Sunday, June 22, 2008

Summer Solstice

The longest weekend of the year. Summer solstice. A perfect day to float down the river, unhurried, stopping to swim, enjoying everything Mother Nature has to offer. Even with my usual proclivity to sleep late, we were on the river by 9:30 am.

With rains aplenty this spring, the upper Meremac was running well and very inviting. No portaging this trip. We put in somewhere above highway O, and hit some riffles almost immediately. The kayaks required very little paddling, allowing attention to wander with the wildlife. Birds dotted the trees like living Christmas ornaments; red cardinals, indigo buntings, yellow goldfinches and painted cedar waxwings sang and dived, eluding the camera lens but dazzling all eyes.

Further downstream was Fishing Spring. Had it been 90 degrees or more, the wading would have been more easily tolerated, but at a balmy 84.... well it was still worth the frozen toes. Water flowed from a small cave, ran from under a ledge and boiled up from the rough sand making a odd snow-globe of the pool's edge. Together they produced quite the spring branch, tumbling over rocks out to the river. Not to mention cooling the main channel down enough to make us float on down to the next gravel bar before taking our next dip.

One of our favorite river games is "guess the ruin" or "ruins stories". Most Ozark streams have several old cabins, ruins of defunct resorts, forgotten stairways leading to the river, and abandoned camps lining the banks. Some are documented, many are mysteries ripe for creative exploitation. Floating by these, we spin yarns of vacationers tripping out by rail or in model T's on old Route 66. Gangsters and their molls hiding out in the cool shade of rock-walled resorts, families escaping the city's heat at fish camp, company picnic grounds returned to forest years after a flood, the scenarios are endless. Some ancient structures, like this one, are actually a part of a going concern. Although seen from the river to be unused, this amazing rock wall and staircase seem to be a part of the still-active Cobblestone Resort. It didn't stop our imaginations from running wild.

On the way home, the skies cracked open and poured. We'd made it off the river just in time. After stopping at Supersmokers for BBQ, there was still enough daylight to put the boats away, unpack, clean up and hang out on the porch to sing the sun down. A day as close to perfect as possible. Such is the magic of the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year.

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