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HomeNL-2015-05 Neches/Angelina River

Neches/Angelina Rivers
March 24th, 2015
by
Paul Woodcock


Terry had planned a trip at the confluence for the Neches and Angelina Rivers the original plan was:

This is a weekend paddle with overnight primitive camping. You must have primitive camping experience and be self-sufficient. Plan to arrive at the boat ramp by 0930 to unload and prepare for launch. Paddles wet at 10:00 am. Sharp. We will paddle 2 miles down the Angelina river where we will land at our campsite. Our campsite has a picnic table, fire ring and a double hook lantern pole. We will unload our gear, set up our tents, have lunch, then explore the river and other campsites further downstream.

We will paddle back to our campsite where we will engage in appetizers and your choice of beverage and a wonderful campfire and dinner. Sunday paddle is open for suggestions. Perhaps upriver above the boat ramp?  Round trip 8-15 miles. Bring a log or 2 for the fire. It sounded like a fantastic trip and I mentally declared it a Paul trip to be paddled no matter what weather conditions. But it started raining the first of the week and never stopped and there was an 80% of rain predicted for the weekend. I became concerned about the upstream paddle against the current. Terry contacted Jamie Peck who lived in the area and after checking it out agreed that the paddle against the current was not feasible. Thursday he agreed to lead a downstream paddle to B.A. Steinhagen State Park. Terry had wisely canceled the planned trip but Saturday I packed my raincoat and left to meet Jamie for the trip. I was concerned about getting lost in all the channels we could paddle in the swamp so I made a topo map of the area. I usually just use google maps but for some reason it was not working on my computer and I got was a black screen. so I map from topo quest. It was a laborious process and took about 6 hours of cutting and pasting and entering coordinates. I brought it to the club meeting to show off my artistic endeavor and claimed to never go on a trip with out a map. Jamie and I met at the park and left my vehicle at the boat ramp and traveled to the put-in .The current was strong, about 3 to 5 miles an hour.  We immediately tried to paddle upstream. We could make progress but applauded Terry for abandoning the original plan as it would have been difficult to go upstream for any amount of time which was proven later. We came to a beautiful back stream area and paddled among the trees until we could go no further than 1/2 mile.  Jamie was paddling his sit on top which he bought mainly for a stable fishing platform. His solo canoe had burned up in a house fire and after watching me maneuver my Mad River Malecite through had reaffirmed his love of a  canoe.  Before the trip was over he had vowed to replace his Bell solo.  We both agreed on the superiority of canoes over kayaks for our kind of paddling.

 

   
The put-in    BS number 1    BS on river

 
I had wanted to check out the Corp of Engineers camp sites so we stopped at the first one and sat at the picnic table and this is when the BS really started. Both of us had paddled the Grass River in Manitoba, Canada. I got to re-live the time all three paddlers got hypothermic, then the time we had to hitchhike back to the shuttle vehicle when one of our paddlers got injured on a portage. The Grass is a drop and pool river with large swatches of river grass with numerous paths through it then a rapid. Jamie got dumped and sat on a rock in the middle of the river watching his canoe go down stream around the bend and out of sight miles from anywhere. He had his paddle and floated on his pack with his life jacket making good time paddling. He finally caught up with his canoe and safely made his way back to civilization. Buy this time, our GPS said we had be stationary as long as we had been paddling. We started downstream and checked out a small lake, meanwhile BS'ing about boats we had owned and women we had known. We paddled past the next camp site with out seeing it. Lunch was at one of the camp sites and we continued telling stories about rivers we had both paddled. Paddling in a 6 inch snow storm on the Buffalo, frozen boots on the Jacks Forks, capsizes, and lost and found paddles. Jamie had extended the trip at the junction of Jacks Fork and the Current.  A trip that is on my bucket list. We had pulled our boats half way up on the bank but as the motor boats created wakes that sent waves to shore, Jamie looked up and his kayak was floating down stream.  I quickly ran to my boat being careful not to capsize, as I rushed to retrieve his kayak. There was an extremely strong current at this point in the river and getting upstream was a challenge.  Looking at My GPS we had been stationary more than we had paddled. We stopped at the next camp site and spent time trying to reset Jamie's GPS.  It was similar to mine and we finally got it working. I had left the map I had spent hours making in my Honda Element. All we had was the Corps of Engineers map of the camp site, but Jamie had been on this trip before and thought he would recognize the cut off.  We would soon regret the forgotten map.  We paddled past the confluence of the Neches and the Angelina rivers and saw the entrance of the vast network of channels of the swamp. We stopped at the last camp site and began recalling the Hays River trip we both had taken. I talked of being stranded on an island by a storm, a shuttle by bus, and huge amounts of beaver dams. He recalled a long involved tale told by the Ojibway camp host at Norway House, and we both regretted the moving of Norway House and being old folks, resented change.
 

Camp site     Motor boats    Through the trees

 

We came to the cut off and the current was heading east , but there were channel markers heading southeast, so we followed them.  I was about to say we should go back and take the other channel when we found more markers and the channel turned back north.  As we followed it we could see open water to our right through the trees and when we saw a small channel with strong current leading toward it we paddled, or rather floated down it, twisting and turning until we came to open water.  We could see the camp sites but there was so much growth on the water we could not get to it, so we tried to get back to the original channel.  After log jams and closed channels (where was my map?), we finally had to go back the way we had come.  It was very difficult getting upstream and by the time we finally got to the channel I was exhausted.  I had drank all my water so we took a break, and luckily, Jamie had an extra gallon of water.  I drank and watched the clouds build and it looked as if the rain predictions would come true.
 

Channel marker    Lost

 

After we had loaded the boats Jamie invited me to supper where the BS continued.We both bemoaned our bodies.  Jamie was recovering from a motorcycle wreck and my surgeries have taken a toll, but before the conversation got too maudlin we started talking about Jamie's upcoming trip on the Buffalo and we talked of a longer trip on the Neches, and our dreams of more trips in the north country where there still are more canoes than kayaks.
 


  The earth is my mother
The sky is my father
The animals are my brothers
The canoe brings me closer to them

 
The author,
Paul Woodcock