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Paddling The Cedar (4)

Nights are spent at riverside campgrounds offering modern restroom and shower facilities. Some choose to rough it by camping in tents and cooking over campfires or propane stoves, while others opt for the comparative opulence of campers or motor homes.

The Hugheses have tried all of them, finally settling on Jamboree Rallye accommodations. “We’ve really graduated,” says Laura.

The couple is pleased to note some changes on the river as well.

The practice of dumping abandoned cars and other large items seems to be waning. There’s now more riprap in place to limit erosion. Jim, a longtime member of the Floyd County Soil Conservation Board, finds such efforts to improve water quality encouraging.

The float is open to anyone, so the faces change from year to year. Yet there is a core of regulars, from all across the state and beyond, who anticipate their annual reunion as much as the annual paddle. “We don’t see these people except for at this thing,” says Laura.

As on previous excursions, camaraderie develops through shared relaxation and strengthens as participants collaborate to overcome the inevitable challenges.

Melissa Krishnan’s trip takes a discouraging turn when her trailer blows a tire and wheel. Her “pit crew” of friends, family, and an accommodating local welder has her rolling in less than 24 hours. She never misses a stroke on the river.

When Steve Honken of Mason City struggles to paddle alone against a fierce headwind, 70-year-old Neale Reetz of Colwell lashes their canoes together. The ponderous but stable makeshift catamaran delivers its occupants safely downriver.

Reetz becomes the friend in need a few days later after switching from canoe to kayak. Misjudging a large snag, he ends up entangling his craft in its branches and dumping himself in the cold river.

Zach Bathen, a bulky college football prospect from La Porte City, takes a frigid plunge of his own to dislodge the vessel.

(Read more about Paddling The Cedar)

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