Ali Went Camping?!

Back in June, Kate’s sister, Kori, invited us to go kayaking with her and her girlfriend, Shaunya. I was a little hesitant. As you can probably tell from my post about hiking Mailbox Peak, I’m not an outdoorsy person. I wish I was - so many outdoorsy things look fun, but I just wasn’t raised outdoors. My family has never gone camping, hiking in the mountains, or adventuring outdoors really. When I tell my family I’m doing something outdoorsy, it’s met with a “please be careful” and “call me when you get back so I know you’re safe.” All that said, I have a lot of trust in Kate. She’s not the most outdoorsy person either, but she tries things and I want to try things with her. So, I thought, okay kayaking can’t be all that bad.

We set up a call with her sister and her girlfriend to go over the details - hoping to ease my mind. The first thing I found out was that we were kayaking in our own kayaks, not sharing one between Kate and I. Yikes. Second thing I learned - we were camping. Camping?! I don’t like bugs. I don’t really like being outside in the Midwest in the summer because… hello, humidity. Plus, a whole day of kayaking on a river and not being able to shower after? Not sleeping in a bed? I was a little uneasy. Kori and Shaunya tried to ease my mind by telling me that they have a ten person tent for the four of us, it would only be two nights, they would have everything set up for us when we got there, and they have two cots for Kate and I to sleep on. Now, I may hate the outdoors but I hate being a debbie-downer even more. I agreed we’d go.

We left on a Friday and made the 5.5 hour drive to Arkansas - where the river was located. While on our way, we received a call from Kori saying that the campsite they normally stay at was already full for the weekend so they would keep looking for sites as we drove. Ultimately, they found a spot at the site where the kayaking portion of the river ends. This site was at the bottom of a 2-mile long, narrow, gravel, bumpy, dark road. I haven’t had my tires replaced and I was honestly a little nervous making our way down this hill. After about 15 minutes, we arrived at the campsite. Sure enough, they had everything set up for us. We unpacked the car, popped open some Truly’s, and tried to enjoy what was left of the evening. The company was great, the food was good, and the bugs...sucked. We went to bed rather quickly as we knew it would be an early morning.

Waking up in the morning was an interesting experience. We were up super early because it was bright out at 6am. We were also not only cold but...wet. As I mentioned, the humidity in the Midwest is just gross. I was already tired. We took our time getting ready in the morning and finally made our way to the kayak rental site to meet up with family friends and eat some breakfast burritos before embarking on our kayaking journey down the river. The breakfast burritos were so good! It was about 10am and it was already quite hot out. We took two cars to the drop-in site, leaving two at the campsite so we could get back to the others when we finished up. As we approached the drop-in site, I grew nervous. I’ve literally never kayaked before and now I’m in charge of my own kayak down a river for several hours...what if I can’t do it?! They dropped me in and off I went. Thankfully it was a group of 6 of us floating down the river together. Oh, and we had 3 small dogs with us as well. Yes, Oakley went and rode with Kate on her kayak.

Surprise...I actually loved kayaking! There were parts of the river that made me really nervous; specifically the fast rapids and rocky areas. Somehow, I made it through each time. I was one of two people that didn’t flip that day. One of the girls who went with us flipped several times and it was scary to watch. Kori and Shaunya were so patient with all of us and very helpful - I’m so thankful they were there with us. Kate had an interesting time because Oakley didn’t want to stay in the kayak. He kept jumping out, often at the worst time, to try swimming to shore. Several times this wound up flipping Kate’s kayak. Let’s just say, Oakley isn’t a water dog. A ways down the river, you can park your kayaks and walk to a water fall. We made our way over to this beautiful waterfall and it was a nice break for my arms. Once back in our kayaks, it wasn’t too long until we were back at the campsite. As much as I enjoyed kayaking, I was ready to be finished. I think everyone was.

Now, this post wouldn’t be exciting without some drama, would it?

Once at the campsite, Kate and I hung out at the tent with the dogs while the others took the kayaks and a truck to get the other vehicles from the drop-in site. As I mentioned, there were no showers, so we brought some wet wipes. Kate went in the tent first to wipe down and change while I hung out outside with the dogs. After getting all wiped down, she realized she had put her backpack (where her clothes were) in my car before we left that morning. The key to my car was in the truck at the drop-in site, so Kate had no bottoms to change into. She decided to sit in a towel until they came back with the key. It was now my turn to wipe down and change. Thankfully, I had left my clothes from the day before in the tent so I threw those back on. During mid change, I hear Kate yelling to one of the dogs. Kori’s dog, Cal, had gotten out of our fenced-in area and was running throughout the campground. I unzipped one of the window panels to see what was going on. I see Kate, running around with her towel around her waist, trying to catch this dog. Next thing I know, she sees me and yells “I could use a little help here!” At that point I had no clothes on, so as much as I wanted to help, that wasn’t an option. Kate eventually caught Cal and, thinking he would stick by her as Oakley would, she put him down next to her to walk back to the tent. He immediately took off again. By the time I was able to get some clothes on, she had recaptured Cal and was on her way back to the campsite.

Not long after, Kori came back to the site and built a fire for us to cook some dinner. My key was still in Shaunya’s truck and she had stopped to get some firewood on the way back. After being with us for about 20 minutes, Kori grew worried about Shaunya. Although she stopped for firewood, she should have only been about 5 minutes behind Kori. It was growing dark and none of us had cell service. Kori ultimately decided to drive back up the hill and look for Shaunya. After about 45 minutes and no sign of Kori or Shaunya, Kate and I started panicking. With no service, no keys, and two miles down a steep hill, Kate and I were unsure of what to do. We kept our eyes on the hill, praying that each car coming down was Kori and Shaunya, but it wasn’t. Kate was about ready to start walking up the hill - something I really did not want her to do. I finally had an idea. A truck came down the hill and I ran across the campground trying to catch the driver. He parked and I made my way over to ask if he had seen anything as he was coming down the hill. He laughed and said “oh, the truck with the flat tire?”. I thought “thank goodness - only a flat - at least they were safe!”

Not long after, Kori and Shaunya came down in one truck. Kori came over to the campsite first, clearly upset. It hadn’t been a flat tire, the lug nuts had fallen off the wheel. Before the trip, Shaunya had gotten her tires rotated. Obviously, they hadn’t put the lug nuts back on properly. Shaunya had been stranded on the steep, narrow, gravel road, in the dark, without cell service, by herself. A few people had stopped to help her but when they realized it was the lug nuts, there was nothing they could do. Kori also mentioned that they had forgotten the key to my car and to please not bring it up because Shaunya was already really upset. When Shaunya came back to the site, she was crying. I couldn’t imagine how scary that must have been - and we were scared for them! We ultimately got them to eat a little bit and talked through everything, coming up with a plan for the morning. Luckily, when they were at the top of the hill, they found cell service and called a local friend to see if she could get a tow truck to come out and get the truck off the hill. Kori hoped it would happen overnight so that it could be fixed sometime the next day (when we were all scheduled to leave). That’s when it hit us - we would really need to get my key from that truck. Kori and Shaunya made their way back up to the truck to get my key and it was perfect timing. On their way up, they noticed a tow truck that they were able to flag down. The truck was towing another vehicle but the guy said he could come back for their truck and would have it fixed first thing in the morning. He also said he was right in town which was super close! They grabbed my key and we were all able to go to sleep feeling a little better about the situation. Oh, and Kate was finally able to get some pants!

The next morning we were up early again. We got everything packed up before the sun fully peeked through the fog and before the rush of heat came. Kori and Shaunya only had to hang around town for an hour before the truck was fixed. We took our time driving back to St. Louis and we were so thankful for showers and air conditioning upon our return.

At the end of this trip, Kate and I decided we needed to stop being outdoorsy. Between Mailbox Peak and now camping - it just wasn’t going well for us. We also decided that camping was not happening again. We did, however, notice that both trips had one thing in common: breakfast burritos. We have now vowed that if we are doing anything active or outdoorsy or adventurous, we will not have breakfast burritos that morning. Stay tuned to see if that actually helps!

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