Wednesday, March 2, 2011

our excellent adventure.

What do you get when you take two stir crazy Wisconsin kids who are experiencing the warmest February weather they've ever experienced in their lives? You get a spur of the moment canoe and camping trip this past weekend! R found out that he could rent outdoor equipment through MWR and took advantage of it. It's a good thing he did, because the program is brand new so they let us rent everything free of charge, as long as we took lots of pictures and spread the word to other military folks in the area. So we did and we will!

The weather was so beautiful this weekend. In case you haven't been paying attention to my constant bragging, it's wonderfully warm and sunny around these parts lately and this weekend was no exception. So, we dusted off the tent, gathered up our gear, and headed up to the Blackwater River. We set out on Saturday morning after the program coordinator dropped us off, and consistent with R's outdoor tradition, we took an "into the wild" picture.

We've both kayaked before, but neither of us have ever canoed to a destination. We've only canoed around a lake for an hour or so. We thought that was ample preparation for a 20 mile canoe trip back to our car. We were in for some fun, let me tell you.

I insisted on calling myself Sacagewea pretty early on. Consequently I also insisted on speaking in the third person. We would get stuck on a sand bar and I would proceed to assure R that Sacagewea had it under control.

Much to his delight I also insisted on calling him Clark. Some things are just standard operating procedure when you find yourself in a canoe.

The first day wasn't so bad. We managed to push through for about 4 hours before Sacagewea decided she was tired, her arms were starting to ache, and she wanted Taco Bell. So we found a nice little sand bar and set up camp for the evening.

What was nice about this little trip is that while we think it's summer, the locals know it's still winter. That made the river nice and quiet and our campsite felt very secluded and private. It was so strange to actually notice the sound of a far off car or plane in all the quiet. We had a nice dinner of Velveeta shells, R built a fire, and we enjoyed a very quiet evening of conversation and star gazing on the Blackwater River.

However, once we turned in for the night and snuggled into our sleeping bags, Sacagewea's inner city girl was wide awake. R drifted off in to a sound sleep, while I was suddenly hyper-aware of every single noise outside our tent. Sometime in the middle of the night I heard what was obviously a bear or panther walking right outside our tent! I shook R awake, scared out of my mind, and he peeked outside the tent with a flashlight and saw what was probably a raccoon...on the other side of the river. He calmed me down and told me that there are no bears or panthers in the Panhandle and he went back to sleep.

I tossed and turned for a few hours (I will add, so that you can feel sufficiently sorry for me, that my sleeping pad had leaked out all it's air and I slept most uncomfortably on the hard ground). Shortly before daybreak I heard it. This time it sounded a little like scurrying and it was seriously RIGHT OUTSIDE of my side of the tent. I laid there, whispering to myself that it was nothing, like someone from a freaked out Blair Witch scene, and then I heard it again. This time, trying for some semblance of calm, I gently woke R up and told him something was outside the tent. He listened and sure enough he heard it, too. It only sounded like a small something, so he assured me that it was probably a rabbit or squirrel, nothing that could harm me. Well, I was way too jacked up on images of an angry deer or a rare Florida panhandle bear trampling our tent to get anymore sleep, so I laid there as the sun slowly rose, all the while the scratching, scurrying noise was gently continuing.

After an hour or so, R finally woke up (on his own, not via crazy wife). We laid in our sleeping bags; him, rested and refreshed; me, wide-eyed and strung out. As we laid there, I looked over to my wall of the tent and noticed something rubbing against the nylon... Long grass. That's right, you heard me. Long grass. Long grass that had been rubbing against the nylon, making sort of a scratching noise that a hyped up city girl with visions of bear attacks dancing through her mind may have mistaken for an animal just outside her tent. First, I felt like an idiot, then I felt all the exhaustion of 4 or 5 hours of restless sleep catching up to me. Then I remembered the other 8 miles we still had to canoe, and I almost cried a little. Instead, I got up to go to the bathroom and when I came back, my sweet husband had the camera in hand and *click* this glamor shot was born.

That look stayed on my face for about the next hour. And yes, R laughed at me for being a crazy weirdo all night long. I think his exact words were, "What did you think was going to happen to you, exactly?" And yes, I'll admit I deserved it.

Despite my wild night, we had a nice early morning breakfast. We enjoyed oatmeal and coffee, and stayed snuggled up in the tent until it was time to pack up.

Actually, Sunday morning was my favorite part of the trip. We were packed up and pushing off by 7:30 and the river was so still and quiet. It was so beautiful and serene to paddle along in silence. Every once in a while we'd hear a turtle on a nearby log splash into the water, and then silence again. It's so rare that we're ever surrounded in total silence and, especially after my noisy night, I soaked it up.

After about 4 hours, we got to the state park where our car was parked. It couldn't have come sooner. Our arms, which had only paddled us around a lake before, were seriously aching and our butts were sore from sitting on canoe benches for the last 2 days. (I use the terms "we" and "our" loosely. As evidenced below, Sacagewea took frequent breaks.)

No. My paddle isn't even in the water for effect. I was past the point of pretending. Luckily, after 20 miles, R's strong muscles got us back to our car and we packed up and drove home. With the exception of my Night of Terror, we had a wonderful time. It was everything a trip into the outdoors should be; we spent time in God's creation enjoying the solitude, we pushed ourselves past what we thought we could do physically, and we enjoyed each others company.

And, of course, we learned to appreciate what we usually take for granted. Like beds. And toilets. And Taco Bell. And walls that block out noise. Do I need to go on?

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