Lost in the Ouachitas, a Rainy Recap
Lost in the Ouachitas aka “The Ozark Drifty” finished up this past weekend.
At 3.5 days it was our shortest trip to-date so we made up for it by cramming in as much lostness as possible. Mother Nature helped as well by dropping 14 hours of straight rain onto our Pioneers and conveniently dropping the temperatures by 20 degrees below average. Bless her heart.
Our pioneers wombled their way into Western Arkansas from all over the US. They were greeted with sunshine, good local beer and quite possibly the best damn fried catfish in the South. They also had a hot tub and some clean sheets for the night which was the last bit of comfort they’d have for 3 days.
These pioneers were quite the crew. For 7 of these hearty souls, it was their first Lost trip. The other 8 were weathered adventurers with 15 medals between them. We had a father+daughter pair (who showed up in custom Ozark Drifty shirts!), a married couple, more pairs of brothers than anybody can keep straight, and exactly two people named Ben.
Speaking of, one of our pioneers (who shall not be named) cracked his new car on a rock in the driveway of the kickoff cabin. We couldn’t have written a more suitable metaphor for the trip.
Traditional kickoff festivities followed. We rolled out the big ‘ol map which was the first time teams really knew where they were. We held a raft inflation competition which was about as exciting as watching three caterpillars race their way across a tarp. There was a campfire and a fierce foosball competition.
This is a packrafting trip after all; one expected to take 2.5 days. Teams were given a mostly useless pamphlet, some smoked brisket, a very poor demonstration on how to use their floaties, and then we told them to get lost.
The first team into the wild was Bubbaalice aka Team Schermer. They were out the door and hiked down into the bottoms before the birds started chirping. The rest weren’t far behind and to our surprise, everybody was out of the cabin and enroute to the river by 8:30am.
Optimism was high because the forecast (which previously called for a 100% chance of rain) now called for a 90% chance of rain. Each of the teams had a vague plan that went something like:
“Ok, we’re going to paddle to _____. Then we’ll fold up the rafts, and hike up into the forest for 5-10 miles. Then we’ll camp. Then we’ll hike back to the river and camp at _____.”
And then the rain started. By 11am the entire field was drenched and hiking/paddling through an unrelenting drizzle. It was the kind of rain that you produce when you use a watering can for your vegetable garden. Some hit the forest roads and trails because paddling in the rain was too demoralizing.
We’re pretty sure Ratty Mogues had his fishing pole in the water before the raft was inflated.
Wookie started off the river section by spinning himself downriver like a Mario kart after hitting a banana
10 minutes into the float, Señor Poppycock decided to dunk himself into the water.
Dan built a legitimate hand made paddle out of a bamboo stick
One Gordon turned down a ride in a hillbilly’s truck. The other one nearly lost a fishing pole to the rapids.
The Sonnemann’s found a riverside cave chock full of dry fire wood. Shortly after this, they hiked up a 1,000 ft incline and zig-zagged their way through the forest in the opposite direction of the finish line.
Teams saw vines that looked like snakes, a log that looked like an alligator, and a cow that looked like a cow.
Bubbaalice and team Leaping Turtles charged forth, making up the most river miles on the first day.
Ratty Mogues stepped in a big pile of cow dung
Miserable is one of the few descriptors we can type here without being censored. Every team settled in for a very wet and cold place to sleep. Some got fires going, some didn’t. The collective suck was as heavy as the cloud cover.
Our 5% for the planet from Lost in the Ouachitas is going into the coffers of Tomorrow’s Air and Friends of the Ouachita Trail.
People slithered out of their rain soaked tents like turtles coming out of their shells after rolling down a hill. The rain had thankfully stopped and the white noise of rain was replaced with the piercing calls of a rooster.
If they weren’t hiking in wet shoes, they were paddling their dinky rafts. Or vice versa. That was the point of the trip after all. The sunshine came out at some point; just long enough to provide the motivation needed to plod onward. Day 2 turned out to be a beautiful one, though a bit chilly.
One thing is for sure, they got their money’s worth in miles. The Sonnemann did at least. The total course, end-to-end was around 30 miles. Some teams did it in as few as 26.
Jason and Melissa (both of whom Pioneered the Drifty Everglades) managed to womble their way through 40 miles over just 2 days.
“The trail is at the top of this mountain.” – Jason
“D@mn” – Melissa
~ hikes up the mountain ~
“The trail isn’t at the top of this mountain, it’s the next one.” – Jason
“F$#&” – Melissa.
A lost adventure is decidedly not a race…. but Team Schermer accidentally paddled up to the finish line a day early. It nearly caught the Lost crew off guard but they were promptly served a ice cold beer as we informed them they finished the event.
Maybe it was accidental… maybe it was fate. Either way they secured a dry spot to camp for the last of their drifty nights.
By noon, all of the teams floundered their way to the finish line just in time for a mimosa served out of a solo cup. They stepped out of their rafts for the final time, stories were swapped and fives were highed. As they waited for the shuttle back to their cars, the grimaces were gone.