When we left our intrepid explorers, they were camped in a soggy bog of a site somewhere between Colorado Bend State Park and Lake Buchanan. We’ll pick up as they awaken in their tent to the serenade of an unexpected visitor . . .
Friday, May 18th
We were awakened before dawn by a turkey calling not ten yards from our tent. I raised the window flap, and Jerry and I got a perfect view of our solitary gobbler standing on the riverbank and lifting his voice in song or complaint—it was impossible to tell—over the water. We brewed a pot of coffee and watched the sunrise over the low rolling hills. The sight was spectacular, and went a long way toward making our cold muddy camp more hospitable.
We got on the river around 9:30, after taking time to clean as much mud as possible off everything as we packed our gear into the canoe. We paddled hard for the takeout point, a strong south wind blowing up off Lake Buchanan. We made slow headway past the desert-varnished cliffs and low hills that lined this section of almost currentless river was it meandered past Jim John Creek and Deer Creek into Lake Buchanan. The most beautiful part of the this part of the trip, though, was Fall Creek Falls just north of the lake, cascading in multiple plumes over a sixty foot limestone cliff into the water. The falls were once a sacred site for the Comanches, and it was easy to see why they would sanctify this ground. Jerry and I paused a long time for photos, and to soak in the incredible natural beauty commingled with passing human history before we turned back into wind and paddled on.
Finally, we rounded the last big bend in the river below Deer Creek and got into the main body of the lake. We paddled hard into the whitecaps kicked up by the stiffening south breeze. The swells were topping out above a foot, the boat was taking on water, and the going was tough. When we had to paddle across the wind, we were constantly in danger of being swamped by the waves. Progress was impossible without constant effort. But we dug in and paddled our slow way past Tow, past the stretches of false willow, and past the boat docks that jutted out across the bare lakebed. Despite the low lake level, there was much evidence here of a recent flood—driftwood and flotsam and jetsam of all types. Finally we rounded a rocky point and saw Jerry’s bright red Ford parked at the take-out spot. Our objective in sight, we paddled with renewed energy toward the LCRA boat ramp.
We took the canoe out of the water at 1:30 p.m. After we unloaded our gear, I washed the mud off as much as possible while Jerry pulled the truck around. Then Jerry loaded the gear into the back of his truck while I washed the mud off of—and out of—the canoe. We flipped the canoe upside-down on the bank and quaffed a celebratory beverage while calling our loved ones via cell phone. Finally, we loaded the canoe onto Jerry’s truck and headed for the put-in point at the Highway 16 Bridge. We had hoped for another round of soft tacos at Larry’s Corner Café; but by the time we got to San Saba, they had closed for the afternoon. So we settled for Sonic instead. After a very late lunch, we drove back to the Xterra—still parked safe and sound between two concrete bridge columns—and transferred the canoe and my gear back into my own vehicle. We took a few pictures and shook hands, capping off a fine four-day adventure through the Texas Hill Country.
It was an incredible trip. Having multi-dayed many rivers in many states, I must say that the Colorado River between Highway 16 and Lake Buchanan is as lovely a stretch of river as any I have ever had the good fortune to savor by canoe.
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