The day after we made up our fireworks Fourth of July celebration at the ranch, July 8, we all loaded up and took the middle schoolers to the Niobrara River for a tubing trip.
I said "all of us" meaning all of us Six Packers. Noah and Evie were technically middle schoolers so they were legit. Since I came along as a leader, we brought Samuel and Ezra, figuring they were old enough to not drown if they were wearing a life vest.
Our prayer circle just before leaving.
This was my second time going along and all of kids' first time. It was fun for Steven and Prae to come along as well, since it was on the last trip in 2015 that they became interested in each other, like Terry memorialized in the song he sang to them at their wedding. "Shut up and tube with me..." 💚
See, little Samuel came along! It was so cute and sweet having the littles along.
Evie was in my van too. Ezra was in Terry's and of course he didn't take any pictures. 😏
When Samuel got bored I entertained him with Snapchat filters.
Four hours later we arrived at Sonny Brook Camp.
The girls (and guys) got their tents all set up. Samuel and Ezra slept in Terry's mini cabin and I slept in a cabin room by myself. For a light sleeper like me, it was heavenly. Plus, I can play the "old" card now.
We grilled dinner.
And made jokes.
Yeah we feasted. The day before I had helped Terry buy all the food at Sam's Club. We actually bought too much.
Afterwards the guys played football and the rest of us just hung out visiting.
Evie found a crew to chill with.
Noah befriended Charlie, who actually ended up with our smallest puppy, Babs who they renamed Ruby.
Ezra prepared the fire pit.
What a blaze he got going. Not really. That was the firefighter Steven's work.
I had someone to keep me warm.
Devotional later in the cabin.
It was after 10pm but Ezra wasn't disruptive or sleeping. He was just lying there casually waiting for us to be done. I thought it was rather cute.
Bright and early next morning we drove nearly an hour up river.
The picture I took of the group isn't great, but it's better than the one our Sonny Brook guy took with me in it.
See. But I'm there on the left.
Next we walked up to Smith Falls, as is tradition. It wasn't actually hot enough to need cooling off in the frigid waterfall, but we went under it anyway.
Samuel, Ezra, and Evie on that rock.
I tried putting all the videos of our family into one but it just wouldn't work. Here's the view of the falls when we first got there.
Terry holding himself under the cold water. It was like a right of passage, a way for the guys to prove their grit.
Thankfully Mike held onto Ezra so he didn't slip off that rock.
A quick video of the group standing under the falls.
On the walk back down to the shoving off point, someone had dropped one of our river toys. Terry and Steven ran off in hot pursuit. Terry waded out to grab it in time but was very nearly swept away. That river was very high and fast. Not dangerously so, but usually this river is pretty slow. But with all the rain we'd had every creek, stream, river, and lake was a lot higher than normal. It usually took us six to eight hours to float back to the camp. This day it was just four and a half. And quite a lot of that was lunch, and waiting for people to swim/walk back who'd missed our stop.
Just getting it. It was hard to stay together since the river was going so fast.
Samuel, Ezra, and Terry. The littles eventually jumped around from tube to tube.
Noah floating past.
Fast forward an hour or so and we came to our 2015 lunch beach where we rode those freedom tubes...except the beach was under water. We managed to pull our tubes onto the now steeper bank and troop back to the waterfall we liked to visit. That's Terry going under. The water really pounds you and all the guys wanted to see how tough it was.
The crowd of onlookers.
Even Samuel went under the waterfall, with Terry's help.
From there we continued floating since it wasn't lunch time yet. Samuel had joined this amoeba, as Terry liked to call them.
Here's Evie's group.
We finally found a beach that wasn't underwater and stopped for lunch. However, one conjoined group of girls missed the stop and were swept passed us. The rest of us had to wait while the guys ran after them to pull them out and then they walked back upriver to us. Then we found another waterfall, this one sort of a stair step.
It wasn't long at all after that before we were done.
Me and Ezra.
Terry and Samuel.
Once pulling all our tubes ashore at the camp, most of us showered and then we all packed up so we could go have dinner in Valentine. That was over an hour drive to Valentine, but we were rewarded with Runza. Runza was our favorite Nebraska chain when we lived in Gburg.
I have lots of happy memories of Runza dates!
These two had never had Runza...well, maybe Samuel as a baby.
Tired out little Ez.
Evie with Mike and Halie.
Noah was zonked.
Becky and Cade.
Savanah, Sarah, Prae, and Steven.
I forgot about these funny photos the ladies sent out in the group chat.
It rained all around us on our drive home. So much in fact that the rain and hail washed out a section of highway and we had to backtrack.
I was happy to go by this way again though.
The Wall dinosaur at sunset was fun.
Beautiful. It was a great trip. Exhausting and fast, but good.