I reached the campground and Smith Falls State Park (near Valentine, NE) first and discovered the sloppy mess of the road from the highway to the campground. Despite my many attempts, I failed to get my pickup stuck. But I was still concerned for other vehicles and just the sloppy conditions in general. I contacted Cory by text message (cell service too poor for calls) to warn him about the road and headed back to Valentine. I checked a motel for availability and rate, but decided to hold off. I met up with Cory, Matt Story, and Willard Story. They had a tougher trip than I did:
We decided to head back to the campground and give it another go. I felt better about driving on the road with another, larger 4x4 pickup. Plus, as the temperature dropped the muck froze and firmed up the road. Not too long after we started setting up camp, John Geyer and his wife Jen showed up too. We also had a few people coming down in a Toyota Prius. We were waiting for them to text Cory from the intersection of the state park road and the highway, but we were surprised to see them drive right in to our campsite. Remember, the ground is frozen at this point. Occupying the Prius were David Traxler, his wife Rebecca Traxler, and Brenda Poppens. After getting camp setup, everyone pretty much hung around the campfire BSing.
The next morning, we started gathering our gear for the first day of paddling. Once organized, we headed to Valentine for breakfast, leaving the Prius at the campground for a shuttle vehicle. After copious amounts of coffee and a delicious breakfast sandwich with hashbrowns, we headed to Cornell Bridge to launch the beginning of this paddling adventure. Keep in mind, this group is a mixture of experienced paddlers and newbies.
At the put-in, we came across three more paddlers who had contacted Cory, but left no contact information. They had a small kayak and an aluminum canoe. We took our time launching, so we could make sure everyone had appropriate gear and were comfortable with the boats they were paddling. Disaster tried to strike our hearty party early though. Rebecca spilled almost immediately after launching. Cory was standing in the water to help launch people, so he was able to quickly get her ashore to change into dry clothes.
Brenda was also launching at the time and headed downstream to try to catch the errant paddle from the spill.
Moments later, I headed downstream to assist in the retrieval of the paddle. After I passed under Cornell Bridge, I discovered that Brenda had flipped her kayak in her gallant paddle retrieval. When I arrived at the scene, she already had her gear, boat, and the errant paddle ashore. As she changed into dry clothes, I powered my way against the Niobrara current to return the paddle to Rebecca. Things were looking gloomy; two swimmers in under 10 minutes! Cory was quite concerned with out predicament. But both paddlers were prepared and were wearing clothes that would dry quickly and had packed extra dry clothes to have along. We continued on.
The rest of the day's paddling went off without a hitch. Everyone that was camping had some connection with the Boy Scouts and fulfilled the motto: Be Prepared. A slideshow of my pictures from Saturday:
After arriving back at Smith Falls State Park, those of us with vehicles at the put-in hopped into the Prius with David. This is where I learned about the exciting new option on the Toyota Prius: off-road package. This package includes 4 fat guys to push the Prius uphill through mud! After retrieving the vehicles, we all make it back to the campground without incident. We had a delicious supper of Indian tacos and cobbler for dessert.
After a good night's sleep, we were ready to conquer the next section of river. Cory drove my pickup to the take out along with the other vehicles since he knew how to get to it. The Prius brought everyone back to Smith Falls State Park. It took them a little longer than expected, because Cory's shortcut got the Prius buried, again!
|Waiting for the Prius to return.|
Launching went a lot smoother today, but disaster would try to rear it's ugly head again...
|Launching on Sunday morning.|