We Should Do This More Often
We should do this more often: another installment in the file of parenting failure
August in Arkansas is usually a month long experiment in discovering just how much heat, humidity and triple digit misery a body can take. Even the most avid and experienced runners force themselves to run in the middle of the night to avoid even a hint of the sunlight that brings the heavy, damp, breath and soul sucking humidity out to steal everyone’s energy. Even the “autobreeze” producing cyclists tend to ride earlier and later than usual. This year we’ve been blessed, or cursed if you were in some of the flooded areas I suppose, with higher than average rainfall and lower than normal temperatures. For the first time in 40 years, 40 years, the upper section of the Buffalo River has been floatable in August.
Floating the Buffalo River is kind of a quintessential Arkansas experience. When the small one was even smaller, she fell in love with flatwater kayaking when we took her to a lake that had a marked kayak trail. We bought her a small stable vessel of her own and we took her out on local rivers and creeks to paddle and play. But she also played softball at that time. Anyone who’s played competitive youth sports knows that the experience typically takes over your entire life. So for years, we didn’t have a weekend free to take her all the way up to the Buffalo so she settled for quieter rivers close to home. She’s kayaked the Ouachita River and played at Rockport ledge, she’s paddled the Little Maumelle and Big Maumelle Rivers countless times but here we find ourselves with a kid about to graduate High School who has never had the experience that is practically a requirement for any good outdoor adventure loving Arkansan: floating the Buffalo. She has hiked and backpacked along and above that beautiful river gorge. She’s played in the feeder creeks and skipped rocks on the river but has never paddled it. We consider this a major parenting failure on our part.
So we planned to take her, and the plan failed due to work duties that couldn’t be reassigned. So we planned again. We would be renting one canoe since our tandem kayak was loaned out and might not have been the best choice for this river anyway. The small one would take her old faded yellow Loon out for the day. The Loon had already made one trip to the Buffalo with another friend earlier in the week so we figured the boat would show the small one the way and keep her safe.
I like to paddle. I like to paddle alone though. I like to be in control and know that if anything goes wrong, it’s my call on how to correct it. Getting in a canoe with the man after many years of NOT being in a canoe with the man was quickly recognized as a poor decision, by us and pretty much everyone around us as the small one said “next time you two are getting kayaks”. Smart girl.
We put the boats in the water at Steel Creek with a group so large that we almost tipped the small one over trying to launch her off a beach that had very little room to maneuver between all the vessels waiting to get out. She recovered well, looking back at us and saying “Strong Core” and we managed to get in close behind her. Along the way we stopped to enjoy the color striped river bluffs, we built a few cairns while watching others jump into the deep pool under a bluff while we ate a lunch of roll up sandwiches and chips.
And we beached the vessels to hike to Hemmed in Hollow, site of the largest waterfall between the Appalachians and the Rockies at 192 ft. We had seen Hemmed in Hollow before on a Thanksgiving backpacking trip and knew it would be worth a few minutes of hiking to see if the increased rainfall was helping the fall flow more than usual too and to have one more memory of its beauty etched on our brains. I coerced the small one to come lay beside me and look up.
She’s a good sport.
Back in the boats, the trip seemed to pass quickly after that and before we knew it the signs for Kyle’s Landing, our take out spot, appeared around the bend. Our adventure was over, at least the wet part of the adventure and the small one took the opportunity to dry her feet off on the drive home.
“That was so much fun, we should do this more often”, she said. Goodbye Buffalo River, until we meet again.