Trip report for 2019 Fall Ozark rendezvous

Well, let’s try this new format…
I’m hoping this personal trip report will convey a bit of what it is like to participate in one of these Pnet gatherings and share a bit of the “flavor” of this river, these paddlers, and this season in the Ozarks. It will be long post by our recent standards, though many of us used to do longer in the past.

So my departure was delayed a bit on the start of this year’s trip due to a veterinary appointment I’d overlooked but we were loaded, breakfasted, and rolling by mid-morning on Wednesday Oct. 15th. Linty and I made the drive from Wisconsin to Missouri and it was uneventful though it rained off and on most of the way. This was actually a rather hopeful thing since, though the rivers have been high up here for a long time this fall, I had gotten reports that the Ozarks have experienced dry conditions lately. Upon arrival at the Pulltite campground (our customary base camp for these gatherings since the very early years) night had fallen and it was misting slightly. I felt some relief that there was no rain shower while setting up camp. It’s always nice to at least get set up in the dry. Pete’s camp (identifiable by the red Mad River ME) was set up, as was Pam’s (of Rob and Pam – identifiable by the sand Mad River Guide)), and Tom and Laurel’s pick-up camper was detached and hooked up to water and their solar chargers were deployed. But there was no sign of activity, no camp fire, not even tent lights, anywhere. After the mind-numbingly flat drive through Illinois, we took that as grounds for turning in also. Last thing I recall was a coyote chorus in the distant hills as I drifted off. Good to be in the Ozarks again…

As anyone who has read Bullfinch’s mythology could predict, the dawn arrived rosy-fingered. The view of sunrise is, however, a bit obscured at the Pulltite campground which is located in a heavily forested valley on the banks of the Current River. The night was cool, just short of frosty, so there was a heavy morning mist on the river. In previous years I had discovered that in the early morning it is often likely that river otters can be seen directly across from the campground, but if they were there on that Thursday morning the mist hid them. It’s still worth visiting the river bank at that hour to see the sun turning the mist to pastel shades and the forested limestone bluffs were showing their colors, which were just beginning to turn. It was still and quiet and I don’t recall seeing a cloud in the sky. Only a pileated woodpecker was stirring on the river. Soon enough, though, I encountered Pete stirring and, God bless him, he had a cup of hot coffee to see me through until my own coffee water boiled. Other than our group there was only one other party in that part of the campground, a group of four kayakers from Oklahoma who were doing the Current as a change of scenery from their usual annual river camping trips on the lower Buffalo River in Arkansas. There wasn’t any crowding worth mentioning on the river for the entire trip, either.

Pam was up shortly thereafter with the unhappy news that Vic was bowing out this time and that theBob and Joanne wouldn’t be joining us due to some problems Bob was having with his legs following a recent medical procedure. And that Rob had to miss a couple of days due to work conflicts. Pam is not only the bearer of sad tidings, though. She also had the welcome news that Margret (WildernessWeb’s wife) was staying with Dan and Carol, who live near the sort-of nearby town of Eminence, and would be coming for the day’s paddle. As I recall it was about then that Brian (brother to Duggae – remember him?) arrived (with his beautiful red Bell Wildfire – I mention this only because I know youse guys are really into boats and this is important) and set about the business of pitching camp.

It was at about this point that it was decided that since we were at the Pulltite campground, we would begin paddling from the Pulltite campground. We’re deep thinkers, you know. Besides, it’s always nice to keep the shuttle logistics as simple as possible. The next takeout downstream from Pulltite is Round Spring so, after Dan and Margret arrived and all the boats were hauled down to the river’s edge, with our destination decided, we dropped my car and trailer, as well as vehicles to haul Tom & Laurel’s kayaks and Dan and Margret’s boats at Round Spring. I think it was Pam who drove the folks whose vehicles were left at the takeout back to Pulltite on this occasion. Henceforth I’ll spare you the shuttle details, but there might be some here who are newbys to river paddling and might be unfamiliar with the usual shuttle procedures. Anyhow, we were on the river and paddling by mid-morning and we had only about nine miles to do, so there was no rush at all. This is decidedly not a racing event or one that requires any special skills, though there are some of us who can paddle fast and have some special skills. We usually make two or three stops along the way and many of us drift a lot of the time. It’s all about enjoying the river and the companionship of fellow paddlers.

As I write this I am reminded of those first few trips we took all those years ago on the Current when we inevitably would turn to the theBob with our questions about distances on the river. No matter what section we were on, when asked how far it was to a takeout he’d reply “bout nine miihl”. Eventually someone would ask about how such a thing could be - a river that was always nine miles from a takeout. He’d then tell us that’s just how they designed the Current.

For anyone reading this that visits the Current for the first time, and is departing from the Pulltite landing, it should be mentioned that there is, perhaps a half-mile downstream from the landing, a delightful spring (Pulltite Spring) that comes in from river right. It usually has a flow like a decent sized creek and is all but smothered in water cress. If you land where this spring enters the river, you will find a trail winding inland along the base of some tall limestone cliffs. In spring the cliffs are covered in Sweet William, columbine, ferns, all manner of wildflowers, and with luck both red and white dogwood flowering. In fall the trail is carpeted with leaves and the surrounding hills glow in the sun. The walk along this trail is always cool and moist and bathed in the music of running water. It is perhaps a quarter mile long and leads to a sort of box canyon with a deep blue-green pool at the base of a tall varnish-stained cliff where the spring bubbles up. A short distance from the pool is an old hunting lodge made of logs stood on end, stockade style. It is a place that anyone who passes that way shouldn’t miss. It is the sort of place that makes you want to live because if you die, after having spent some time in such a spot, heaven might be disappointing.

Just downstream from that on river right is Fire Hydrant spring which in wet years shoots water out of a cliff into the river like a fire hydrant. Over the years Fire Hydrant Spring has been gradually losing water to another downstream spring which percolates much less dramatically up through a gravel bar.

These springs, all within a half hour’s paddling time from Pulltite landing are examples of the stuff of which the Current River is made. I could offer descriptions of the many other delightful springs on this river each with their own unique character, but that would truly be a loooong post. I’ll try to refrain from any more of that. Nevertheless Medlock, Welsh, Round Spring, Cave Spring, Big Spring (and it is BIG) should be mentioned. There are also a host of others, many nameless or seasonal. They all add up to a river that is normally gin clear and rapidly flowing through a pool and drop routine amid wooded hills and beautiful limestone cliffs. It makes for mesmerizing paddling. Through this clear water one can see perhaps ten or twelve feet down in the pools. It gives the impression of flying over car-sized boulders and a variety of fish will be seen. The drops are usually gravel, or sometimes cobble, and often lead one into narrow fast channels that accelerate a paddler past boulders and strainers – and can capture you in an inside shore eddy if you give the obstacles too wide a birth – “shaking hands with eddy” as Vic would say. It’s like white water with training wheels. Few paddlers have much trouble with it, though the Oklahoma group quit early after one of their party had recurrent problems – they were apparently used to wider waters. No fault in that, we’ve all taken a swim occasionally – though not this year.

So in the interest of brevity (if it’s not too late for that already), on Thursday we did Pulltite to Round Spring. On Friday we were mesmerized from Akers Ferry to Pulltite. Saturday was from Cedar Grove to Akers Ferry. On Sunday we did Pulltite to Round Spring again for those who missed it the first time. I’ve always enjoyed finishing a trip with this section since there is a gravel bar at Sinking Creek, just above Round Spring, that is perfectly suited for stretching out on the gravel with a PFD pillow, snoozing, and soaking in the sun. It is usually the last such opportunity I have before the cold of winter sets in up here. It’s a good spot to recall in February. Monday we drove home.

Each night we enjoyed clear starry cool nights around the campfire due in no small part to Tom’s (Tazz) enthusiasm for cutting and splitting fire wood. We enjoyed “high tea” thanks to the contributions of Pam and Laurel. Rob joined us on Saturday; Margret paddled with us on Thursday and joined us at the fire on Thurs. and Fri. nights. Dan, a soft-spoke local who is incredibly well-informed about the geology and history of the area, paddled with us on Thursday and Friday. I am in awe of his skills at navigating within strainers to recover cans and other trash. He outdid himself this year, as I can recall seeing none anywhere on the river this trip.

There are two other sections of the river that we didn’t do this year. We didn’t do the section from Baptist Camp to Cedar Grove because this most upstream section can be mighty bony in low water as we had this year. The section from Round Spring to Two Rivers, where the Current joins the Jack’s Fork, is a delightful stretch but a very long shuttle from Pulltite and is about a twenty mile paddle. That is a stretch that is better done by river camping, especially with the shortening hours of daylight. The same can be said for the Jack’s Fork from Buck Hollow to Bay Creek, also best done at higher water levels. We have only ventured below Two Rivers a few times, as that’s where the motor boat traffic picks up.

To those who attend the Ozark ‘Vous there are other attractions besides the paddling. Often, though not this year, our gatherings coincide with an event held at Ally Mill, near the town of Eminence, called the “Haunting of the Hills” which features blue grass jam sessions, “buck skinner’s” displays, and demonstrations of traditional Ozark history and arts. There also is another straight up arts and crafts fair held at the same time but on separate grounds.

But this year the hills were haunted by Terry (WildernessWebb). We’ve been doing this now since 2002, in the spring and fall, and I think it’s safe to say that none of this would have happened without Terry’s assistance. He, for instance, took the initiative for reserving the site at Round Spring for our first three gatherings. He first showed us the way to Rocky Falls. I don’t mean to downplay the importance of theBob and Kate’s contribution to getting this all started, or that of the many early Pnet folks, TexasLady, CM, Sloopsailor, DuluthMoose and PuffinGin, Barb, and others who attended and kept attending to make this the tradition it has come to be. Still and all, Terry really was instrumental.

There isn’t a stretch of the Current where I, where each of us, don’t have memories of Terry. There are perhaps dozens of spots on the Current where I can remember him eddied out on the backside of a bend shooting photos of folks as they dodged a rock or rootwad. He named spots along the way and I, at least, will always remember those spots by his names… Helicopter Pilot Bluff, Pyramid Rock… I can recall on one of our early trips when I was dawdling behind the pack thinking I was the last, only to be met by Terry drifting along, paddling sweep, with his feet propped up on the deck of a Liquid Logic kayak, smiling ear to ear, smoking a stogie, casting the base of the bluffs for smallies. His kindness, gentleness, humor, and love of paddling and wild places permeated the group and, I suspect, any group of which he was a part. There were several years of late when he had to bow out due to health issues, but he and Margret were always the picture of optimism, and I never had a doubt that he would be back next year when he beat the current hurdles as he had so often before. His gentle nature hid a resilience and indefatigably that was only apparent to those who had known him over a period of time. We are all blessed by having known him. The world is a better place for his having been in it, and that’s something we all will do well if we can emulate. There were, as best I can count, nineteen of our paddling group who made it to his visitation, some traveling a considerable distance. That, I think, says more than a little about the effect he has had on us. There were at least as many of his fellow nurses there, indicating that we weren’t the only ones who felt affection for him. It’s tempting to suggest we rename the ‘vous as a memorial to him, but perhaps that is unnecessary. None of us will ever forget his presence on that river. That is something for a future campfire discussion, perhaps.

I have recently read a book by Steven Pinker about the benefits of the “enlightenment” that we all now enjoy but which we tend to take for granted; the gifts of modernity in short. A phrase from that book, “the sin of ingratitude”, struck me and now comes to mind. As we, with our various reactions, come to grips with this new iteration of (or net or whatever) in addition to gratitude for our involvement with this sport of ours, and the waterways we have enjoyed, and the many fine people we have enjoyed them with, we really ought to remember another group of folks without whom none of this would have happened:

Thanks to Brian and the members of the group.


Wonderfully descriptive and beautifully poetic. Thank you.

Thanks Pat! Though I have had the privilege of doing several Rendezvous mostly on the Current, this brought back beautiful memories!
And I see Terry was there keeping everyone sunny side up!


What a wonderful treat to enjoy with my morning coffee. Thank you for writing such an eloquent, descriptive, humorous and touching piece on the event. I finished the read with a lump in my throat and damp eyes.

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Thank you for that write-up, Pat. And thanks to you and Linty for making the long drive down.

The Current River really is an Ozark treasure. Not only are the springs beautiful, but the provide enough crystal clear water to make most of the Current, and much of the Jacks Fork paddleable year round, even during the relatively dry months of summer and autumn. Although this season does usually correspond to the low water point in the yearly cycle, we actually had about 50-60 cfs above the seasonal average flow, and plenty to paddle below Cedargrove. Even with my radically-rockered ME, which draws pretty deep at midsection, I typically only lightly scratched bottom two or three times a day and then only briefly, except for the one occasion on which I completely misread the water.

We encountered no obstacles of significance from Cedargrove to Round Spring. There were the usual downed trees near the banks that required some maneuvering and boat control to avoid, but nothing requiring any portaging or dragging, or any great skill, for that matter. We also had excellent weather for the four days most of us paddled with no rain to speak of, and infrequent adverse winds. We had one or two cool nights and mornings, but overall very pleasant. The trees were just beginning to turn but the cool evening on Tuesday night seemed to accelerate that process significantly.

I suspect for those who knew Terry Webb paddling the Current will be a bittersweet experience hereafter. I knew him less well than many who have attended the Ozark Rendezvous, but I am certain that if Terry were still with us he would want to be out on the river as often as possible, and have as many of accompany him who could. I was happy that Margaret could join us and paddle with us the one day.

Our group was on the small side this autumn as it had been in the spring. We had a maximum of eight paddlers on the water per day. But having a smaller group did make for a bit more intimate experience and made for easier logistics. Still, it would be nice to once again see some of the familiar faces from past years, and perhaps a few new ones as well. Many thanks to Pat C., Linty, Tazz, and Laurel for traveling such a distance to help keep this event going.

Thanks for your comprehensive report and particularly for your elegant tribute to Terry. You certainly spoke for me when you wrote that and I suspect for many others as well.

Reading through your account of this year’s fall rendezvous brought back fond memories of the times that I did manage to attend. I have not yet given up on attending another, but the years are piling up. Perhaps I will see you next year. I hope so.


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Thanks for the kind words all. True to form, I’m now remembering the sun and warm gravel of Sinking Creek. Its snowing here - again. Bet I’m not the only one of us in that situation. Hopefully it’ll warm a bit again and melt off, but I doubt any of us will be taking 20 min. snoozes on the sunny banks of a river for a while. Peace on youse guys.

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Nicely written Pat. Someday I may join you all. Son lives in Bentonville, AR and we visit often.

Pat, your words brought me back to a place that I love and will always be in my heart. Thank you so much for posting this report. Nothing can be better than October in the Ozarks.
Wishing you the best,

I’m another no-show at the rendezvous but want to tell you. Pat, how much I appreciate your great report on the 2019 Fall Ozark Rendezvous,So many wonderful memories from the ones I did attend with Darryl. Some day, maybe next year, I’ll make it to another Ozark Rendezvous to paddle a little or just to hang out with other friends who are there. Tomorrow is the 9th anniversary of Darryl’s death and as I sorted through some pictures to share on my Facebook page, I found this one that someone (maybe it was you, PJC) took of Darryl and I and Margaret and Terry at Rocky Falls where Jill and David and bridal party had gone after their wedding in Emminence. Darryl and I just crashed this party. Glad we did. This photo evokes so many wonderful memories.!

Puffingin that is a wonderful picture. It is sad that none of us is eternal in body but we are in spirit. I remember the trip where David stood on a gravel bar holding s WIll you Marry Me poster as Jill paddled past.
I remember that Darryl made sure at my first Rendezvous that I did not get lost. Wishing you an easy day as possible tomorrow.

Good to hear from all of you, even if there is more than a bit of “bittersweet” involved.

Thanks for that photo, Ginny. It brings back so many memories - and not just of the Current, also of the Utah Green (You know what pisses ME off?), and those Namekagon River affairs where you and Darryl worked so hard, and the Wisconsin R. trips. So many memories… Wish we could have made contact this Sept. on the Bois Brule.

And you know,Barb - you were the very first Pnetter I encountered on that very first 'vous. Remember that? We were both driving around trying to find the right Round Spring group camp? We did a little upstream paddle to spend time while waiting to see if anyone else would show up at the site where we were? At the campfire this year we were wondering where you are and what you are up to these days. When we passed that island (you know the one) I told that story about that windy day the tree fell while Danny and I were waiting for you to reappear from “the path less traveled”. I still carry that Ozark swim team badge you made - I suppose I really ought to add a few beads to it.:wink:

And I remembered that spot where Pgeorge lost his hat when we passed it this year - just past Pyramid Rock.

And that spot where Kim & Jim set up for that boat over boat rescue just before the gravel bar…

We’ve had some times, no?

Hope we can all do it again (and again). And that Andy can join us. (We really need a first rate photographer…:slightly_smiling_face:)

Best to everyone.

Thanks, Pat, for your eloquent tale and refresher memories of Terry. Hoping to be able to make the trip south in the spring - the ol’ eyeballs are already doing better and the lifetime of THICK glasses is OVER.

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Congrats on losing the glasses! Looking forward to seeing everyone in spring on either the Northfork or Buffalo. Kinda’ wish I could visit you in Anchorage - looks like it might be warmer there that it is here just now. (28deg below ave.) Be well!

Thanks Pat. A wonderful narrative. Perhaps I can return for the gathering in the future. Lots of wonderful memories there.

What a wonderful trip report and follow-up replies. So many memories. I miss my Rendezvous family!

And your rendezvous family misses both of you! And others - boyscout even missed this time. (Though, as Pam noted, he often shows up at 3AM and nobody knows he’s there till sunrise :wink:)
Those memories are important. On our last day they’re all we’ve got. (So many memories and so little space to store them…)

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Keep the tradition going. I think we can make spring… Though we will be enroute to Death Valley we can bring a canoe ( Yellowstone Tandem that Pete rescued me from when I failed to hug my root wad!) and it will need a home because we won’t need it in the desert. Temporary home! We will pick it up on the way back.
God I miss Terry but I think if I go back to the Ozarks I will meet his spirit.