A Huck Finn Day

As I scanned my stack of Departures magazine reading articles on the “New Asia” and the Maldives, I noticed that although the editors did add London’s 2012 festivals, they failed to include any articles on Iowa.

When you are done with Namibia’s Skeleton Coast, I suggest driving to Seven Oaks Recreational Park outside Boone, Iowa.

For a mere $43, the young tattooed attendant will load up your rented kayak and canoe.  And within ten minutes you will be deposited on the riverbank seven miles upstream from the pickup ramp.

Minnesota may be known as the land of 10,000 lakes but Iowa has about eighty rivers.

Like half of the US, Iowa was hit by drought this summer.  Despite the Des Moines river’s water levels being half their usual depth, there was enough water that my 71-year old mother and 11-year old Ace and Mark could easily manage either kayak or canoe.

Completely surrounded by trees on both sides of the river, the boys agreed kayaking on the Des Moines was better than Atlantis’ Lazy River and more exciting than Disneyland.

Like Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, the children enjoyed bobbing down the river in afternoon sun.   A half mile downstream, we could hear their laughter above the chirping cicadas.  Along the way we saw a group of teenagers swinging from a rope tied to a tall maple tree and splashing into the water.  We anchored and they generously held out the rope so our three kids could all have a go.

I heeded the guides’ warnings and did not bring my camera.  In hindsight this was good because less than a mile to our rendezvous point, I insisted the boys paddle our canoe and while changing spots, I managed to tip the canoe over and dumped everyone into the river.

The canoe completely filled with water as our icebox and shoes floated around our knees.  Luckily the water was only a foot deep.  Unluckily I lost my wits and could not figure out how to get the water out.  Using our Dixie cups, we started bailing with the intention of lightening the canoe and dragging it to shore.

But because it was Iowa I did not have to do this alone.  A young man and his girlfriend pulled over to help us.

However the next morning as I retraced the day’s events, I realized the nice man was as much of a novice as me.  Instead of pulling the water-filled canoe to shore, we should have turned it over and lifted it out, upside down.

As soon as we got home, the boys gleefully called Mojo to tell them I turned over the canoe.

“See, I told them “if that hadn’t happened you would not have had a story to tell.”

Seven Oaks is family owned.  In the summer you can rent tents in their summer camp sites, hike trails, play paintball or have a great day floating on the river.

Their land includes a small hill which – believe it or not – supports six ski lifts that operate all winter.  You can learn to ski and snowboard on their easy to reach slope then head out to Park City or Aspen and show them what you learned in Iowa.



Tales by Chapter

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