Photo and Text
By BILL COOPER
Floating and camping on our Ozarks streams during the summer months is a shared affair. The three summer months are the peak of the floating season, and streams can become crowded, particularly on weekends.
For those who prefer a bit more solitude than can be had on a busy summer weekend on a favorite river, an attitude adjustment is in order. While I much prefer floating in fall and winter or early spring, I do not totally abandon the notion of floating and camping in the summer months. I simply adapt to the situation.
Most often, I put in at daylight during the summer hours, which puts me hours ahead of the late-comers and party people. This approach allows me some blissful solitude on the river before the hordes catch up with me. Too, it allows time for fishing before the aluminum regalia bangs its way into my world.
As the crowds catch up to me, I make a mental adjustment to appreciate the float and boat crowd. Most are decent people with a penchant for fun on the river. Although we most hear about the drunks and disorderlies, the majority of these party floaters are out to enjoy a day on the water with a bunch or their friends.
They are always willing to talk for a few minutes, and I am always interested in where they are from and what their day on the river entails. Such conversations never lack for entertainment value.
During my summertime float and camp trips, I tend to cook breakfast much later in the morning than at other times of the year, when I am most likely including squirrel, turkey or deer hunting in my schedule of activities. During summer floats, I tend to concentrate on fishing. And knowing that crowds will catch up by mid-morning, I spend my time fishing in earnest and save breakfast for a bit later. I do, however, brew a pot of Thomas Coffee to ward off the personal grumpies.
A late-morning breakfast has its own merits, for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, I’m usually famished by that time, and any concoction I toss in a skillet becomes a welcome meal.
On the other hand, I particularly enjoy whipping up a breakfast overloaded with savory smells of frying bacon, strong coffee, potatoes and onions and scrambled eggs dressed with thyme and freshly ground black pepper. Too, if I’m lucky, there will be a slight breeze blowing upstream, from whence the later floaters come.
I know it’s cruel, but I love to see the faces of those floaters as they come into visual range and realize that I am cooking a tantalizing breakfast while they are still trying to digest last night’s brew and suck morning suds. They truly suffer.
Omelets are a favorite for these late-morning breakfasts on the river. They are easy to prepare, and the list of acceptable ingredients to include is limited only by your imagination.
I do love the usual condiments of ham or sausage, onions, tomatoes, mushrooms and cheese. However, on the river, I like to give an omelet that outdoor special touch. Using watercress or wild polk adds a bit of tart flavor and color. If I have a bit of fish leftover from a previous evening’s fry, I like to chip a bit of it up in the omelet as well.
I hope to see you on the river. Stop in if I’m cooking breakfast when you float by, and I’ll be happy to feed you, if you aren’t foaming at the mouth.