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Backpacking trip into the Ponca Wilderness

By Dustin 2013.11.11 in Camping

   Nov. 5th 2013 8:00 p.m.
Finally, here we are. It seems like everything about this trip has been a struggle. From the government shutdown of the parks, the rain, to the slippery, almost vertical trails in, here we are, warm and cozy in our sleeping bags, near the banks of the Buffalo River, in the Ponca Wilderness.
  We should have been here weeks ago, but as I mentioned, the government shutdown changed our schedule. At the time it seemed devastating, but in the end it worked out in our favor. We are here during the peak of the fall colors, and the weather is pretty great.
  I had never hiked in this area before, but I do have some friends that have. I got some advice from my friend, Josh, who works at my favorite outdoor gear shop, Dynamic Earth. He suggested we set up a base camp at an area called Horse Shoe Bend.
  Horse Shoe Bend is a relatively flat area located in a horse shoe shaped bend along the Buffalo River. It is a great location for a base camp because their are several main trails that either pass right through, or very close to the campground. Of course, there is no driving to this camp, and if the other trails in are anything like the one we took, your going to earn that great spot. But let me tell you, the hard work is well worth the rewards.
  To earn our spot, we took the Falls Trail, from the Compton Trailhead. By map, it is the shortest, and what looks like the fastest hike to Horse Shoe Bend. Plus you don’t have to cross the Buffalo River until you are at the camp. Easy I thought. I couldn’t have been more wrong.


  This trail is 2.6 miles long, and drops 1200 ft. Looking at the map, I thought, well 2.6 miles, that won’t be that bad, even if it is a little steep. Wrong. I forgot to take into consideration that it had been raining for two days straight, including the day we barreled  off over the mountain. It took us hours. The one bonus I did find by taking this route was the views. For much of the trail, you are walking along the edges of big bluffs, so in spots you can literally see for miles and miles.



  I would not advise anyone taking a child down this trail. Yes, I took my 4 year old son, but he is no average 4 year old. He has already logged more than 100 miles on hiking trails with more than half of those miles walking himself, with his own pack. He is tough. Not many kids would handle walking down slippery rock steps, in grueling, cold, rainy conditions. Not to mention we did an hour and a half hiking in pitch black with nothing but our headlights. All the while coyotes and owls are howling, which scares most kids stiff, and Jesse is loving every minute. Singing songs, talking about how much fun it is gonna be to get to use his new headlight to set up our tent. So as you can see, not your average 4 year old.

  So we finally come across a camping spot just across the river from the Horse Shoe Bend camp, and after what we had just went through, I decide this is plenty far enough. It was flat, bluffs were blocking the wind, and we were just about 100ft from Sneeds Creek, which had plenty of fresh water running through it for us to use. Plus I was wore out from carry a 57lb backpack and the stress of trying to keep my wild partner safe near the slippery edges of these bluffs. This flat area might as well of been the Hilton to me. We was home.


  We got the tent set up just in time, as the rain turned from mist, to heavy drops. Now here we set, all snuggled up in our warm Big Agnes sleeping bags, playing go fish, listening to the soothing sound of rain falling on our tent roof, and talking about all the neat things we are going to go see. This is going to be an amazing adventure.


Beaver Creek Float Day 2

By Dustin 2013.09.17 in Uncategorized

I slowly open my eyes, although its blurry, I can see that the sunrise is starting to put a pleasant glow inside our tent. I can hear the birds singing their hearts out as they get started on their busy day. I look to my right, beside me, wrapped up in his sleeping bag, my lil buddy, snoozing away, his trusty dog laying just outside the door, also sleeping, paws straight in the air. I stick and arm out of my bag, still pretty chili outside.104_1502

I lie there for a minute, but the sound of the busy world of pure outdoors is calling me out.  I cant take it anymore. I put on my clothes and unzip my tent door……..Wow, what a beautiful sight! The sun rising just over the hill. Just below our camp, Beaver Creek, crystal clear and flowing perfectly. and just on the other side of the creek, the big bluff, with the tall oaks catching some morning rays. Can it get any better?1184791_374737895962940_587366094_n

For those of you that haven’t ever woke up in a tent miles away from the sound of “man”, (and yes, surprising and sad as it is, some people haven’t) you are truly missing something special, and spectacular. This is the way life is supposed to be. Simple. Special. Nothing on your mind but wake up, eat, and explore what was put here. No telephone ringing. No car horns. No TV. Not even an alarm clock to wake you. Your body just naturally waking up with the sun. Perfect.

I’m the type of person that has to have breakfast or I will die, or at least I think I will. And I have to have it now. Not in a couple of hours. As soon as my feet hit the floor, I need to fuel up. So first thing is first, get breakfast started, and of course coffee.

For breakfast, nothing special, just some apple cinnamon oatmeal for me, and fresh blueberries for Jesse. Unlike his father, Jesse hardly eats any breakfast. So I fire up my jetboil and get some water boiling.

For those of you that haven’t ever used a jetboil, they are pretty handy stoves. They will boil water in no time, and everything, including the fuel, packs inside the cup. I opted for the cheaper zip model, not sure why I did that considering I never go for the cheaper version of much of anything. The only problem I have found with it is that when I need a very low heat it is very hard to adjust without it burning out. Although I have been told that the upgraded models don’t have that problem.

Anyway, I get my water for my oatmeal boiling, and pour it over my oatmeal and let it set, then more water for the all important coffee. I just use Starbucks instant coffee, I know, some of you absolutely HATE instant coffee, but I really cant tell much difference between this and the real thing. And for the amount of weight and ease of those little packets, its well worth it.

Now that I have all that going, I start on getting a small fire going again, which doesn’t take long since we still had a lot of coals from last night. As I’m piling the wood on, I can start to hear some rustling in the tent, and soon after a sleepy eyed little boy and ol dog come staggering out of the tent and towards the fire.  I offer up some blueberries, chocolate milk, and some morning conversation. The first two were accepted, the third was denied. So the three of us set by the fire in silence, eating our breakfast, and taking in the scenery.1146611_372616442841752_270852357_n

After eating, I start to gather our things and get us ready to get back on the creek. Jesse finally decides that talking wont hurt him, and before I know it, he is chatting away as we pack our gear. There is no doubt he is ready to get in that canoe.

In no time we are back in our boat and headed down the creek. Its about 9:30 and its looking like its going to be a perfect day to be on the creek!

Now, for those of you that have never been on Beaver Creek, you are really missing out on a great spot to get away. Beaver Creek is small in comparison to streams like the Current River, but don’t let that scare you off. What it lacks in size it makes up for with privacy. To give you an example I floated this same stretch 6 times this year,equal to about 50 miles and we seen 1 other group of floaters. That”s it, one time did we not have the entire creek to ourselves. If you want to truely get away, this is the creek. Granted, its usually to low to float during the summer, but in the spring, when we have had some good rains, this is a beautiful float. Its great to take the family on, or even just going alone to get some peace and quiet. There are many spots to put in and pull out all the way from Jackson Mill, to Bradleyville. And if you don’t have your own canoe or kayak, there is a canoe rental business.

Ok, back to the canoe. By now we are really having a good time. I can only imagine what someone would think if they heard us coming down the creek, because one of Jesses favorite things to do is make load monkey noises and pretend to see them swinging in the trees, and of course I join in with my own monkey yells.

Ooh Ooh Ahh Ahh!! “What was that?” I think it was a monkey!! Yep I see one right there!! ooh Ooh Ahh Ahh! What was that!? I think it was a baby monkey.’ You would hear this off and on for most of our float trips. Im not sure when and how it got started, but I do know that it makes both of us laugh a lot, so its worth looking crazy if someone ever catches us doing it. 1238264_372653139504749_1708244874_n

As we roll down the creek, Jesse talks pretty much the whole way. You can only imagine what a 3 year old talks about on the creek. Its great. One thing I am proud of is that he already knows that no matter what we do not throw any trash in the water or on the ground. He also points out any trash he sees, and he usually asks me why someone would do that, and he tells me that only bad people throw trash in the water. 1234869_372631376173592_2141695425_n1234753_372654316171298_770485920_n1185604_372653486171381_161786248_n1238875_372655662837830_2059219995_n

I started a Missouri Stream Team a few years ago. Stream Teams go around picking trash up out of the creek, and cleaning up areas around streams. I have talked to Jesse a lot about taking care of our creeks, and about the Stream Team. It makes me really proud that he understands the need to take care of our creeks and rivers. He understands that if we dont, one day he wont have clean creeks to float on. Its good to know that i have passed that down to him. I know that he will do his part to take care of this creek. That”s important to me because My ol man grew up on this creek. I grew up on this creek, and Jesse is growing up on this creek. In fact his mother grew up on this creek, and they still live within spitting distance of the creek.

After a few hours floating,we get close to the end of our trip, so we pull over to do some fishing. Jesse has been itching to get out his new pole and lures and catch a fish.

We find a good little hole full of small mouth bass, and perch, and start casting. In no time we are reeling in a few small fish. But to see his face you would think we were catching monsters!! Talk about excited! I would get a hook set, and he would start reeling so fast that sometimes he would be cranking his reel backwards. And of course, every fish, no matter how small, he wanted to take home and cook. It took a lot of work, but I finally convinced him that it was better to throw them back and let them get bigger, and that a picture was just as good. Of course every new fish, I had to have the same discussion.1157573_372631209506942_846359186_n

After about an hour, he was done fishing, and we got back in the boat and finished our float trip.995687_345701168866613_1928207314_n

I cannot put into words what these trips mean to me. They are so special. I can remember my father taking me floating down Beaver Creek when I was little like Jesse. I never forgot those trips, and they have always been some of my favorite memories. Memories of a time when life was simple. When as long as my Dad was there, I didn’t have to worry about anything. When i just knew he was the best fisherman in the world, and the fastest paddler there ever was. When I would hang on his every word about the animals and trees that grew along the creeks banks. I never wanted to see the brownbranch bridge because I knew the trip was over, but at the same time loved that last stretch because he would always paddle as fast as he could and race whoever was floating with us.

I just hope that one day Jesse will look back and think about these trips like I do. I hope he takes his son down Beaver Creek in a canoe, with an old catahoula dog……. making monkey noises the whole way.


From Left to Right= My cousin Bandy, Me (Blonde boy) my brother Heath, My Dad Bill

1 week along the Buffalo River

By Dustin 2013.09.06 in Camping

Ok everyone, I am planning a week long adventure for my son and I in Arkansas in the Buffalo River area. We will be doing some hiking, camping, and either canoeing or kayaking. We are going to check out some waterfalls, maybe see some elk, and anything else we can find to do. It is going to be a blast!!!  I’ll share it all right here, so stay tuned. We will be leaving Sept. 23.  Thank you everyone for all the support!!

Beaver Creek Float Day 1

By Dustin 2013.09.02 in Camping

  For those of you that don’t know, I have the most amazing little boy. For an avid, adventure seeking outdoors man, he is a dream come true. Jesse would chose a trip to the forest, or ride in  a canoe over a playstation or movie any day. In fact, it is very hard to keep the little guy indoors at all! Even when the weather is bad, its very hard to convince him that its  a good idea to stay inside. He absolutely loves to go canoeing and camping. One of the first things he always asks when I pick him up on Fridays is ” can we go campin and floatin?” It makes me very proud.

   This kid has already logged more miles on the river and hiking trails than most adults ever will, and he hasn’t even hit his 4th birthday yet. He has put in roughly 40 miles in a canoe, and hiked around 80 miles with about 20 of those miles on his own feet instead of on my shoulders. He also loves to rock climb, climb in trees, and he can already take a few steps on the 4 inch slackline I built for him. He is 3 going on 30! And there is no question who his biggest fan is!

1003771_345662275537169_1048886648_nNow you know a little about my son, now let me tell you about our weekend on the river. It started out just like every weekend, me picking Jesse up Friday morning. There is nothing like seeing his face when he gets out of his mothers vehicle. Him and I had already discussed a float trip for this weekend, so there was no question why he had the huge smile and was running to me, he was ready to hit the river!!
Of course when he gets in the “monster truck”, which is what he has always called my old beat up Toyota T100, the first thing he says is ” let’s go campin’ and floatin’!”
We hadn’t been able to get on the creek for several weeks. The weather had went from being extremely dry, to the point that the water level in Beaver Creek had gotten too  low, to almost 2 weeks of solid rain. So needless to say, the creeks had been flooding for quite some time. So I was still concerned about the water level, but on our way back home we had to cross Beaver Creek at the old Rome bridge. So we made a stop on the bridge and checked the water level. Luckily it looked perfect. Not to high, and clear as could be. After seeing that, there is no doubt that a float trip was in order!! All that’s left now is to check the weather for the weekend and pack our gear!

Old Rome Bridge over Beaver Creek

Old Rome Bridge over Beaver Creek


Now Jesse is about to boil over with excitement! He is ready to go right this minute!!! I still had some concerns though.
Beaver Creek is notorious for being blocked with trees that have been uprooted during a flood. And the area we was planning on floating is very seldom traveled so, you can pretty much expect that any trees that are blocking the creek, will stay there unless you move them.

Since I hadn’t been on the creek since the last flood, I was a little leery of taking Jesse on a long trip, in case I would have to do a lot of dragging the canoe around trees, so I planned on just taking a short trip and spread it out over 2 days by just leaving on Saturday evening.       Talking my son into waiting another 36 hours, was going to be a huge task in itself!
So Saturday morning after a few cartoons and some chocolate milk, we are up and running! After giving our dog a bath, it was time to head into town and get a few supplies. We didn’t need much, just our food, an extra dry bag, and Jesse wanted some fishing lures for his brand new spiderman fishing pole.
As soon as we got home the packing frenzy began. But soon enough we had all our gear packed, loaded, and ready. By this point Jesse is bursting at the seams with anticipation. He has asked a thousand times, “are we ready yet?” So when I finally said “yes bud, we are ready”, he was ecstatic!


After giving “Nana” hugs and kisses and getting his floating buddy “Bo” loaded, he is in the truck waiting on me and his “Papa Bill”.
Soon we are headed down the dirt road, on our way to Beason Slab, where we will start our float trip. On the way, Jesse and my father, “Papa Bill” are having a very serious discussion about which fishing lure is going to catch fish. Jesse betting on the grey, Papa the yellow. This is debated for most of the 20 min drive.
Finally we made it to the creek, and got all or gear unloaded and in the canoe. After Jesse gives Papa Bill a big hug and kiss, we load our dog in the canoe, and set off down the creek. Our float is only about 5 miles, so I made sure we didn’t get on the water until 5p.m.

Almost immediately Jesse is looking for a spot to camp, sleeping in a tent is one of his favorite parts. “This spot?” “No buddy, we have to go further.” “How about here?” “Nope, I’ll show you the place son.” “What about this spot?” “Not yet bud, we are close.” On and on and on this went. Every gravel bar was a good camping spot for Jesse.

The camping spot we are headed to is just about 2miles downstream from Beason Slab, and the land is owned by my parents neighbors. It has a couple of picnic tables, a fire pit, and a nice swimming hole. It is also very secluded, with the closest house over a mile away and no roads within earshot. Needless to say, when it is dark, all you are going to hear are crickets, bullfrogs, coyotes, and other peaceful nature sounds. It’s about as good as it gets for a primitive campground.

You can tell when you are getting very close to the campsite when you come to a big, deep swimming hole with a big rope swing, and a large square rock that sticks about 8ft straight up out of the water. This is another great little spot. Perfect for taking a break and swimming, eating lunch, or just to relax on a longer float.


Swimming hole before Bucks and Spurs Ranch Campground

Swimming hole before Bucks and Spurs Ranch Campground

Swimming hole before Bucks and Spurs Ranch Campground

Swimming hole before Bucks and Spurs Ranch Campground

Jesse has been on this same float enough that he immediately recognizes this swimming hole, and knows that we are within minutes from the campsite. We pull into the campsite around 7 p.m. As soon as the nose of our canoe hits gravel, Jesse and Bo hit the ground running, and exploring everything.
As those two play, I start unloading all our gear. Jesse loves to help set our tent up, so when he sees I’ve got everything unloaded and at the campsite, he comes running telling me that we have to set it up. So we get started on building our home for the night. Jesse is in that stage of asking how everything works, and why it works that way. So setting up a tent involves answering a thousand questions.
The tent we use is a Kelty Quartz 2. I have had this tent for about 7 years and it has been on hundreds of trips, and is in pretty dang good shape still. It has been worth every penny I spent on it. It has plenty of room for two adults and most of their gear. Plus if you put the rainfly on, it has even more room for gear. Although it is way to heavy for a backpacking trip, it is perfect for this kind of adventure. So I would definitely recommend a Kelty. They are very reasonably priced, and as long as you take care of them, they will survive years of camping trips. Jesse even split one of the female ends of one of the poles, and it still stands like nothing is wrong with it.

Now that we have our tent up, it’s time to get our fire built. After all the rain we have had, the original fire pit is setting in a big mud hole, so we need to make a new one. I give Jesse my fold able shovel and get him started on digging a hole for our fire. As he is doing that I get started on collecting firewood. I always take a hand saw with me on trips like this just for cutting firewood. It is an invaluable tool.
Now, when I get back with the wood, not only do we have one hole for our fire, we have have about 10 extra holes scattered all over our campsite. Jesse is so proud of his holes. All I see is nice little booby traps to trip in when I’m trying to walk around in the dark, but of course I just tell him great job, and he goes back to digging.

As soon as I get some kindling started, Jesse drops the shovel and comes to help with the fire. I blow on the fire, he blows on the fire. I put a stick on the fire, he puts a stick on the fire. After a few minutes, we have a nice little fire going.
With our tent up, and a fire rolling, and enough wood cut and stacked to last us the rest of the night, it was time to change into some dry clothes and get comfortable. After changing, we decided it was time to roast some hotdogs and then make some smores.
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Funny thing about Jesse is that he does not like his smores to be messy. I know, makes no sense right? A little boy who has no problem playing in the mud, or wrestling with big wet dirty dogs, does not want his snores to be messy. So when he eats his, he eats around the spots where marshmallow is squishing out of the sides. Bo gets the rest.
By now it’s about 9:30 p.m. and my little camper is getting tired. He crawls up in my lap and we both set and watch the campfire and listen to the beautiful sounds of the night.
As I set there watching the fire, my son in my lap, and my dog setting beside me, I couldn’t help but think to myself “this is the life.” I don’t care who you are, setting around a campfire is captivating. It’s in our DNA.
Our ancestors have been setting around campfires since basically the beginning of time. They used them for everything from cooking, keeping predators away, even allowing them to travel into to harsher environments. A fire just has a special way of bringing people together, like moths to a flame.  So when you find yourself setting around a fire telling stories with your friends and family, you can be sure that you are carrying on a tradition that has been going on since basically the beginning of man.
After about an hour or so of setting and watching the fire, we decided it was time to call it a night. I piled enough wood on the fire to hopefully last til the morning, and we crawled into our tent.
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Once in the tent, Jesse goes from nearly asleep, to a wild man. The wrestling began, along with his monkey sounds, and anything else you can imagine a wild little boy doing. This goes on for about a half an hour before he finally tires himself out. Finally he starts to get real still and quiet, and before you know it he is asleep.
I get up one more time and check the fire. I stand there for a few minutes just to soak up the beauty of this peaceful night. Then I head back to the tent, kiss my little guy goodnight, and I drift off to sleep as the bullfrogs and crickets serenade me to sleep………………..

Beaver Creek Float Trip

By Dustin 2013.08.17 in Uncategorized

Well, today my son and i, with our trusty dog Bo, are setting off on a two day float down Beaver Creek. Not much to say right now. Mainly just trying to get started. More to come very soon!