Yesterday Banning and I did our first long training run, paddling just under 30 miles. To this point we’d only paddled on Town Lake, and seven or eight miles was our maximum. We joined Safari veteran and adventure racer, Debbie Richardson, who is in the middle of a seventeen day paddle journey covering the Colorado River from San Saba to Matagorda. A few Austin paddlers teamed up to join her Colorado River Expedition for the day, traveling from Town Lake in downtown Austin, east on the Colorado to the town of Webberville.
To get things started this morning, Banning and I ran our own shuttle, traveling to the Big Webberville boat ramp, only to learn the park was closed until 8 am. Why does my life so often track with Clark Griswold? No matter, we decided to cruise back up to the Little Webberville takeout instead. From there, we drove back to Austin to begin our paddle from our regular point at the boathouse near the Four Seasons Hotel. We experienced many firsts today, not the least of which was carrying the aluminum beast with actual gear. For the first time we had our water jugs, life jackets, firstaid kit, and food. And it was all heavy. We are researching dehydrated food and powdered meals as we speak. Wow, that canoe was heavy.
We were on our own for the familiar Town Lake stretch, assuming the rest of the crew would catch up with us soon. (Trust me, we saw them paddle in the Town Lake race series. They are fast.) We reached the Longhorn dam and had to walk around a bit to determine the best way to portage. That’s when we ran into Marilyn and her husband Tom. Marilyn was rejoining Deb’s expedition after a few days break, and would journey all the way to Matagorda from this point. We struggled with our heavier-than-ever canoe, and Tom insisted we use their wheels to portage along the bike path.
Wheels. Oh my heavenly invention. The wheel cart made all the difference. Unfortunately there won’t be any flat, clear cutaways on the Safari where wheels will work. Hence we probably need to stick to carrying the canoe while training and start counting ounces on our gear. Did I mention how heavy that canoe was yesterday?
We scaled the canoe down a steepish rocky slope and put on the water – our first time off Town Lake! Hoo-yah!! I felt like a teenager who was ditching the learner’s permit and hitting the open road for the first time. And guess what? There was actual current. Moving water! I was in heaven.
The river was clear, the sun was bright. We saw big schools of white bass and carp and spotted gar. I paddled my little guts out and for the first time actually felt what it was like to move the aluminum beast. She rode like she was on rails. I saw a few caddis flutter by as if to say, “Don’t worry, you may be taking on a completely new sport but a river is still a river and it is always familiar territory for you.” Then I saw this mayfly on top of the water and decided to give him a lift on my knee for awhile. I know we weren’t supposed to be adding weight to the boat, but I paddled a little harder with him there, my own personal figurehead.
It didn’t take long for Deb and her crew to catch up with us. Suddenly we had a flotilla of six other boats and lots of cool, experienced paddlers to get to know. We learned so much today, it’s hard to quantify.
We had one more portage which was more good Safari training. There were a few spots with current, but most of the river miles were wide and slow. It was a great backdrop to work out the kinks on our drinking tubes, both literally and figuratively. I learned a good lesson about not eating too much at one snack break…indigestion. Apparently all the blood is in your arms and since you are seated for hours on end, digestion is not as prolific as normal.
It was a gorgeous day and a beautiful section of water I am thrilled to have experienced. We covered almost 30 miles in six-and-a-half hours, made some new friends, and learned so much. Many thanks to Debbie, Mike, Janie, Curt, Ginsie, Stephanie and Marilyn for inviting us to tag along and sharing lots of advice and plenty of laughs on the water. Enjoy the slideshow and GOOD LUCK to Debbie on the rest of her journey!