Tom Butt
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  Taking Advantage of the August City Council Recess
September 4, 2016

The City Council takes an August recess, and it is a time that some of us try to get out of town and get recharged.

Our first trip was three days on the Tuolumne River in a unique program that combines music with rafting. Our resident musician was Laurie Lewis accompanied by Luke Forrest. Laurie and Luke played every night and sometimes at breakfast. We have never rafted the Tuolumne before, but I can highly recommend it. A beautiful river with Class IV and V rapids.  We were 18 plus Laurie and Luke, and seven river guides from Arta River Trips. There is a guide in each raft who works the oars while the passengers paddle, and there is a guide that navigates each of the gear rafts that carries the camping gear, kitchen gear, food and drinks. This was only our second multi-day whitewater adventure, the first being the Grand Canyon in 2007.

The Iron Door Saloon in Groveland

We spent the night before the river trip at the Groveland Hotel in Groveland, just outside Yosemite. We have driven past it many times but found it to be a really nice place. Its right across the street from the Iron Door Saloon that claims to be the oldest in California.

Sketch of Groveland Hotel by Tom Butt

Our launching point was at the end of a very steep and narrow (and scary) gravel road not far from the Highway 120 entrance to Yosemite. The first day was exciting but otherwise uneventful. We stopped early and camped across the river from where the Clavey River runs into the Tuolumne. We made a short side hike up the Clavey and went swimming in a pool carved into the rocks.

The rafts and guides

Popular swimming hole on the Clavey River (Isaac Ingram)

Underwater photo of Tom and Shirley Butt in the Clavey River by Laurie Lewis

Laurie Lewis and Luke Forrest

The second day began with the  most challenging rapids, Clavey Falls, just below our campsite and the only Class V rapids on the trip.

Plenty of whitewater (photo – laurie Lewis)

Photo: Laurie Lewis

Home away from home

We stopped to visit an abandoned gold mine where Laurie and Luke hauntingly played for us at the end of an underground tunnel.

The second night was on a sandbar that started out calmly but changed just after midnight. After dinner, Laurie and Luke entertained us, and we all went to bed. The guides cleaned up after dinner and sacked out on the beach under an enormous canyon live oak tree.

Our Tuolumne river guides. I don’t think anyone works harder than a river guide. They not only take you safely down the river with maximum thrills, but they have the rafts ready to go at the launching point, handle all the logistics, feed you, make camp and clean up, and transport all the equipment back to their base. The day they finish one trip, they have to prepare to do it again all over again the next day. I don’t know when they sleep.

At about 12:30 am, we heard screams from the guides as they heard a loud cracking sound and bolted out of bed just seconds before the massive oak tree fell right where they were sleeping. One limb deeply impaled the bedding where one guide had been sleeping. Another guide, Zoe, was either hit on the head by a limb or hit her head during her escape. The guides were concerned about a possible head injury, and after checking vitals, made a phone call on their satellite phone to their base. During the call, the battery ran down.

In the morning, the Tuolumne County Sheriff sent a helicopter to check on us because of the inconclusive phone call. Instead of landing, they dropped a crew member by cable. Click here for a Youtube video of that saga.

The massive canyon live oak fell from a rotted trunk

A 10-inch limb impaled the bedding where one of the guides was sleeping

Rescue helicopter checks us out

Zoe the guide made it the test of the way down the river and checked into the hospital when she got back to civilization. We heard she may have had a mild concussion, but was okay. Those river guides are tough.

On third day. We spotted a bald eagle (Laurie Lewis)

At the end of the trip, the rafts were hoisted by a crane truck about 80 feet to a bridge across Don Pedro Reservoir

After just a couple of days back in Richmond , we headed for a week in Arkansas to attend the Fayetteville Roots Festival, four days of non-stop music that goes from midday to after midnight at multiple venues. The festival traditionally starts Wednesday night with a feast and concerts at the Garner Farm then moves to the Fayetteville Square and nearby venues through Sunday night. The warm summer night of my youth  are always a treat when visiting Fayetteville.

We were on the plane from SFO with Peter Rowan and some of his band members.
Opening party the Garner Farm

There were some great acts, including Bay Area icon Peter Rowan and the Old Crow Medicine Show.
Shirley Butt, Myrna Martin, Anne Butt and Jack Butt at the Fayetteville Farmers Market

Fayetteville Farmers Market

After putting the Fayetteville Roots Festival to bed on Sunday night, we got up early Monday and headed for the Buffalo National River about 2 ½ hours east. I have been floating this river for over 60 years. We had to go further to the lower Buffalo to find floatable water, rented a canoe and put in at Dillards Ferry (Highway 14 bridge). It was a six-hour float and 9.5 miles to Rush Creek where we “took out.”  As always, the river was beautiful and the fishing remarkably good. We saw lots of great blue herons, little green herons and one bald eagle. I caught the biggest small mouth bass I have ever caught on the Buffalo, and released it. Amazingly, we were the only canoe on the river because it was the end of the season.
End of the float at Rush Creek

A really big smallmouth bass, about 18 inches – catch and release

We spent Monday night at Buffalo Point in a cabin built by the CCC in the1930s. Buffalo Point is a National Park concessioner that rents cabins in a former state  park that was absorbed by the National Park Service when the Buffalo became America’s first National River in 1972.

Buffalo Point
Historic CC cabin at Buffalo Point built by CCC in 1930s
Interior of historic CCC Cabin at Buffalo Point

Chillin’ in the Buffalo at Pruitt

On Tuesday, we made a slow trip back to Fayetteville, stopping at Pruitt Landing on the Buffalo to swim, visiting an old high school friend of Shirley’s  south of Harrison, AR, and finally back to our Fayetteville retreat, Deepwood.
On the deck at Deepwood

On Wednesday morning, we headed for the airport and back to California, where we caught up on harvesting tomatoes and lettuce from our garden.
Tomato harvest first day back

Now, back to work. Next City Council meeting September 13.