Monday, June 30, 2003

My son, the accident waiting to happen, and his wife and their friends decided to go on a short vacation this past week. Usually, their annual pilgrimage to the wilderness is to go up to Spring River in North Central Arkansas and do a short canoe trip and camp, but this year, they decided to try the Buffalo River in NW Arkansas. They all left early Wednesday morning with tents, one raft, and innertubes, and I didn't hear from them again until they were on their way home yesterday.

The phone rang around noon and it was Jerri telling me that they were on their way home. I asked about their trip and then she told me that she didn't care of they filled in Buffalo river!!! We talked a few more minutes and I told her to just hurry home cause I couldn't wait to hear the story behind those words.

They were too tired to come by on their way home so my son called last night to tell me a little of their adventure. He said their trip was great, they swam, they floated a little, made one trip to civilization for beer and extra supplies, and were having a great time. They'd left the long float for their last full day so they all got up Saturday and caught their ride to their starting point 20 miles up river. My son kept asking why it was so far since it was only supposed to be a 6 hr float trip. His friend told him that highway miles are different from river miles. Well it seems that they are, but they went just a little too far for a 6 hr float.

James the day started out nice, everyone was floating on innertubes except for one couple who had a raft. They had a cooler with beer and water, cameras and a few food items in water proof pails and baggies. 6hrs came and went and they kept coming to parts of the river that were so shallow that they'd have to pick up their floats and carry them across the rocks. Soon the women became so exhausted that in the deeper parts the guys tied ropes around their waists and were swimming and pulling them down river. Two of the friends were single guys and they had floated ahead of the others when they'd made a stop on the bank to rest and relieve themselves. James said the didn't get too worried until it started to get dark in the wilderness. With the limestone walls on each side of the river it made it pitch black and they couldn't see anything, didn't know where they were, had no idea how far Jeremy and Tristan had gotten ahead of them, so exhausted, sunburned, with scraped knees and feet from the rocks, they finally decided that they had to stop and wait for daylight to continue.

It had cooled to about 65 degrees F by then and they were all in wet swimsuits so they decided the first thing they needed to do was build a fire (they figured that would keep all the wild critters away as well). The three guys gathered some wood and worked for about an hour trying to get a fire started. Finally, my son said, "I guess Jerri got tired of our fumbling around, so my little firebug wife gathered her own wood and while we were struggling we noticed we had light, I turned around to look and she had a blaze going!" He continued on with his story to tell me that they'd nearly frozen their asses off, he and the other two husbands got NO sleep because the women didn't want to be eaten by some wild critter and kept waking them up to find wood to feed the fire. They were also worried about the two guys who'd gone ahead because they didn't know if they had the means with which to light a fire.

At some point in the early morning hours, they heard their friends yelling for them from the bluffs above the river, they yelled back but because they were down in a hollow, the friends didn't hear them. Their friends had made it back to camp and we worried when they hadn't shown up behind them and after a couple of hours, they'd found a park ranger and had gathered 6 other campers to look for them.

James said that they decided at 5:30 am, that they were going to find their way out, no matter what, but were not going to get back into that river. They started hiking along the bank and had gone less than 300 yards when they came upon another camp site. He said they guy must have thought that they were insane when a group of yelling, bedraggled people came running at him, but the guy (a man from Australia) was kind enough to drive them to their camp. He said they were pretty embarrassed that they'd been lost only 300 yards from a camp site, but the kicker was when they got to their camp and found out that they had only been 2 miles from it!

Everything turned out well in the end although 15 people went without sleep on Saturday night (the 6 lost and 9 searchers), and they were all scratched and bruised and tired. Needless to say, he didn't share my enthusiasm about his great adventure and his last words, before he hung up from our chat were, "Fuck the Buffalo River."

Jerri has promised to send photos to my email soon and let me scan some of the ones from the other camera so as soon as she does I'll share them here.

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