This year for the Boy Scout “high adventure” trip, Zack’s troop went up to Wyoming for a week-long canoe trip on the North Platte River. I couldn’t go all week, so I joined the crew for two days.
It started Thursday afternoon as I drove a few hundred miles to the campsite where they’d put out for the day. It was like an old-fashioned road trip: windows down, wind blowing, music blasting. Woo hoo!
Wyoming is quite scenic in parts, but most of the southern half is rolling hills. It was a beautiful sunny day.
I arrived at camp, unpacked my stuff, and settled in for the evening. Some of the boys decided to prove their manliness with contests of strength. There were a few arm-wrestling bouts, and then they decided to work on stick pulling. Ahh, just like the good ol’ days of pioneer lads who didn’t have cell phone apps to keep them occupied in the evenings.
Zack and a few others picked up fishing rods and worked on their technique. Zack didn’t catch anything, but one of the boys and one of the men did.
Of course we had a campfire, and sat around playing a few games and talking.
Friday morning we rolled out of our tents at 6am sharp (it had been light since around 4:30). It took some of the boys a while to get ready, mostly because their breakfast was stuff like pancakes and scrambled eggs. I just munched on some dry cereal, of course. We finally hit the river around 7:30 at the start of a crisp, clear day.
Our little flotilla of eight canoes started out strong, but after about half an hour had divided into two groups of four. Zack and I were in the front group, powering down the river for a while. After paddling for a bit we realized we were far ahead and didn’t really need to be, so we ended up just drifting lazily with the current. It was nice.
By late morning the sun was starting to beat down from the cloudless sky. I was glad I’d lathered on sunscreen before setting out. Zack had done so as well, but on the first day he’d burned the tops of his legs a bit (I think most of the boys had) so he was feeling the heat on them. He’d scoop up some water from the river and trickle it across his legs. The water was about 45 degrees, so even though the day was heating up, it wasn’t quite swimming weather.
We saw a lot of wildlife: mule deer, antelope, beavers, ducks, and a lot of different birds. There were four huge owls who took off from the banks and soared over the river. We also saw many bald eagles: I think I counted six, and Zack said he’d seen several each day the previous days. Their nests were typically in tall trees right along the river, and we’d see them circling high above. My camera wasn’t great at capturing them, but here’s a shot of one watching us from a tree:
It was relaxing to just float down the river, paddling occasionally to correct our heading or stay in formation with the other three canoes in our group. All of us talked, joked, and shared riddles– one of the riddles took about an hour to figure out, but as there wasn’t really anything else to do, we all played along.
Here Zack demonstrates the proper technique for being in position to fall off the bow and be run over by the canoe:
Around noon the wind started to pick up (hey, it’s Wyoming) and pushed against us at around 25mph. Since the current was flowing at a leisurely 3-4mph, we basically didn’t make any forward progress without paddling hard. If we stopped paddling, the wind would quickly turn our boat and push us to shore. That started to wear on the boys a bit– we were hungry, hot, and getting tired. We stopped for lunch and sheltered behind some bushes to eat before striking out again.
As we wound around bends in the river, the wind would come at us from different directions, so at times it was nice to have it at our backs, although a little while later it would be gusting in our faces.
We reached our take-out point around 2pm and by then most of the boys (and some of the leaders) were worn out. We’d traveled nearly 30 miles on the river for the day– not too bad!
After stowing our gear, we had a little barbecue at a rest area along I-80 and then drove back to Longmont. It was fun to spend a couple of days with Zack and the boys, and I hadn’t been canoeing since college so I enjoyed a day of poking around the river. Good times all around.