Yesterday’s rains gave me and veteran paddler Jimmy Harvey a nice push down the Colorado River today.
Jimmy loaned me a one-man racing canoe and he climbed into his Epic kayak for the 25-mile trip from Fisherman’s Park in Bastrop to the Highway 230 Bridge in Smithville, highlighted by a snake encounter, collapsing riverbanks, huge birds and more.
I’m working on getting my paddling legs back. Nearly a year has passed since the 2019 Texas Water Safari, a 260-mile race from San Marcos to Seadrift on the Texas Coast. Memories of the sore butt, the log jams, the hordes of spiders and hallucinations haven’t quite faded, but today’s run reminded me how much I love the river and the paddling community.
Flow hovered between 4,500 and 4,800 cubic feet per second along the way – almost triple Tuesday’s flow rates. That made it a relatively quick, four-and-a-half-hour excursion.
We stopped for a pee break at a little spot Jimmy jokingly called Snake Island. I scrambled out for my break, and when I climbed back in my boat I nearly paddled over the top of a glistening water moccasin napping in the reeds.
About midway through the run, we spotted a hassock-sized bundle of sticks in the top of a dead tree along the bank. A few minutes later, a bald eagle flapped past. We’d apparently seen its nest.
And as we approached Smithville, we noticed a bunch of trees, some knocked over, others with huge limbs twisted and torn. A tornado reportedly swept through the area yesterday; this must have been damage from the winds.
We also saw blue herons and soft-shelled turtles, mooing cows and red dirt banks, including a portion of one that buckled and slid into the water as we paddled past.
The best part, though? When Jimmy called me over and told me to stop for a moment.
“Put your paddle down,” he said. “You can’t hear any human noises. Just the wind, the river and the birds.”
And that’s why I can’t wait to get back out there.