Once again, it was that time of year. My mom, dad, sister, and I gathered up our things and hit the long road to spend the week in Mammoth Springs, Arkansas, for our annual family reunion. It was a trip my sister and I never looked forward to. The sticky humidity and constant swiping one bug from the next out of your face are on the long list of things not our idea of paradise. Not only that, the commute took almost 8 hours. "Can't we do something fun this year?" I groaned in between pants while lugging our bags into the trunk. "What's fun in Arkansas?" my sister snapped. My dad, chimed in with his usual cheery behavior and said that he had already had something planned. Little did we know, his plan would be the furthest thing from fun.
After settling into the Riverview, the same dumpy motel we stayed at each year, we were eager to see what my dad had planned. Mammoth Springs was a small city with a population only a few hundred compared to our hometown that was a number clear into the hundred thousands. Hence to say, there was not much to do in this town. Not much meaning nothing at all. After being instructed to do so, the four of us pulled on our bathing suits and hopped into the car. After what felt like forever driving down the dirty dusty roads, from what I was almost certain would pop a tire, we finally pulled up to what looked like a small house. A large sign, "Many Islands Camp & Canoe Rental" hung above in large green and white letters with the paint chipping away. My sister and I exchanged unsettling glances. This was not at the top of our list for a fun go-to excursion, but we had both never been canoeing before, so we figured it would be a nice experience. We waited in line, got our canoe rentals, and we were ready to go.
Once we hit the water, we had to decide who would ride with whom. There were two canoes that held two people each. My dad and sister, being the stronger and outdoorsy two of the family, decided to split up between my mom and me. My mom and sister got in their canoe, my dad and I in ours, and we lugged our canoes into the water. My dad and I were off to a head start, so I turned around and jokingly waved goodbye to my mom and sister, but it turned out to not be so much of a joke as that was the last time we'd see them for the next six hours.
As we paddled along the spring, the views were incredible. It was the perfect day for a float. I almost started to forget we were even in Mammoth Springs. The sun was beating down, having just the perfect amount of breeze to mask the heat. We exchanged waves and air fist pumps with other people nearby tubing or canoeing, some even standing in the water to fish. We saw families of turtles, houses along the banks, cows, and other wildlife. The stream was so smooth-sailing, we even laid our paddles down a few times and laid back to relax, popping back up every so often to make sure we weren't about to collide into a tree or anybody else. The occasional flutter of a flock...