For this trip-report, Cara has been granted temporary access behind the Virtus curtain to leave her comments in pink 🙂
Last year on July 1st, Gomed and I were enjoying a nice day on the river when *one of us* (we all know it was Bob)made a critical paddling error and flipped the canoe. I must’ve swallowed too much river water, because suddenly a creek-bank next to our submerged canoe sounded like the perfect place to ask if she’d marry me. Forgetting to kneel, I botched the proposal and had to “do it again.. the right way“. This is, of course, a short version of the story and only a small part of a great weekend trip together.
And so we decided that a wilderness trip on the first weekend of July would be an annual thing. This year, I’d been spending a lot of time on the Ozark Trail Planner website, and I really wanted to do their featured 2-day trip. Basically, it’s a 13 mile hike on the OT to BASS River Resort campground, then paddling back the next day. It was going to be a challenge for sure, and we were both pretty excited about it.
Finding the Onondoga Trailhead was a little more challenging than we’d hoped, but after a few minutes of driving around in circles we finally stumbled onto it. Striking out onto the trail, Cara wasted no time dropping my ass. I’m hardcore like that.
Since we were carrying all of our food/water/tent, etc. for the whole weekend, our packs were pretty heavy. I’d tried to do the chivalrous thing and carry most of the heavy stuff, but she was still left to carry a really heavy blanket and about 9 pounds of Slim-Jims and sweetTarts. Lucky for us, there were randomly placed benches along the trail for the first few miles.
The OT website described the first 4 miles as “A pleasant walk through hardwood forests and a few pine groves”. Lies. I guess that’s mostly true, but there was some respectable elevation changes, especially with the heavy packs we were hauling. One thing I noticed was that while it doesn’t look like the trail gets used much, it was in very good shape. The further we hiked, the better the scenery became, especially as we neared mile 5.
The miles ticked by steadily and soon the trail was skirting along between the Courtois River and a rather large limestone bluff. Very cool stuff. We saw a few paddlers in the creek, but for the most part we passed by unnoticed.
At mile 5.2, we came to the “wet crossing, normally 1-2 feet deep and subject to flooding.” The water was so clear you could see to the bottom, and we learned pretty quick that the green-shaded areas were DEEP..as in, up to my waist. We had the foresight to remove our socks and shoes before crossing, so after a very relaxing swim, (Bob swam around in only his underwear, tight, green little booty shorts.. he got some looks) I sat on the water’s edge changing back into my dry socks.
….then I had a good laugh watching her try to find a way across without getting soaked. She skirted the bank all the way around, barely getting wet past the knees.
Right about this time, we had a the option of cutting the trip short or continuing on. I left the decision to her and she wanted to do the whole 13 miles… an impressive lady on all counts. I’m tough.
Having crossed the creek, we made our way up a short piece of trail leading t0 Bat Cave, which is obviously not somewhere the Dept. of Conservation wants people playing around.
After that, the trail got very interesting. We basically went up, up and up before eventually reaching a scenic overlook near the 8-ish mile mark. There’s a rock outcropping that overlooks a few miles of the valley below, and the view is awesome. I don’t know if it was the spectacular view, the awesome weather or the remoteness of it all, but we were suddenly inspired to do something more adventurous than stand there and take photos…so I hope you’ll forgive the absence of bluff-top pictures. I’m sure any other man in my position, (get it?), would’ve done the same thing.
I’ve got to say, for a woman who spends most (all) of her day working in a lab, this wife of mine did very well on our 13 mile hike. It wasn’t until we’d gone about 11 miles that she finally lost her shit. But when she did…it was in glorious fashion. Let me see if I can remember her words correctly:
***Quietly hiking slong and then…..**” I f*cking hate nature!!, this is so stupid, why do we have to climb all the way to the top of these giant ass hills, then have to turn around and go right back to the bottom and then come back up again?!?. This is so stupid, we’ve hiked like 7 miles and 5 of them have been in circles!! Who makes these trails, anyway??!? And how is that creek a “reliable” water source?!?! I’m not drinking that green shit, I don’t care how long you boil it.
It’s true, I said all of that plus some.
It was absolutely hilarious and I loved every moment of it. We discussed the possibility of camping along the trail and finishing the hike tomorrow, but she wanted to get to the campground. About an hour later, we reached Bass River Resort. 13 miles had come and gone (those miles did not just “come and go”, they were looong, painful miles), so we decided a victory pizza was in order:
We set up the tent, drank a few beers and settled in for the worst night of sleep we’ve ever had together. Not bringing an air mattress was a HUGE mistake, regardless of how heavy it would have been. Having one blanket and no pillows was an even bigger mistake, but I don’t know how we would’ve gotten them into our already-stuffed packs anyway. We were awake early the next day, mostly because it was too painful to lay on the
ground gravel bar. Some leftover pizza slices and a few cups of Pine-needle tea, and it was time to break down the tent and get ready for the paddle.
Before leaving, we decided to eat one of the Mountain House meals we’d brought, but ran into a bit of trouble when we realized we didn’t have any spoons. The people at BASS told us they didn’t have any either, which I’m sure was a lie. I won’t elaborate on the rest of our experience with the employees there, but I will say their demeanor was disenchanting.
Trying to impress my wife, I broke out the old survival knife and made us a spoon, which we then boiled to make sure it wasn’t loaded with nasties. Bob thinks he’s an ultra-survivalist from watching too many Man, Woman, Wild shows.
All loaded up and ready to go, we embarked on the 1 mile hike to the kayaks. Cara really didn’t want to walk, so I stuck out my thumb and we hitched a ride on the tailgate of someone’s pickup truck. We both had a good laugh during the ride, and before we knew it we were ready to hit the water.
You couldn’t have asked for a much prettier day. The temps were probably in the mid 80’s, no wind, sunny and pleasant. Paddling in separate boats was definitely the right thing for us to do, as we were able to choose our own lines when the river got tricky. (No arguing) I was probably 100 yards behind when I saw her boat go around a corner…then shoot up into the air upside down. She exploded out of the water like an Olympic swimmer trying to catch the boat and paddle , and I did my best to laugh quietly. Seriously, though..I don’t think I’ve ever seen her move that fast. I’ll kill you.
The water was crystal clear and the scenery was fantastic. There were a lot of people on the river too, but we never ran into any belligerent drunks or anything. Check out the bluffs along the river:
Since I’m an idiot and hadn’t brought a map, I had no idea how far we’d come or how far we still had to go. We were having fun though, and our pace was decent. Things were about to change, though. The sky grew dark and the wind picked up quite a bit. Off to our right, a giant sycamore tree broke in the wind and crashed to the ground. It was LOUD, terrifying, and an awesome sight, but also foretelling of the incoming weather.
Basically, the weather went straight to shit. It started out with some strong wind, then came the rain. The cool rain was pretty refreshing at first, but it wasn’t long before we found ourselves in an all-out downpour. Branches were splashing into the creek all around us and the rain filled the kayaks. I tried to get some videos, but they’re pretty shaky.
Adding insult to injury, Cara finds herself on a sandbar:
Next thing you know, it starts hailing. Time to get serious. I yelled for her to abandon the boat and take the paddles to the bank. Then I hauled both boats to the bank and dumped our stuff out. She laid down on the ground and I put the kayak on top of her. I’m about to get under my kayak when I look out and see a family in a raft being pelted with hail. A girl in the raft couldn’t have been more than 4 years old, so…I ran out and helped them get the raft to shore, dump it over and get them under it. After that, I crawled under my kayak next to Cara and we laughed about the “epicness’ of it all, because being caught in a thunderstorm with hail is HILARIOUS when you’re under a piece of plastic hoping to not get crushed by fallen tree, or drown in the quickly rising river.
It’s hard to believe you can find romance in a hail storm, but laying there under the kayak while my legs were being beat to shit with ice, I was so happy and proud of my wife. This was obviously an unforseen circumstance and she had handled it like a champ. There were no complaints, no arguing..just the two of us working together to overcome an undesireable situation. There’s nowhere else I would have rather been. Aww, he’s such a sweetheart 🙂
I guess the hail lasted about 20 minutes, and when it stopped we decided to get moving before we got too cold. So back out into the rain we went, until the skies eventually cleared and the day was gorgeous again. Along the way, we bumped into a few folks we knew, including, Lisa, Pam and Randazzle, who were more than eager to share their deviled eggs, cookies, booze and water with us. (Just a few more of the things we’ll be bringing with us next time). They saved us. We had no food, no water, no nothing. I was so relieved I didn’t have to drink river water treated with iodine tablets.
We were also invited over to “Chateau de Dazzle” later that evening for some delicious steaks and intelligent conversation. Talk about an awesome day. We paddled/floated with the 3 of them for the remainder of the trip, and eventually called it a day. In my book, this weekend trip together was a complete success. The route was challenging, scenic and rewarding. We worked as a team, overcame all obstacles and even got to eat steaks at the end. Judging from the soreness in both of our lower legs, I’d say the next trip will be a bit shorter, but we’re already talking about doing it again. I’m thinking a group trip with other couples/individuals would be a REALLY kickass time.