A Donner Party Canoeing Trip on the Shoal River

I've been wanting to paddle along the Shoal River for a while now and finally talked the Island King into making the trip with me.

We got our stuff together Saturday night and were supposed to leave around 9 on Sunday morning. Except, we're not morning people and when the alarm went off I turned it off instead of hitting snooze, rolled over and went back to sleep.

We woke up a little later, had some coffee and by the time we were ready to leave it was noon.

The route we were taking is 10 miles and the Island King declared we could do that in 2.5 hours. I told him the website I'd looked at said it takes 4 hours but he said that must be wrong.

I really didn't care how long it was going to take but I grabbed the Q-beam we use in our boat, just in case.

We dropped his truck off at the Bill Duggan Jr. Park on Hwy 85, which is where we planned to end up

And then we continued in my truck up to the Ray Lynn Barnes boat launch on Hwy 90 just east of Crestview.

As we were driving the Island King sighed and said “I hope this doesn't turn out to be a Donner Party mission.”

I'm not sure why he's always so convinced that my adventures are going to end up like the Donner party. Yes, we've been lost and stuck and have had to call for help but we've never suffered from hypothermia or had to eat anyone in our party so I'm not sure why he calls my missions Donner Party missions.

I will say that in this particular case we were leaving a bit later than we should have... just like the Donner Party, but by this time I was in Damn the Torpedoes mode and we were going.

We put the canoe in the water at 4:07 and since he'd declared the article about how long the trip would take wrong, the Island King felt like we'd have no problem getting to the pull out spot right before sunset.

Off we went and I can tell you this stretch of the river is gorgeous.

We paddled under the P&A railroad bridge

The I10 interstate bridge

And continued winding our way along the river.

We stopped a few times on some of the sandbars along the bank and at one point the Island King told me to pull up Google Maps on my phone see how much farther we needed to go.

“I'm thinking we're over 3/4 of the way there” he says.

I wish I had taken a picture of his face when he saw this.

Ummm actually we still have 3/4 of the way to go.

The sun was just hitting the tops of the trees and we weren't even close to our pull out spot.

We paddled a little faster and then ran into a huge log jam.

We made a left into a small slew and paddled around the backside of an island, hoping to find another way down river.

The little slew was jammed as well so we pulled the canoe across a sandbar, around the log jam and then back into the main part of the river.

As he was pulling the canoe, he kept muttering something about “Mrs. Donner said there would be no portaging.”

The article I read said there was no portaging but this is a river and rivers change daily – which he knows – so I'm not taking blame on that one.

Despite the fact that it was getting dark, we were still enjoying ourselves and watching the sunset along the river was really pretty.

But then we went from this

To this.

It's a shame we didn't do this on a full moon because paddling by moonlight would have been amazing.

Sadly, there was no moon and it was very dark.

You can call me Mrs. Donner all you want but at least I brought the big light – which is a good thing because we couldn't see our hands in front of our faces.

We'd been talking earlier about the Indians using this river so many years ago and after it got dark we decided they probably only got on the river at night during a full moon.

Finally, we came around a bend and could see the boat ramp in the distance.

Despite the fact that I was having a lot of fun I was really glad to see that ramp. My arms were aching, my butt was asleep and my feet were freezing.

We got to the ramp at 8:17 and the Island King said “well damn, I guess they were right about this taking 4 hours.”

I love it when he's wrong and I couldn't resist pointing out that we were not suffering from hypothermia and we didn't have to eat each other along the way.

We may have gotten back a lot bit later than expected but we made it.

I can't wait to do it again but this time I want to leave a little earlier and a full moon would be helpful.