When we finished breakfast on Saturday, it was still quite early, so my brother-in-law and I drove to the campground office to buy some ice and a bottle opener and check the rafting and canoeing schedule for the day. My sister remained at the campsite making sandwiches for the river trip and explaining to my niece that it's okay to get pieces of grass stuck to your feet when you're camping.
We were waiting for three more people to join us from the city, but none of our cell phones had normal service and only one worked in "roaming" mode. We finally reached everyone and communicated the 10:30 a.m. start of the rafting and canoeing portion of the day, and everyone found us in plenty of time. While we waited, we reallocated cooler space so that each vessel would have its own supply of provisions. I took advantage of the new bottle opener and drank a couple of my hitherto unopenable beers, as soon as I saw that everyone else was getting a similar head start.
I shared a large, rubber raft with N. and her friend, S. My sister and her family shared another raft, and the other couple rented a canoe. It was beautiful, sunny and not too hot as we started off down the river. We probably hadn't gone two city blocks before we could tell that our fellow rivergoers were in a festive mood. At each sandbar, big groups stopped and mingled enthusiastically, and there were more than a few Mardi Gras beads in evidence. We felt no immediate compulsion to join in, so we rode the gentle current past the first several stopping points and enjoyed the natural beauty of the river instead.
As we cruised downriver, we saw lots of turtles of various sizes sunning themselves on logs near the banks. The shallows were full of minnows, and we glimpsed a blue heron that was probably very interested in said minnows. The only other wildlife we encountered was a baby water moccasin swimming near us when we stopped for lunch. My brother-in-law tried to grab it, but it was too elusive. Since I've heard that baby snakes have stronger venom than their adult counterparts, I imagine that was just as well.
We stopped now and then for bathroom breaks and to exchange personnel. After lunch, N., S. and I took on my niece as a passenger for a while, and the gals taught her to say, "Geee-ross" when algae touched her feet. By this time I'd figured out that the back of the raft was the only effective place from which to paddle, so I perched there attemping to guide us. Still, we crashed into trees and other boats more than once. The river is spring-fed, so the water was fairly cold. I jumped in to retrieve a dropped paddle at one point, but found the experience more refreshing than chilling.
The whole trip downriver lasted about six-and-a-half hours. My raftmates and I managed to drink every single alcoholic beverage in our cooler by the time we were through (and there wasn't anything in our cooler except alcoholic beverages). Still, we declined to run off with any of the college boys who were hitting on us (despite the fact that we were twice their age - well I was, anyway), we didn't have any major collisions, and we resisted earning any Mardi Gras beads (although N. and S. talked some guys out of a few strands).
I'm sure the raft rental guys were snickering at us as we stumbled around bagging up our empty bottles before we rode back to camp on the bus, but we didn't care because we'd had a fantastic time.
Tomorrow's installment: More outdoor cooking