Last Boating/Camping Trip of the Year

And what an adventure it was

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But before I share the adventure, clarification is needed. This was not our last camping trip of the year; it was the last trip with the boat. Joyce and I are like nomads, most of the time allowing the seasons to dictate where we will camp. Winters find us in the deserts. As winter turns to spring we mix it up; camping in both mountains and deserts. Summers are mostly spent in the mountains; and as summer turns into fall, we return mostly to the desert.

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Summer is no reason to avoid deserts. Adaptations can make summer camping pleasant and enjoyable – most importantly being the general lack of people. Often our summer trips in the desert, but not always, include time in our inflatable boat. The boat is not relegated to summer only desert trips. It sees desert duty in the spring and fall. The boat also sees duty in mountains in the summer.

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This trip was the last boating/camping trip of the year; a fitting ode to October. We will continue to camp through the end of the year – sans boat.

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This trip saw few people on land or water. A weekend mostly ours to spend as we saw fit, not subject to the inconveniences of other campers or boaters. Actually, the campground was mostly deserted.

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The weather was perfect. Highs in the low 100F range, with balmy evenings.

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Adventure

We often think of adventure as activities that entail some risk or possible uncertain outcomes. These uncertain outcomes have the potential of physical danger. Normally, adventures are planned. Gear, equipment, supplies and contingency plans are put in place.

At what point does a non-adventure trip that lacks the correct gear, equipment, supplies and plans turn into an adventure? Or should we consider these trips as would-be disasters that were averted by luck? Maybe the unplanned cannot be defined as an adventure.

I say, un-planned adventures are the best – as long as you are not seriously injured or die. And we had this kind of an adventure. It all was my fault as I did several things wrong. The last day of our trip we planned on spending the morning going down river, having a bit of a picnic, and returning to camp. We wanted to get back to the campsite around 6pm, BBQ some dinner, and pack up by 8pm. This would get us home around 11pm at the latest, as I had to catch an early morning plane flight the next morning.

October is the time of year when the days seem to get accelerating shorter, something one should pay attention too. It would probably be a good idea to pay attention to what time sunset is, and to even bring a watch; none of which I did. Obviously, in retrospect, we headed back up river later than we should have.

Sunset turned to dusk, and dusk turned to darkness. The river level was lower than normal, which meant it was necessary to go slow and watch for sandbars and other obstacles. Good thing I am familiar with this section of river, but one must always keep in mind that a river changes by the minute. The slow going was compounded by not bringing running lights so we would be visible to other watercraft, and by not bringing and kind of lighting to make our way in the dark.

At this point I did a mental risk assessment. We could tie the boat to shore and walk back, which would take a few hours. Once back we would have several options, especially since we had all the required lighting equipment in our camper. On the other hand, it was highly unlikely we would encounter other craft on the water and we had our life vests and other safety items with us. The forecasted low temperature was in the 70’s so that was not a concern. So we continued up river.

There were two other things I should have paid closer attention too. The first was the air pressure in our boat. As the ambient temperature drops, the air in the tubes contracts lowering the pressure. Net effect was we created a little more drag through the water by not checking the pressure and topping it off with our hand pump. Excess drag through the water means poor fuel economy. The second item was the new prop for the boat motor. The prop has a different configuration (4 blade vs 3) and a lower pitch. All of this changes many variables on a boat. Given that, I should have brought a little more fuel than we normally do.

You can probably see where this is going.

One mile from the boat launch at our campground we ran out of fuel. The river was flowing at 7 mph, so there was nothing we could overcome the current and paddle upstream. We paddled to shore and tied the boat to some large rocks. Scrambling up the rocky embankment we began the walk to our camper. The night was gorgeous. Warm with a full moon. The conversation was great as we took our time walking hand-in-hand back to camp. When we got to the camper it was 10pm. I grabbed some gas and Joyce drove me back to the vicinity of the boat. She then drove back to the campground, and I made the one-mile journey to the boat launch alone.

Now it was 10:30pm when loaded the boat on the trailer and pulled up to our camper.

We would need to deflate and pack the boat, teardown and store the boat trailer, and then pack up the camper. There would not be time to make dinner. It was 11:30pm when we pulled out of the campground, which for us is some sort of fastest known time. Normally we would have just spent another night at the campground and headed back early in the morning. Unfortunately, I had a plane to catch and missing it was not optional. Plus being a criminal, I would have to take the camper to the trailer storage place, which would add time to the entire process.

We got home at 2am.

We were both exhausted and would only get 3 or 4 hours sleep. The next day we both felt the fatigue, but we plowed ahead in our respective jobs.

And thus ended another excellent adventure!

 

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