We rarely take vacations over the summer.Â Usually, we wait until it cools some and school starts up again for most children.Â This year we started vacation over Labor Day weekend.Â Our plan was to go hiking and then help fix up “Grandma’s house” while taking time to visit relatives and do some site seeing.
Near Chesterton, IN we drove through a storm.Â It was bad enough that Allan debated pulling over.Â The rest of the trip was dry.Â After a long day of driving, we stopped at Arrowhead Park in Neola, IA.Â We would have enjoyed exploring the trails but we got in late enough that we did not have time.Â It was a nice park, though a little loud with holiday campers.
We left early the next day and ate breakfast on the road.Â After driving a long time, stopping for ice cream and taking a short rest, we stopped at our favorite rest stop on SR 383 near Norton, KS. We drove a long time and got to Colorado in time to watch a beautiful sunset.
After watching a map all afternoon to see approximately where Mark was, we knew that he arrived in Jo’burg at 9:18 on Tuesday evening. We knew that he would be exhausted.
Today, around 3:30, Mark called. He said the connection was bad, so he could not e-mail, but he could talk for a little while. He mentioned he was tired, that the flights were long, whenever he started to get hungry they started passing food out again and it was mostly cloudy the whole trip.
They spent the night at a guest house and drove to Swaziland this morning. He would have talked more, but the phone was acting up and Mark was sounding so tired.
Thank you for praying for his safe trip there. If you want to see what he is doing, check out his blog here.
Since Sickie was feeling slightly better, we decided to go exploring a little before heading home from Missouri.
We hiked down into Greer Spring.Â The woods we walked through were beautiful.Â Then we drove a little way and tried hiking to a few different springs along the same trail.Â We stopped at Blue Spring and tried to walk further, but decided that the ticks won this time and we returned to the car. Even though we checked and double checked everyone before leaving, we still discovered a few on our way home.
The trip home was uneventful.Â We stopped at a few places to stretch and the kids slept or read most of the trip home. We finished reading all but two chapters of Tom Saywer.
Once we got home, we started the fun job of cleaning everything!Â We put our waterlogged camera in a bowl of rice.Â Within a week, it had dried out enough to start working properly again!
Our wonderful trip ended much quicker than we anticipated.Â We wanted to spend out last night at Morgan Spring Float camp.Â Even though we used our GPS and watched for camp signs, we still missed it completely.
We stopped at an access point we did not expect and was not on our map.Â We canoed up and down the river a few times, trying to find our camp, but realized that it was probably up some rapids we had gone through.Â We knew that we were heading out of the park and there were no campsites after this last float camp.
We realized we had two choices, either call and ask to be picked upÂ or canoe a few more hours to the last access point to be picked up. Everyone was tired and sore.Â Most everyone’s feet were bandaged up from the blisters we had. As disappointed as we were, we decided it was best to stop a few miles early.
God was taking care of us. A few hours after we got back, one of the kids got really sick and started vomiting.Â The whole night was miserable for sicky and us!
Allan took sicky to a nearby clinic to make sure everything was okay.Â We were thinking dehydration (though we knew everyone was drinking) or bugs from the water (even though we filtered it). Â Turned out to be “sick” with slight dehydration.
As I told my friend, what is vacation without someone getting sick?
During camps, the kids had been in canoes.Â They learned a few basic strokes. So, at the beginning of our trip, Mark, Andrea and Audrey were still novices at best.
They were intimidated by a lot of things.Â They often got out and walked because they were not sure they could go through.
However, they very quickly learned how to navigate the Class I and II rapids we went through.Â Trees were still a little intimidating, but they learned to maneuver around them or how to dunk under them.Â Since their canoe weighed a lot less then our canoe, they were able to go places we had to walk through.
Andrea had the vantage point, and she often encouraged the kids, “come on, we can do this!” and they would. Once, Andrea and AudreyÂ were able to dunk under a tree but Mark was too tall. His paddle got caught in the tree and he ended up in the water without turning it over.
We knew that there were rapids near the end of the trip that we probably wanted to walk through.Â We knew that they were harder than the other rapids and there was a drop off in them.Â Someone asked at almost every rest stop, “are we getting close to the rapids?”
When we finally reached them, it was a lot earlier than we expected.Â We knew the water was louder and the white caps much larger than the others we had passed.Â We did not see the drop off until we were right on it.Â As we went over and a lot of water splashed into the boat, we realized this was “the rapids” we had been watching for.Â The kids took them like pros.Â Mark said if he had seen the drop off, they would have walked it, but was glad he did not see it.Â They wanted to do it again!
For most of our trip, Megan sat on a backpack just in front of Allan.Â Adrian sat behind me.Â Occasionally he would turn around so he could face Megan and lean into me.
Early on we discussed how Lewis and Clark traveled and pretended that we were them. Megan wanted a special name and finally decided on Princess Tiny Frog, in honor of the tiny frogs she had discovered and played with on a beach. Adrian decided he would be Pomp.Â During the week, they would often call each other their made up names.
It did not take long for Megan to discover that she could lean over and play in the water.Â Soon Megan and Adrian played in the water whenever we were in a smooth part.Â Adrian would ask to row for a short while too.
When we hit rapids, they learned to sit in the middle with their hands in their laps or on the bar in front of them.Â They only had to get out and walk a few rapids and most of the time they could stay in the canoe while Allan and I guided the canoe through the mid-calf deep water.
During one stop, they loaded huge handful of rocks into the canoe.Â Every so often, they would throw a rock into the water.Â Another time, they folded and refolded the gum wrappers that they claimed. Megan practiced her favorite song, “God’s not dead, he surely alive” by the Newsboys over and over and over.Â Adrian asked us “millions” of trivia questions.Â They both enjoyed helping us watch for animals.
On the last day, the kids asked if they could change seats for a short while.Â They soon discovered the original seating plan was much more comfortable and happily rearranged at our next stop.
Boze Mill Spring Float Camp was beautiful!Â Each float camp had a toilet, a few campsites spread out, fire pits and places to hang food bags.Â Most were only accessable by boat, but you could drive into this one.
Over the holiday, people visited one camp site but did not understand what “Leave No Trace” meant.Â They left more trash then everything we carried in one canoe! That was frustrating!Â But the other sites where mostly clean, and we enjoyed relaxing there.
Since leaving our first access point, we had rain and some minor storms pass by.Â Whenever we heard thunder, we would pull over and take a break until the thunder passed.Â The only major storm we had was on day three.
We had a great day canoing.Â The kids were getting more comfortable and learning new strokes.Â They attempted more rapids and moved a lot faster than they had.Â We noticed the sky growing dark, but we really wanted to get to Boze Mill Spring float camp.Â We pushed it some and got there soon after lunch.
We set up camp and took a short walk to explore when a storm hit!Â We all curled up the kids tent and read four chapters of Tom Sawyer.Â Some of us dozed.
This float camp was really nice.Â It had large spaces for tents, fire pits, and –Megan’s favorite–a pit toilet!Â It also had a spring to explore and the remains of an old mill.Â We walked around exploring and just enjoying the time.
Even though we had used strong bug spray, the ticks still loved us.Â We found three types, deer ticks, spotted ticks and little tiny ones.Â We were told later that it was still too early in the season, but there was an even smaller tick that lives there.Â I am not sure how many ticks we got rid of, but there were a lot!Â I found many of them because someone had a new “freckle”, so we nicknamed the ticks moving freckles.
Dinner each night was re-hydrated meals that we had prepared at home.Â Each of the kids took turns learning to cook the meal with Daddy.
Every night, we hung our food in bear bags.Â We were told that there were bears in the area, but they are rarely seen.Â We were more afraid that raccoons or other critters would find our food.
After our crazy first day, most everyone was asleep before 7:30.Â Waking up to birds singing, we enjoyed our breakfast of rice pudding with blueberries.
We then repacked everything differently. We had planned on things getting wet, but some of the dry bags did not seem to work as well as others.Â So we rearranged things needing to stay dry in the better sacks.Â It made packing more difficult, but we did not want to bother with trying to dry things out when we hit camp.
The river was wider and smoother, though there were still rapids. We took the obviously easy ones, but walked many of the rapids. We learned later that Andrea kept saying, “come on, we can do this one” on some of the harder ones.
The day was beautiful and we canoed past many turtles.Â There were a few snakes, but not nearly as many as the day before. We started seeing more birds, some we did not know the names of.Â Adrian had fun quizzing us on presidential trivia. Megan learned that it was fun to trail her fingers in the water.Â We sang often.
The other kids would often be heard singing also.Â They talked a lot!Â They learned that Audrey could paddle; but Andrea, being stronger and heavier, did a much better job. So Audrey ended up sitting in the “princess seat” for most of the remainder of the trip.
When we started looking for our campsite, we found a huge one on a rocky beach.Â We hung everything up to dry and pitched our tents.Â We taught the kids how to filter their drinking water.
We relaxed that evening. The kids played in the shallow waters and went exploring. We had rock skipping contests. We read Tom Sawyer out loud.Â Our day had been perfect!
The afternoon trip went well for awhile.Â The older kids teased that they had not flipped yet and they should take all the things that should stay dry. Unfortunately, as they rounded a bend, they discovered a downed tree they had not seen before, had no time to change course, and got caught in it. They all ended up in the water! Downed trees were then nicknamed “killer trees” for the rest of the trip.
It was 4:00 and the kids had been working hard all day.Â They could not handle going any further.Â We were so thankful that God provided a nice camp site very close to where the kids tipped over.Â As we unpacked, we discovered that Andrea’s sleeping bag and our tent was soaking. Two dinners, two breakfasts and the larger bag of biltong were wet even though it was all stored in plastic bags and dry bags.Â We lost Andrea’s hat, two pair of sunglasses and a water bottle.Â We wereÂ bruised from the rocks and sore from all the paddling.
We soon discovered that our campsite only had room for one tent.Â Seven of us slept in a four man tent.Â It was a little crowded, but we all rested very well.Â The best part of it all, was in the middle of the night, we all got up and the kids talked and giggled like they were at a slumber party until we told them they needed to go to sleep!
Megan decided that she did not like the facilities at this camp site.Â She refused to go to the bathroom unless someone carried her past the weeds that grew taller than her.
As “bad” as it all sounds, everyone was still excited about the trip.Â They knew the next day would be lots better.