It's been hard to do any serious planning for this trip without knowing where we're going to be, especially because the new destination is so completely different from the old one. We are changing from swamp to river, we're going northwest instead of southeast, and instead of moderate November temperatures it's pretty much guaranteed to be freezing cold. But Ozark rivers are like so many rivers we've done before (the Stones, Duck, Piney, Green, Buffalo, Sequatchie, Yellow Creek are all similar) that we should be able to do it with our eyes closed. For a Club like ours, this is not rocket surgery. Still, we should cover a few things.
If you bought a plane ticket to Jacksonville, save it. We will try again in the spring. March and early April are the best times to go just FYI.
Departure: We had planned to leave for the Okefenokee after work on Thursday the 11th because the park and the alligators demand that you put in before 10:00 am. Lest darkness should fall before you reach your platform. Now, according to MapQuest, it is 5 hours and 27 minutes from Brown's Diner to our new put-in in Missouri and we have no real deadlines. So, since we were all planning to miss work Friday anyway, it seems the thing to do is leave Friday morning and still spend two nights on the river. We'll decide on an exact time later but count on leaving early Friday.
Camping options: The land along the Eleven Point is all public. In addition to Wild & Scenic River status, it is within the boundaries of the Irish Wilderness Area which itself is in the Mark Twain National Forest. Not only does that make the gravel bars fully legal (not that we have ever really cared), but the Missouri D.N.R. has built what they call "Float Camps" at various points along the river. Like this one called "Barn Hollow":
The existence of the Float Camps creates a dilemma for us. Our first choice is and always will be to camp on gravel bars, preferably next to a riffle or rapids. But having not been on this river in, oh, about 25 years, we don't really know where they are. We know exactly where the Float Camps are from the maps and they would give us complete certainty in planning, but they are a little less desirable because they can be grassy places with muddy banks. And there is also the problem of working out the right mileage between them. We know we want to put in at Greer Spring to get the best water level and we do know there is a Float Camp ten miles downstream which would work well because Greer Spring has a developed campsite at the put-in.
So this is our choice: (a) take the cautious approach - with the first night at a drive-in campground and the second night at a DNR Float Camp or (b) roll the dice and spend both nights somewhere downstream on two gravel bars we hope we will find. It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside a conundrum. The last time we did a trip without knowing where we were going to stop was on the Green River and we were sweating bullets until we found (what turned out to be) the last gravel bar before the take out.
But it was a good one.
Young, one moves in upon the country and thinks himself a tile in its tessellated ecology, and believes that he always would have been such a tile, and hoots with the owl, and scorns even tents.
Older, one knows himself an excrescence upon the landscape and no kinsman to any wild thing; one hears the bass drumbeat and the gabble of the rapids below and the roar of the rain and feels abrupt depression and wonders why he barged out alone into the wetness and the winter. And thinks that perhaps, in the old time, he would have been one of the cautious who stayed in the jammed East.
I lay awake for a long time with a kind of three-o'clock-in-the-morning apprehension on me. The pup shivered against my side. The river boomed and burbled against its rocks. The night was black but starry. The wind kept on in the darkness, unnaturally; later I woke once or twice as it popped the tent flaps. Big wind depresses when it continues without the normal wanings of evening and night and dawn, whether it's called sirocco or khamsin or whatever. I lay feeling soft muscles ache and wondered if they would tauten to the work or whether I'd finally arrived at that point where the body won't snap back into tone with a few days' misuse, and wondered too what weather the wind might portend, and what idiocy had brought me out there to lie on the graveled ground, in November. . . .
Goodbye to a River, p. 67