Grateful for the help with the portage at Akers Ferry, the adventurous duo settled in for a peaceful float. Signs posted marked notable sites, but Tarzan’s concern about their progress meant there were few site-seeing stops. They did pull over to check out a cave accessible by canoe, but there was a line of paddlers waiting their turn, so on the pair went.
As the day dwindled, the task of paramount importance was finding a suitable camping site. A comfy gravel bar that didn’t look too snaky, yet close to a source of kindling was at the top of the list. That is just what they came upon, with plenty of time to get situated before darkness set in.
First things first — secure the canoe — then put up the tent, which both knew would go faster if Nancy busied herself doing something else, like starting the hunt for kindling. Over and behind the many mounds of gravel she traipsed in wet shoes that seemed to get heavier with each stomp in the loose gravel.
Nancy was plum tuckered out. There had been stress early on, but wide-eyed fun afterwards, and lots and lots and LOTS of paddling. She wondered if Tarzan was feeling the fatigue.
As she topped a mound to the campsite, there he was, stretched out belly down on the rocks blowing on the starter pile of kindling. Her first thought was one of relief. After the spill she had worried they would have nothing but soggy matches and cold hot dogs on this first night. Tarzan had packed well; there would be both a fire and a hot meal.
As she placed more kindling by the smoking sticks, though, she realized something was off. He still had his life jacket on and it was still buckled. Nancy had ditched hers right away. His elbows were dug into gullies in the gravel as he snapped twigs to place on the tiny flame. Every so often he would raise his head a bit to blow on the flickers.
N–Are you okay? Did you turn an ankle? Did you fall?
T–(Long pause) I’m okay. You’re gonna have to get some bigger stuff for this fire.
Nancy made a couple more trips for wood and each return to camp found him in the exact same position.
N–What’s wrong with you? Why aren’t you getting up?
T–I can’t raise my arms. They just don’t want to move.
So he WAS tuckered out, exhausted to the max. Nancy’s muscles were talking to her, too, but not in the way Tarzan’s were talking to him. Thus began the endless teasing debate that she was a slacker, that she made Tarzan do all the work while she sunned up front. The extreme tension of the flip, then wrestling the empty canoe and gathering the contents from the river had surely caused the muscle fatigue he was dealing with, she surmised.
As the fire blazed, darkness arrived. Tarzan finally sat up, unbuckled his vest and accepted help getting out of it. While he worked with supper, Nancy went to get her bag of stuff. She figured it seemed so much heavier because her arms were tired, but she was mistaken.
Everything she had packed was soaked, dripping: sleeping bag, clothes, towels, everything except her toiletries in baggies.
N– I used the kind of bag you told me to! Why is all of your stuff dry and mine is not?!
T–Did you double-bag it?
N–No, I didn’t know I had to.
This was Nancy’s first overnight floating experience. She had a lot to learn.
After supper she hung up what she wanted to wear the next day, and laid out other items across the canoe and on the gravel around the fire to keep them from souring.
Tarzan let her borrow a dry shirt and unzipped his sleeping bag to share half, reducing the padding on the gravel bed but neither noticed. Exhausted uninterrupted sleep came quickly after a brief discussion of what was ahead.
They should be getting close to the point Jack’s Fork River met the Current. Would they be ready for that, or would it create another canoe-flipping situation?
Next week- Dark Skies