Monday, May 28, 2012

Saturday Paddlers - Guadalupe River - Memorial Day

Note:  Click on any photo to enlarge.

After paddling from Nichols Landing to the FM 311 bridge on Saturday, the Saturday Paddlers continued down the Upper Guadalupe River on Monday.  We put in at the FM 311 crossing and paddled the 4.4 miles to the Rebecca Creek Road crossing.  The river was flowing at around 142 cfs, which was adequate.  With about thirty boats in total, "someone" decided to split the group into two, as about ten paddlers started the journey while the shuttle was being run.  The main group caught up with the scouts at each of the two major drops - Mueller Falls and then again at Rust Falls (shown above). 

The main group heads downstream from the put-in at the FM 311 bridge.  In front here are Retha and Gary.

Leading the group (for a while) were Kathy, ...

... Cynthia, and Rodney.

Jon, in his new sit-on-top kayak, Rodney, and I ended up at the front of the pack.  The main current took us through the impressive bald cypress trees in the background.

Mueller Falls

We caught up with the forward group at Mueller Falls.  They watched us play in the rapids for a while, then proceeded ahead again.  I was having too much fun running both the waterfall on river right (twice) and the chute on river left to take any photographs at Mueller Falls.  After taking the left chute, Kathy took the following video of me going over the small waterfall.

Rust Falls 


The smaller group stopped for lunch at Rust Falls, where we caught up with them a second time.  I decided to run the horseshoe-shaped main falls in my canoe, and made it through unscathed, although my bow did get trapped momentarily under the tree roots below the falls.  I failed to make the sharp right turn in the confined space immediately following the 4-foot drop.  I think my 14'3" canoe wasn't much shorter than that space.  The main falls are shown in the photo at the very top of this post, next to the cypress tree.

Jon also ran the falls, without any problems.  He was followed by Robert, whose kayak ended up in an almost vertical pin - the bow stuck on a rock at the bottom of the falls, the stern pointing skyward.  Robert was stuck in the cockpit as water from the falls gushed in.  After handing his precious paddle to Diane, Robert was able to extract himself from his kayak and plunge into the water.  Jon then freed the kayak by forcing the stern over the bow, and Robert guided his boat to safety.  The foam pillar supporting the front of the boat had come loose, and one foot brace had been damaged.  But all's well that ends well.

Debbie and Donna enjoyed the area below the falls.

Joan below the middle section of Rust Falls.

This panoramic video view of Rust Falls was recorded by Kathy.


Sally and Diane, with the horseshoe falls in the far background.

After many of us had cooled off in the clear, refreshing water (see Kathy's video of me above), the gang proceeded downstream the short distance to the takeout at Rebecca Creek Road.  This next video by Kathy shows Joline, followed by Robert and Jon, making her way through the rapids located just upstream of the takeout.  Be sure to turn up the volume and listen to Joline's exclamation as her kayak bottoms out on the rocks at the bottom of the small drop.

When we reached Rebecca Creek Road, I was out of energy (not having stopped for lunch) and, despite having consumed about a gallon of water, on the verge of dehydration.  With Rick's help, I was barely able to carry my canoe up to the road.  And if hadn't been for Nancy insisting on driving me the sixty yards to my van, I'm not sure I would have even made it to the vehicle.  Lesson learned.

About fifteen of us drove the short distance to Joan's house and wonderfully-shaded yard for a nice holiday picnic.  Joan reminded us of the meaning of the Memorial Day celebration.  Then the feasting began.  The food (including our Beeville ham) was plentiful and delicious.  A root beer float managed to revive me, and I was even able to tell a few jokes before Kathy insisted I stop.  All in all, a great holiday.

Note:  For an additional 8 photos from this trip, click here and then click on "Slideshow."

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Saturday Paddlers - Guadalupe River

With the Guadalupe River running at a little over 160 cfs, about twenty-five paddlers launched at Nichols Landing for the 5.6-mile trip to the FM 311 bridge crossing.  A big surprise was the friendly and helpful attitude of the attendant at Nichols Landing.  Perhaps Comal County is interested in attracting tourists after all.  Now, if they would only charge visitors the same parking fee as county residents, I'd really be convinced.

Note:  Click on any photo to enlarge.

About two miles downstream from Nichols Landing, several of us took the small detour up Spring Branch to view the waterfalls along this charming creek.  Pictured above are my Whitesell canoe (an old canoe newly acquired) and Miguel's and Joan's kayaks, pulled up at the foot of the first waterfall.  Well, not everyone can have a boat as beautiful as mine!

The second set of waterfalls is created when the creek spits into two to pass around this tree.  The one on the right (as approached from below) is shown above, while Joan is sitting below the left-hand waterfall.

Miguel relaxes on a chair someone left behind at the first falls, holding some trash that had also been left behind.

Ed on his way to the second set of falls.

The rapid immediately downstream from the Hwy. 281 bridge was jammed with bathers, most of whom never bothered to look behind them to see what might be approaching.  I narrowly avoided several of the clueless horde, and did not have an opportunity to take any photos.  Too bad, because there was some interesting wildlife.

A short distance upstream from the FM 311 bridge, the river splits into two, with a swift channel passing around the right side of a small island.  It makes for an exciting run, with a large rock at the end of the channel where it rejoins the main river creating a small rapid.  In these photos, Retha crashes through the waves created by the boulder.

Next up was Demetrius, who was paddling a kayak for the very first time.  By the time we arrived here, he was definitely getting the hang of it.


Joan made it look easy.

Waiting for the final two paddlers to appear.  Joline wonders where they are.

Finally, Larry appears, ...

... followed by Robert.

Note:  For an additional 17 photos from this outing, click here and then click on "Slideshow."

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Medina River - Water at Last!


Two weeks after the Medina River Cleanup, some recent rains had raised the Medina River from 18 cfs the afternoon of the cleanup to 160 cfs on Saturday morning.  This was enough to entice Jon and Robert to join me on this jewel of a Hill Country river.  We met at the Home Depot in Boerne a little after 9:00 a.m., loaded our boats onto my trailer, left Jon's car in the parking lot, and proceeded in two vehicles to Bandera.  After dropping off Robert's van near the take-out on Peaceful Valley Road, we drove in my van to our put-in at the Chenaults Lane crossing.  We were on the water a little before 11:00.  As might be expected, the river flow was more than adequate, and certainly much nicer than it had been two weeks earlier.

Note:  Click on any photograph to enlarge.

Jon and Robert on the crystal-clear water, about half way between our launch at Chenaults Lane and the Highway 16 crossing just a mile downstream.

We did have to maneuver under and around low branches on many occasions.

Around 12:30 and about 3.3 miles from the put-in, we arrived at the old dam below the junction of Laxon Creek and the river.  Jon and Robert decided to portage around the dam on river left.

While Jon and I pondered the line I might take if I decided to run the falls, a group of kayakers came crashing through the far left cut of the dam and down onto the shallow water running over the rocky ledge on that side of the river.  This kayaker's cooler of beer somehow remained upright and intact.

I decided to try the most river right cut in the dam, which had the largest drop.  Other than one large rock at the bottom, it had the fewest obstructions and deepest water at the bottom.

This was my first outing in my newly-acquired Whitesell Piranha, and I was impressed with the way the canoe easily handled the drop and landing.  And thanks to Jon for letting me borrow his helmet - just in case.

The boat and I pretty much stuck the landing.

I was hoping that we would find the great rest stop that I recalled from about thirty-five years earlier - some giant boulders on river left.  Sure enough, we arrived there around 1:30, just in time for lunch.

Jon enjoyed the comfort of the largest boulder.

After consuming our lunches, we took turns swinging from a rope tied to a nearby cypress.  Here is Robert showing off his training for the London Olympics.  The blue line is a painter from one of our boats, used to lengthen the existing rope so that it could be more easily retrieved.

Splash landing

Robert retrieves the blue painter.

Our boat also enjoyed the rest stop.

Here is the view looking back upstream from our perch on the boulders.  The main channel of the river comes in from the left.  In the background is an interesting side channel we decided to go paddle back up to and explore.

Although the water was a little stagnant in this backwater, the rocks limestone bluff and boulders were very scenic.

From here, it was about another two miles to our take-out at the Peaceful Valley Road crossing.  We arrived there around 3:30.  We agreed that it had been a great trip.  Based on the Bandera gauge, the river flow was down to about 155 cfs when we reached the end of our trip.

At the take-out, we were informed by some people there that the Spurs were down by 18 points to the Clippers in the first quarter of Game 3 of their playoff series.  After retrieving my van and trailer from Chenaults Lane and loading our canoes, we headed back to Bandera and then on to the Home Depot parking lot in Boerne.  We enjoyed listening to bits and pieces of the radio broadcast of the second half of the game.  And it was most enjoyable, as the Spurs roared back from a 24-point second quarter deficit to claim a 12-point victory.  All in all, a very good day.

Note:  For an additional 16 photos from this outing, click here and then click "Slideshow."