I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. Silence engulfed me. It was 8:00 a.m. and all of my children were off to school. The house was finally still.
This was the time of day when I usually fired up my laptop and started working. But not today. I opened my eyes and reached for my cell phone. “Ready?” I typed.
“I was born ready,” came the response from my friend Julie.
Five minutes later I was at her doorstep, giddy with excitement. While our kids were at school and most everybody else we knew was working, we were playing hooky.
A warm breeze wafted through the trees, foreshadowing a hot September afternoon. “Did you pack sunscreen?” Julie asked.
“Two bottles.” We would definitely need it that day. With the sun reflecting off the sparkling waters of Shoal Creek and onto our skin, we’d be red as heirloom tomatoes in under an hour without protection.
Our mission that day was to leave the fast-paced, obligation-filled world behind us, immersing ourselves in the serenity of nature.
Just two girls and a canoe.
And a cooler with beverages and snacks, and a waterproof bag for our keys and cell phones (yes, we brought those because what if the schools needed to reach us about our kids?).
Julie and I had planned this getaway for months. This was our chance to disconnect from our responsibilities and just go with the flow, literally. We had reserved a canoe at Wards Creekside Campground, just south of Joplin, and we were going to spend the next few hours floating our cares away.
Wards Creekside is comprised of 43 acres of raw southwest Missouri beauty, with pristine Shoal Creek meandering through it. Visitors can purchase a day pass for swimming and fishing, or they can rent a canoe and spend the day floating on the creek. There’s also a campground on the property that offers RV and primitive camping.
After checking in, Julie and I were driven from the rental area to the put-in point, where we began our trip. Julie got in the canoe like the old pro that she is (well, she’s not “old,” just much more experienced at canoeing than I am), but I wobbled a bit as I entered, losing my grip on the bag I was holding, sending it splashing into the water.
Julie quickly fished it out of the creek before it sank. “And so our adventure begins,” she laughed. I was thankful that my husband had given us the waterproof bag that he brings with him on his fishing trips, and all of our things remained nice and dry.
Once we got settled, we pushed off from the bank. The lush trees formed a canopy overhead, nestling us in their shade. Neither one of us spoke for several minutes; we were lost in our thoughts, hypnotized by the rhythmic sound of the paddles sploshing through the water and the occasional call of a songbird.
“…all the summer world was bright and fresh, and brimming with life. There was a song in every heart; and if the heart was young, the music issued at the lips.”― Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
Being infused with a dose of the great outdoors was as therapeutic as a day at the spa – maybe even more so. And the fact that we were playing hooky from our regular responsibilities intensified the experience.
“We’re like Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer, mischievously skipping school and whiling away the day on the water, seeking out adventure,” I mused.
“But way cooler because we’re girls,” Julie joked.
But her comment made me think (because that’s what you do when you’re floating down a river). How often do we, as working moms, give ourselves permission to have a “ditch day?”
Not often enough.
As Julie and I made our way back to the campground area, we occasionally paused to watch a turtle surface or a snake wiggle its way to shore. The wildlife seemed undisturbed by our presence, and since it was a school/work day, we only passed one other canoe the entire time – a fellow rebel.
“We should make this a yearly tradition, Tom,” said Julie.
“I agree, Huck.”
I could get used to this carefree, rebellious life.
“They said they would rather be outlaws a year in Sherwood Forest than President of the United States forever.” ― Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
Wards Creekside Campground is located at 6614 Old Highway 71 in Joplin. Click here to visit Wards Creekside on Facebook.
Christine is a Chicago native and has lived in Joplin for almost two decades. Growing up in the Windy City, she loved to explore the wide variety of museums, restaurants, sports venues, theaters and parks. When she moved to Joplin her goal was to learn about the unique culture and attractions in the area. Now Christine discovers new things each week, whether it be a little-known park, a new restaurant or a community event. Joplin can be just as exciting as a major city if you dive in to all the community has to offer.