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HomeNL-2014-10 Buffalo Bayou 2

Buffalo Bayou II
Dairy Ashford to Briarbend Park
Aug. 30, 2014
John Rich

This trip report is for the same day trip which preceded it in the newsletter index, as written by Will Blumentritt.  Will laid out the basic facts.  And now I'm going to embellish upon those with some more information.

The first thing that went wrong on this trip was the shuttle to the take-out at Briarbend Park.  Two of the four people ferrying vehicles couldn't find the park.  One of them was me, and I've been there several times before.  I finally asked a neighbor how to get there, found out I was in the wrong neighborhood, and arrived about 20 minutes late.  The other party never showed up, and he headed back to the put-in and called-in by phone for the rest of us to go ahead and start back, and he would worry about his vehicle after the trip.  So, lesson one is, don't count on being able to keep up with the trip leader in heavy Houston traffic - know how to get to where you're going by yourself.
But that late start back at Dairy Ashford was actually fortuitous for Dan Massingill, because he was late getting there himself.  He's a non-member who heard about the trip and wanted to tag along, and our late start allowed him to join up with us and share the trip.  So now we had five paddlers instead of four. 

Dairy Ashford
    Trail down to
the Bayou
    Trail branch to
the waterline

The path alongside the Bayou is a popular trail for mountain bikers, joggers and walkers.  One man, a sweaty walker, saw our canoes lined up in the grass and stopped to warn us; "There isn't enough water in there for those boats!"  We had already been down to the water and surveyed it, and it sure looked like enough to us.  I learned long ago not to take paddling advice too seriously from non-paddlers, and I quickly disregarded his advice.  "It's going to be tough down there!", he said.  Well yes, we expect that, and accept that it's part of our adventure.  We don't do this because we're looking for something easy, we do it despite the challenges.
We carried our boats and gear down to the water, loaded up, shoved off and the adventure was on! 
Dan & Will, under
Dairy Ashford
We're off!

Grayson Knapp     Will Blumentritt
& Grayson
    Dan Massingill     Dan & Roy Willis
We encountered several locations where there were roadblocks in the creek.  One of them was a low pipeline, slung a few inches above the water. At one end where it curved upward into the bank, the smaller boats could slip underneath it with the paddlers laying down in the bottom of their boats, or by doing the limbo.  I, with my large canoe, just hopped out into the mud on the other side and dragged my boat over the top - no big deal.

Roy checks out
the pipe
Roy is through! Will leans
Grayson does
the limbo
In three other locations there were trees down horizontally across the water, with steep banks or deep mud on both ends.  The first two we sawed our way through.  I had forgotten my bow saw, but fortunately Will brought his.  By sawing through a strategic limb at the waterline, we opened a path wide enough to let the boats slip through.  The next one was a log, mostly submerged, but sticking up just a few inches above the water surface.  I couldn't get my big boat over it, so I hopped out in the mud at the bank, sinking knee deep, and pushed my boat over.  And since I was now already muddy, I assisted the last two guys over so they could stay dry and clean.  The last tree was huge, probably three feet in diameter, with just enough clearance underneath for the other guys to limbo under it.  I used an alternate technique, where I paddled up to it, pushed the bow underneath, hopped up on top of the log, and then back down into the boat again on the other side.  Call it "leap frog".

Will is through
the downed tree
    Roy glides past
the cut limb
    Grayson's turn     Dan is last
Will coasts past a
giant drainage culvert
    Pretty scenery     Dan negotiates
another tree
There were quite a few fun riffles and even some ledges with a straight drop of about a foot.  Fun stuff.  One of them was bony shallow with big rocks sticking up on one side - there was only one path through it, not a good one, with no alternates.  The first man through ran aground on the shallow rocks, the current from behind pushed his boat sideways, and the next thing you know it's tilted and he's taking on water.  He had to stop, pull it ashore, and bail it out.  Everyone had trouble with that little rapid. 
Will drops over
the ledge
    then Dan     and Roy

We stopped under the Beltway 8 bridge for lunch.  There's a nice boat ramp there behind a locked gate (from the bank), for maintenance purposes only.  But it's an easy out by canoe from the water.
Beltway 8
    Beltway 8
boat ramp
Then back in the water to finish the last stretch down to Briarbend Park, where the final drama occurred.  I had built up a lot of good internal karma up to this point, enjoying this outdoors adventure with fine people, but it was about to be dashed.
As we arrived at the takeout, we pulled our boats up high and dry onto the rocks.  We noticed that there were three teenage boys sitting on the bank about 25 yards away, and thought nothing of it.  We grabbed our gear out of our boats and carried it up the hill to our waiting vehicles.  So for a very short span of time, our boats were unattended.  As we came back down the hill to retrieve our boats, mine was missing! 

My first thought was that it had drifted away in some freak wave, but that was unlikely because it was left high and dry, and the other boats on both sides of it were still there.  I turned to where the teenagers had been sitting to ask them if they had seen what happened to my boat, but they were gone.  That's when my brain put two and two together and got "four".  Missing teenagers, and missing boat - coincidence?  I think not.  I figured it had been stolen.  I looked downstream, and lucky for me, saw it stuck in a log jam in the next bend, empty, about 50 yards away.  So the punks had just pushed it into the water and let it drift away.  Or maybe they got on board, but realized they couldn't do much without paddles.  Fortunately for me, the boat got stuck before disappearing out of sight, or I would have been out of a boat, and it would have cost $1,000 to replace it with a new one. 
Boats at take-out     Take-out stairs     An old friend
awaits on top
I waded across the Bayou, which was about waist deep at most, sloshed down the shoreline on the opposite bank, and retrieved my boat, pulling it back upstream by the bowline and back across to the Park side. I found my boat, but I lost my good karma feeling.

Trip over.  We finished the shuttle by taking paddlers back to their cars at the put-in, and called it a day.
Thanks to Will for organizing this trip on a little-paddled stretch of Buffalo Bayou.  If you do it yourself, take a saw, and guard your gear.

The author, John Rich