Sunday, July 24, 2011

Camp Tales XII: Camp Tipi-canoey

This is Alma, Nebraska, which I didn't really camp/canoe at, but I didn't have any pictures of Shit Lake where I did. However, if I DID, it'd look like this only: no trees whatsoever, just weeds lining the lifeless brown lake and a copious scattering of ticks everywhere.

How to Properly Turn over Your Canoe like a Drunken Sailor

Remember Gaylord of the "Pringles Incident"? It was in late March, and the hints of spring were momentarily in the air. Pancake-flat Nebraska, unlike the Rockies, actually has a season called "Spring," which amounts to a gradual cessation of snow, warming climes and budding flowers. This is rather a delightful experience, compared to the Rockies where it's blizzard one day, 95 the next. We were sick of winter, and while it was only 50 degrees, Gaylord had an idea.

"Let's get the canoe out and go to Shit Lake and BBQ," asked Gaylord one Sunday morning back in March.

"Isn't it a bit early for that?" I asked warily sipping my coffee.

"It'll be FUN. We'll get some smoked brats, chips and dip, baked beans and buns and beer."

The only thing better than bribing me with food, is bribing me with both food AND BEER.

"OK, you're on."

Ahhhhh, nothing beats springtime on the Nebraska plains. Ticks sucking your scalp, biting flies busily nipping your ears. The delightful first mouthful of brats and onions washed down with a cold brew is a religious experience.

Only we planned this particular excursion backwards that day.

We decided that we should canoe across the lake, set up the grill, drink beer, BBQ, and drink more beer. I was a little alarmed when I saw Gaylord pop his fifth beer and we hadn't even eaten yet.

"You going to be OK to paddle back?" I asked.

"Why of course!" he exclaimed, beer can held high. "Shit Lake is only 8 feet deep. It's not like we're canoeing across Yellowstone Lake or anything," he merrily added. That was a good point, I thought.

But here's where the flaw in our plan came in. We should have organized it like this: canoe for a while, canoe back to the dock near the car, drink beer, BBQ and drink more beer. Only we didn't. So you see where this is going?

I can see it all in slow motion.

After grilling and gorging, Gaylord announced that since the temperature had suddenly dropped about 8 degrees, and a winterly wind had blown in, that we should pack up the canoe and head back to town. Of course we brought too much stuff: a cast iron Hibachi, giant cooler, chairs, pads, blankets, etc. We loaded up the canoe, which suddenly seemed fuller and heavier and pushed off.

We were about 1/3 across the lake, when Gaylord decided that he wanted us to pick up the pace. He slowly and rather alarmingly, dug in his oar, throwing all of his body weight to the side of the canoe. Which is actually not the wisest maneuver.

Like in a dream, I call out, "N-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o, you're too far over the side of the b-o-o-a-a-a-t."

Only it was too late, the canoe tipped precariously, and me, in proper train-wreck watching form, just sat there, sort of mesmerized, sort of frozen, anticipating the inevitable avalanche of cold water, flowing over my head.

Nothing is colder than spring water in a lake. Miraculously, I spared my 35mm camera from getting wet, and got my buttpack before it floated off.

The charcoal and heavy grill, vanished to the bottom of the lake as did other miscellaneous items. The next five minutes were a whirl uprighting the canoe and grabbing things as they floated by and throwing them in.

I don't remember getting back into the canoe in water-logged clothes or the tapestry of cusswords out of Gaylord's mouth. It was rather sobering.

We made it back to the car in about 8 minutes, squeezed excess brown water out of our clothes, plucked the algae out of our hair and jumped in the car, heater blasting.

I don't think we said more than 3 words on the drive home. My vintage WW1 combat boots were trashed with mud, the leather ruined. And in the car, for kicks, I snapped a picture of Gaylord, with his sopping wet Gilligan's Island hat sitting askewed his head, sour faced, but I have no idea where it went.

Morale of the story:
1.plan the copious beer-drinking AFTER the canoeing excursion, when you're on the side of the lake near your car.
2. It's a canoe, not a rowboat
3. don't over pack the canoe
4. a "designated rowist" is probably a good idea.

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