Returning to Shannondale along the Current River in Missouri was one of my fond dreams when I came to Zion Church in Burlington. Dean Moberg said that he also was eager to return, with his pleasant memories of getting to court his wife-to-be at that camp. Therefore, we planned a trip with Dean and Jeri, Art Klein, and several fine high school young people. We camped at Peaceful Point at Shannondale the first couple of days, did a service project—cleaning up and painting some camp facilities, and proceeded to canoe the river, putting in at Cedar Grove, canoeing to Pulltite in the morning, and reaching Round Spring in the late afternoon, a twenty-mile trip on the first day.
That year I had suggested that we do what I had done with other groups earlier, which was to carry food and gear with us in canoes, stay overnight on the river at one of the campgrounds or gravel bars, and canoe the next day another twenty miles to Two Rivers. The Current River’s… well…fast current, of course, had enabled this ambitious agenda with groups that were largely novices, as well as heavy rains on the days prior to previous trips. On this year of return, the river was quick, but not so quick, and the rains that came, came on the second day of our planned canoeing.
The second day opened gray and overcast, but seemingly warm enough, so “we” decided to go ahead with our planned trip, all the way to Two Rivers. (I don’t know if my enthusiasm was operative in the “we” or whether it was really a consensus.) We hadn’t been on the river more than ten minutes when the rain began, and, at first, it was gentle and warm. Not very long afterwards, it ceased to feel warm . Most of our group did not bring raingear. We stopped at a rock overhang and brought out the box of large garbage bags (along with duct tape, the other requirement for any trip we planned). At least everyone had an improvised raincoat for the rest of the trip. In addition to the dampness, the temperature began to fall.
Finding another rock overhang with just enough space for all of our group, and everyone beginning to be both tired and cold, we stopped for lunch. We needed a break from paddling, the energy from the food and drink we had packed for the trip, and also warmth from somewhere. My matches were wet, but, fortunately we had smokers with us. Art used his lighter and the few items that were still dry to get a smoky fire going, providing just enough warmth to thaw us out a little, when we took turns standing near it.
We had no choice but to continue downriver. There was no place to pull out of this section of the river until we had paddled ten more miles to Two Rivers, where there was a store and a phone to reach our Shannondale driver, who would pick us up and save us from ourselves.
Our only hope to avoid hypothermia was to paddle like the devil and avoid the usual tipping of the canoes. Since these seemed too much to hope for, our only hope really was to pray like the…saints, even if we weren’t.
Never was I happier to have three determined adult helpers and a mostly good-natured and forgiving group of high school young adults. Together, urging each other on, we made it. When we finally reached Two Rivers and our Shannondale helper picked us up, I hurried to rent the Goat Barn for our overnight accommodations, instead of setting up our wet tents. We made liberal use of the hot showers and established the custom of closing our canoe trip with a visit to Salem’s Pizza Hut.
(Some readers may offer corrections to this memory and life-lesson; they are welcome!)