Upper Iowa River Campout 2014

Back by popular demand, the troop took another trip up to northeastern Iowa for a bit of R&R on the Upper Iowa River.  Nestled among the corn fields and trout streams up near Decorah is a beautiful, spring-fed river that you would never believe is in Iowa.  The clear, cold water meanders through the landscape and has carved out some very unique and scenic rock formations and boasts some of the best fishing for trout and smallmouth bass in the state.  However, on this trip, neither species of fish would decide to take a look at MY line.

We arrived late Fri evening, around 10PM, at the Hutchinson Family Farms.  We were ushered to our campsite which was a nice sized chunk of real estate along the river in the corner of their property.  We did a quick survey of the area and determined the best spot for scouts to set up tents and where we would do our food preparation, and where to stick the snoring old guys at.  Once set, the troop went to work getting it all done.  The mosquitos were almost non-existent, but the gnats sure liked to hang out around our headlamps!  After a midnight lights-out, we drifted off to sleep.

Storm's Coming!

Storm’s Coming!

We awoke the next morning around 6AM as planned.  In fact, the boys beat many of us adults out of bed even!  After a bit of time and getting breakfast going, I got a text message from Mr. Hunzelman (back at home in Ankeny) telling me I needed to look at the radar and make a good judgement call before putting the boys out on the river for the day.  Although I had next to no signal, I decided to pull up my radar and saw what he was talking about.  It was a pretty nasty thunderstorm heading our way.  Now as scouts, we’re not worried about a little rain and some would even argue that doing activities in the rain builds a little character.  However, it wasn’t just rain that we would be contending with- it was the lightning that had me concerned.  BSA rules strictly state that if you hear thunder that you are required to be off the water for a half hour.  Every time you hear a new clap of electricity, you reset the half hour clock.  It’s for safety reasons and I get it- especially after Mr. Wright getting a little “tickle” from God while loading a canoe in the Boundary Waters last summer…

So, we hunkered down a bit, set up our troop rain fly (car port) and prepared for a potentially long, dreary day.  As luck would have it, they ended up getting the car port set up minutes before the rain hit.  Being the Scoutmaster and understanding that I need all the beauty sleep I could get my hands on, I opted to grab a bit more shut-eye.  Unfortunately my tent was located right next to the rain fly which meant I got to hear all the fun and excitement that was going on with the boys.  Hey- at least it was laughter and giggling instead of arguing and fighting so I had no reason to shut it down and they continued to raise a ruckus and have a blast.

At around noon, we realized the storm was going to subside and decided to cook our dinner for lunch and bring our lunch for dinner instead.  Creative, and worked quite well!  We ate lunch around 1PM as the storm was breaking and then got ready to hit the river.  Unfortunately we didn’t get all the boats launched until close to 3:30PM so we had to cut our intended starting point a little short and start closer to camp.  This meant we would not be going past the most scenic parts of the river.  Sad, but it gives us something to look forward to next time we go up, I guess!

Once on the river, the 24 kayaks and 5 canoes set a course for downstream.  It was neat seeing this many boats heading out together.  Unfortunately this would be the last time they would all be together.  With the current being so swift, boats traveling at different speeds, and the curves along the river there was no chance of keeping it tight and we soon were spread out over a mile along the river.  This made for a bit of a lower impact on others on the river which wasn’t so bad, but I sure do like keeping an eye on things!

We caught up with a group of “yakers” putzing around in the water and having fun.  When they left this spot, they decided to create a kayak conga line with their respective ropes on the bow and stern.  Goofballs!

Kayak Conga Line

The float was going good and the river levels were nice.  I drug bottom on the canoe a few times, but it was pretty reasonable.  I’ve seen it a lot lower, at least.  We stopped to play in the water at one of the rapids spots.  It was a blast.  The boys ended up doing a Conga Line down the rapids with their life jackets on.

Floating Conga Line

I even decided to give it a try and drug the young Mr. Davis along for the ride!

Rapids Run with Scoutmaster

They also tried to do some sort of sky diving circle formation thing but ended up just going down as a big blob!

Rapids Floating Circle

Mr. Eason, being the trooper that he is, flew solo in a 16′ canoe most of the day without any problems!

Mr. Eason Solo Canoe

As the day wore on, and the sunlight started to fade, we were blessed with some neat views of both our boys and also some osprey and bald eagles (although no birds were captured in pics to share).

Group Of Kayaks

Upper Iowa River Setting Sun

And one of my FAVORITE views for the day was Mr. Campbell doing a bit of “stand-up kayaking”.

Stand Up Kayaking 1

Unfortunately I was not fast enough to get him turning sideways, getting caught off balance and then running away from his capsized boat.  😛

Run Away from Kayak

We arrived back at camp around 8PM.  The boys were going to do a joint campfire with our “sister unit”, Venture Crew 73, but most of the boys were so tired that they barely made it past 9:15PM before hitting the sack.  A few of the boys were up for a while tending to the fire that was lit.  Younger Mr. Hunzelman cuddled with the troop’s mascot for the weekend, Rafael, a stray cat that wandered into the area the day or two before our arrival.

Sunday morning went smooth as silk.  The boys got up on time and started packing their gear and stowing their tents.  The adults violated protocol by putting out their food before they had their stuff taken care of.  We’ll blame in on having some “new scouters” in the group that didn’t know the unwritten rules of breaking camp on Sunday mornings.  😉  After a nice Scouts Own service put on by the young Mr. Davis, we hit the road in record time leaving the campground at 8:30AM.

Well, I can tell you this much.  This guy didn’t get enough river time so I’ve got reservations to head back up to Hutchinson Family Farms for this coming weekend (Labor Day) and plan to get two solid days of river fun under my belt with my wife and kids.  Looking forward to some chillaxing time with the family.

I introduced the troop to the Upper Iowa last August (2013).  I overheard a conversation among a few of the boys where one of them stated, “I think we should make this the annual Troop 73 August campout from now on.”  I sure like the sound of that!  

Scoutmaster Ryan Weaverling


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