Had a great day on the Little St Francis yesterday, and it's somewaht amazing to say that.
We had 14 people in 13 boats of all sorts except whitewater. Most everyone knew someone else from other trips. Anyway forecast was for rain then changed to scattered with temps in the 60s. Colin is the leader and has a knack for putting together great trips and is one of the most skilled canoers I've seen. At the takeout a local GENTLEMAN stops on the road and invites us to park on his land intead of the roadside and he won't accept any payment, score a big one for the locals.
Right off one of the best boaters in the group hits a wire and dumps within 10 yds of the put-in. Yours truly was last into the water and while ducking under some hanging debris I dump. A bit of history I've been on this river twice before and I've swam both times once because I was tired from a boat recovery and once because I wasn't good enough to get an almost too long boat around an almost too short corner, I also knocked 2 holes in my fiberglass boat that trip.
So here we are 10 minutes into the trip 25 yards from the put in and 2 of the more experienced boaters have dumped. I'm filled with confidence!! The Little is a beautiful little stream thats unfloatable in summer and runs class II to about a IV depending on water level.
So we head down the river running lots of little riffles and enjoying great company. Coming thruough a riffle I bang the bow pretty hard and I'm wondering about my repairs from last year, but all seems well. Soon I scrape through a shallow riffle and within a minute or so I notice the bow settling I ask Joe's opinion and he confirms I am down in the bow, so we start watching for a gravel bar. By the time we spot a bar my nose loop that should have been 6" high is taking spray. A quick pump out and duct taping a gelcoat hole and we're underway again.
The beautiful scenery and fun riffles continue till lunch when we all pull up on a gravel bar.
I swab a quart or so of water out of the bow hatch, and enjoy great conversation at lunch. About halfway through the wind picks up and the lightning starts so everyone decides to take shelter under some cedar trees that are sheltered by taller trees. I didn't see it but apparently in the rush to grab raingear and head for cover one gentleman choked on his sandwich, another guy quickly administered the Heimlich maneuver and all was well. Setting under the trees listening to the thunder everyone is taking it in stride and thinking it'll end soon...... Then the hail starts, it didn't last long and the trees were good shelter. It was only marble sized but we're already betting with a few tellings and a little fertillizer we can get it up to softball size.
The storm blew by quickly and we were back on the river for more great scenery and class II runs. Nearing the lower end of the rough water I peg a rock firmly again and now I'm worried about my duct tape, but we're having fun. Sure enough my bow starts to settle again but slowly, at least I'm not hearing klaxons and calls of "dive" "dive" "dive". A stop on another gravel bar reveals the duct tape is fine but theres another hole in last years repair, okay maybe it's time for a keel guard. So a thorough scrub and dry, more duct tape and off we go. Reaching the takeout we back shuttle with a minimum of confusion and off to Farmington for some fantastic food at the warehouse BBQ. The general consensus was we had a fantastic day!!!
So how much bad can a good day handle? Bring it on but give me time to buy another roll of duct tape and make a few repairs. Maybe I'll reread that first aid manual while I'm at it.
Y'all be careful out there ;o)>
P.S. - Floatable when water is 2' below bridge at put-in,if within 1' of bridge difficulty increases, if over bridge only very skilled and familiar with river should attempt. River can change levels quickly!
Camping nearby at Silver Mines state park. Food and some accomodations in Fredrickstown.
From Hwy 67 at Fredrickstown take Hwy 72 West about 300 yards. Turn left at sign for Thompsons access. Follow road to left turn at sign then to access parking at low water bridge.