My youngest son, Leret, recently turned 13, which means I now have three teenage boys in my house. I think my wife and I now understand why, during biblical times, parents were allowed to stone their children.
Leret decided that, for his birthday, he wanted to get some friends together and go on an overnight kayaking trip down the Llano River. I told him that would be fine, and we planned to do the trip this past Friday night. He started preparing for the event much further in advance than he usually does. He called some of his friends on Thursday. I guess getting older has matured him some, because he usually waits until an hour or so before we’re supposed to do something, and then starts calling people to see if they can come.
But he didn’t do too badly. Two of his friends, Elliot and Nick, were able to make the trip. Since I didn’t really want to be in charge of three boys on the river overnight all by myself, I conscripted Nick’s dad, Chris, to go with us.
I guess Leret got his procrastination skills from his mother’s side of the family, because his dad’s side still has them. I started packing for the trip on Friday after five o’clock, which was about the time we planned to head for the river. Consequently we got off about two hours late, which is not bad, considering. My wife dropped us off at the river about seven, and we had almost two hours to paddle to the spot we planned to camp, which meant we would get there after dark. Typical.
We put each of the boys in a kayak by himself, which is the only way to travel with teenagers. If you put two boys in a canoe together all you have is a fight. One will want to go left and the other right. They will both want to paddle on the same side of the boat all the time. They will both lean the same way at the same time and turn the canoe over. One will accidentally splash the other, and the ensuing water fight will escalate to the point of profuse bleeding and broken bones. Canoe paddles can be deadly weapons when wielded like swords.
Chris and I shared a canoe, and carried most of the gear. By the time we got the boat loaded we could barely lift it, so we got a couple of the boys to help us carry it to the water. Since my wife was around while we were packing, we ended up with enough food to last us several days, including homemade chocolate chip cookies and Rice Krispie squares. I managed to slip the tablecloth and paper plates out and leave them at home, but we were still way overloaded.
Even with their own boats, the boys managed to irritate one another. They all wanted to be in front, as if we were racing, and in shallow areas there is usually only one spot, if you’re lucky, where a boat can float through without running aground. Invariably two of the boys would get there at once, and manage to block the chute. The other two boats would pile up behind them, and everyone would have to get out and drag the boats through. But then, wasting time is what we were there for, anyway.
It was just good dark when we got to our chosen camping spot, across the river from some high bluffs. We gathered some driftwood and built a fire, and Nick roasted hot dogs while Elliot heated up a can of Wolf chili on a camp stove. Aside from the usual mosquitoes and several squadrons of irritating moths attracted by our lantern, it was as pleasant a meal as I’ve ever had on the river.
The boys made s’mores after supper, which is the best way for everyone to get good and sticky before bedtime. You have to have something to attract ants, after all. I had forgotten to bring tarps, so we all ended up laying our sleeping bags on one 8 x 10 foot tarp that Chris brought, which we laid as smoothly as we could over a field of egg-sized rocks. There’s no use sleeping on a river trip, anyway – you might miss something.
About daylight we got up and ate some healthy chocolate chip cookies for breakfast, loaded up the boats, and went for a swim at the bluffs. The boys made a real effort to find a high spot to jump from the bluffs into the shallowest water available. Chris and I managed to get them to jump at a spot that was only about 15 feet above the water. The river was barely deep enough there, so there’s no way the activity would have passed the Mom inspection, but, luckily, there were no moms around.
Overall it was a great trip, especially since we got home with everyone we left with. Of course, since we took three teenagers, that wasn’t necessarily a good thing . . .
Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist who has never drowned in the Llano River. Yet. Write to him at PO Box 1600, Mason, Tx 76856 or firstname.lastname@example.org