thought we would go west again right after my family reunion last weekend. I had hoped to be in Montana by now. But the universe had other plans and so we are still here and will be for another week or two. Two of our income properties have unexpectedly been vacated in the last 10 days. We joke that there is a conspiracy to keep us here in the state we fondly refer to as Misery instead of Missouri. But we are quite lucky this happened while we were in the area instead of 2000 miles away.

When we do finally break away in a couple weeks we are actually planning a road trip east and then swinging back through Missouri about Labor Day before finally proceeding west, most likely skipping Montana and Washington and going to Oregon. While we are here we are enjoying the beautiful rivers the Ozarks are blessed with. We’ve got plenty of free places to park our home. And we are saving a ton on fuel!

We enjoyed the Current River some more now that it is near normal river level. We backed our rig up to the river bank so that there was an amazing view outside our kitchen window. And we parked under a huge tree where we got lots of shade. One evening a pretty large limb in that tree broke. It was tenuously hanging on to the tree but most of it was on our trailer. We thought it was best to leave it and hoped we could drive out from under it when we left in several days. A big storm the next night moved it around quite a bit but it still held on. The day we prepared to leave we discovered this.

It fell the rest of the way down and was resting on top of our trailer. We hadn’t heard it fall so assume it wasn’t terribly violent and thankfully there was no damage to the trailer roof. I started to shove it off the roof but was damaging the roof’s edge in the process. Jim got a saw and we cut it in to 3 pieces we could safely throw off the roof.

The next weekend we parked in our friends’ driveway 20 miles south of Springfield and enjoyed their property and pool for a few days. They live very near the James River which is a pretty little river that is a convenient place to float when you are in the Springfield area. We chose to float from Hootentown to mud bank on Sunday. Hootentown is a campground that is as hick as its name implies and mud bank is exactly that, a muddy, messy take out just off the highway. There were a ton of people floating above Hootentown as evidenced by those waiting for a shuttle when we put in. But we only saw a half dozen other kayakers on our 9 mile float.

The boys had fun fishing and caught bluegill, smallmouth bass, and goggle eye. It didn’t matter what they caught because we wouldn’t have eaten anything out of this part of the river that flows out of Springfield Lake.

The next weekend we took our 4 year old granddaughter camping at Roaring River Park near Cassville, Missouri. It is a trout park operated by the Missouri State Parks. It’s about an hour from Springfield and since Jim loves to fish for trout we have camped here many, many times over the years. We had not taken our grandchild here before but knew that it would be the perfect place.

There are some great, short hikes (our favorite is Devil’s Kitchen). It has wonderful playgrounds (some right by the stream) and lots of places to wade and take a dip. Of course, the fishing is good but as we expected it didn’t hold a 4 year old’s attention for very long.

The highlight of her trip was the swimming pool. They have a very nice pool. It does cost a few dollars extra to get in but was so worth it. We spent about an hour each afternoon there. Our granddaughter had a ball each time, made some new friends, and sufficiently wore herself out so that we didn’t have to worry about a struggle at bedtime. She was more than ready to go to sleep by the time it was lights out.

Buffalo National River

Yellville, Arkansas – July, 2015 We love the Buffalo National River and jumped at the chance to plan a weekend there with our friends while we were home. It is about 2 hours south of our hometown of Springfield, Missouri so we have visited often throughout the years. We generally would do at least one campout there every year and we often drove down for the day to hike or float the area. There are over 120 miles of federally protected waters, so even after all these years of exploring I still don’t consider myself familiar with the river.

Our friends wanted to stay at a national park campground called Buffalo Point which is on the lower section of the river. It is an extremely nice campground with water and electric sites for $22 per night. It is well maintained and well managed. There are 5 loops, 3 with reservable sites and 2 that are first come first served. We didn’t make the decision to head there for the weekend until it was too late to make a reservation. But we hoped that by getting there Thursday afternoon we had a good chance of snagging walkup sites for ourselves and another couple with a camper. We arrived at 4:30 and discovered there were only a few sites in each of the non reservable loops that were large enough for our campers and they were all filled for the night. We were lucky enough to find one reservable site in the D loop that hadn’t been reserved for the weekend and since the reservation window had closed we knew we could stay there for three days.

Friday morning we scoped out the possibility of anyone leaving a walkup site that day that was large enough for our friends’ camper. We walked around checking tags and talking to people to see if anyone was leaving. Almost everyone was staying put. We discovered only one site that would accommodate a trailer and the tag said the person in it had only paid for one night. That didn’t mean much since we had only paid for one night but very much hoped to stay for more. The people on the site were in a tent and they hadn’t emerged yet.

It was still early so we headed to town for groceries and to check out an alternate campground. We intended to move if we couldn’t procure a 2nd site. We weren’t very impressed with the alternate campground but it would have worked. We came back intending to offer the occupants money to move to one of the other available tent sites. I was so grateful they were outside when we got back so we could at least get it over with and know if we needed to move or not. I asked the young lady if they were leaving that day and when she said yes I was so relieved I almost hugged her. I explained our predicament and asked if we could put some chairs on the site and a tag on it showing we had paid for it and she was kind enough to agree.

There is absolutely no cell service in Buffalo Point Campground and some of our friends were already on their way down and were waiting for us to tell them where they were going. I had gotten a signal earlier while walking on a gravel bar by the river below camp. So I walked down there again to text everyone our location. Earlier I had gotten 2 bars and 4G but now I could only get 1 bar and E. It got better the closer I got to the river. I finally took my shoes off and walked 15 feet in to the water and got enough service to get texts out to everyone.

One couple arrived at noon and were ready to go kayaking. They had already scoped out the available shuttles. We loaded the boats and were on the water within the hour. We put in at the nearby Highway 14 Bridge and an outfitter moved their vehicle to the takeout at Rush Landing for $28.

It was an awesome float, about 8 miles. There was very little other traffic on a Thursday afternoon. The water was clear and refreshing but not as cold as many of the spring fed rivers we usually float in Missouri. It was blistering hot and we didn’t stay on our boats for very long at a time. I believe this rock is what is called Buffalo Point.  I would have called it turtle point but no one asked me.

The other couple with the trailer showed up after dinner and we got them set up in the dark and another friend showed up and set up a tent outside our trailer. The next morning we were raring to get on the river. Some more friends drove down to float with us for the day and getting 9 people and boats and coolers and lunches together was like herding cats. We chose to float 10.5 miles from South Maumee to the bridge we had put in at the day before. We stopped at Dirst Outfitters and they quickly arranged to shuttle two trucks for us for a very reasonable $25 each. We finally got to the put in and on the water about noon.

This was another awesome day on the water. The Buffalo River is just gorgeous with lots of beautiful bluffs and tons of great gravel bars. There is no development allowed on it at all; no commercial campgrounds, no houses, no stores. Since this float was on a Saturday it was rather busy but occasionally it is fun to float around the crowds and interact with the nuts. If you have not floated the Buffalo before I would highly recommend putting it on your bucket list. We hope to float its entire length one summer in the future.

We got back to a crockpot full of brisket and had some amazing sandwiches. Everyone was worn out and retired rather early. The next morning they started scattering. Since the site we were in was reserved that night we knew we had to move by noon. I thought this would avoid any discussion about whether to stay or go. But I was wrong!

Jim realized the site next to us was available and begged to move into it for the night with the retired man’s version of “just 5 more minutes mom”. Instead it’s “just one more night, pleeeaaassse”. I wasn’t hard to convince so we have a new record for shortest move in our record book. We had to pack everything up and secure it for a move of 20 feet from site 64 to site 65. Here is a pick of our site for the weekend on the right and us set up in the new site to the left for the night.