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HomeNL-2019-02 Sheldon Lake

Sheldon Lake
January 13, 2019
by Paul Woodcock

I have paddled Sheldon Lake and Carpenter Bayou many times, as it is convenient to get to and a beautiful place to be. Before I had a canoe, I used to drive here just to greet the sunrise.

I hadn't posted the trip until Thursday and the weather was cold. No one signed up to go on the trip, but I have not been able to paddle much last year and decided to go solo. I put in at the canoe launch on Garret Road and as I had crossed the bridge it looked impossible to get to Carpenters Bayou. I have always loved this winding paddle through the trees. It is a great disappointment that you seldom get to make this trip. I decided to circle the canoe launch point. There were numerous bobbers left by fishermen in the bushes. Mary had always collected these so she could add them to her tackle box, and in memories of our paddling together I started to collect them. I scared a flock of ducks that I could not identify, and a number of white egrets. After collecting the bobbers I spotted a fisherman on the bank and gave them to him. I continued around the canoe launch and paddled alongside of Garrett Road trying to find a different access to the lake. I finally got to a place where I couldn't paddle any further and returned back to the put-in. It had warmed and I had started to sweat under my coat so I removed it and continued on. I then paddled to the bridge and the water was so high it would have been difficult to get under it to Carpenters Bayou even if the bayou was passable. I then proceeded to the open lake where I talked to a boat load of fishermen who were concerned about me paddling in a canoe in alligator country. One even said he had a kayak but was afraid to use it on the lake because of the alligators. I assured them of my safety and paddled on.. 


I used to bring a group of inter city kids from my charter school to clean up the lake. (There is an abundant amount of trash in this area.) For some, this was the first time they had been in a State Park, especially not in a canoe. In every group there was at least one canoe where the students really struggled keeping the boat straight, despite my excellent instruction. These girls saw a large gator swimming toward their canoe (they were paddling my first canoe, a 17 ft. aluminum smoakercraft called "tree climber"). It must f have acted as an echo chamber, as their screams must have been heard in downtown Houston. I have run into a number of students after they had graduated and the canoe trips were one of the highlights of attending my school.

As I entered the open waters I felt a tail wind as I crossed the lake. In the distance I saw the observation tower, so I paddled toward it. There was a tree in the middle of the lake where a large group of cormorants were drying their wings. They flew off as I approached and I got a picture of the tree where they had been, adding it to the collection of photos of missed wildlife. As I continued paddling across the lake I kept thinking how much I like paddling rivers creeks and bayous rather than open water, and wishing I had been able to get to Carpenter Bayou. 

After I retired I did substitute teaching and one science teacher lead field trips to Sheldon Park and had the students take notes on all the things they had seen. They would come to a sign explaining the flora and take out there cell phone and take a picture. “Notes taken.” The culminating activity was to climb the observation tower. You can see the whole area and I will never forget the excitement of the student as she saw her first ever deer sneaking through the woods. I really like to be able to see the area where I have just paddled. It is a real life google earth map. 

By this time the winds had picked up to about out 9 miles an hour so I decided duck behind the island and paddle back sheltered from the wind. There was no one to stop and talk to and say "Woodcock slow down" so like a stable-bound horse, I raced back home. I was averaging about 4 miles an hour until I hit the open water, then slowed down and wind-tacked across it. Here, I saw one of the largest grays I have ever seen. I picked up some more bobbers and gave them to a lady and her daughter at the take-out.

I was going to go to the State Park trails and hike to the observation tower, but I got a text from my son to come over and celebrate my 77th birthday with pie and coffee. It was a very enjoyable 7 mile paddle and I saw an incredible amount of birds, but no alligators. I woke up the next morning so sore I could hardly move. I have got to get to the gym and get this old body in shape for the next paddle. No longer will the weekend warrior method of paddling be a viable option.

The author, Paul Woodcock