I stay pretty busy with a full time job and running Not a Clue Adventures so when the opportunity came available for a moonlight paddle through another outfitter I thought it would be a great opportunity to spend some time with my husband Rob. Surprised that both of our schedules were open, I made our reservations.
We had thunderstorms most of the afternoon prior to the trip but we watched the radar and forecast looked good for the 8 pm launch. We arrived at the outfitters and I got my first “red flag” that this trip would be anything but romantic! Upon check in we found there were 60 persons booked for this trip. Keep in mind this is not a large river we would be paddling down. We took the news for what it was worth hoping that since we had our own boats we would be first or last on the river. While we were waiting to launch I received our 2nd “red flag”, there were only to be 3 guides on this trip. I was a bit surprised, but this was not my “trip” and I was not supposed to be working.
After the safety briefing they handed out glow bracelets to every one to wear to help us keep track of each other on the river before the moonrise. It was the week of the super moon and if the cloud cover dispersed was to be a beautiful night on the river. It was at this point I saw “red flag” #3….there were many participants drinking a beer while waiting to be loaded. Alcohol and water NEVER mix.
Soon they were loading boats onto the river. Canoes and tandem kayaks first (these would be the slowest as most of the paddlers were inexperienced). Considering all points, this is where we should have packed up our boats, requested a refund and headed home but after about 20 boats were put in the water it was our turn.
The river was flowing a bit faster than usual due to the rain, but it was still daylight and it seemed most of the boats ahead of us had thinned out with nice spacing so I began feeling more comfortable. Rob and I started to relax and enjoy ourselves….that would be the last 20 minutes of relaxation on the trip.
The sun had set quickly and there was now sign of the moon behind heavy cloud cover. The river we were on had many snags, turns and low hanging trees and it took quite a bit of concentration to make sure we were staying in a safe lane of travel. As our eyes adjusted to the darkness the river began to get more winding and the boats were slowing down and backing up. It did not take long before we had caught up to the beginner canoes. Listening to the paddlers bark orders back and forth to each other, we knew they would be in trouble soon. Then it happened the first of many boats flipped I was the first kayak to reach them some tips to get the boat right and was trying to help but all they wanted me to do was to take their cooler (they said had a camera in it) large and heavy we got it loaded on my kayak and one of the guides arrived to assist so I continued down the river. Another ½ mile passed and there were 3 more boats in trouble, again I stopped to help. This time it was not so easy as I had a huge cooler between my legs and in no time I was in the water (this is the part that hurt the most…. My 2 month old GoPro Hero 3 Silver camera was on my visor – and the visor was on it’s way to the bottom of the river). In addition the cooler I was carrying for the first boat was floating down the river and I had 3 bright flashlights pointing in my direction blinding me. We got the lights off and the other persons straightened out and myself and cooler back in my boat, but by now I was furious. No guides anywhere to be found I opened to cooler to check for her camera and there was an Iphone and canned beverages. Rob was kindly trying to console me over the lost of my camera but I just headed downriver…speechless.
We arrived to the beach where we were all supposed to stop for diner, s’mores, live entertainment etc before heading the rest of the way down the river and the beach was full. We were some of the last on the river to arrive and we had to tie out and jump in to get to shore. Once I dried off some we checked out the food line. I was surprised to see it was totally different that was advertized, just cold sandwiches, chips, soda, and a few cupcakes, oranges and apples. The musician had not arrived…that would soon change.
I spoke with the owner of the company that was there to do the catering and explained to him the situation on the river. He very kindly offered to let me put in the river in the am before they opened and shuttle us back in hope of recovering my camera and any other lost gear from the other flipped boats. The rest of the boats had finally arrived as Rob through the food line. The musician and his wife were arriving and we noticed that they were the first persons who flipped the canoe earlier. I directed them to there cooler that we had brought up on shore and that being done I was ready to leave. We located the guide that would be first out and found they were taking the first set of persons the rest of the way down the river in about 10 min. We went out and readied our boats for launch and were soon out on our way. The guide’s boat was well lit from the inside with led lights allowing the whole boat to glow; this aided us a lot in navigating. After another hour we had arrived at our take out site and we were taking our boats to the trailer. Soon after another guide arrived and asked us to set out boats off to the side that they had to load their boats first. 2 loads later they were finally getting to load the dozen or so boats that participants brought. After arriving back to our launch site, loading boats on our truck and getting into dry clothes we were on our way home…it was 1:30 am.
As we headed up the interstate the moon made the first appearance of the night, the clouds cleared and I said a small prayer of thankfulness that everyone made it off the river safe (and a vow to never participate in a group trip again with out asking many more questions)!
We did go back down the river at 7 am later that morning, but with all the rain the river had rose over a foot in the few hours between and was very dark and muddy. So the camera (at this time) is not retrievable. I will wait a few months and maybe stumble across it in the future when the water levels drop but I am not holding my breath.
I do want to close this entry with the promise that if you book a trip with Not a Clue Adventures you will never have to experience these types of issues. Our largest outing is our 2 night Halloween Camping event and even that we will limit to 40 in the future (Last year we had 65 – too many). Large crowds are not good for the surrounding wildlife, environment, and enjoyment of others nor do we consider them safe.
Learn from my mistakes. Ask a lot of questions discuss refund and cancellation policies and check out the service before booking your outing. Not everyone operates under the same set of principles.
Do not let me discourage you from getting outdoors and trying new things – but be smart. Don’t let your first canoe trip be one in the middle of the night. Match your skills to your outing and have a great time!