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HomeNL-2012-02 New Years San Marcos


New Year's Day on the San Marcos

 January 1st, 2012

 by Harmon Everett




Last year, Colleen and I were pretty much the only folks at the San Marcos Retreat campground, and the only ones on the water on New Year’s day.

Crowd at the campsite
Surprisingly, this year there were already TWO groups of people at camp – and one group had ALREADY been kayaking on Friday.

When we got there Friday after dark, Katie was there, and Natalie and her daughter, Jo were already there too, and had started a campfire.

The Weather forecast stated it would be mild, but the temperature got down to 36 or so on Friday night. After several years of going to Tom’s, I finally remembered to put a small towel in my toiletry bag so I would have a towel to dry my hands on in the bathroom. It came in very handy this trip.

Samantha had found the trip announcement on the club web site. She called and wanted to go but didn’t have transportation or a boat. Mike was going to go up Saturday just for the day and agreed to take her to San Marcos.  I figured we could find somebody that would take her back to Houston on Sunday.

We suggested she try to rent a boat from TG. It turns out they don’t rent boats to go down that stretch of the San Marcos. Christy offered to take her back to Houston on Sunday, but she still didn’t have a boat. Paul had an extra boat, but he canceled.

After much internal debate, I decided she could use my boat, and I would use my tandem kayak. Sigh.  I like my boat.

Tracy and Dutch, and Christy, Steve, Christy’s brother Briggs, and Christy’s nephews, Austin and Grayson arrived Saturday morning.

Taking boats

off vehicles


Carrying boats

to put-in


Safety talk

before starting

We had a wide range of experience.  Christy had invited her husband Steve. Sam had never kayaked before. Natalie and her daughter, Jo, had been paddling the San Marcos since Jo was a year old, and Natalie had borrowed one of Jo’s kayaks, and Katie had been a member of a river keeper’s group in Georgia before moving to Houston. Dutch brought his helmet cam!

Sam practiced a little in the lagoon near camp before heading out. She looked like she was really enjoying it.


Terry going


Austin enjoying

the sunshine

Jo enjoying

the sunshine

Terry going down

frontwise this time

Grayson got caught on the fallen wall at Old Mill, and Terry got caught behind him and tipped over. No sooner did she get back in the boat, than she got caught up in some trees and tipped over again.


Grayson   Steve on the water



Sam really enjoying

her first paddle



Terry upside-down

at Old Mill


Terry safe

at Old Mill

  Dutch and Steve


We stopped at Spanish Cemetery for lunch.  Recently somebody put up a substantial new fence around the cemetery and cleaned it up considerably. Good for them, but now it is hard for us to go in and pay our respects.


Lunch at

Spanish Cemetery


Spanish Cemetery


We went looking for pizza after we got back from Scull’s. We found Panhandlers pizza on the other side of town. Several of us stopped by City Park and walked through their Christmas lights display before hanging around a campfire. A campfire – now there is something we haven’t had in a while, due to the drought and fire danger.

Mike decided to stay for the Sunday trip too! Jo had to get back to town. Dutch and Tracy went off to visit friends, but Natalie decided to stay an extra day and paddle with us on New Year’s Day, too.

We planned to go from City Park to camp but I didn’t quite remember how to get to the City Park put-in. I vaguely remembered last year I had wandered around a little and finally sort-of turned right on a nondescript little road near some railroad tracks, and then after a while turned left on what looked like a back alley.  It was evidently where the Lion’s Club rents their inner tubes.  

We found it just fine.

Again, there was already ANOTHER GROUP already at the put-in! getting their boats out and ready to get on the water. Quite a change from last year!



Another group on

New Year's Day


At the City Park



Starting off a

great new year


Christy battened up her spray skirt and did a seal entrance off the concrete walkway.

Not to be outdone, her brother Briggs attempted a similar dive with his kayak, and ended up turtling and getting soaked right away. That made going over Rio Vista not such a big deal when we got there.

There were 3 or 4 other boats playing and somebody with a boogie board surfing, when we got to Rio Vista.

Most of us portaged around.  Christy took the first drop with no problem. (video here at:

Briggs took it with a bit bigger of a problem. He asked what he was doing wrong. I told him that, like me, he tended to stop paddling when he got in trouble in the falls, which is the wrong thing to do.  You can’t get stable in the changing surf going down a rapids by trying to get a better balance.  When things are changing so fast going down a rapids, your source of stability is your paddle, so the remedy is to paddle, paddle, paddle. 


Christy going down

Rio Vista

  Christy #2

Christy #3


Christy #4



Christy #5  

Briggs over



Briggs going

down drop 


And he

made it!


Briggs did much better at the second drop, and Terry, Mike, Briggs and I took the little drop just fine. As we were leaving, Mazy showed up and started playing at Rio Vista. There was quite a crowd that decided this was a great way to start the New Year!


Looking at

Graduation Falls


Graduation Falls

from below

Scott and his son, Conner, had joined us around the campfire New Year’s Eve, and while listening to fireworks, Scott showed off a video of Conner going off Graduation Falls, the 12 foot spillway on the San Marcos just outside of town. Mike had taken a whitewater class at the Olympics center in town, and has gone off Graduation Falls in a play boat, but didn’t want to chance it in his sit-on-top. We portaged around to a little creek that fed back into the San Marcos.


We found Murray's Drinking Tree again. You can Google it.

We stopped for lunch at Cummings Dam, and soon made it back to San Marcos River Retreat.

Pretty much everybody packed up and left. Sam packed all her stuff in her pack and loaded it back into Mike’s truck. They headed back to Houston. Tom fantasized about Mike and Sam getting married in his chapel. We were thinking: “Say what?”



Lunch below

Cumming's Dam

  Packing up  

Christy packing

to go home


But I do think I would like to do this paddle again next year for New Years Day 2013. It is a great way to start the new year!



The author, 

Harmon Everett