Thirty novice kayakers and canoers hit the middle Raccoon River on August 1st for an annual outing for pooches, their parents and friends. They tackled 11 miles of the river, complete with fallen trees left over from the spring storms, interspersed with dry patches from the summer drought. The participants consisted of members of the Des Moines Women's Rugby team, employees of Pioneer Hi-Bred, and a random mix of animal and water lovers that come out once a year for what has been dubbed F.A.R.T. - Fernie's Annual River Trip, named after Fernie, an energetic 20 lb. rat terrier who acts as the captain of her doggie mom's kayak, leading the way down the river every year.
F.A.R.T is the brainchild and result of Heidi Wych's love of the outdoors and all things canine. Every year she rounds up a hodge-podge of her friends and her dog, Fernie to hit a different part of the Raccoon River, renting canoes and kayaks from local companies that haul the boats to the put-in point and then pick them up at the end of the trip.
The day started with a drive to Redfield, 30 minutes outside Des Moines, where participants drove in to town behind the annual tractor parade. Thirty minutes later, 11 canoes and 9 kayaks took over the river, loaded up with coolers, sun screen, bug spray, snacks and their canine friends. Participants took their time, paddling at their leisure, sharing treats and laughs at sandbars along the route. The dogs swam along the sides of the boats, sometimes inside, and even on top of the kayaks, chasing each other in and out of the river while the adults snapped photos and got to know one another.
Taking in the sights while navigating the bends and natural debris, the picturesque route hosts hawks, bald eagles, various fresh water fish, herrings and even the skull and antlers of a deer (check it out in the photo). All dogs and their people made it to shore just in time for the sun to go down, completing the trip in roughly eight hours.