Austin paddlers gear up for sprint up Texas coast
Five Texas paddlers are heading to the Third Coast this week to paddle from Boca Chica Beach in Brownsville to Sabine Pass near Port Arthur.
I’m tagging along on that mini-expedition, which should take about eight days, but not in a boat. I’ll be on shore, chasing the team, camping on the beach, and documenting the adventure as it unfolds.
West Hansen, who led a 2012 paddling expedition more than 4,000 miles down the length of the Amazon River, heads up the team, which also includes Jeff Wueste, Jimmy Harvey, Branndon Bargo, and Tim Curry. Hansen, Wueste and Harvey are part of the upcoming Arctic Cowboys expedition to kayak the Northwest Passage.
Collectively, they haul around boatloads of experience. Hansen has finished the grueling 260-mile Texas Water Safari canoe race 20 times and won the Missouri River 340 as a solo paddler. He’s also a member of the prestigious Explorers Club, whose members include astronauts, mountain climbers and underwater explorers. The other paddlers are experienced canoe racers and Safari veterans, too.
They’ll cover roughly 385 miles on the next week’s Texas trip, paddling outside the third sandbar as they go to avoid the worst of the surge and wave action. I’m bringing my swim gear, so I can log some ocean miles while I wait for them to come in. (As a side note, we’ve all gotten COVID-19 tests, to make sure we don’t cross infect one another along the way. And we’ll practice social distancing.)
I managed to stay upright this morning while simultaneously wrangling cameras and paddling a racing canoe alongside the guys as they chugged up and down Lady Bird Lake on a shakeout run.
Check my blog for updates.
What do you pack for a major expedition? New book takes a look
Ever wonder what you’d need for a trip to the South Pole, a road trip across the Sahara Desert, or a flight across the Atlantic?
Survivalist Ed Stafford, who walked the Amazon River (with a guide) and has starred in his own series on the Discovery Channel, has put together a book that answers those questions.
“Expeditions Unpacked: What the Great Explorers Took into the Unknown” details 25 expeditions through the equipment the explorers took with them.
The book hits store shelves on Sept. 17, but I’ve been flipping through an advance copy. For me, the charm comes in reading about the non-essentials the explorers chose to take with them.
You might have guessed that Roald Amundsen took ski boots and skis on his expedition to the South Pole from 1910 to 1912, for example, but did you know he also packed a mandolin, a piano, a gramophone and a violin?
Amelia Earhart packed Dr. Berry’s Freckle ointment along with the essential parachutes, Bendix radio direction finder and an emergency raft on her flight across the Atlantic.
Thor Heyerdahl, who spent 101 days on a balsa wood raft during his Kon-Tiki Expedition, brought shark powder (whatever that is) and a parrot on his journey, although I’m baffled by an account of Heyerdahl’s encounter with a 50-foot whale shark with 3,000 teeth that could have “turned the Kon-Tiki to driftwood.”
Whale sharks don’t have teeth, and they’re not aggressive. They’re like giant catfish, and I’ve swum with a dozen of them at once off of Isla Mujeres.
The book covers all sorts of explorations, including sailing, bicycling, camel trekking, skiing and ballooning. I love the illustrations that go with each chapter – drawings of the supplies, unpacked and spread out.
During his first ascent of Everest in 1953, Sir Edmund Hillary tucked sardines, biscuits and tinned apricots into his luggage, along with walkie talkies, an ice axe, a nylon and cotton tent, woolen socks, crampons and goggles.
Eva Dickson, the first woman to drive across the Sahara, loaded her Chevrolet Confederate with a hunting rifle, a camping bed, a spare tire, gasoline and a copy of the Bible for her 27-day journey in 1932.
Not all the explorers mentioned made it out alive. Perhaps Lieutenant Colonel Percy Fawcett, who disappeared after heading into the Amazon basin to find the forgotten city, was missing a few key pieces when he packed flares, a mosquito net, accordion, sextant, fedora and a tweed jacket.
Stafford allots 10 pages to his own 860-day trek along the Amazon River from 2008 to 2010. Explorers have been hauling some of the same gear he took – a hammock, a sewing awl and a machete, for example – for centuries. But he enjoyed the luxury of modern technology his predecessors never had, like GPS, satellite communication equipment, a camcorder – and DEET to keep the mosquitos away.