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The trip was from Boardman at Hwy 74 boat ramp down to the Lumber River State Park, a distance of about 8.5 miles. We met at the boat ramp with Mike, Mary Jo, and David traveling from the Raleigh area and off loaded the canoes and camping gear. The shuttle was made down to the park and to notify the park rangers that we would be leaving cars overnight so they would not send out a search party. This being a short trip as to break in the new camper without wearing him down. We put in around 0845 hoping to find a nice camping place, however with the water level at the gauging station at the put in reading 6 ft with 1200 cfs flow; we knew there would be no sandbars on this section. Our first stop was around 1015 at Upper Parkers Landing for a short stretch break. After leaving it was even a shorter paddle to Lower Parkers Landing on river left, and we decided to set up camp. This was 4.3 miles from the put in and we arrived around 1045. Lower Parkers landing is private, however the owner lets people use the landing. At one time this landing had a lot of trash but since has been cleaned up.
We began to set up camp with Mike setting up the tent for Mary Jo and David, and then we set out to gather firewood. Mike is a true traditionalist as he does his all of his cooking over a fire. This meant a lot of wood as he was preparing for the evening meal, Hurley’s World Famous Canoe Stew. This stew consists of dried black-eyed peas, cooked and soaked for an hour, potatoes, onions, carrots, bouillon cubes, sherry, and spices. Mike was worried that we would not like it so he said he brought some steaks. I thought he was joking and told him the stew would be fine. Around 1145 the fire was going and the peas were on, with David as the Chef’s helper cutting up the vegetables. I must stop here and say that the scene was out of Mike’s Paddle and Portage quarterly journal with the campfire going, a tripod with a chain and the pot of peas cooking in a blackened, well-seasoned pot. I have the same big pot purchased over 30 years ago but never used on a fire and it looks like it came out of the factory yesterday compared to Mike’s pot. Also out of the journal is Mike’s canoe-to tent, an open Baker style tent with his canoe resting on canoe legs upside down for a table. The canoe table is reminiscent of some other experienced paddlers I paddle with, however, they use logs to steady the canoe upside down for the table.
The rest of the day was quiet with some of us hiking around the white sand hills in the woods while Mike showed David how to paddle solo and then he paddle off up river with Mary Jo while he entrusted the stew to Sandy and I. Prior to supper, Sandy served hors d’oeuvres consisting of the old stand-by, Gouda cheese, crackers and pepperoni slices. I was ready to settle down with just the Canoe Stew when Mike got out his grill, put it over the fire, and brought out three steaks and two big salmon fillets, plus some mashed potatoes. What a feast, it would bring tears to this fat boys eyes. A light rain dropped and we got out the tarp to put over the fire. The night was spent telling stories and tall tales and sipping on hot cider and hot chocolate.
The next morning, a new day with light rain showers and then they stopped and the sun came out. Breakfast consisted for Sandy and I, sausage and a Western omelet. Over at Mike’s camp he was cooking up eggs, bacon and pancakes. David also wanted some biscuits for his bottomless stomach, so Mike got out the Dutch oven and made some home made biscuits. After breakfast cleanup and allowing the gear to dry out as much as possible, everyone packed up wishing we could spend more days on the river. We took our time dreading that this was the last day, and did not leave until 1100.
The day before, Mary Jo paddled solo and liked to look at both banks of the river. The day we left camp, Sunday, it was David’s turn to solo canoe. He started off zigzagging on the river and finally straightened out. David did a great job being only eleven, and paddling a 16 ft canoe solo in a strong wind. We reached our take out at the Lumber River State Park around 1245. After loading up the extra canoe on my truck and Mike loading his ever-faithful Jeep we headed back to the put in to take Mary Jo and David to pick up their car. We loaded up the canoe on Mary Jo’s car and bid farewell to her, David, and Mike hoping to see them on another adventure in the beauty of life.
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