A river float trip!

Wednesday, August 1

I check to make sure we have everything for our float trip down the Madison River.  My Sevelor inflatable canoe is in its bag behind the driver’s seat of the PTV.  I have marine rope to lace through the grommets once she’s inflated.  Two life vests for the crew,  paddles, Coleman air pump, water shoes, and my camera with extra batteries in a heavy-duty zip-lock baggie.  I should’ve bought a waterproof case for the camera.  Oh well, this will have to do.

I heft the small cooler with canned goods inside up onto the PTV’s passenger seat. Its purpose is to provide enough ballast to keep my long, two-person canoe from lifting in the front while I’m sitting at the back.  If we capsize, cans of corn, tomatoes, and spinach will sink to the river bottom!

Bridget and Spike sense my excitement.

They don’t hesitate to jump into the PTV.  I’ve been told a guy with a truck starts ferrying people at 11 a.m. from a boat dock area downstream up to another boat dock area upstream from Red Mountain Campground.  He charges ten dollars.  The float takes a little over two hours.

I park the PTV in the lot.  Several vehicles are already there, fishermen and floaters who have two vehicles, one to leave behind and one to take them upstream.  It’s 10:50 a.m.

I wait until 11:30 and the guy never shows.

Hmmm . . .  Somehow we’re going to float that river today!  In a few moments I have a new plan.  I’ll drive to the put-in that’s way upstream.  We’ll float downstream, under the bridge, past the other put-in, until we come to our camp on the river.  That should make a float of an hour to an hour and a half.  Someone at the campground will give me a ride back so I can drive the PTV home.

I drive us upriver and park near the boat ramp.

I pull out the boat, paddles, and the rest of the gear, leaving Bridget and Spike in the PTV.  My canoe inflates quickly.  Two young boys watch with interest.  “Look at that thing.  That’s so cool,” one says to the other.  Their mothers come along with inner tubes. With much splashing and laughing (one of the mothers is quite large, causing her tube to dump her out), they push off.  The current quickly carries them away.

I thread the rope through the grommets spaced all around the canoe.  Canoe, what a silly name for this bulbous behemoth!  I wedge the weighted cooler into the bow, adjust my seat, and place the paddles lengthwise.  Oh boy, now for the crew!  Bridget and Spike are very excited, wiggling and barking while I struggle to fasten them into their personal flotation devices.  I hook a leash on each PDF.

“Okay, guys!  Time to be good, little mariners!”

The crew and I hurry over to the boat ramp and our waiting vessel. Two young women giggle at the sight of Spike in his yellow PDF and Bridget in her red PDF.  I lift the crew into the canoe, and Bridget immediately jumps out.

“You want some help?” one of the women calls over.

“Sure!  We’ll probably need a shove to get this thing launched while I hold onto these two.”

Soon we are out in open water with me paddling to point the bow downstream.

Oh my gosh, we’re going fast!  Spike lies on my lap, motionless with his chin resting on the cushiony side of the canoe. Bridget squeezes herself tight beside me, watching the bushes and trees on the riverbank move mysteriously past us.

I hear one of the women yell from shore, “Don’t worry!  We’ll be right behind you if anything happens!”

I pull out my camera and snap a few photos. 

I can’t believe we’re finally doing this!  While putting the camera back in the baggie, I notice a rock sticking up out of the water.  Uh-oh.  Better get away from that!  I paddle furiously toward the right, but instead of going to the right, the canoe simply swings sideways to the current.  Of course, this makes it easier for the current to drive us toward the rock.  I’m paddling like crazy. Bridget starts to move around in the boat.  “Bridget!  Sit DOWN!”  It all happens very fast.

We hit the rock broadside.

The water pushes up under the canoe, lifting the side.

Bridget goes to the low side, adding to our predicament.  “Geesh, get back, Bridget!”   Spike lies on my lap, dead weight, his head down.  I look upstream.  The women are tiny, orange and pink dots.  I dip the paddle over the side and determine it’s about five feet deep next to this rock.  No way I can get out and stand.  The current is too strong.  We need to get off this dang rock before more water tips us! 

I wiggle and pry at the rock with my paddle.

In the midst of the struggle, I have to laugh.  One rock in the middle of this wide span of water and here we are, perched on it like a big, blue turtle that can’t push off.  I wiggle some more, imagining gashes ripped across the bottom of my canoe. In a rush of water, we break free.  “Wahoo!”  Away we go!

We come to a shallow, placid section of the river.

I can stop paddling and enjoy the scenery.  No person or sign of civilization is around us, not in view on either side of the river or downstream.  I lean back and relax, dangling my arms in the cool water.

I wonder who has floated this river before us, some 150 years ago or more.  For a moment I imagine myself as a young, pioneer woman in calico and high-top, lace-up shoes, on a raft made of rough timbers. My brave husband pushes at the river bottom with a long pole, guiding us and all our worldly possessions downstream toward a frontier outpost on the Bozeman Trail.

Up ahead the water looks funny.

More rocks hide beneath the surface, bubbling up white water.  This time I manage to steer clear of them.  The highway bridge appears.  We easily glide between the pilings.  Spike is heavy on my lap so I shove him forward in the boat.  He acts paralyzed.  Either he’s terrified, asleep, or a little of both.  The rocking of the boat is hypnotic.

Bridget, on the other hand, is Queen of the Nile!

She sits up, looking this way and that, like a seasoned mariner.  I never expected this from her.  I marvel at her confidence.  I always thought it would be Spike at the bow –“I’m king of the world!”   Instead he’s zonked out on the deck, while Bridget sits erect, completely engaged and fascinated by the adventure.

The river is very wide and we’re on the wrong side.

Soon our camp will appear on the right and here we are, way over on the left.  I paddle toward the right bank, making good progress.  There’s the big motorhome next to the BLT.  We’re almost there

We’re three-fourths of the way across when we hit a channel.

No amount of paddling will move us across it.  Gee whiz!  We’ve got to get across or we’ll float downstream to who knows where, with no way to get help.  There’s only one thing to do:  jump out.

I throw my legs over the side causing water to flood into the boat, dousing my camera in its zip-lock.  As soon as I leave the canoe, the current pulls it away from me with great force.  I can hardly hold it as I stand on the slippery rocks at the bottom of the river.  My slip-on sandals impede me.  Darn!  Why didn’t I put on the river shoes!  I kick off the sandals, retrieve them from the water, and throw them into the boat.

Spike and Bridget are on their feet, nervously sizing up the situation.

I tug and haul and slip and fall, fighting the current, until we finally make it through.  Once Bridget sees shallow water, she jumps out like she does this sort of thing every day, and splashes to the river bank.  Spike jumps in after her.   A few more tugs and I can heft the boat onto the dry rocks on the river bank.  Whew! We made it!  We’re home!

Bridget and Spike prance around, happy to be on terra firma once more. 

“Come here, maritime crew!” I summon them with a laugh.  I unhook their PDFs and collapse in my camp chair.  Oh my camera!  I find it in the canoe, take out the batteries and memory card, and place everything on the picnic table to dry out.  Fat chance anything can be salvaged.  Oh well, all-in-all, it was a fun trip.   I think, however, in the future I’ll limit solo trips to calm lakes.

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Much to my amazement, my camera survived with photos intact!


P.S.  Shortly thereafter, fellow camper Renee, a reader of this blog, came by and gave me a lift back to the PTV.  I met Renee on a previous day while sitting in my camp chair with a book, next to the crew in the pen.

“Hi, Sue!” she called out as she approached.  “I knew it was you!  I saw the PTV and BLT when we pulled in.”  Ah, celebrity does have its benefits . . . . 

Thanks, Renee!

July Out-of-Pocket Expenditures:  (Previous July costs may be seen in July 25th entry)

07/26/12 . . . $7.50 camp fee (The Falls)
07/27/12 . . . $0 camp fee (Grassy Lake Rd)
07/28/12 . . . $40.14 for 11.15 gal. gas @ $3.59 gal., $31.93 groceries, $8.18 sundries, $4.00 camp fee (Red Mtn CG)
07/29/12 . . . $14.39 dog food, $9.66 groceries, $4.00 camp fee (Red Mtn CG)
07/30/12 . . . $4.00 camp fee (Red Mtn CG)
07/31/12 . . . $4.00 camp fee (Red Mtn CG)

About rvsueandcrew

Fulltime nomad
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74 Responses to A river float trip!

  1. cinandjules says:

    What an adventure! Your canoe looks huge! The captain and the crew! Sounds like it was a bit crazy for a minute. Glad you all had fun and made it safely back. You kill me with your narration …..it’s like we’re there with you!

  2. Pat says:

    I am glad you got to get on the water. Great pics!!!! Next summer I am headed that way, this summer Oregon.

  3. ct says:

    What a fun & exciting trip!! Sounds like the crew were excellent shipmates! My goal is to have an inflatable boat, so I really appreciate you sharing this experience.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      I don’t know if I made a mistake getting a two-seater. I ordered it online and wanted to be sure there was room for the crew and a cooler. Time will tell. Maybe I’ll run into people who will want to go on the water with me.
      Good luck finding the inflatable that’s right for you. BTW, my Coleman air pump works great, plugged in or on battery power.

  4. Reine says:

    Glad you had an adventure and everything turned out well. Think of the memories! Now you have a better idea of what you need to do next time. I can’t believe you’ll limit yourself to quiet lakes but maybe finding a kindred spirit to go along in another canoe might be a good idea.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      It would be perfect if I had another person in my canoe with me, it being a two-seater. Then I’d be ready to try another river! It’s kind of chancy trying to maneuver the canoe and keep the crew from falling or jumping out.

      I do have the monthly expenses for July written down and will get them posted.

  5. mockturtle says:

    Another excellent adventure! Although I take my kayak out solo, I don’t do whitewater. [It’s a touring kayak, anyway]. Glad you made it OK and that your camera survived.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      I’m told the Madison River has lots of white water rapids in the spring. Right now it’s moving fast but no rapids. If I didn’t have the crew, I’d get a touring kayak. Have fun with it!

  6. I cannot believe you had the courage to float that BIG FAST MOVING RIVER !!! I’ve been in boats all my life, with someone else, and have never been afraid of anything, but I’d never try that float with 2 dogs, and no one else to help paddle. So glad you made it okay.!!! Yep, I’d wait for someone to help paddle next time.

  7. Robert says:

    Canoe Sue!
    I love it. Finally the inflatable!
    If the front seat is in the middle, that will be your perfect pivot point for turning. But then again you might like to make sure the crew is in front, and in the boat!
    Looks like a great area and great fun.
    Hope to see you down the road.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi Robert! CanoeSue… funny.

      The front seat is a little ahead of the middle. I think I read somewhere . . . a review of the canoe or some such . . . and the person said it’s better to sit in the back seat when paddling alone. I may try the front seat when on a still lake.

      Hope to see you, too, Robert. I enjoyed our conversation back at Fortuna Pond, light years ago!

      • massachusettsmark says:

        Back in the early 1970`s As a young man I hitchhiked
        across America and meeting 10 to 20 new people pre day was the norm .
        It was like living one year in one single day.
        Your Quote of “ light years ago“ is telling in that most of us who live in
        –sticks+bricks — miss out on the adventure of travel and how different “Time“ can become meeting so many new people in such a short period of time.

        “Famous Sue“ is opening new doors and running the clock for what it`s worth………enjoy.


  8. Wonder what they were thinking as this unfolded down the river? I bet Bridget was keeping a close eye on when she could bail and poor Spike’s stomach was probably churning, keeping him glued to the deck.

    Glad you all made it back in one peice. It did look like fun!

    They have a few places down here for river floating and years ago I did take my kids. Then I saw a couple of snakes in the water and no more river floating. Not to mention the gators!

  9. klbexplores says:

    So proud of you!!! You give many solo’s courage to keep trying new things. I love my double kayak but will down size to a smaller one for full timing. Putting some weight in the front was exactly the right thing to do. Bridget is such a crack up! Who knew she’d be your first mate! Paddle on!!

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      There was a time I never would have attempted this float. Now I want to try to new things, even when it means risk. That’s what makes life fun, not just contented. It was a hoot, swirling around, paddling like a madwoman, watching the world go by!

  10. Judy says:

    You crack me up! Hard for me to imagine reducing all my worldly possessions into a van and a Casita, and including an inflatable canoe, etc. in the mix! Perhaps you should change your blog to Cap’n Sue & Crew. Thanks for your great blog.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      You’re welcome, Judy. Some readers wondered why I required all the space of the long PTV. I have a lot of stuff in it. . . not much can I do without.

  11. rvwayoflife by Lindadeeza says:

    I was laughing so hard one minute and biting my lip the next. What a story. Anyone that does not read your blog is missing out on so much excitement. Love the pictures. Can’t believe Bridget wasn’t the one on your lap.

  12. Jim Sathe says:

    You are one brave lady. I have an inflatable fishing boat. I would never attempt what you did.

  13. Sherry says:

    I knew you’d find a way to do it. And you did and handled the whole thing perfectly. Should give you great confidence to take on other similar ventures. Don’t stick to placid lakes totally. What fun this was for all of you. Now the crew each have a forte. Spike is the PTV co-pilot and Bridget is the major mariner. Who would have thought?? What fun!!! So glad you did it.

    AND am amazed at your camera. David has dropped two in about 2 feet of water and grabbed them right out immediately and nothing he did would resurrect them. Nikons. What camera is this that kept your pictures in tact after taking a dip? I’ll get one for him since he has this bad habit. :-))

  14. Sherry says:

    PS I have a Sea Eagle blow up and would have loved to take it down this great river.

  15. Bill says:

    Sue I check you blog every day and can not express how much I enjoy your adventures. Your are sure storing up a lot of memories for the future. We are off the road temporarily due to some medical issues but hope to be back out there by the end of the year.

    Take care

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      So many of my readers are named Bill. I’m not sure which one you are, but I do appreciate that nice compliment on my blog. I hope your medical issues clear up so you can get back on the road soon!

  16. Oh, Ho, that made for an exciting read, bet it was equally exciting to do in person!!!

  17. Lorogirl says:

    LOL….. I love it!!! You go girl (and crew)!

  18. Lacy says:

    Dearest Sue,
    THANK YOU SO MUCH for taking me with you – that was so much fun! I laughed with you, gasped a few times…..it was a blast. Let’s do it again sometime – the crew did a great job and earned some well-deserved treats. As for the captain? Girl, you ROCK! (oops, maybe that’s not the word here – let’s just say you’re THE BEST)!

  19. Hi Sue, What an adventure !!! What river is it? I like the canoe. The dogs look so cute in their vests.
    Some of the photos come out super tiny. Is that my computer or does anyone else see that??
    I think I would be more ready to canoe by myself in a lake … But river running is sure fun !!!

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      It’s the Madison River. About the tiny pics. Mine show up like that occasionally, then they suddenly get normal size. Sometimes I have to reload the page. I don’t know why it happens. Another thing I do is right click and select “Show Picture.”

  20. Elizabeth says:

    My you are a brave woman!! Glad all survived intact and even the camera seems to be ok!!

  21. Wayne says:

    Wow, you really know how to make it hard to be patient and wait till we can finally be out there full time…… REALLY looks like a great time and great place.


  22. cathieok says:

    I applaud you. I would have been terrified!

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      I figured the worse that could happen, since I know how to swim and the crew had their PDFs, is we’d float too far and then I’d have to figure out how to get back to camp.

  23. Billy Bob says:

    Billy Bob was here…..great trip down the river. Enjoyed it.
    My “bubba boat” is a Sevylor single seat Rio. But I gots a motor on mine, so no paddling. .

  24. kak says:

    You guys are just the best! LOL

  25. Glenda Cornwill says:

    My heart was in my mouth, holding my breath……….sucj an adventure for you and your crew. Glad you made it to sure safely !! Looked so much fun but a bit scary !!

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      The scariness is what makes it exciting! Otherwise it’d be like floating around Disney’s It’s a Small World After All…. a different kind of entertainment altogether. I couldn’t believe how fast we moved along!

  26. Blue Eyed Dog and the Canadian Girl says:

    I could not read fast enough to make sure you and the crew were safe! Omg it reminded me of my Jenny Lake kayak swamping in FREEZING cold water. The rivers are mysterious wonders.
    Have fun:)

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      And every river has its own personality… I’m glad the water wasn’t freezing. Sounds like you’ve got an exciting memory of your own . . .

  27. geogypsy2u says:

    How exciting to get out on the water with your crew. Seems Bridget makes a good first mate. Sure glad you all survived this adventure, including the camera.

  28. FLKamper says:

    That’s awesome! I admire you Sue!

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Aw, shucks… just a little float down the river… Thanks.

      • Sharpei Mom says:

        Hahaha…”just a lil float down the river”….that scared some of us to death for you and the crew! So glad you did the float and all turned out well….awesome even!!! LoL

  29. Candace says:

    Exciting post Sue …. and Bridget getting courageous! Love it 😀 Glad it was a great first paddle …am sure now you’ll be looking for more water sites as you travel. What an inspiration you are to other RV-dreamers.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      I was beginning to wonder if I’d ever come across the right time and place for a float. I’d say it was a successful first river paddle . . .

  30. earthdancerimages says:

    WoooooHoooooo THAT was sooooo much fun! Felt like I was right in the boat with ya! Spikey… you let Bridget take the helm??? I thought you were the water dog!!?? Sue, I am so proud of you for living the life you have waited so long and patiently to live! No guts, no glory and girl…. you got both in spades!

  31. Reine says:

    “since I know how to swim and the crew had their PDFs”
    Hey Sue, I don’t see where YOU had a life vest on. If something happened, you would need the flotation so you could use your energy managing the canoe and crew. Better safe than sorry, especially when doing a solo run.

    PS, we’ve been traveling and taking care of grand-girls so haven’t got the expenses spreadsheet as up to date as I like.

  32. ArtInThePark says:

    Hi Sue! I’ve been following your blog long before I started full-timing May 1. You’ve given me so much information, insight and inspiration! Here’s a quick tip for a camera that’s been dipped. A professional photographer friend of mine has used this trick a time or two, says it works if the camera hasn’t been left to soak for a long time. Drain the camera of as much water as possible. Pour a box of white rice in a gallon ziplock baggie then submerge the camera in it and seal. The rice will absorb the remaining damp in 4 – 5 hours. I’ve not had the misfortune to try this tip but she says it works. Thanks again for all you’ve done to inspire the rest of us. Safe travels!

  33. GingerDa says:

    Wow what an adventure!! I am glad you got the canoe off the rock without getting any holes in the bottom of it. I got a kick out of your comment about celebrity has advantages…it’s really a small world when you think of how many people you’ve met out camping, that read your blog. I think it’s pretty neat.

  34. I enjoy your blog and it seems that we like to camp in the same type of places. One of my favorite places that you might want to consider as you head south for the winter is Lone Rock on Lake Powell, UT. It’s just a few miles from Page, AZ which makes it convenient for grocery shopping. You can park on the beach for $5 (at least 2 years ago with the Old Age Passport). It’s wonderful and you can put your chair in the water and also launch you boat and paddle around Lone Rock and other areas. It’s safe enough that we leave the boats and chairs close to the water. I recommend end of September – October

  35. Pat Kitchen says:

    Wondering why I can’t view your pictures any more… Take care, Pat K

  36. Judie says:

    Sue, u r my inspiration! Due to my medical situation I will never be able to do what u have done but riding along with u is almost like being there! Just when I think it can’t get any better ur memory makings top it~Thx for sharing with us all. So glad to see u r living every second of that wonderful life and the crew is able to enjoy it right along with u. God bless many more adventures for u and them.

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