Guadalupe River Marathon - Part 1
Nov. 9th, 2013
by Kent Walters
Overview: This trip was structured to be Part 1 of the Texas River Marathon, starting just below Cuero at the 236 bridge and the Guadalupe River and ending at the Nursery, aka 447 bridge (same river, fortunately). We were to launch at 10:00 to allow plenty of time to paddle the 26 miles. When we checked conditions (stage and flow) the night before, it looked ideal. Six paddlers in 5 boats made the trip: David Jacobs in a Necky Looksha IV kayak, Christy Long and Terry Herdlicka in an Alumacraft aluminum canoe, Harmon Everett in a Kevlar Seda Glider, Joe Martin in an SOT kayak, and Kent Walters in a Perception Shadow kayak. Joe had his work cut out for him against the rest of the fleet. Fortunately, he’s pretty athletic and proved up to the challenge.
The weather was perfect and we could see that the river was flowing steadily at our put-in, all consistent with the weather forecast, gage height and flow rate we had observed in preparation for the trip. Upon arrival, we faced the standard challenge of a muddy slope to get to the water, but it wasn’t so bad and we all got to the water’s edge without too much trouble. About here is where the trip gave us a little bonus. The trip coordinator (that would be me) capsized about 60 seconds after launch. He entered his kayak in a non-standard way and one of his feet got stuck and he couldn't free it, so he was basically sitting on one foot and rising up and trying to free it until the kayak finally got unstable in the current and went over. Then his foot came free. We still cannot figure out how his aqua shoe got hung up. So, we all got up close and personal with the process of capturing and stabilizing a boat in current, using a bilge pump and scuppers to empty the water, and entering the kayak the proper way. Great teamwork and shared knowledge of swift river rescue techniques made this an appropriate and valuable experience. I wish I could honestly say that I planned this. By the way, this was all captured in extremely embarrassing HD video by my bow-mounted, rear facing camera, so it can be played as an example of how not to do something important. We should put it to music . . . but I digress.
So then the trip went without further incident, except for the fact that Joe’s kayak had a hole in the stern that sank him about 10 minutes after we got going from my little mishap. Harmon made a field patch with Christy and Terry’s gorilla glue and gorilla tape, and Joe went the rest of the trip with no more leaks from that quarter. Another great demonstration of teamwork and the value of having emergency repair materials.
The rest of the trip did go very well, so you can stop holding your breath now. Lots of fun rapids, good conversation, great weather (cloud cover), and a pretty good flow kept us moving. When the river slowed down to a bayou pace (0), we knew it wouldn’t be long before we would encounter some more rapids. It was a pretty dependable formula, but the slow stretches seemed to accumulate more and more and became longer as we continued down river. At one point we saw a wild hog swimming across the river and running up the bank, along with the usual collection of rocks and bushes and trees and turtles and herons and buzzards and hawks. At another location we saw a pretty good sized log jammed into a cypress tree about 30 feet above us, presumably from a recent flood.
The pressure waves and hydraulics in the rapids were exciting and high enough that everyone ended up with some extra water where it didn’t belong, except maybe David Jacobs who cheated with a spray skirt. I know that twice in my own kayak the bow went completely under a standing wave that continued all the way up the deck until it poured into the cockpit from the front. I wish my camera was working and aimed forward over my head at that point. Good times. We arrived at the 447 bridge take-out about 15 minutes after sunset, so we had light the whole time we were on the river (I love it when a plan comes together). The take-out had its share of the typical sucking and slippery mud just above and below water level, so some fun times were had by all there.
We all had a great time, enjoyed getting to know each other better, and marveled at our great fortune to be able to do these things relatively close to home.
Moving time: 5:52
Total trip time: 7:25 (counting rescue time)
Moving average: 4.75 MPH (ground speed)
Gage at Cuero read 10.2’ (Link here)
Flow (discharge rate) read 1,986 CFS
Harmon Everett's photo album from the trip can be viewed here.
|The author, Kent Walters