Day 2 on the Buffalo River
The green canoe that once contained Darrell and Kim is wrapped around a rock in the middle of the river. It has sunk about a foot and a half underwater. It is sideways. It’s bow and stern have filled with water and the continuous pressure of the flowing river has bent it in half around the rock.
I am waist deep next to the canoe as the water flows around me. Mike Mills is next to me. We are trying to lift the canoe.
Mike has said that the river at Ponca was flowing at 400 cf/s. I have no idea what kind of pressure this amounts to, all I know is it’s enough to bend a canoe in half. The canoe is plastic, yes, but it was a sheet of high density polyethylene. It now looks like a rag.
“You don’t pull the canoe towards you,” Mike says in a voice loud enough to carry above the rushing water. “The current’s too strong. You want to lift up.” And so we try.
And we fail. However much water the canoe is holding, plus the pressure of the river, is too much for us. Darrell, who lost a shoe in the spill, steps out to help, as does another canoer who’d been floating by and stopped to check up on us.
The Buffalo River is a friendly place. Most of the people there live within a 500 mile radius, and most are willing to stop and chat. The beginning is far more populated than the end. As Mike has said, the beginning is the most beautiful part and people flock to it. We’re lucky they do.
Mike, Darrell, the helpful stranger, and I manage to lift the sideways canoe above the water level, unpinning it from the rock. It drags us a few feet downriver before skidding to a stop in a shallower area.
The stranger wades back to his own canoe and Darrell and I wearily shout a thank you. He waves and sets off.
The canoe, it seems to us, is irreparable. I help Mike dump the water while Darrell tells Mike we’ll pay for the canoe. I can hear the disappointment in his voice. Canoes like these run anywhere from $700 - $1000 or more.
Without saying a word, Mike climbs into the bent canoe and gives it two quick stomps. Like magic the canoe pops back into place. But is it river worthy? “Give it a try,” Mike says. Though he must be tired from the effort, there’s a hint of a mischievous smile on his face.
The canoe floats. Darrell and Kim climb in and Rachel and I wade back to our canoe. “I don’t know a canoe of ours that’s been on this river that hasn’t hit a rock or been bent or filled with water,” Mike says nonchalantly. Rachel and I suspiciously eye the creases in the side of our canoe before climbing in. The river seems a little more dangerous than before.
“Well now you know and you can learn from it,” Mike says and he starts to go over what went wrong. Mike has a way of turning mistakes into lessons and lessons into successes. His is a quality of a true teacher.
Fortunately the canoe had been empty. Mike had us do this leg of the trip with no gear. “You can load up where I get picked up. It’s better that way.” The only thing lost was a sandal of Darrell’s and a camera got wet. We’ll toss the camera in some rice and hope for the best.
The next few rapids go by slowly, with lots of planning and nerves. We are all a little timid.
Soon we reach Kyle’s Landing. This is where Mike will be picked up and before he goes he offers some advice: “Remember, pick a line a stick with it. Don’t second guess yourself.”
Mike gifts Darrell a pair of his old river shoes so Darrell will have something dry to change into when we stop for the night. Never have a pair of raggedy old shoes meant so much.
We load the canoes up with food and cameras, tents and sleeping bags. Tipping now would far more disastrous than before. Mike bids us farewell. “Trust your instincts,” he says by way of parting advice and we laugh nervously.
Once on the river, we put in a few more miles. We go through our first few rapids on our own. The river without Mike is wide and full of possibilities both great and daunting. We look for a place to camp.
-3 Lessons from ultrarunner
-Role Model: Search Local
-How to Sleep in Your Car
-How to Hitchhike: Advice
-How to Adjust a Backpack
-How to Hitchhike Safely
-Dustin: Hitchhiker *video
- Zach at Niagara Falls *video
-NYC Interview *video
-Trouble Crossing * video
-Iron John Journey *video
-Letter From a Viewer
-Ibn Battuta: Exploreer
-Danny Schmidt/Carrie Elkin
-Top 5 Famous Hitchhikers
-Hitchhiking:Trip at a Glance
-3 Things Lionel Said
-Radio Interview: WEHC
-Adventure: Idea to Action
-Miller's Gourmet Popcorn *
-Poem from a fan
Darrell and Josiah