Sorry about the post being so long and late
I’m not sure if you remember or not but this weekend was the annual river trip where we typically go catch a huge pile of catfish, drink a lot of beer and try to stay cool in the Kansas River off from Mill Creek.
I’m not sure if you are familiar with the weather in Kansas City over the last weekend but It rained almost non stop for a week and when it was not raining it was mostly dark and cloudy. Friday evening tornado sirens were going off all over the city and a few touched down in some places apparently.
This did not stop the river trip as our motto has been “Go hard or go home”. So Mom if you are reading you may want to avoid this post. I did however forget my camera charging in my office and did not take it on the trip. So I have no pictures. Tony took a couple and I will post them if they are good when I get them. Since I have no pictures and it is Heath’s birthday I’ll put pics of her in here to help break up all the text. She had some sort of girls Mexican night on Friday then a trip to the North land on Saturday.
So Friday we all met at my house packed my truck and Tony’s car up and headed out in the rain. The drive was slow on the highway but the traffic was not bad for rush hour. We got to the boat ramp and took the boat down and tried to start it.
We had a truckload full of gear, Tony’s car full of gear and some more in the boat. Ohh yeah and two canoes strapped to the top of the boat.
We tried to start the boat for about an hour and a half before it started. We took apart and put together all sorts of parts and tried every trick we could think of and it would not start. It was raining and every 10 minutes or so the tornado sirens would go off. But after an hour and a half on the ramp it did start and Jon took it out for a spin in the river. He went out and did a couple loops and it seemed to run great.
He came back to the ramp and we filled it with gear and tried to start it again. It would not run for another 30 minutes or so we fought it before it finally ran. Jon, Tony and derrick all got in and took as much gear as they could. It was dark by this point and raining still.
They zipped DOWNSTREAM a ways and around the corner of an island/peninsula and dropped off Tony, Derrick and the gear. Then Jon came back to get me, the two canoes and the rest of the gear.
We unloaded the boat and began setting up tarps. We had 2 huge tarps and set them up making a large area that would be out of the rain. We gathered some firewood had a beer then got back into the river to set our catfish catching limb lines. The boat started up and ran fine and we zipped up and down our little part of the river setting a ton of lines. The water was high (of course) and moving faster then normal so we had a lot of good trees hanging over the river to tie lines too. I would guess we set close to 30 limb lines with beef liver as bait.
Then we headed back to camp and set up two tents and got a fire going. All the wood out there was soaked so we had to use a decent amount of old motor oil and a bit of gasoline to get a measly fire going. We got camp set up fairly well then headed back out onto the river to check the lines. The water had gone up about 2 feet and was moving much faster. Many of our lines had caught logs and branches and stuff being washed downstream but one had caught a catfish. The pretty fish was about 2 to 2.5 feet long and it’s head was almost as big around as a football. He chewed my finger up with his sandpaper feet as I removed the hook and let him join our crew in the boat. He was our only fish and we headed back to shore.
Our boat was filling with water fairly quick between the rain and a possible leak we had to bail a lot of water and began working on a plan to make sure our boat was above water in the morning. It was after midnight and seemed to be raining harder and the river was rising fast. We decided to pull it completely on shore up to the level of our campsite. We were about 10-12 feet above the water when we first got there but closer to 5-6 feet above water at the highest point. We pulled an pushed and used ropes and science and stuff but the ground was too slick and unstable and the boat was too heavy and we were worn out so instead got the boat tied up really well, bailed it and left it for the night shortly after 3am.
Jon checked it at 6am on a bathroom break and I checked it at 8:30 am and there was very little
water in it. It sounded like it rained hard durring the night but did not fill the boat up to bad. We slept fairly well and did not get motivated to get out of the tent and into the rain till 10:30am. We got up and rebuilt the fire and got it going pretty good. We were able to fry up our entire fish and a pile of french fries. Then we started up the boat real quick and easy and checked our limb lines. We re baited a few and pulled snags off some others. Jon had some difficulties getting between neutral and forward a couple times and killed the engine but it started back up no problem. Then he killed it again and it would not start. We paddled it back over the campsite and fought the motor for a while. It showed no signs of starting and Tony needed to be back at the car and on his way to work. Jon and him gave up on Natty and hopped in a canoe to paddle up the Kaw and to the boat ramp.
They got lucky and did not have to go the whole way before a boat came by and gave Tony a ride to his car. Derrick and I worked on Grandma Natty and tried to get it to start. It gave no positive signs and I took out the plugs and cleaned them and put them back in and when Jon got back he suggested testing them for sparks so I began to take them out again. I got the first one out and it slipped from my hand and landed in the river.
I dove for it a few times but the bottom was very steep and got deeper and deeper quick. So now there was no chance of the boat running again. We were less then a 1/4 mile upstream on the creek then 1 and 1/4 miles downstream on the Kaw from the boat ramp. We played with grandma for a while longer and decided even with a new spark plug it would not run so we would need to get it out with no motor. We remembered a canoe put in up creek a ways and took the canoe upstream to it. There was a fence and stairs and no chance we could bring the truck there and get Grandma out. So we had to come up with another way.
At 2:30 we came up with our only idea.
Get all the rope together, two guys paddle the canoe up a way then hold onto a tree on the shore and the 3rd guy pull Grandma up by the rope. Then the 3rd guy in grandma holds onto the tree and the 2 canoe guys paddle upstream to the next tree and hold on and repeat. Repeat a hundred or more times to be more specific. We all crossed our fingers another boat would come out and the sooner the better.
At 2:40pm we left camp and lots of gear. We had 2 paddles a bunch of rope 1 granola bar, 1 beef jecky stick, a few beers and all the brawn we could find. It was easy going downstream in the mill and hit the corner in no time where we turned around and began our push upstream. We alternated positions about every 45 minutes and took turns paddling hard up the river or standing in Grandma pulling against the current pulling her through the trees and snags. We were constantly stuck in trees and covered with bugs and of course it rained off and on. When we left we guessed 2 hours of this would take us to the ramp. That’s like 1/2 mile per hour and seemed reasonable. The going was rough and we could easily see where we had started after 2 hours.
But we continued on and on and eventually could see the ramp. However it was on the other side of the river and we would need to cross. We tried to find the slowest spot we could and rested up a bit. Our rope was not long enough to go all the way across so after much thought and discussion we unraveled all of our trot line string.
It is really thin, not that strong and scary to rely on. Jon and Derrick were in the canoe and if they made it across and then it broke when I was pulling myself across or one of our many knots did not hold Grandma and I would be floating downstream toward the damn with no ability to control ourselves.
Jon and Derrick paddled off and fought the current and a surprising amount of drag on all the rope and string but quickly got near the shore. Near but not on the shore. About 20 or so feet away they ran out of rope and got stuck. They paddled hard but there was not enough rope and eventually gave up and diffed back down and back to my shore. I pulled them in and we rested and made a new crossing plan. We were already using all the rope and string we could find. We split the granola bar and the beef stick then decided to try again with a slight modification. I would watch them and when they ran out of string I would cut my tie to the shore and begin floating. We hoped this would give them the ability to reach the shore and hold on tight as the current caught Grandma and I drug us downstream and across the river.
Well it worked they hit the end of the rope I let go and drifted until they made it to shore then I reeled in the rope and the string and quickly drifted down and across the river. Pulling grandma upstream by string was tough going as the string would slide and I could feel the thinness on my hands through the gloves I had. But I made progress little by little. I had a huge pile of string at my feet and had drifted close to the shore when the string finally broke. I was about 1/2 way up to them but luckily close to a large tree. I grabbed the rope on the front of the boat and leapt to the tree. I had one hand on the rope and one on the tree and held on till the canoe could come rescue us. My feet were tangled in string and I was not really able to swim just hold on. I did get my knife out and cut myself free and tie the boat to the tree. then we cut out all the string and got back to the rope.
We had made it across and I was fired up and had my second wind. We had lost a lot of ground but made it across. It was getting dark so we did not rest much before moving on. 2-3 rounds of pulling the boat up and my adrenalin was gone and my hands were dead. We switched positions and continued on. I’m not sure how long it took or how many times we climbed but eventually we made it to the ramp. The last part of the pull was pretty amazing. We were VERY worn out but finally feeling positive and the sun dipped below the clouds and lit up the river. It was the most orange I have ever seen and just beautiful. Then I turned around and saw 2 giant rainbows behind us. It was a great moment in a terrible situation. We didn’t know we were at the ramp until we were almost right on it and came across a couple fishing. They were surprised and confused by these idiots pulling into the ramp and had lots of questions about our adventure. We all had a celebration beer then loaded the boat on the trailer and got our stuff together.
We drove to the closest McDonald’s and decided sitting down and eating something was a necessity. We were soaked, stinky dirty and worst of all had no shirts. I found a sweatshirt in the truck and walked to a nearby Wal-mart to get a $6 pack of white t-shirts. Then we went into McDonald’s and gorged our empty bellies. Tony got off work and joined up with us. Then we drove back to the river and took the exit on the other side of the river.
We packed in a railroad area and walked around a No trespassing fence. Then down a steep bluff, crossed some train tracks, then another steep bluff and crossed 2 more tracks then headed into the dark woods. We made our way to the river and tried to look around. We guessed we were upstream from our campsite and headed down through the thick woods, the sloppy mud, the thorns and worst of all some crazy neddles.
My legs were burning like crazy when we found the campsite. I rinsed my legs off in the river then put on boots and pants. We took down camp and packed up in the rain and tried to make sure we had all our gear. We packed load after load to the edge of the woods and train tracks. Then left the site and began to cross the tracks with large loads of gear. After having a terrible time getting up the bluffs we decided to use the railroads stairs and this helped greatly but we often had to hide in the bushes and wait for trains. We got everything up but a cooler and a canoe and then stopped at the bottom for a slow train.
Well it turned out the train was slow because it was stopping. It stopped right at the stairs and had nights right on our path. We waited in the bushes in the rain for a while then decided the train was not going anywhere soon. We could cross right in front of him and risk trouble, carry our stuff way down the tracks and carry our heaviest 2 loads up the bluffs, or hide the canoe and cooler in the woods and head up and around the train and go home.
We chose to hide the stuff and this was probably a good move. We climbed a 7 foot rock wall that would have been a total disaster with the gear and we never saw the train move. We headed home exhausted and filthy then everyone went there own ways and I took a long shower and went to bed.
Sunday was a full day and I was worn out, we had a birthday lunch for Kelly and a couples wedding shower for pancake Amanda and a baby announcement BBQ for Ding before we were able to head home and go to bed.
Tonight we celebrate Heath’s birthday then get the gang back together for operation rescue the canoe and cooler.