We left mid-day, I felt it should have been earlier. The drive to Niobrara was long and tiring. But I was with Michael, so there was bound to be good conversation. We were limited in song selections, but we listened to the good stuff.
Making short stops, we drove through small towns. Towns not even considered small, or maybe even towns for that matter. I enjoyed one the most. I don't recall its name, but they had an OK Auto, OK Tire and just and OK. I don't know what that would have been, I assume something with fixing things up.
You know you're getting closer when the land starts to dip and rise to hills and pine trees grow from the ground. It reminds me of Colorado in a way. I love it there. We make a couple turns and arrive to a dirt road. A twenty minute ride through ranches and cow crossings and we come to our camp grounds.
The river was pretty. It raced slowly through rocks. The edge was untouched with flowers of all sorts. A small boy played by himself in the middle.
The tent situation was interesting. My last time roughing it in a tent was when I was a cub scout in second grade. With no instructions, we erected our tent. Michael did it mostly, I held poles for support. We can thank his several years in Boy Scouts for that.
That night I slept in my underwear. It was too hot for anything more. I also slept about two hours.
The next morning we were tubing down the river. We left around 9 a.m. All 16 of us piled into a bus covered in dust with coolers in the back. I slept most of the way. We reached our destination past Smith Falls. I wanted to see the big waterfall, but I was informed I couldn't.
The cooler I brought was giant. I named it Goliath. It was made of steel and instantly weighed the tube down, dragging it along the rocks. I applied my SPF and grabbed a Coors Light. I was tapping the Rockies.
Tubing was nice, minus the shallow parts where someone had to drag all 20 tubes into deeper water. We came to the first waterfall an hour or so after floating downstream. We think it may have come from South Dakota, but no one is sure. The water is ice cold. So cold any buzz I may have had was gone. People who tube yearly called this the jacuzzi. There I dipped my head to toe under the arctic water and we saw a prehistoric mosquito the size of a hand.
Awhile later we came to another waterfall. But first we needed to go over 'dangerous rapids' which involved us hauling the tubes down rocks and through stagnate, dead water. This waterfall was like steps. Giant steps we climbed up. It seemed like we were the first ones to ever step foot in it. I loved that.
After more river we made it back to our camp. We had a good dinner, thanks to Michael. I craved ice cream, but then again, I always crave ice cream. The older kids (us) stayed up all night, the young ones couldn't keep their eyes open.
My pyro side surfaced. I found a bottle of lighter fluid and started squirting it in the fire. I was sad to see it didn't last very long. I threw a bag of Fritos in. Happy to see a 99-cent bag can burn brightly as long as 20 minutes. From Frito bags to sour cream dip containers, beer bottles to whatever I could find that wasn't being used.
The best part of the night was discovering citronella candles are flammable and burn until the wax is gone. We had our camp fire and three citronella burning. We called it our sacrificial fire to spirits. After naming it that, a locust flew down from the trees and sacrificed itself in a candle. It made a loud pop. Best part of the night. We were all 12-year-old again.
We left early the next morning. I made the decision to never sleep in a tent again. If I would have to, to at least have an air mattress. The ride home seemed faster. Passing through the small towns again, I waved to OK Auto. I don't mind driving, as long as I have good music. It's my 'me' time, my time to think. You can only imagine how happy I was to sleep in my bed that night. It was heaven.
To see more photos from the trip.