On the last Saturday in September, we celebrated summer's last hurrah with a tubing trip down the Shenandoah River. I'd been trying to make this excursion happen all summer, but with vacations and crappy weekend weather forecasts, we didn't pull it off until summer's eleventh hour. Actually, it was the third day of fall. But no matter, the weather was perfect and getting out on the river was a great way to extend summer.
Our friend Bryan is always game for an adventure, and when all of our other friends already had plans for the weekend, the three of us decided we weren't going to miss out on the perfect weather forecast or the chance to squeeze in one last summer activity. We booked a three mile float with Front Royal Canoe, donned our river shoes and swimsuits, packed a couple of coolers of sustenance (ok, it was beer), lathered up with sunscreen, and were driven in an old school bus to the launch point. Our coolers were even fitted out with their own tubes. Redneck fun at its finest.
I figured the tube adventure was a good opportunity to practice taking photos with the GoPro I got in July. Over the summer I had tested out my new toy at the beach and in Iceland, with mixed results. One we got on the river, I strapped the camera to my arm, but it kept sliding, so I ended up strapping it to my knee. I find it really hard to set up a photo with the GoPro (or even tell which mode I'm in), so I just pushed the button randomly and literally shot from the hip. Er, knee. Once again, I got a lot of awkward pictures of my arms and legs and other random body parts...
Still, it was fun to shoot some pics on the river without worrying about how to keep a camera dry. Don't let these "action shots" fool you. It was slow going on the river. Really slow going. A couple times we asked each other "Are we even moving?" The trip was supposed to take 3-4 hours, but we had almost 6 hours before we had to get the tubes back to the outfitter. Plenty of time! We had all day to mosey down the river. (Foreshadowing!) We didn't bring our phones with us and had no idea what time it was (and no way to contact anyone!) It was SO liberating. All we had to do was float.
This was definitely the most relaxing thing I did all summer. The sun was shining, the water was clear and refreshing, and the views were gorgeous. I literally had nothing to do but sit in a giant inflatable donut and drink beer. I didn't even have to leave the tube to pee! I think this is the only scenario I've ever experienced where peeing was easier for girls than guys!
(I'm peeing right now.)
We quickly learned that it was best to tie all our tubes together so we could talk without drifting apart (and so we all had easy access to the beer cooler.) This also worked well when we hit slow spots and the boys got out of the tubes to
We eventually stopped for lunch and while we were eating Larry pointed to a black shape down the river. "Is that a cow in the river?" he asked. We scoffed at him, and then the black shaped moved its head! It was a cow in the river!
Another awkward GoPro photo. With cows in the background.
By the time we got back in our tubes, the cow had moved to shore, but we found a whole herd watching us wearily from the river bank. We slowly floated past the herd (and some idiot girls who nearly rammed the wading cows with their canoe while trying to take selfies with them. PSA: Cows don't like selfies!)
Our little flotilla slowly floated on. It seemed to be taking a very long time to travel three miles, but luckily we were well-stocked with refreshments.
And then we realized the sun was starting to set and river came to a virtual halt. What the heck time was it anyway? We had to have the tubes back by 6:30, but it couldn't possibly have taken us longer than the 4 hours maximum time it was supposed to take to float the river, could it? We started getting worried. The river wasn't moving at all and the boys got out of the tubes to tow us. The whole trip the river had been perfectly clear and about two feet deep, but suddenly the river was five or six feet deep and full of muck. When Bryan mentioned that he had sunk knee-deep in slime, I made the decision to stay in my tube. The guys spent the last 20 minutes of the trip swimming through literal sludge to get us back in time. Thanks, guys!
It was 6:15 when we returned our tubes. Somehow it had taken us five and a half hours to float three miles!
But still, I can't wait to do it again! It was great forced relaxation after a summer spent stressing and introverting. (Time in nature makes everything better.) Why didn't we do this every weekend over the summer? Next time, I'll try to round up a bigger crew (who's in?), but that probably won't happen until next year. That Saturday ended up being the last day of summer weather in Virginia. By Sunday it had dropped ten degrees and by Monday I was wearing a sweatshirt. It's been raining ever since.
And with that, summer 2016 comes to a close. I'm hoping there's still a chance to get back on the river this fall - maybe in a kayak...