Sans Le Nom
A Page without a Name
Vol. I, No. 1 Conway, Arkansas, Oct. 17, 2004 Next Edition: Nov. 28, 2004
The Buffalo National River Canoeing Guide by The Ozark Society is a 46-page booklet that highlights historical points along the river.
Buffalo National River East Half Arkansas, USA Topo Map by National Geographic Trails Illustrated is a very detailed map of the middle and lower stretches of the river that pinpoints sandbars, some rapids, river mileage, and historical areas.
Buffalo River Hiking Trails by Tim Ernst gives detailed information about trails around the river.
The North Face Cat Walk Sleeping Bag is shorter and wider in the hips than a man's bag. It has a pillow pocket which keeps your pillow from sliding out from under you. My PDF fits nicely in this pocket, performing double duty. The bag also has a small watch pocket, which I use for my Princeton Tec Eclipse LED Clip Light—perfect for shining on that armadillo nosing at the tent door. Both the bag and the light are available at Campmor.
The Slumberjack Deluxe Camper Sleeping Mat is a wedge-shaped mat: three inches at the head and 1.5 inches at the foot. It is very comfortable and warm. I found the best price at Sports Authority.
NRS Paddler's Gloves, made of
neoprene, come in extra small, give an excellent grip on the paddle, and
have a compression strap that keeps out the wind and water. They
kept me warm in the chilly morning.
Rescue." 16 October 2004.
A lazy trip down part of the middle stretch of the Buffalo River of Arkansas seemed like an easy and relaxing way to spend fall break. We, significant other and myself, decided to float from the Woolum Access about 10 miles west of St. Joe to the quaint hamlet of Gilbert, which sits right on the river. Just as we were ready to shove off, an outfitter's van arrived with a single canoe on top. I held my breath to see what couple of rednecks would be ruining my peaceful trip and was greatly relieved when two older women stepped out and made their way to the shore with paddles and life preservers.
The federal government bought all the land surrounding the Buffalo in the early 1960s when it was proclaimed a national river. Since that time, the forest has slowly but surely reclaimed the old homesteads, engulfing and quieting them into oblivion. Dotted through the wilderness are old schoolhouses, tumbledown barns, and cemeteries. It's strange to think that the area was once a place of bustling commerce. We stopped a little after Bend Ford to see if we could find Lawrence Cemetery. I wanted to see how long it had been since one of the living had paid a visit to one of the dead. Unfortunately, the jungle of willows and cane on the bank prevented us from finding what we were looking for, and I guess while were trying to discover a way into the field, the women we had left at Woolum must have passed us.
We found them four miles later, soaking wet, canoe submerged, gear floating downstream. They had become victims of the Hangover—one of two mapped rapids on this particular stretch. It's one of those where the current curves toward a bluff jutting straight out into the water and then rides parallel to the rock. If you over paddle it, if you don't maneuver with precise timing, you're going to pound the rock full force and take a bath. Not a good idea on a cold October day. We rescued some of their gear and paddled back upstream to help them get the water out of the boat. I felt so bad for them when one said, "We're kind of new at this." I knew they'd be spending a cold, miserable night in wet sleeping bags, shivering and cursing their luck. We left them on the nearest gravel bar with a fire stick and a lighter.
But our rescue missions weren't over. I had wanted to stop about four miles down at a possible sandbar across from Smart Bluff. But when we got to Baker Ford, about a mile from our destination, we could see something curled up in the sun on the riverside. When the something lifted its head, I could see it was a dog. As we floated past, No Name Dog splashed out into the water and swam after us. I hoped to outrun him, and we would have, but when I looked back, he had gotten himself smack dab in the middle of the river, far from shore, and seemed to be at the point of exhaustion. We turned around and caught up, leading him back to ground. The poor thing could barely drag himself onto the bank. Needless to say, we pitched camp at Baker Ford. The whole night and even in the morning, that dog would not leave the side of the river, no matter what I did. It was as if someone had abandoned him on the bank and taken off downstream, leaving No Name watching the water and waiting for his master's return. For dinner, we gave him half of our beef stroganoff, a banana, and a beef stick. That night, when a pack of coyotes started howling, I thought of that pitiable animal—cold, lonely, and frightened. I gave him a sandwich for breakfast the next morning. If I could have figured out a way to take him safely with us, I would have. But it didn't seem feasible with a full canoe. When we pushed off, he made a half-hearted attempt to follow us again. We yelled at him and slammed our paddles down on the water. This time, he stayed sheepishly on shore. When we got to Tyler Bend, we reported No Name to the rangers, who said they would radio someone to get him. I keep thinking of him, nameless in the wilderness, hoping that he finally found a warm place to sleep, some company, and plenty of food.
It wasn't very far from Tyler Bend to our destination. It seemed like it had just started, and I was loathe to leave the river. As we were reluctantly loading our things into the truck at Gilbert, the two women we had helped the previous day pulled in—safe and sound, albeit, keyless. Not to worry, plenty of locksmiths work the river and make a good living at it.
So what things are at the top of my pack list for next time? Dry bags, caution, and a little compassion.
Once archived, thumbnails will no longer link to the larger version of the picture.
Places to Stop
Coursey's on Hwy. 65, just south of the turn off to Gilbert. They sell their own smoked hams, bacon (the very best in the world), and summer sausages. They also can their own Arkansas goodies like hot chow-chow and muscadine jelly. Have them make you a sandwich for your lunch your first day on the water.
Serenity Farm Bakery on Hwy. 65 just south of Leslie. Look for the pretty yellow house across from the Great Wall of Kudzu. Buy a raspberry Danish and cup of gourmet coffee for breakfast and a focaccia for your second day's lunch!
"When a name comes, it immediately says more than the name." Derrida
All images and text copyright © 2004-2008 by Jennifer Deering. All rights reserved.