The Wild and Scenic Eleven Point River

August, 2018 – Riverton, MO While visiting with family in my hometown of Doniphan several of us decided to take a day and float the nearby Eleven Point. This river is part of the National Wild & Scenic Rivers System. It has been under the protection of the national government since 1968 and therefore there is zero development along its banks and relatively few accesses.

The outfitter, Hufstedler’s, said the simplest float for a group our size would be Whitten back to their location, Riverton. We would park at the takeout and they would haul all of us upriver.

We made a late start at 11am. Then we had an hour’s drive to the outfitter and it took another hour between waiting on their bus and a long ride to the put in. At 1pm the eight of us were finally on the water.

It was a perfect day and very hot. That’s a good thing because the Eleven Point is a very cold, spring fed river.  On this Friday we didn’t have to share it with one single other floater.

We noticed some water flowing into the river below a bluff and several of us got out to explore up the stream and see if we could locate a spring.

The stream got colder and colder the farther we walked. We came across the remains of what I presume was a mill.

When we finally found the origins of the spring it was unimpressive. The water was seeping out of the ground and pooling in a small pond before making its way to the river.

The river is beautiful and clear with plenty of bluffs along its banks.

It was too late in the day to see much wildlife but we did see plenty of turtles. Most of our crew saw a bald eagle. One person swears they saw an armadillo swimming. I wish I could have seen that!

There were lots of wildflowers along the river. These blooms were impossibly tiny, about the size of my pinky nail.

Although our clan is not a stranger to this river, none of us remember ever floating this particular section before. The water was a lot slower than other sections we have floated.

Late in the afternoon we were all paddling steadily towards the end and not particularly interested in the scenery any longer when we passed a sign that said Boze Mill. Noone cared to investigate but just down river we heard a roar of water. We paddled up the resulting stream and found this magical place.

Everyone forgot their fatigue and their rumbling tummies and got out of their kayaks to explore. If you climbed on top of the dam the springwater continued peacefully upstream.

The abandoned mill parts added to the area’s interest.

Everyone agreed it was worth the delay but we finally had to get back in our boats and make the final push. Not far above the takeout were the biggest rapids of the trip. Jim was watching to make sure everyone made it down safely but no one had any trouble navigating them.

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Shortly thereafter we rounded a bend to the most beautiful sight of the day: the bridge that signaled we had made it to the end.

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Although the outfitter claims this is a 7 mile float, my GPS clocked it at over 9. We finally made it back to our trucks at 6pm. While we were taking out we witnessed something you just don’t see every day, a stretch limo hauling a boat. lol

This was an awesome float and everyone agreed they wouldn’t have missed it for the world. Jim would like to come back and do it again so he can fish it more. We’ll just get an earlier start when we do!

Peddling Around Springfield

June, 2018 – Springfield, MO We spent all of June in Missouri. We hung out with our kids, played with our granddaughter, and caught up with our friends.

We also tried to get our bikes out as often as possible. Springfield is blessed with many great bike trails. It has miles of asphalt just for pedestrians and bicyclists.

It’s a little harder to find level pavement in this area of foothills. We certainly want to work up to some elevation gain but Jim’s trike doesn’t perform very well on hills. And I’m not even a huge fan of flying down hills. I usually ride the brake not wanting to take a chance on hitting something on the path and losing control.

Rails to trails are always a good bet for a fairly level ride since the trains the paths were designed for couldn’t handle steep grades any better that we can. Springfield has a great one of these, the Frisco Highline Trail.

It has about 8 miles of asphalt starting on the north side of Springfield and continuing south through Willard. It is a very nicely done trail with a bike rental stand at the Willard trailhead and rest stops like this one. The storage facility across the road has facilities for cyclists including a bike storage program.

This trail continues all the way to Bolivar, 30 miles away. The remainder of the trail is gravel. We rode a section of it and it was very hard packed. We’d like to do more of it as we have walked many miles of this trail in the past and it is very scenic.

One morning we checked out the Wilson’s Creek Greenway, one of the few trails we hadn’t walked before. The trail description I found said minimal inclines. Ha!

When we headed north from Tal’s Trailhead we had to climb a large hill through some woods almost immediately. At the top of the hill we came out of the woods and had to go through a gate. We were now in a cow pasture and there were gently rolling hills as far as we could see.

We made it about a mile farther before we came upon several short but steep hills and turned around. We pedaled back past the trailhead and continued another mile south hoping it would be easier in that direction. It was actually much hillier.

I ended up walking my bike a couple times and we finally called it quits with only 5 miles ridden but 370 feet in elevation gain

The trail was very pretty and if you are better prepared for the hills and ready for a challenge I absolutely recommend hiking or biking it if you are in the area.

One of our favorite trails is the Galloway Creek Greenway on the east side of town. We rode it on Father’s Day with our son, an avid cyclist. This trail is very popular but it is also quite wide so sharing the path was never a problem. The trail has several metal sculptures along the way.

You ride past many businesses including several bars and restaurants.

And the funnest part is riding under some busy streets and one train trestle.

This particular day we rode from the trailhead at Pershing Middle School to the old iron bridge over James River for a round trip of around 10 miles.

The South Creek Greenway is another great trail in the heart of Springfield without too many hills. It includes a great bridge over the very busy Kansas Expressway.

It has 6 miles of total pavement so it is about the perfect length for us as we enjoy getting in about 10-12 miles if there is not too much up and down.

We took the bikes to the Lake Springfield Park one morning and discovered it has a really scenic trail along the lake.

It was better suited to walking however since it was only about a mile long. We rode some other roads in the park to eak out a 3 mile day.

I haven’t been carrying my cameral on the bike and instead enjoy taking photos with my phone, often while in motion. I have certainly missed my camera a few times like when this red winged black bird kept swooping by one morning.

For all its convenience though I think the phone does a decent job.

Residents and visitors of Springfield are lucky to have these and many other trails and parks to enjoy. Information and maps for all these trails can be found at the ozarkgreenways.org website.

Catching Up and WOW

Springfield, MO – Aug. to Oct., 2017 We had reservations for the last week of August at Glacier Basin Campground on the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP). Our intention all summer was to wrap up our visit to Colorado there. But several things caused us to rethink that plan.

The 45 mile road across the RMNP between Grand Lake and Estes Park is not big rig friendly. It has MANY tight switchbacks. We saw some big rigs crossing it but the more Jim thought about it the less he wanted to attempt it. We even got mixed answers as to whether it was allowed. One park ranger said there was no length limit on the road, another said they had only recently enacted a 32 foot limit. The 150 mile trip around the park was doable but did put a damper on our enthusiasm.

We had visited Estes Park briefly and even checked out the campground. Glacier Basin was nothing to write home about. It was an open area with few trees. The roads through it were rather tight and lined with large rocks. The pull thru we had reserved was so awkward we were certain we’d have to pass it and back into it.

Then there were the crowds. Even on a Monday the eastern side of the RMNP had lines of traffic, congested parking lots, and the stores in the little town were packed. No thank you! We finally decided to cancel our reservation all together and head back to Missouri to get a head start on remodeling one of our rentals.

We hoped the remodel could be completed in as little as three weeks but allowed five weeks for good measure. Good thing we did. I left Jim for almost a week when I flew to Florida to help our daughter evacuate.

I was only home a couple days when I badly sprained my ankle. This laid me up completely for almost another week and slowed me down considerably for the remainder of the month. So Jim got stuck remodeling the house mostly by himself. It took the whole 5 weeks and we finally delegated a bit of the work and made our escape on October 2nd.

We kept our nose the grindstone most of the time we were there (or at least Jim did). But we did have plans to keep our granddaughter the last weekend in September. We were thrilled when we realized the much anticipated and long awaited Wonders of Wildlife (WOW) National Museum & Aquarium was opening just in time for our weekend with her. It is part of the Bass Pro complex in Springfield and has been closed for remodeling for many years.

We arranged to meet my cousins and enjoy the tour with them. They have a daughter almost the same age as our granddaughter. Here is our picture taken by our 7 year old granddaughter.

We started our tour on the museum side.

So obviously this included a LOT of stuffed animals.

Their dioramas were amazingly detailed and quite stunning.

There were also rooms full of artifacts and informative displays on everything from indians to conservationists like Theodore Roosevelt. It took us about 2 hours to tour the museum and then we proceeded to the aquarium.

This is when things got really interesting.

I’m talking 3 story circular tanks you can walk around on multiple levels. This picture gives you some idea what I am talking about. We were standing on the second level on the outside and you can clearly see the other side of the tank and people standing on the first level.

After traveling up and down and around this amazing display we thought we were about done. No. This was just the beginning. The aquarium went on, and on, and on!

One of mine and Jim’s favorite places was this bait ball display. Being able to see the fish’s reaction when a predator swam by was very entertaining.

We also really enjoyed the jelly fish display.

The kids were pretty much enthralled with everything in the aquarium.

They especially enjoyed the touch tanks. The first, smaller one is in the middle of the tour. Isn’t this the oddest looking shark ever?

The tour ends at a really big touch tank full of rays. The rays swim around in a pool that circles another massive tank. So the ray at the bottom of this picture is in the touch tank and everything else is swimming in an aquarium. There is so much reflection going on it is hard to tell where one tank ends and the other starts.

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit and were completely worn out by the end. It took us around 4 hours total and that was a bit rushed. The ticket is good for the entire day so if we had it to do over again we’d probably visit the aquarium first, then go have lunch (and maybe a nap), then return to visit the museum. If you are taking kids and are short on either time or money you might consider skipping the museum.

The one day admission tickets may seem steep to some. Compared to the aquariums we’ve visited throughout the country it was an average price for an above average experience. The adult aquarium tickets are $30, the museum tickets are $15, or the combo ticket to visit both in one day is $40. Children 4-11 are $20, $10, and $24 respectively.

If you live in the area I would highly recommend the annual membership. I like that it includes two adults and their designated children OR grandchildren under 18. It is $250 or for $300 it includes two guest passes. We may consider a membership as we definitely want to return.

More time in MO

May –June, 2017 – Springfield, MO I can’t believe we spent seven weeks in Missouri and I’m having trouble accounting for where all that time went. The first week was committed to cleaning up the flood damage to our family’s river house. But the remainder of the time was something of a blur.

We visited all our doctors. We helped some friends move. And we, or I should say Jim, helped our friends with various home improvement projects.

We checked on all our rental properties and performed maintenance on those that were in need of it. One tenant gave notice and moved out during this time so we were able to get the home cleaned, painted, and re-rented ourselves. Another tenant that had been falling behind all winter agreed to move and we were able to get him out without involving the courts which I doubt would have been the case if we hadn’t physically been there.

We attended numerous social events. We visited with our son and his family. And we spent some quality time with our favorite granddaughter. She’s the one in the middle.

We did devote some time to getting our new home and ourselves organized. We had moved in such a hurry that we weren’t really sure where everything ended up. We took the rig to get a new AC unit because the factory installed one just wasn’t cutting the mustard and we also got new tires on her before we left.

Looking back on that list it’s a wonder we did get it all done. We primarily stayed in Springfield but we did leave for a few weekends. While in Springfield we stayed at a familiar campground on the south side of town.

Ozark Highlands Mobile Home Park is conveniently located in the southeast part of Springfield. Last year we came and went from this park and at the end of our visit I realized we spent enough at their weekly and nightly rates that we could have stayed there the whole time at their monthly rate for less money.

So this time I made a month long reservation. The park was kind of a pain, actually requiring a 6 page application! This was the first rental application I’ve ever had to complete for an RV space.

But in the end we saved some money. The monthly rate was only $450 plus electric and when I needed to extend our stay for two more weeks I assumed it would be at the weekly rate. Instead they prorated their monthly rate so the extra days were only $15 per day.

Two of the three weekends we did leave we only moved 30 miles to our friends’ 40 acre property in rural Lawrence County. It’s a great place for all our friends to gather. They all own travel trailers now so we circle the wagons and just hang out.

One morning while Jim helped with an electrical project I found myself free as a bird. The weather was surprisingly cool for late June so I happily took an hour long stroll on some county roads. It was a beautiful morning.

Flowers were blooming and the birds were singing.

I was soon making friends.

This pair was a little more shy.

When this fellow and his brother came barreling across a lawn at me I felt a twinge of anxiety. My fear was momentary as they just wanted to say hi but I will likely remember my club next time I’m walking alone in a rural area.

It wouldn’t be a walk in the countryside without a red barn.

This old mailbox has seen better days.

This was only one of many flags displayed along the way.

So that’s all I have to show for two months in Missouri. Next up, we head west for the summer.

An Epic Flood

May, 2017 – Bonita Springs, Fl to Doniphan, MO In all our plans for leaving Florida we had a date in mind that we hoped to go, May 5th. This was two days after my last day of babysitting and the day our rent was paid through. But we didn’t have any hard commitments that required us to be anywhere.

So we figured when the flip house got done, when Lance got sold, when we’d visited sufficiently with our daughter, and (after we made the offer on our new trailer) when we got everything moved and the Alpenlite sold or ready for storage, then we would leave. This all changed when we learned that our own Current River was forecast to peak well above the highest flood in written history.

My family and I own a lovely little home there in Doniphan, Missouri. I’ve mentioned it briefly a couple times in my posts but it is actually a very special place. My family (my father, Jim and I, my three brothers and their wives, along with the help of other family members) built the home as a tribute to my dear mother. She loved the river and the property she and my father owned for nearly 30 years on its banks and she always dreamed of a home there but died of cancer in 2008 without that dream ever being realized.

We built the house over several years. Much of the work occurred in 2010. We started it that spring and got it roofed and sided by fall. Then we spent the next several years finishing it out as time and money became available.

I didn’t realize how few pictures I had of the house until we faced losing it. But here are some over the course of its construction.

The view from the riverfront. Eventually we extended the deck across the full length of the house and got that last piece of fascia on.

And here is the front which faces the road.

The kitchen cabinets were the last thing put in. My brother built and installed the lowers a couple years ago but just finished and installed the uppers a couple months ago.

So you can see why we were concerned and why we continued to make preparations to leave Florida but with a lot more urgency.

We checked the page on the internet often where they record the water gauge in my hometown. It also forecasts when it will peak and how high it will get. We helplessly watched for several days as both numbers went ever higher, surpassing the initial estimates by many, many feet.

In the meantime we kept very busy. We hired out some work on the flip house that we had intended to complete ourselves, we finalized the purchase of our new camper long distance as the owners were home in Michigan, and we began packing for the move to our new trailer.

There wasn’t much we could do about the house but watch and wait. By the time our family realized the rising water was really a problem there was very little that could be done. The road to the neighborhood floods well before the houses do so even if someone had wanted to go retrieve any property they would have had to make that decision well in advance.

Noone imagined it getting as bad as it did. We have watched the water rise so many times in the past and seen flood forecasts that looked ominous but never got as bad as they predicted. Even if we had been there it is likely we wouldn’t have moved much.

Here is what the page looked like that we kept checking. At this point on April 30th, the river was almost 29 and a half feet above normal. We knew then that it was in the house. At that time they predicted it might go as high as 39.5 feet, which would have pretty much swallowed our house up. You would have only seen a little of the roof above the water if that had come to pass.

So we were quite relieved when it actually crested at ONLY 33.13 feet a day and a half later. This was more than 6 feet over the historic flood of 1904. Our house was one of the newer ones in the neighborhood and we built the floor just above that flood level. Most of our neighbors were several feet lower and many live there full time so we knew their troubles were way worse than ours.

We hoped that the flood water hadn’t reached our ceiling level. If the water reached the ceilings it would double the amount of work required to restore our home. But we had to wait another two days, until May 3rd, before the road was passable so my brother could go assess the damage.

My closest brother lives in Springfield, Missouri so he got down there that afternoon. Here is his initial view when he walked through the front door.

And here was our new kitchen.

He was surprised it was actually hard to tell where the water had reached. There was not an obvious water line. He finally determined it had gotten about 6 feet up the walls. There was a thin layer of silt over every horizontal surface but the vertical surfaces were surprising clean.

My other brothers from Texas showed up that first weekend and together they did the majority of the demo. They cut off and removed the drywall at 6 feet and removed the kitchen cabinets. They saved the uppers and believe they are salvageable but had to throw out the lower cabinets.

One of the biggest issues was finding a place to dispose of the trash. They were relieved when some volunteers showed up with trailers and offered to haul off all the furniture. That was a huge help.

There were no dumpsters available anywhere. They heard of a dump site on Sunday and loaded up a trailer full and hauled it there. That site was soon full. The rest of the debris, they had to throw off the front porch.

While they worked hard on the house, we worked our tails off to get moved into our new 5th wheel and on the road to Missouri. We finally left Florida on Monday, May 8th. And we were never more relieved to see this sign on Thursday, May 11th.

We stayed in Doniphan a week and our good friends, Amy and Terry, generously took a couple days off work to come help. My brother and his wife came back for the weekend. Our friend’s mother, Cindy, lives nearby so she visited almost every day bringing us amazing desserts, actually doing a load of laundry for me, and even taking a couple items we were about to throw away and cleaning them; that quilt hanging on the living room wall and my wedding dress that I had stored there.

We cleaned and continued to sort through what was left, deciding what was worth salvaging and what was a loss. We were able to finally get a dumpster and we moved the mountain of debris in the front yard into it and finished cleaning out the house. I found someone to haul off the appliances. And then we cleaned, and cleaned, and cleaned some more.

We got all that was salvageable into one room so it will make it easier to work in the rest of the house. We are not sure when that work will take place. Primarily we have to reinsulate, redrywall, and install new doors and trim. We may start it this fall or it may wait until next year. But right now we are just letting the house dry out.

The community of Doniphan along with many others along Missouri’s riverways took a real beating this spring. So many suffered so much. Just in our own neighborhood there were more than a half dozen homes severely damaged, all much worse than ours.

A hard working couple next door have an older home that was built several feet lower than ours so the water reached into their rafters. But the worst part was their windows didn’t hold like ours did. So instead of the thin layer of silt we had to deal with, the river deposited 4 inches of slimy, nasty mud in their home. The home of an elderly couple who had lived there as long as I can remember was severely damaged and their kids used the flood as an excuse to finally move them to the city and put what was left of their home up for sale.

We were lucky in so many ways; that the home was built as high as we ever imagined the waters reaching, that every member of our family is in construction and when we choose to rebuild we can, that the water heater and electrical systems still work and the HVAC appears repairable. Mostly that this was our second home so noone was left homeless and we have the option of walking away and catching our breath before deciding how to proceed.

Round Spring Camp and Cavern

Eminence, MO – July, 2016 The Current River is so long and varied that it’s like having several rivers to choose from. Round Spring is just 12 miles north of Eminence and the river here is a very nice size. It is so much bigger than it is near Montauk where we floated a couple weeks ago and our kayaks often scraped the bottom. But the river is less than half as wide as it is near Van Buren where we went last week.

I made this reservation almost a month ago because this Monday thru Wednesday was the only 3 days I could get an electric site here before we left Missouri. Round Spring is a great campground even though the 6 sites they have with electric and water are in the center and lined up like a parking lot. The fee for these sites is $22 per night.

The spring for which the park was named is a short walk from camp. This picture really doesn’t do it justice. The spring flows into this sinkhole and you can only look down on it from the 15 or so foot bluff around it. Then it flows under a bluff on one side and down to join the river.

There are several great old bridges in the area. This bridge over Sinking Creek is no longer in use. It has some obvious signs of damage. You can see the new metal bridge behind it.

The 9 mile float from Pulltite into Round Spring campground is one of our favorites. Carr’s Canoe Rental will pick you and your kayak up at your campsite and port you to Pulltite for $15 per person, which is extremely reasonable. But we decided to be lazy this trip and not to float.

Instead we found an excellent spot to enjoy the river for a day. Just over that new bridge in the above picture and less than 2 miles from camp is a gravel road to the confluence of Sinking Creek and Current River. It is a free day use area and they have primitive campsites for $5 per night.

Our favorite part of the float from Pulltite to Round Spring is stopping at Sinking Creek anyway. After spending the day floating the frigid waters of the Current the creek water is like a warm bath. It is probably only 10 degrees warmer but it feels amazing.

We spent most of the day sitting in Sinking Creek. Floaters on the river often stopped to enjoy the gravel bar. A father and kids stopped and stacked these rocks.

After a day of fun in the sun we were looking forward to visiting the Round Spring Cavern the next day. On our previous visits the cave was closed for most of the summer due to the White Nose Bat Syndrome. Apparently they determined that the cave was already infected so they reopened it.

They give 3 tours a day and the cost is only $5. What a bargain! It turned out to be a really awesome cave.

Each person carries an electric lantern and the ranger carries a flashlight. These are the only sources of light in the cavern.

It was really fun and challenging to photograph the cave. Of course to compensate for the low light the camera’s shutter stays open longer. The cave formations were good at holding a pose but the people in my shots were not so cooperative.

Since the bats were wiped out the main cave inhabitant is now the salamander. We saw a half dozen of them throughout the tour.

In the very distant past the cave had a much larger inhabitant. There is evidence that giant short faced bears used this cave over 10,000 years ago. There are bear beds, where they have wallowed out an indentation in the clay. And claw marks, this one was authenticated by scientists.

We have been in quite a few caves and we were very impressed with this one, especially for the price.

Jim and I have enjoyed the last two months bumming around our home state, enjoying the clear, cold rivers, and spending time with our family and friends. But we are excited to move on to places we’ve never seen, spend time exploring on our own, and get back into our routines. My next post will be from some place new to us and much cooler.

A Great Weekend and One Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Van Buren, MO – July, 2016 We have an annual tradition of floating the lower Current River at Van Buren every July with as large a group as we can get together. We skipped that float last year and I missed it. I requested we revisit that tradition this year. Our 4 best friends agreed to join us and we had a really awesome weekend.

There are many, many campgrounds in Van Buren but we have only ever stayed at the Family Campground off M Highway upriver of town. The primary reason for this is that they have an amazing gravel bar that you can drive down to. It is usually busy in the afternoons but about dinner time the crowds disperse and we often serve big meals on our tailgates, build a fire, and hang out in and by the river until late.

For a private river campground this is the least buggy I’ve encountered. Their full hookup sites are $51 per night and are located near the office and pool. They won’t admit it but they are having serious issues with their sewer. If we stay here again we’ll choose an electric only site for $43. We’ll be nearer the river and away from any overflowing sewers. We can then have their honey wagon pump us out or dump at our next campground.

We could consider another campground but once again our choice comes down to location. We want to float into camp and the other campgrounds would require a much longer float. We prefer the less than 5 mile float to this camp.

This is the river where we specifically come for the crowds. It can get pretty crazy but I’ve never experienced anything vulgar or obscene here. It’s just a lot of locals and visitors getting together to float a pretty harmless section of the Current that has lots of big gravel bars. We like to keep this float short in distance and stop often.

We had had a few friendly words with a group of folks in camp and so the night before we floated we walked over and asked if they’d be willing to shuttle one of our trucks back to camp the next morning. Twenty dollars for about 30 minutes of their time seemed reasonable and they agreed.

The outfitters put everyone in at a place called Waymeyer. Several years ago we discovered the Chilton boat ramp a mile upstream and we prefer to put in there. We headed there this time and found the rain the day before had washed out the road. So we had to turn around and put up with the crowds at the regular put in.

Whether we float from the boat ramp or put in here we always stop across the river from Waymeyer and watch the spectacle for a while from a large gravel bar. Tubers outnumber kayakers and canoers here and there are a good number of rafts as well.

On most Saturday mornings there is a continuous stream of people from their shuttles into the water for hours on end. This weekend the water was a little high and it wasn’t quite as busy as usual. In past years I have literally looked down river and not been able to see the water for all the floaters.

Since the water was flowing pretty fast we stopped every chance we got and still made it back a little sooner than normal. My friend’s dog, Odie, has become quite the float companion. He knows how this is done.

Sometimes we like to float from camp down to Big Spring. It can be a peaceful float on a weekday or early Sunday morning.

You know you are about to reach the Big Spring takeout when you see these old bridge piers on either side of the river.

I do not recommend floating the 18 miles below Big Spring. The river gets big and slow and there is a lot of boat traffic.

Don’t miss Big Spring if you visit this area or even pass through. It is one of the 3 largest springs in the US. And it is gorgeous!

Some of my earliest memories are of family trips to this park. There are great little tunnels above the spring that young’uns can crawl through. Or an adult can take pictures from.

As a child we always climbed the steep hill next to the spring.

There are now signs discouraging this and I have to agree it no longer looks like a good idea.

The Big Spring is on the right but there is usually at least a trickle of a waterfall just downstream, on the left in the above photo. This trip the water was flowing so good that it almost stole the show.

After two fun days on the river we were making preparation to leave on Sunday morning. This is when the weekend started going downhill. We were just about packed up when I tried to put one of our living room slides in and got an awful noise about 6 inches in. Jim spent an hour under the slide trying to diagnose the problem. He finally had to disconnect the motor so the brake on it would not prevent him using the hand crank to crank in the slide. Then he had to reconnect the motor so the brake would keep the slide in for our trip. We still weren’t sure what was wrong but at least we could make the trip to our friends’ driveway near Springfield where he could work on it more.

An hour outside of Springfield things really went south. It felt to me like we had suddenly run off the road and hit a soft shoulder. Instead we had lost a tire. Jim saw it roll across the road behind us as he struggled to get our rig safely off the road. We got out to assess the damage.

All 8 lug nuts had been sheared off and the tire damaged the aluminum skirting on the rig, broke the fiberglass rear fender, tore up the insulation under the belly, and bent the rack that caries our kayaks and generator. We assessed the situation and decided instead of using our Good Sam Roadside Assistance to arrange a tow that we would use the one good tire to slowly make the 2 mile drive to the nearest campground. I phoned them to confirm they had room for us and we made it there safely.

Jim looked over the damage some more and decided there was nothing more he could do on a Sunday. So we set up for the night including Jim getting under the slide, disconnecting the motor and hand cranking out the slide. Then we went back to the highway and found our tire, which had a finger size hole in it. At least we had the wheel now.

Long story short, my amazing husband managed to do most of the work himself and get us on the road by noon the next day. He took the wheel to a local tire shop where they put on a new tire. In the meantime, he got the hub off and pounded the lug studs out of it. We got new lug nuts from a local trailer dealer. Then he installed the new tire. The whole ordeal cost us about $175.

We made it to our friends’ drive where Jim hammered out the aluminum skirting and started repairs to the fiberglass and insulation. It will never look perfect again but eventually we will order a new fender skirt and it will look pretty near normal.

Jim also took the motor off the slide and found a missing gear tooth. We had to order a new one and here’s is where the wallet took a real pounding. It cost $800 for a new one! But we got it overnighted and from there it was a quick fix and we were able to get on the road by the next weekend and didn’t have to cancel any of our fun plans.

After 18 months on the road, we are grateful that this is the biggest problem we have encountered. It could have been so much worse. Jim could have lost control or that tire rolling across the road could have caused an accident. We are blessed!

If you are in the Mansfield area I highly recommend the Laura Ingles Wilder RV Park, super nice people, clean park, and under $20 with Passport America for an electric and water site.

Montauk State Park

Salem, MO – July, 2016 We enjoyed an awesome 4th of July weekend with family and friends. After the festivities we were looking forward to a few quieter days. We headed to one of our favorite Missouri state parks. Montauk is a beautiful trout park.

It has an old mill that they open for tours a couple times a week.

The source of the Current River is Montauk Springs. The river then flows over 100 miles, growing in size with the addition of water from the many springs along the way. A few years ago Jim and I decided to float every inch of the Current from the state park border to the Arkansas state line during one summer. We divided the river into a series of 13 day floats.

One of the hardest things to accomplish was putting in at the state park border. You are not allowed to float inside the state park and a private individual owns the property immediately following the state park. So our solution was to drop our kayaks off on the side of the road just inside the state park. We scrambled down the steep embankment in the below photo then floated about 150 yards in the forbidden state park waters before reaching its border.

It is only a couple miles to the first commonly used put in, Baptist. The park service does not encourage anyone to float above Baptist so they don’t clear away any trees that might get caught in the stream during flooding. We were told by a fisherman that wades that section, that after recent flooding it is currently unfloatable.

For this visit we decided to float the seven and a half miles from Cedar Grove to Akers Ferry. We hired Jadwin Canoe to shuttle our truck to the takeout for $40. This was more money than we wanted to pay but a fair price for the number of miles involved and cheaper than their competition.

This section has many caves and some drop dead gorgeous bluffs.

We only had one day available to float so even though we knew there was a good chance of some rain that day we decided to go for it. It started drizzling about halfway through the float. Luckily we were able to find this great place to wait it out before it really let loose.

I had some extra layers of clothing with me and we always keep some disposable rain ponchos with us so we stayed pretty comfortable. I was surprised how many people continued to float by during the 2 hour storm despite the lightning. A local couple stopped after a while and it was nice to have someone to visit with and pass the time. Since they had lived in the area their whole lives we learned a lot of interesting local history.

The storm passed and we were finally able to get under way again. A highlight of this particular float is Welch Hospital and Welch Spring. If you don’t know what you are looking for you can easily miss it. You will hear the roar of the spring and you want to stop on the left before the spring water exits into the river. Usually there will be some boats there already.

You can walk over to the remains of the historic hospital. In the early 1900’s a doctor built this room over the mouth of a cave and claimed that the fresh cave air flowing into the room could heal what ailed you.

Walk up the steps for a great view inside the hospital.

Welch Spring flows from under a bluff next to it. You can reach the spring by road and a short hike. You can see that path across the water in the following pic. You are not supposed to wade across to the hospital however and it would be really cold besides.

Jim enjoyed some great fishing on this float. He caught two good sized trout, one at least 14 inches. Unfortunately both times I was too far downriver to get back for a pic. We still had trout in the freezer from Roaring River so we didn’t keep either of them.

A couple miles past Welch Spring is the takeout at Akers Ferry. The Ferry has said “Temporarily Out of Service” for a few years now. The very first time we visited here was the only time I have ever seen it in service.

Montauk is a good sized campground with electric only sites for $24 per night. It is well maintained but they have had some recent flooding so our site was a bit on the muddy side. The park has great cabins, a nice store and restaurant, and plenty of places to walk.

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.

Roaring River State Park

Cassville, Missouri – June, 2016 Jim and I enjoyed a week living in the city, getting caught up on annual appointments, and visiting our kids. Then we were ready for some fresh air and fresh fish. So we headed to one of our favorite Missouri state parks, Roaring River. I mentioned it briefly last summer. But it has so much to offer it deserves its own post.

We have visited this park at least once a year for about 20 years. I clearly remember tent camping near this very spot when our baby was about 4. We have visited in a succession of campers since then; from our first 1970 Coleman popup, to our Trailmanor, and finally graduating to 5th wheels. We have so very many wonderful memories here!

I was really looking forward to hiking all my favorite trails again. There are 7 trails totaling just over 10 miles. You can also add a lot of mileage to the hikes by walking to the trailheads instead of driving.

The most interesting trail in the park is Devil’s Kitchen. It is a mile and a half with quite a bit of elevation gain. The payoff is beautiful bluffs along much of the trail followed by the highlight. Devil’s Kitchen is a half-hazard looking pile of rocks that form a cavern.

Supposedly the cavern hid guerilla soldiers during the civil war.

My favorite part of the Fire Tower Trail is the less than 1 mile section between the end of campground C and where the trail crosses the highway. The path leads you between the river and a very scenic series of bluffs.

The shortest hike in the park is Deer Leap. It is 100 steps leading to an overlook with a view of the hatchery and the spring pond.

The pond is where they keep the big momma trout they use to stock the remainder of the stream.

Spring water gushes out of the ground under this cliff and there is often some runoff from above creating a waterfall.

It’s fun to watch the fish in the stream even if you have no interest in catching and/or eating them. The water is so clear there are many great fish photo ops.

Trout is our favorite freshwater fish to eat so thankfully Jim did have some luck and caught enough for two plentiful meals. Here is day one’s catch.

You probably see some sad, dying fish. I see trout almandine!

It was super hot during our visit but thankfully there are plenty of places to keep cool around here. In the middle of the park is a popular swimming hole that is very family friendly and has enough water coming in and out to keep it fresh when the water is reasonably high.

Later in the summer this water can become a bit stagnant. Then people tend to gravitate to the camp swimming pool, which can be a lifesaver if you have kids in tow.

Some parts of the trout stream are designated multi-use and wading and swimming there can be fun. Our favorite swimming spot is a short drive past campground C. It is the first right after the Fire Tower Trailhead on the left. There is a memorial gravesite for the Russell’s, the original homesteaders, who wisely located their home next to a perfect little swimming hole. The water is usually about waste deep and has its own scenic bluff and waterfall.

We have visited this spot many times and never ran into another soul. I’m sure someone had swum their before our arrival one day because the generally clear water was mucked up. But it was still refreshing.

The campground here is extremely well maintained. Our spacious, electric only site averaged $24 per night including the reservation fee. The park has lots of cabins and a lovely lodge so it is a great place to meet family and friends that want to enjoy the great outdoors with you but aren’t thrilled about camping.