Floating the Meramec on the Fourth
“I’ve done my duty,” said brother Bill. “I got an employee of an outdoor magazine actually to go outdoors.”
I’m really not that bad.
Earlier the week before, Bill sent out the call for a float trip. My sister and her offspring declined, saying that they had to wait until after the season was over. Since season can mean baseball, softball, volleyball, basketball or hockey for three teens –the oldest now umpires, and wants to become a math teacher so he can coach– it is unclear just when the season ends.
That leaves the usual four suspects: Bill, brother Dan, my husband Eugene, and me.
The brothers float “little boats”– 12 and 13-foot canoes. Eugene and I generally paddle a 16-foot Old Town, affectionately called “the big green boat.”
The first plan involved floating the Little Piney near Jerome. “It’s not that bad. Last time we floated we only had to carry boats three or four times, because no outfitter chainsaws the river,” said Bill.
Uh-huh. If they had to portage the little boats, this seemed more like work than fun with the green boat. I declined.
The phone rang on the 3rd. It was a brothers conference call. Yep…they were ganging up on the big sister. “Would you be interested in going if we floated something with more water?” asked Dan. Of course I would.
“Ok…so where do you want to go?” Drag out the Hawksley. Yes, I know there is this new Paddler’s Guide to Missouri, but I never can seem to find it.
“Oh, why don’t we put in at Scott’s Ford on the Meramec?” I said.
If Lewis and Clark (aka Dan and Bill) don’t immediately rattle off the mile marker for the put-in there is an adventure in store.
Scott’s Ford is below Maramec Spring, but above Steelville. You get there via Cuba. After a bunch of negotiation how four people from three towns with three boats and three cars (one of them being an Escort wagon) can put together a self-shuttle, we agreed to meet at 11 a.m. at Scott’s Ford, after dropping my car at Riverview Access.
As we left Pacific, it was raining.
There is something about a canoe bottom turned to the sky that creates rain, I swear. “It wasn’t supposed to rain until three this afternoon,” opined Eugene as we drove out I-44. I don’t know where it came from.
I did. The humidity was such that a firecracker exploding would have condensed water from the air. And the previous night, there had been lots of fireworks, as true to form, Missourians celebrated July 4 on July 3. Go figure. It wasn’t like many of them did not have the Sunday off.
By the time we reached Riverview, the rain had tapered to a light misty shower. It did nothing to cool off the day, but apparently it drove a lot of campers home and potential river traffic for drier climates, by the number of vehicles going east on I-44 packed with camping paraphenalia at 10 a.m. of the middle of the three day weekend.
At Scott’s Ford, only ourselves and another crew in kayaks offloaded vehicles to float. The river had a fisherman or two, but was basically empty. The sky still threatened, but hey…we had raincoats. Everyone packs raincoats for a float, no?
We were a bit amazed that it took four and a half hours to float seven miles. This stretch of the river has a few riffles, but no tricky bits, and lots of long, flat lazy pools. The only tricky bit was when, as we try to do every float, Eugene and I switched places, with me taking the stern, not the bow. The tricky bit is how to preserve one’s marriage in a tandem canoe.
We’re generally not bickering types…you don’t survive seventeen years together if you are. But the problem is: I’m left-handed and Eugene is a righty. And I’ll admit it…he’s a skinny thing, and I’m on the plump side. This is not a major problem except when they both affect the dynamics of steering a tippy keel-less canoe. We just naturally go in opposite directions, and spend much of the time either oversteering, or overcorrecting. It’s easy to get testy under those circumstances.
I know why kayaks are gaining in popularity, and why my brothers paddle little boats. But we’re persistent and forgiving…and what happens on the river stays on the river. Usually.
I can’t say this was the most exciting float of my life. The power boaters were exceedingly courteous. Everyone along the way was friendly, including the cattle in the river about 3/4 of the way. We canoed through a very interesting fog bank, and by about two in the afternoon, enough people had drifted towards the river that we were no longer alone, though it never became crowded. A few firecrackers were heard in the distance, but no nudity, no profanity, no drunks, and only two instances of moderately loud music. Considering this was a holiday weekend, and the reputation of the Meramec, I wondered if we had taken a wrong turn somewhere.
About the only excitement came at the end, when we realized we had neglected to look at the takeout before driving away that morning. But it’s pretty hard to miss a steep concrete boat ramp, when three of the four people on the trip were totally sober, and the other had been drinking lite beer. Riverview is not a good takeout for canoes…you have to go past the ramp, and approach from the eddy side.
The day ended with barbecue in Cuba, and watermelon when Eugene and I reached home. It wasn’t cosmic, but at least I got away from the computer for a whole 12 hours. That counts for something.