Eel River, Alderpoint to McCann Memorial Day Weekend 2011

I made two posts in quick sucession so feel free to go back one post after you read this one to see what happened on the Green River – not. kh
Text by Eric Rasmussen
Eric Resting Before Dinner

Eric Resting Before Dinner

                After we van passengers stop at the Cloverdale Chevron to put fluids in the van and let them out of ourselves, several of us gather by the station coffee pumps.  I fill a cup, empty four “Mini Moos” into it and grab a black lid to assure the brew doesn’t splash out on the bumpy road ahead.  After getting up at 3:45, I look forward to enjoying every drop.  The lid doesn’t quite fit, so I take one from an adjacent unlabeled row.  This, too, resists my efforts, but I’m desperate and apply greater, if less precise, pressure.  Suddenly, a result!  The lid dips down, the lip of the cup caves in, and 2 full ounces of the creamed French Roast blast out in a perfect shotgun pattern.  With an on-center spacing of 2” some three dozen blobs of the dark stuff fly directly onto Karen’s light blue jacket.  Showing surprisingly bright spirits, considering the early start and the ugly mess, she cheerfully says, “It’s waterproof.” And wipes the blotches off.  Then Dave shows me the white lids, the ones for 16 ounce cups, like mine.A few miles up the road and an even more cheerful Karen sings, “….. And tied the knot with his gun, down in the Arkansas.”  to the delight of all of us adults (Don, Ilse, Jan, Dave & Misty Lascurettes) and Dave and Misty’s daughters Quinn and Logan.

Now Karen follows another song with an explanation: “You know that really happened – Mrs. Leary’s cow did kick a lantern over and it started a fire.  And all of Chicago burned!”

A little later, after the girls do “Ring Around the Rosie,” Karen gives the old rhyme new meaning.  “Rosie refers to the rashes on the Plague’s victims.  Posies were what people carried to ward off the disease, and ashes were the remains of the burned corpses.”  As an ex-professional and still entertaining naturalist, Karen shortens the longest van ride.

When rain begins to fall, I remember that Kit a couple of days ago was considering canceling the trip due to high water.  I turn-on my phone and Google Dreamflows – “2000 cfs” and falling at 7cfs per hour.  That’s well under the 5000 that Kit feared.  Ilse watches me and asks, “What kind of a device is that?”  “It’s a PALM.” I explain.

Jan hears this and pipes up, “I finally made the change (from PALM)….and found a utility that transferred my entire calendar to my Droid in less that five minutes.”  It took her hours, before she found this utility, to move her contacts..  A few van trips back Jan and I enjoyed swapping PALM stories.  We experienced that special delight shared by people who love the same anachronism.

Is it any surprise that people who go down river in craft first used by hunter-gatherers are fond of the old ways?

We’re now maybe along the upper reaches of the Russian River, when eight year old Quinn declares, “Hey, you guys.  I have a joke.”

“Q: What did the rock say to the man?

A: Don’t take me for granite.”

Then she says to Karen, “Knock, knock.” And Karen asks “Who’s there?”

“Banana.”  “Banana who?”

“Knock, knock.”  “Who’s there?”

“Banana.”  “Banana who?”

“Knock, knock.”  “Who’s there?”

“Banana.”  “Banana who?”

“Knock, knock.”  “Who’s there?”

“Orange.”  “Orange who?”

“Orange you glad I didn’t say ‘Banana?’”

We all were.

After an exquisite & intricate pink elephant joke, Karen confessed, “I have 101 elephant jokes in a book.”

“She can only remember 90 of them, ” confesses husband Don.

As rain begins to fall heavily, Ilse is inspired to explain part of the reason she hasn’t been on POST trips for awhile.  “I really don’t want to be cold and wet anymore.”  Then she looks out the cold, wet window, and implores the great, uncaring elements “It’s the end of MAY!!!!”  And the van splashes on.

Big Rock Campground, Saturday,  8pm

According to the forecast for Garberville, showers were expected today.  Intermittent downpours are what we paddled through.  Another is beginning.  How loud soft droplets are on taut canvas.

This well-designed and generously outfitted Mountain Hardware tent has been a treat in spaciousness, ease of set-up and thoughtful pockets and tie-downs.  But today a weakness was revealed.  Just as I began my long awaited afternoon nap, gusty winds kicked up.  Immediately the upwind wall and bottom of the tent were curling and buffeting around me.  I felt like a detached cocoon.  Fortunately, I’m heavier than the average caterpillar, and when I woke up, my co-ordinates were unchanged.  But those shiny, metal u pins that I’d poked at an angle into the sand at every corner – all were unpoked.

On the way to dinner I noticed that campers who spent the afternoon upright had secured their puny stakes by placing boulders atop each one.  Except Kit and Charlie, who run this trip every year.  They brought along those red mesh onion bags and filled them with smaller, managable rocks.

It is quiet now.  No rain or wind.  Only river sounds.  And laughter.  From the nearby family tent come the peels of irrepressible Quinn and Logan.  Misty’s voice comes, too.  I think I just heard her say, “If you could just be a little quieter.”  This, the girls find hilarious.

Homeward bound

The van’s passing Pour Girls Coffee in Laytonville.  I could do with a cup of Java, but I don’t ask.  Don’s driving..  And I’m writing.  Plus, while he’s kept the van between the lines. I’ve napped.  Thanks, Don.

Well, as usual, this trip report has gone on, and on, with no mention of canoing.  In fact, we paddled some twenty miles this weekend, and fought our way through fierce winds Saturday afternoon.  That we fought no more is due to our intrepid leaders.  Each morning, though Kit and Charlie knew that nobody wanted to do it, they rousted us out of our cozy tents for coffee, breakfast and packing as fast as was humanly possible to get on the river and gone.  Thanks to this bold and commanding leadership, we each day reached our take-outs before the wind awoke.  Thanks, guys.

Now that paddling has been mentioned, let’s move on to what these trips are really about.  Dinner on Saturday was great.  Dave and Misty prepared, in advance (a very smart thing to do when planning to feed two dozen tired paddlers exhausted from dodging downpours), bags of delicious stew and big, fat yummy cookies.  They also served a fine, fresh salad, and Dave raised the bar for camp vegetables.  In a really big pot he lightly steamed a huge number of skinny string beans, then in small batches seasoned them with salt and melted butter.  “That’s the way the girls like them.” Misty explained.  Worked for the rest of us, too.

By the way, in mid-May, Dave, who was a scout thirty years ago in Bill Hitching’s troop, repainted the POST trailer – every side, rack and bar is now smooth and rust-free.  This wasn’t his first encounter with the venerable boat-hauler.  “That green color (about three layers down) was mine.” He tells us in the van.

Dinner on Sunday was another well-planned treat, this time by Alan & Kate whose stewed chicken fell off the bone, saving our tired selves the trouble of chewing.  And they had soup – corn chowder.  Fresh salad, too.  Wit provided the appetizers: cheeses and dips best on his own twice-baked sourdough Zviebakke.  He resumed cooking next morning with another creation – chorizo scramble.  Plus a vegetarian option.

Amazing what meals come out of these primitive craft.

Ilse also gave us choices, too: of bagels, her original cereal and fruits for Sunday breakfast, and Jan with Pat & Eileen offered diverse sandwiches, chips, cookies and drinks at noon each day.  And, making each day possible, let’s give Charlie a hand for continuous morning coffee.

And one more food credit – to Alan & Costco for our last supper dessert.  Two huge pies.  One peach, the other apple.

And for anybody still reading, here’s a sub-story about the wiles necessary for great trips.  As this was Memorial Day Weekend, even though rain was forecast and did not fail to fall, several different groups of boaters slogged their way to the put-in at Alderpoint, creating competition for the prized campsites.  Our group had some advantages.  As already mentioned, we don’t sleep-in.  We also have advance teams.  When the shuttle began, those of us who didn’t come in our own cars, took off downriver, hoping to get to wind-blocking Mountain Rock campground first.  As described earlier, this stretch of the river was wet and windy, but we paddled hard.  Pretty soon, we came in view of the beach.  I saw chairs on it.  Oops.  Some people were waving at us from across the river.  I thought they were fast, victorious strangers.  I was wrong.  It was Bob and Joan, who with Barb and Jim had gotten on the river much earlier, and secured the site.   Thank you, team.

Next day, Sunday, Kit wanted to get us to our next camp, lovely Basin Creek, by lunch, and she did, but as we paddled into sight of the little stream, it was obvious we weren’t first.  Other peoples’ thirteen boats lined the beach.  Fortunately, these people were not early risers; now, a little past noon, they were just preparing to leave the camp.  One cluster, standing near their boats, were completing their preparations by passing a joint around.

Kit took things right in stroke.  She paddled straight for the opposite shore, and, like young Mergansers, the rest of us followed and enjoyed our lunch there.  Kit was not certain about the creek side.

“Charlie and I are going to ferry over and check to be sure there are enough sites for all our tents.”

Since the other group had three more boats, I suggested we could surely fit there..

“Yeah, but they all probably slept in the same tent.” She retorted.

I shut-up, relieved I wasn’t the only one who suffers from smugness.  As the thirteen craft left the opposite shore, I smugly noticed that all their canoeists had the same wrong idea about correct paddling.  Each pair of paddles stayed on the same side of each boat, until a change of direction was wanted; then both switched sides.

Another similar pleasure was given when one of their youthful number hollered over to us, “You should check THIS side out – there’s a great waterfall back up the creek!”  Kit probably first saw that fall three years before he was born, and as the last Old Town wove out of sight, she and Charlie ferried across.  Soon they waved the rest of us over.

Minutes later our respective and respectable tents dotted the beach, the creekside, the slope, the ledges and Jeff took the small spot just beside the waterfall.  It was a beautiful scene, and when Karen looked out from our calm refuge, she saw blowing sand blurring our lunch beach, the beach we’ve camped on every previous year.  Thank you again, Kit.

You can see our Outlook Creek paradise and other trip pictures at the link.  And if you’d like to come next year, sign up earlier.

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