Sunday, October 16, 2016

Yakin’ …

Yakin' down the White River outta Norfork, Arkansas last month; an annual trip that almost wasn't.  It was much needed R&R ... God is good!
     I didn’t think I’d be writin’ this-here entry, but I'd actually got the green-light pert-near last minute to go on my annual kayakin’ trip on the White River in northern Arkansas.  My partner in crime Ty Johnson and I were the token Texan’s (by locale, not by birth) who joined 20+ “Arkies” last month for a few days of fishin’, drinkin’ and much needed R&R at The Riverside Retreat just outside of Norfork, Arkansas.  This trip may be a last hurrah for some of us, and I was blessed to be able to attend.  A few of us are gettin’ a bit long in the tooth and some have acquired health issues; others of us have problems on the job or family responsibilities that have taken precedence on our yearly Hell raisin’.  But evidently, none of us could pass-up an excuse to get together & fish!  On top of that, our host for several years has put the place for sale, so who knows if we’ll be able to do this again next year.  It was do or die time; so this-here "standard redneck" chose to live it!  My job would just hafta wait ‘cause my ass was cashin’-in on some much needed PTO (Paid Time Off, not “pick the orifice” as some employers seem to do).

     I began this adventure at 8:45 P.M. on a mid-September Tuesday evenin’ for a 4hour drive to Plano to pick-up Ty.  Early Wednesday mornin’ … not tryin’ to beat the ambulance to the wreck, we cruised along at a good clip until we hit the Ozarks.  Trust me, when you see a sign that says, “Curve 15 MPH” you’d better not be doin’ any over … unless you want to literally make an impromptu trail down a friggin’ mountain!  During our journey we both discussed our work issues, but soon decided that the subject was a friggin’ mood killer ... other than the fact of bein' blessed that we were both currently employed.  We stopped here & there for gas & grub, and hit a few antique/junk shops to break-up the tedious drive … arrivin’ shortly before 6:00 P.M.  This year, I had made it a point to travel as light as possible … even though I’d brought all of the fixin’s for a 22-quart chicken, deer-sausage & egg gumbo.  Yeah, that’s right … I said eggs!  Don’t knock-it ‘til you try it; my cousin George Jones had taught me that lightly-forked hard-boiled eggs will soak-up all of the flavor of your gumbo.  On top-of that, I didn’t wanna test whether or not fresh Gulf seafood would keep safely on ice for a 12-hour+ friggin’ drive.  And NO, I don’t consider anything that comes from a friggin’ “Y’all-Mart” actual fresh seafood.  Period.  The only overkill were my coolers full of Lone Star Beer, which insured me that I wouldn’t be runnin’ out!  Them dang Arkies ain’t too keen on drinkin’ Lone Star.  Yeah, it’s a Texas thang, y’all; however, I’ve got ‘em likin’ the Robert Earl Keen and Pat Green music that I bring for the porch.  Oh, and a big thanks to Buzzard Mike’s son-in-law “Nick the Greek” for helpin’ out with the gumbo!  It’s a big task … so, thanks fer steppin’-up, Nick!  And, as usual … no one went hungry.

Rest & relaxation, with beautiful scenery around every bend. The ridge to the right is of particular interest to me ... read on for further details.
     The water was down this year, so I figured yakin’ would be less dangerous and I could actually concentrate on fishin’ and not dodgin’ rocks & trees.  Last year, that water was so friggin’ high that the 10-hour trip only took only 4½ hours!  Not much time to fish when you’re worried about tumpin’.  And yes, y’all … “tump” is a word here in the South.  Our host had told me last year that if I’d have tumped, my yak & gear would most probably not be retrievable.  He’d also said to look-out for submerged trees while tryin’ to swim to a shoreline … ‘cause even wearin’ a PFD (personal floatation device) I’d likely get hung-up and drown.  Well, Ty had never kayaked before, so I’d convinced him that this was some genuine bucket-list sh¡t and he abso-friggin’-lutely had to try it!  Keith Mathis and I would be on him like ducks on a June bug in case he had any “uh-oh’s” along the way, and we made dang-sure he wore a PFD as well.  Now, did I mention that beer was involved?  Even though I’ve joked about not (yet) bein’ able to get a BWI (boating while intoxicated) citation in a kayak, Ty and I are the most probable culprits for that friggin’ scenario; thank God that Keith don’t drink!

Keith Mathis (left) with Ty Jonson on his very first kayak trip; he did good & had fun, so maybe now he'll catch the bug & get a yak of his own!

The bluff just past the mouth of Goose Creek, which splits at Gather Hollow and becomes
Twin Creek.  Just north of here was a Class 3a report taken by Tal Branco back in 2002 ...
     Well, if you’ve actually read this much of this entry, some of y’all are probably wonderin’, what in the Hell does this redneck road-trip have anything to do with sloughstalkin’ or “Bigfoot”?  Well, lemme tell y’all that this-here area is prime wood-ape territory.  There ain’t that much difference between this terrain and that of the Ouachita’s … which are only a mere 150 or so miles away (as the crow flies).  And if you happen to visit the North American Wood Ape Conservancy’s Website, they have this great feature called “report explorer” which is an interactive map of actual reports taken by actual NAWAC investigators.  And if y’all click HERE you can read about a Class 3a encounter that happened in the fall of 1988 … less than 3 miles from our lodge!  So, last year when I told them Arkies about my personal experiences while in the Ouachita Mountains … only a couple of ‘em joked about it.  This year, I’d decided to do a nighttime hike through the woods … up and into a rock quarry that is off a rocky road close to the lodge owner’s property.  My main objective was to get remote and try to illicit a response to wood-knocks in that area.  So, here's how it went down ...

This rock quarry was about a fifteen-minute walk from the lodge; the elevation and seclusion captivated my curiosity enough to explore it ...
     A couple of them younger Arkies, Drew and Spencer nutted-up and joined me on my 11:00 P.M. hike.  Just hours prior, Drew and I had scouted the area shortly before dark, findin’ a trail on a ridge off to the right with a large dyin’ tree.  This looked like a good place to knock … and the sound would echo throughout the quarry and surroundin' woods.  I noted that not only would someone need 4wd to traverse the trail in, but also that the trail itself was overgrown and looked fairly unused for quite some time.  The full moon aided our navigation, and I remembered that both weeks I'd spent in the Ouachitas back in 2015 were full moons as well … with lots of activity.  I had a feelin’ that this full moon might be special, due to the rare lunar eclipse the night before.  The quarry was 300-400 yards long by a hundred yards or so wide.  I explained to them that once I knocked, it was imperative that no one talk or make any noise so we could listen closely for any possible response.  Well, we heard no responses or any other “monkey business”.  The woods were alive with the sounds of coons, frogs & other critters; but after I knocked … all of 'em shut-down for several minutes on both occasions.  After no responses, we traversed the steep, rocky and thickly-wooded terrain back to the lodge.  On the walk back, Spencer suddenly jumped when he heard what he thought was a low, loud growl!  Upon closer observation … it ended up bein’ the echo of distant thunder through the mountains to our west.  I kept waitin' for Buzzard Mike to jump out from the woods and try to scare someone, but evidently the talk of wood apes in the area kept him on the porch.  By the way, Buzzard Mike has had a huntin' lease in the Ouachitas for a few years.  In conversation, he'd claimed that he's both heard and seen some pretty strange things out there, but attributed them to people or pranksters.  After listenin' to my experiences, he'll now hafta think a bit more about these peculiar instances, and be a bit more observant while runnin' 'round out there in them woods!

Here are the remnants of my "basket of deplorables" on the mornin' of our departure.  What a great bunch of guys! Ty obviously wasn't sober
enough to put his shirt on correctly ... as Buzzard Mike (front right corner) duly noted!  I'd list everyone, but a few may still have warrants ...
chuckle-chuckle, comedy club! Seriously, these guys are a fun group to be around, and everyone had a blast. Hope to see ya'll again next year!

     I’ll try and pin Buzzard Mike down to post more details about what-all he's seen & heard on his lease at a later date.  Like I said, I didn’t even think I’d be able to write this entry or even go on this trip due to my work commitments.  And I just cain’t wait ‘til my next trip, which will be a chance to see my fellow NAWAC investigators and meet our new associate members in Oklahoma.  I’d be willin’ to bet that their experiences in the Ouachita’s this past summer will make my trip to the Ozarks seem pretty insignificant, but only where the wood ape experiences are concerned.  My time with them Arkies, however brief … was nothing short of awesome!  Many memories were shared, and as usual much fun was had.  Those boys will always remain in my thoughts and prayers, and hopefully, we shall all meet again next year; that is, if God’s willin’.  Take care and y’all come back now, ya hear?

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