Solo on the Buffalo

I didn’t haul Bonnie over 400 miles to not take her on the water. Besides, she needed the bug guts from the trip from Texas washed off. But my cousin was too busy to join me. So I called Wild Bill’s to inquire about getting Bonnie (my kayak, in case you didn’t know) on the river without another vehicle and driver to get me in at the put in and out at the get out.

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I was able to get there just in time to catch the shuttle up to Maumee for the 9 1/2 mile stretch. I’ve only been on short trips and I wanted to be on the river until at least sunset. 4 mile or so floats had previously only taken a couple or few hours and I wanted to stretch it out as long as possible. Note to self: find app that accurately estimates how much longer I have on a float. And remember that the sun goes down earlier in the mountains. I drove to the Highway 14 Bridge (Dillard’s Ferry) and parked my Jeep. A nice young man lifted Bonnie up over his head and slid her onto the trailer hitched to the bus that I and 2 other families and 1 antsy dog rode up to Maumee on. I was tempted to start singing Wheels on the Bus go round and round but was scared the kids would join in and never stop. So I didn’t.

I found it amusing that a majority of the way was gravel roads. That should’ve been my first clue of how isolated the trip would be.

The nice young man carried Bonnie over to the edge of the water (I need him on every trip!). Well, that was easy!

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I stood there and savored the view for a minute.

Wasn’t in a rush… I had all day to stop and take pictures and follow the sounds to a waterfall if I heard one before I got to the take out!

Surprisingly, the phone service was better on the river than at the put in. I Snapchatted a lot of the trip. I wished that I had researched and found a tracking app for paddlers before I left. Google only has car, bus, walk or bike for modes of transportation.  I had no idea how much farther I had to go and the only way I had of measuring that was by knowing how far I’d been. But I had till dark to get out of the river and Bonnie into the yak racks. So no worries. I mean I left Wild Bill’s at noon!

This is where I belong, I thought, over and over again. This is where I’m at peace. I looked for something like the place on the hill that Doug and I saw on our Memorial day paddle but there were no houses visible on this stretch.

I wondered where the 2 canoeing families were that got in before me at the start. The only other people I ran into was 2 guys in a canoe that passed me and 2 kayakers standing in the water fishing who tried to scare me with “we just saw a snake.”

“Hm,” I said. I spent 3 years of my childhood here. Stepped right over a snake once walking in the woods. “Have a nice day,” I waved as I slowly floated by.

I kept catching myself not floating downstream. The current wasn’t pulling me because the river was much lower this time than Memorial weekend, so I was having to paddle quite a bit. Or get out of the boat in order to get unstuck from the rocks.

As the sun started to get that nice late afternoon glow, the sky made the most amazing reflections on the water. The serenity was a feeling I never wanted to end.

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Yeah, I could live here. Maybe. If there’s nice places to shop not too far away. But head out of the clouds woman, you don’t even know how much farther you have to go!

I could hear some rapids coming up, so I sat up straight, did a little wiggle to get my rear in the seat correctly and paid attention. Oh, it’s just baby rapids! Then I saw where the water was converging from two different directions. And I was headed straight for it. Gurgle, gurgle. No time to even attempt to paddle out of it.  My first capsize!  I could barely touch and the current was strong, but I managed to get a foothold and flip Bonnie back over. The only things not attached was my water bottle and my paddle and I had somehow caught both of them from floating away after getting my head above water. I had had a paddle leash on my paddle, but the velcro was constantly coming loose and I had been meaning to fix it. I did that night. Don’t ever want to be caught up a river without a paddle!

I spotted this cool fallen tree that looked like a woman breaking free from her restraints. Just like me.

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I held my hand up to the sun and measured approximately how long I had left before it left me. I still didn’t know how far I had to go to the Highway 14 bridge and my Jeep. I figured I better stop lolly-gagging. I pulled up Google to get an idea of where I was at. From the looks of satellite view, I had three more bends to go around.

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5 o’clock, 36% battery left, 2 hours to get to get out. And hubs just texted to check on me. I started paddling.

After 3 bends, I couldn’t see the Bridge.  Where’s the confounded bridge?!  It was starting to look like dusk. After the 4th bend, I prayed that I wouldn’t get stuck on the river after dark, all alone, no one in sight.  I thought of the movie Deliverance. I considered quoting from it… because I talk to myself a lot. “I bet you can squeal like a pig…. WEEEEEEEEE!” But I didn’t want to put that out into the Universe. So I went back to my happy place there on the river, on the water so clear and cool.  My arms started to burn but I didn’t stop. It seems like forever and a day to get around a bend. I looked behind me kind of hoping that the two guys who had passed me earlier in a canoe would be there, but they weren’t. Never saw the two families who rode with me on the bus either.

5 bends, no bridge. How could the satellite map be deceiving? Jeesh, I guess I need a river map reading class. 6th bend. Please be the bridge, please be the bridge. My arms were on FIRE. FINALLY.  The BRIDGE! Not one person at the get out. Although there was a line of canoes that renters had left.

6:54 p.m. and the sun was long behind the mountains. I walked up to the Jeep, drove right down to the waters edge, loaded Bonnie up… I’m getting pretty fast at it… especially when I have biting mosquitoes pushing me… and headed out. Didn’t have any phone service until the top of the hill by the road so I called Doug.

“Oh my God, I’ve been so worried! The location app said you were still way back on the river and haven’t moved for an hour and a half,” he said.

“Noooo, I’m loaded up and heading back to Mama’s.”

Next time, I’m taking the 8 a.m. shuttle instead of the noon. And now I know about how many miles I can travel in an hour on a slow flowing river. Figuring in photo stops and exploring. But then again, the not knowing part is what makes an adventure exciting!

 

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