Me canoeing

Current River Canoe Trip

Me hiking

To go to the pictures, click here.  The pictures are a mixture from me, Kent, Dana and Judy.

Below is the journal that Dana kept while on the river (and a bit before and after).


April 21 – 26, 2002

Trip Leader: Arthur Kuehne

Dana’s Journal

We had 10 boats paddled by:
Mark McClain
Arthur Kuehne & Beth Johnson
Judy Cato & David Taylor
Ken Woolley & Dana See
Marion & Lige Balceszak
George Zimmerman
Kent Trulsson
Bill Greer
Jim and Jane Nelson
Gary and Eddie Jean Krederman

Saturday 4-20
My ride arrived at ~ 7:10 am. While checking out Kent’s brand new kayak I asked, “Is it supposed to look like that?” I couldn’t help it. The bottom appeared to have been dragged through some sludge! It was the paint job. At 7:30 a.m. Ken, Kent and I departed Garland in Ken’s new vehicle. I was inadvertently almost left at our gas stop in Texarkana. As Ken was just about to pull onto the highway Kent reminded him that I wasn’t back in the car yet! Arrived in Van Buren, Missouri @ 5:00 p.m. right behind Beth and Arthur. Learned that the river had been closed until just the last couple of days due to flooding. I was nervous. Everyone had rooms at the Hawthorne Motel -$35.00/night. We had dinner at “Big Spring Restaurant” – so-so. Van Buren has a pop. of ~ 800. We walked everywhere because the town is basically the one street. Walked down to the river then some stopped in at “The Mercantile” for coffee and live music. I went to my room and crashed. But first – Lige, the sweetie, offered his cell phone so I could make free calls to Honey and Hunter.

Sunday 4-21
Breakfast in town – walked across the street to “Smalley’s” to share coffee and Egg McMuffin wannabe with a bunch of local(?) males dressed in camouflage clothing. Ken and I reviewed “Canoe Basics”. Back to the motel for last minute packing. Everyone piled into their cars then drove to Hawthorne Canoe for our 9:00a.m. shuttle service - $11.00/person. Loaded the canoes, piled our bags, gear and many boxes of wine (some things never change!) then us into 2 vans and 1 trailer. Paula McClain, the owner, chauffeured us the 65 miles to our put-in at Akers Ferry. She was a very nice individual! (But she really needs to wear her seatbelt!) Boats were in the river by 11:35. After an exhausting morning paddle we finally stopped for lunch at noon. This is the part were Judy took me aside and quietly informed me that Ken and I were sitting in our canoe backwards. Apparently this was a “first” because our whole group then informed us that we had just made history. Ken and I quickly re-arranged our boat.

Literally paddled into Cave Spring just as rain began to fall. This place was big enough to shelter 10+ boats! The mouth of the spring is 160 feet below us. Pretty cool. Came out just as the rain stopped (Arthur has perfect timing!) Saw a large, reddish colored bat and catching insects. This occurred at 1:30 in the afternoon - in bright sunlight! The behavior was quite perplexing to me as bats are nocturnal creatures. I later read that this is not an uncommon occurrence of the red bat!

3:00 p.m. set up camp on a gravel bar across from Pulltite Spring. Ferried the boats over then explored. Along with the spring there is a large log cabin. Apparently it was a brothel. Some called it “a sportsman’s club”. While preparing to board our boats we spied an otter! It was swimming fairly close and exploring the banks. Back at camp we had dinner and wine. Judy and I walked to a brand new bathroom facility. The trail was full of purple and white wood violets (one of my favorite), purple phlox, poison ivy (one of my least favorite), Virginia creeper, yellow/red columbine and May apples. All the blooms were beautiful.

Sightings: Bald Eagle, Belted Kingfisher, Great Blue Heron, Crows, Hawks, Otter

Monday 4-22
Breakfast was interesting – everyone watched Kent make pancakes. It took an hour! Some backpacker mix. Apparently they tasted better than they looked. That’s good. Because of his cooking expertise he was christened “early man”. Beth wasn’t feeling well. This resulted in a new saying by late morning, I forgot who coined the phrase, “Buck up, barf up and lets go!” (She did get better) Our canoe had spent the night under a type of willow tree laden with ladybugs. Quite a few had dropped off into our boat. After scooping them out we were on our way ~ 9:30 a.m. Stopped and climbed a steep hillside looking for a cave. Kent and Arthur looked all over for that cave but couldn’t find it. During lunch Eddie Jean spotted a little copper head. It was swimming just off shore. Very pretty little snake. Also saw many, many butterflies!!! Mostly swallowtails. Today is George’s 49th birthday!!! He is quite happy to celebrate it on a river. Happy birthday George!

After lunch visited Round Spring. Beautiful!!! Paddled to Courthouse Cave. We walked inside through stepped travertine pools. Pretty dark when we all put out our headlamps. As we were getting back into our boats Arthur and Mark each found a morel mushroom! The fungi were growing perpendicularly out of the mossy bank at the cave entrance. Paddled on. Camped at Lower Wood Hole, another gravel bar (they are all gravel bars).

Whippoorwills, chuck-wills-widow and frogs calling. River gurgling by. It’s night and I’m writing by headlamp in my tent. Judy stopped by earlier and we chatted through the tent – “like confession” Judy said. I enjoyed a very nice after dinner visit with Marion. Lige brought pretty little lights for their tent – I was given the honor of flipping the switch.

Sightings:  Piliated Woodpeckers, Swallowtail Butterflies, Copperhead Snake, Great Blue Heron, Vultures, Swallows

Tuesday 4-23
Did morning walk at 9:00 a.m. Looked at flowers and talked. Put-in at 10:30. Hot today. Lunch across from "“Bee Bluff" – beautiful cliffs. Man and his large German Shepherd floated by in their rented canoe. Paddled on and witnessed another rented canoe with 2 teenagers hit a strainer, turn over and go under. Boat totally gone but both kids were okay. Floated down to Two Rivers and tried to alert authorities. The park service guys seemed fairly unconcerned. They also weren’t willing to go out of their way to help Lige and Marion. Lige wasn’t feeling well. He and Marion decided to bail here. We helped carry their gear to a camping spot then said our good-byes. As we were paddling off, who floats by but those dumped teenagers! They obviously got everything worked out and back up to the surface. Wow, that was a surprise.

We were only ~8 minutes from our evening gravel bar, just above Coot Chute. Once there, some people went swimming. It was pretty hot. George attempted to land dinner with his fly fishing skills but they weren’t biting. We learned from him that the Current is renown among fisherpeople for it’s small mouth bass. After dinner entertainment included music and a style show. George, alias “leather boy / neoprene man”, modeled after 5 attire. Beth and Mark played harmonicas with sing-a-long sheet music provided by David. Additional atmosphere, engineered by Ken, Arthur and the Kreiderman’s, was a makeshift Lava Lamp --- a flashlight shining on a Nalgene bottle full of Kiwi-lime Koolaide. Worked beautifully! Oh – poor Judy had a case of the “dropsy’s” with her boiling water. She ended up with in a painful scald burn on her ankle. 

Kent and Arthur had weather radios. We all turned in for the night to the sound of not so distant thunder and lightening knowing the storms were headed our way.

Now my story begins ---- 9:30 p.m. With the whippoorwills serenading in the distance I brought my water boots inside the tent to keep the mice out of them (remember this) and hit the hay (gravel). Fifteen minutes later I was startled by the sound of beaver tail slaps! At first I thought one of the group had lobbed a boulder into the river. Couldn’t figure out why someone would be doing that and I never did hear any footsteps. The second slap jogged my memory and I knew it was beavers. After a third and final slap they were through with whatever alerting they were doing. I love nature!!! Fell asleep. Woke up at 11:15 feeling quite queasy. The thunder and lightening were really close. At 11:25 I flew out of the tent – no time to zip it up and no time to dig a hole … diarrhea. Back in the tent by 11:35 and the storm hit, hard. Over by midnight. Went back to sleep. Awakened briefly by repetitive nudging at my head. Think it’s a dream - I go back to sleep. Awakened at 2:00 a.m. by second round of storms and something scampering across my right shoulder. Gobs of really low, close rolling thunder and boocoos of lightening. I’m over my earlier intestinal disturbance and I am now in HEAVEN!!! I absolutely love storms. I also have a large but cute mouse in my tent. How do I get this healthy looking deer mouse (can you say hanta virus?) out without getting bit? I have nothing with which to catch her. I chase her around a couple of times and finally she runs into my water boot (the irony of it all!). It is also now that I realize my tent floor has become a shallow swimming pool. I successfully jettison the mouse out the door. (I guess you could say I gave her the boot… hee-hee!) Twenty minutes had elapsed and the storm was past. While mopping up and repeatedly wringing out my Pack Towel, I notice a large, glowing columnar shape up river. It was very tall. It was not moving but it was definitely glowing. I’m watching this apparition and in between lightening strikes when the rest of the landscape was dark, it was still glowing. Makes no sense to me. Intriguing. The evening continues… Now I’m in the process of re-stuffing my down bag & utilizing any waterproof container I can find. It is 3:00 a.m. and the third round of storms has arrived. End up “sleeping” on a bare Thermarest, in all my clothes - gloves, fleece socks and balaclava included, with my head on my PFD (put my fleece pillow away) & my feet on my food river bag (I have a shortie Thermarest). I stayed on the pad, the PFD and the river bag and I stayed dry. The last storm was over by 5:00 a.m. Feeling triumphant and quite resourceful I went to sleep.

Wednesday 4-24
Up at 6:45 a.m. with the rest for coffee and storm stories. Gary saw the same “ghost tree.”(We later discovered we had witnessed the phenomenon called “St. Elmo’s Fire”. Is that incredibly cool or what!?!) On the river by 9:30. Weather radio says more storms likely sometime today. We were planning to visit a cave. The approach was up Blair Creek and included many stream crossings. As we paddled near the confluence it became instantly obvious there was no way we could do so. The little creek had transformed into a wide, muddy colored rushing creek. We’ll just have to wait ‘til next time. Stopped at “Owls Bend” for pee break and group photo – not at the same time. Water there was also rushing over a low water crossing. Eddie Jean utilized her “Lady J”. I might try one out sometime. They seem a bit strange but hey, don’t knock it ‘til you try it right? Judy could have used one as she demonstrated what is now her famous “squat hop” in mid-pee. 

Back in the boats and on to “Logyard” camp. Arrived fairly early ~2:00. Set up the tents. Judy invited my to share hers since mine proved to be unworthy in the rain. Weather became warmer, more humid and windy. While Mark was enjoying a stroll his tent did the same. It began to “Maytag” down the gravel bar. George and Arthur chased it down and brought it home. (Maytag results in one’s nest inside the tent being rearranged.) Sat around and yakked then it began to rain. Everyone except Judy, David, George and myself went for the shelter of sweltering tents. We four donned Gore-Tex and sat out in the weather. Well, between the time I left for our tent to retrieve Judy’s waterproof camera and the time I got back, it had begun to hail. I took 1 picture and yelled that I was getting out of this. In a matter of seconds everyone (except for George, he had a bivy bag) followed suit. By the time we had “gallumped” across the gravel bar in our water boots and into our tents, the sky had really let loose. It’s hard to sprint in those conditions but I think I went pretty damn fast. It was comical the way Judy and I flew into the tent in our dripping wet rain gear, trying not to saturate our sleeping bags, trying to get our boots off and zipping the flaps without getting our knuckles rapped by the hail. The whole thing lasted less than 10 minutes. Everyone ventured out to find a thick mist hovering over a layer of marble size hail.

Arthur scooped up a couple of handfuls and made Beth a margarita on the rocks! She was very happy!

Dinner was followed by a walk to an RV campsite. Bed.

Sightings: Little Blue Heron, Turkey, Snowy Egrets

Thursday 4-25
Woke up to a clear blue sky, cooler temperatures and zero wind. We were on the river by 9:00 a.m. Due to continued rain in the forecast our plans changed to take out a day early least we get caught up in a predicament. 17 miles to the take-out. Nice morning break. Kent parked his kayak in the fork of a downed tree. Perfect fit! Paddled around some tight turns as the river split and braided its way. This was a fun challenge including a few standing waves. Stopped for lunch on a small island. People played skipping rocks. There was a “skip-off” between Arthur and Ken. Arthur won with Ken right on his heels. Skipped them past the eddy line – 6-8 skips per rock! I saved Kent’s butt by reminding him to bring a heart shaped rock home to Laura. 

Out of the “Wild and Scenic” section now. Seeing many impressive homes with manicured lawns. Weather is incredibly beautiful. Perfect for paddling. Mark spied a cave and we all pulled over. He went in to investigate. Came out saying the cave went back ~20 feet, mostly under water. We continued down river. Talked about naming boats after rivers. I suggested that when I get a canoe, doing the Little Wichita. The rest is history. Kent will never let me forget it!

Arrived at the take-out at Van Buren at 1:30 p.m. The storm from the previous afternoon had spawned a tornado here. Along the banks of the river were splintered and uprooted trees, roof damage, even an Airstream trailer had been thrown into the water. The owners were busy with chainsaws.

We took out and packed our vehicles. Said our good-byes to Mark who was off to the Gasconade River. Rest of us drove back to the Hawthorne motel for rooms. There was no problem with vacancies. Judy and I shared one. After cleanup we visited Big Spring Park. Beautiful. Judy and I played on the teeter totters, swings and slides. Judy’s slick pants made her go so fast that she ended up on the ground on her backside! Drove on for dinner. 2 out of 3 places were closed. We were apparently ahead of tourist season (good). Ended up at “The Mercantile” antique shop/restaurant. Food, wine and margaritas. Reasonable and accommodating with nice atmosphere but overcooked steak and salmon. Walked back to the motel. Judy, Arthur, Beth and I gabbed in our room for another hour. They went to bed and Judy and I continued yakking ‘til 1:45am! Whew…

Friday 4-26
Kent tried to be our 6:00am wake up call but ended up calling the bubba next door! He’s so responsible, he walked over and quietly knocked anyway. Everyone met at 6:30 for breakfast at The Float Stream café. It was cold and rainy out. We were happy to be in a dry, warm building with someone serving us eggs, bacon, pancakes, juice and coffee. An older gentleman sitting nearby (he resembled late night talk show host Conan O’Brian, except with silver hair) asked about our trip. He was writing in what appeared to be a journal. (I spoke with him and found out he was writing a book on the natural areas of Missouri, planning to publish it within 2 years.) After a round of hugs and handshakes, Ken, Kent and I took off for Dallas. It was 8:00am and we were on a scenic roller coaster of a road. I was sitting in back turning green. Kent turned around and asked if I would like to move up front. Yes! Thank you! Apparently Laura has the same queasy stomach and he recognized the “look”. Stopped to see Mammoth Spring in Arkansas. Pretty little city park. Lots of big Chinese geese and lots of mammoth poop all over the walkways. Also blue phase Snow Goose, Hawaiian NeNe and wood ducks.

Met up with David and Judy ~ 1:00pm just outside Little Rock. Ken, Kent and I were just finishing lunch at Taco Bell when we saw those guys pull into the Arby’s just across the parking lot. I ran over and sneaked into the bathroom. While Judy was in a stall peeing, I pretended to be 2 rude, impatient people. The look on her face was priceless when she opened the door (finally- she really had to go)!

Arrived in Garland ~ 7:00pm.