What a beautiful sunset eh? This was Tuesday August 11th over the Niobrara River just east of Valentine, NE. Terry and I, along with a five other adult leaders took about 30 middle and high school students on a tubing trip nearly four hours from home.
It was more impressive in person.
Terry was introduced to this trip as a youth pastor in Gburg, NE, where he went two or three times. When we moved up here in 2012, he took a group then too. But every time he went, I had a baby to take care of and couldn't go...
|Jazmin and Prae wanted a sunset shot as well.|
...But not this time! I got to go too! My folks watched the kids the first night and then Terry's had them overnight the following evening since we got back home near midnight. I got a sunset photo too!
It was a lovely evening, but even better than the sunset was the Perseid Meteor Shower we all were able to watch that night. I had never seen the Milky Way so clear before. Well, plus the shooting stars of course!
After dinner we let groups of students come in the girls cabin to make their lunches for the next day. Following that was a bible study by Terry.
I had braided my dirty hair the day before and everyone else must have thought that was a good idea for the river too.
Right before we loaded onto our tubes, we hiked up the river a short way to Smith Falls.
The water was ice cold and all the boys splashing didn't help keep a girl warm. What a huge group though! Terry had never taken so many before. Usually it's been like 15-20 kids.
Here we are just getting started. We had to float our lunches and drinks with us, and since we had to float all together, everyone had to wait for the lunch rafts to get ready. As you can see, the tubes were not the ordinary black inner tubes. These are the kinds that are pulled behind boats. Very sturdy. All the students under 12 were required to be wearing life jackets while the rest of us had to have one with us on our tube.
Jessica and I in the beginning. We don't even look wet yet. I put on sunblock like six or seven times and didn't get burned even a little!
After a hour or so, Dylan randomly reached down into the shallow river bottom and picked up this bone! Bailey held onto it the whole time for him.
I started in the back of the pack but wanted to hang out with Terry and so began working my way forward to where he was. We all had to name our tubes the night before (mine was Eowyn) and Terry's was "You Shall Not Pass," because no one was supposed to pass him on the river. And well, because Gandalf is awesome (and so is Eowyn).
I caught up to Terry after an hour or so and took some photos for him (we have a waterproof camera). This was my favorite part of the trip. There was more to see along to the river in the beginning than after lunch. Terry and the kids in the front were throwing some floating toys back and forth to each other which was fun to watch. Also, I got to float on Terry's "freedom tube" (a souvenir from his mission trip that the lifeguards wouldn't let them use in the Pacific Ocean). The sun was beating down on us and it was very hot so it was wonderful to float in the water instead of on top of it. Plus, the water was super warm! Nearly like a bath.
The placed where we beached our tubes and ate lunch had a spring of water coming down into the river but also a shelf of rock formed from the quickly flowing river and spring. The water was strong enough here that it pushed you along. We all played here for a long time.
Bailey and I tried the freedom tubes on that portion.
Terry and Steven shared a tube down the swift part.
After we ate we walked up the spring's path to where a small waterfall was coming down. We all took turns getting pounded by it.
Again the boys were splashing everyone. Why do they do that?
Here we are getting situated to finish floating after lunch.
Steven, Jazmin and Prae on the freedom tubes.
After lunch there were a lot of rock shelves in the middle of the river and the water would only be a couple inches thick on top but then would drop off to deeper than I could touch. At one point I was so close to a shelf that I just jumped off my tube and walked along the shelf next to my group while they continued floating. I did a cartwheel. :)
An hour or two after lunch the river parted and we took the right fork over the "rapids" and to the deep pool beyond them. Terry had good memories of the place because you could swim without worrying about rocks (I had hit my knee earlier in the day, and probably everyone had because the river wasn't all that deep). So here are the rapids. It's just a bit of rock that drops off like a shelf and the water has dug out the area.
Sort of a make-shift driving board...
The water on the sides of this pool were rather stagnant and stinky so I didn't really wanna swim very much. I wonder if the river was a little low or something because Terry remembered this place a lot cleaner. I watched.
At several places along the rock the water had scooped holes out big enough for people to sit in. Don't worry, they had a bottom to them and you couldn't get sucked under. It was neat.
The rapids were pretty.
Most of the boys were having a mud fight, i.e. Dylan. Ew. I was ready to leave that place. Plus, we spent like an hour there and it was already like 3pm. We were supposed to be done by 330 or 4 but obviously that wasn't going to happen.
When we left the swimming hole, the water was so still that we (I!) had to pull our tubes back to the main river. And by then all the pretty scenery was done and the river was slower and cloudier. I think maybe the sun heated up the sediment and that's part of the reason the river looked (and smelled) different in the afternoon than the morning. So by this point we were all very ready to be done. Finally, at like 5pm the camp where we stayed came in to view but we were floating so slowly it took another 20 minute to each reach it! I totally fell asleep on my tube but Debbie got off and just walked to the cabin - she got there a lot faster than the rest of us did.
So we finally arrived, showered, packed and left. It was about 645pm and we drove 45 minutes to Valentine to eat. We didn't leave until like 730pm and we still had 3 hours of driving ahead of us! We were a very tired group when we finally pulled into the church parking lot. But what a lot of fun we had!