Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Well, now I know.

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Wish you were here.

Conventional wisdom states Spring Creek is only paddlable when the flow rate is between 150 cfs and 400 cfs.

Readers of this blog should already know "wisdom" and "Merriwether the Adventurer" are not exactly on speaking terms with one another. In fact, we are often actively fighting. (Current score: Wisdom 31 / Merriwether 4, well maybe 3. Okay, 2)

Having already proven Spring Creek could be paddled at 600 cfs (though truth be told Clark and I did almost die), it was time to try the other end of the spectrum: could Spring Creek be paddled at 50 cfs?

Of course, that wasn't the original plan. All the week before the weatherman had been promising heavy rain. I planned my whole Labor Day weekend around spending Sunday slipping downstream in Seeker's Fate, letting the river take my stress away.

Note to the weatherman: YOU SUCK!!

No rain. No rain. No rain. Little rain! No rain. No rain. Little rain! No rain...
And each day the creek's level fell. Sunday morning I was up at 5:30am checking the flow rate. It was at 68 cfs, but flipping on the tv once again the weatherman (WHO SUCKS!) promised heavy rains. I decided I'd give him one more chance and maybe going to church would help me out with the rain...

The south side of Houston suffered flooding. We stayed dry. Note to weatherman: YOU REALL REALLY SUCK!!

Monday morning the flow rate was 51 cfs. Screw it, I decided I'd give it a shot. Maybe I'd only have to drag Seeker's Fate a little bit.

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Ready to go!

I didn't actually drive with the canoe hanging off the back like in the above picture. The original plan was to launch under I-45 and take out at Hwy. 59 in Humble about 7 hours later. Considering I knew there were a lot of sandbars just past I-45 I decided to move an hour (paddle time) down to the new launch at Riley-Fuzzle. On the downside, I think the stretch between I-45 and Riley-Fuzzel is some of the prettiest along the creek.

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Launching at Riley-Fuzzel.

Like the canoe cart? I made it out of an old golf club cart I picked up for $10 at a local junk shop. I replaced it's wheels with some big, knobby ones and added longer straps. I thought it would work fine. More on that later... For a good run Spring Creek would should have all that sand covered. Notice there's lots of sand. A few fishermen asked if I knew what I was doing seeing how low the river was. I just responded, "Where's the fun in that?!" and headed off down Spring Creek.

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And made it about 75 yards before hitting my first drag-spot.

Being an optimistic chap, I didn't let this worry me. A bit of rearranging and I was once again afloat. I found I had to sit in the middle of the canoe to have the shallowest draft. Then I could float through as little as eight inches of water!

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Smooth sailing.

Of course, sitting in the center of Seeker's Fate would have been much easier if she had a center seat. Unfortunately my years of sitting Indian-style on the floor of a canoe for seven hours are long past. After about a hour I had lost most of the feeling in my legs and had to switch back to the seat. This meant I was back to slogging through the shallows. I tried to stay in the deeper water found along the outside of the curves (look for the darker, faster moving water). But to get to the deeper water I had to cross the shallow stuff.

Sidenote: standing in a canoe pushing it with a pole gondola-style...not a good idea.

Still, there was plenty to look at. The thick woods along the banks always thrill me, especially when I catch glimpse of a game trail leading off into its deeps. Pigs, deer, cows, birds of many different types all could be seen. Plus other things such as:

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Burned truck.

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Burned car.

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A Plesiosaurus!

About four hours into the trip I was feeling a bit down. It had been a real struggle to get this far. The trip hadn't been much fun due to all the dragging (YOU SUCK, WEATHERMAN!). I was missing Clark. My shoulders, back and arms ached. I had to go back to work the next day and explain to a vice-president why his Great Outside-the-Box Idea would probably waste $5 milion dollars. I was having only minimal levels of fun. I mean really, what could...oh, farging swell!!

The storm clouds had snuck up while I had been scanning the creek for the deepest path. Lightening suddenly striking nearby has a wonderful way of shifting one's attention. The wind quickly picked up and buckets of rain fell from the sky. And LOTS of lightening!

So, the next hour was spent huddling on the shore soaked to the bone hoping going to church the day before will protect me. Yet, perhaps not suprisingly that was one of the best parts of the trip. Sitting along a river in the middle of nowhere caught in a storm is a great way to get back in touch with nature. I needed that.

I also decided my wilderness survival kit needed some reorganizing. I had changed it since that post to where the rope was now wrapped around the case. Bad idea. That makes actually getting into the kit a real pain in the @55. So, instead of pulling it out a making a fire I just sat in the rain. Even though the temperature had started out in the high 80's the wind and rain made me cold to the point of starting to shiver! I never would have guessed hypothermia could be a danger in the Texas summer. I guess all it takes is a long, cool storm and suddenly one's core temp drops into the danger zone. Probably a good thing to know.

Anyway, the lightening finally stopped but the rain continued to fall. Back into Seeker's Fate. Back to heading downstream. The creek had risen some but there's a 2-3 hour lag between rain and rise of Spring Creek. I pushed on (often quite literally).

The approach of Spring Creek to the junction with Cypress Creek is fairly long and straight. On the far bank here is a giant, white sycamore tree that stands out like a beacon. Truely a welcome sight. Eventually the bank beneath it will wash away and this tree will fall into the river(s). That'll make me sad.

Once Spring Creek hits Cypress Creek the water becomes much deeper and I no longer had any problems paddling. From there it was a little less than two hours to my planned take out at the south point where Spring Creek flows under Hwy. 59. I had checked this place early in the summer and it looked perfect. There was a little boat landing there and everything. Misseswether could drive right up to the creek without any problems.

Once I reached this point I got out and called Misseswether to let her know I was ready to be picked up. I had been over seven hours on the water and it was not the best of adventures. It was suppertime when I called so Misseswether had to feed the Wethergirls (no relation the SUCKY WEATHERMAN!) before getting me. ETA was about 90 minutes. We hung up and I started prepping the canoe. That didn't take long so I decided to walk up the road to see what all the neat construction equipment was about.

Oh crap, the road was closed! Misseswether wouldn't be able to get closer than maybe half a mile to where Seeker's Fate lay. The big "No Tresspassing" sign also caused me some concern...

I had a small spot where I could peek out at the road yet remain hidden from all the cops patrolling hwy 59 for Labor Day drunks. From this spot I watched Misseswether whiz by having been confused by the big "Road Closed" sign.

Thank God for cell phones.

She eventually found me and I grabbed my canoe cart (remember that thing?) from the back of the Honda Pilot and headed back down to the river...

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Miniwether, now able to read, was somewhat concerned about me breaking the law.

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Mambowether? Well, as usual she was just in her own little, magical world.

Anyway, like I said I went back and loaded the canoe onto the cart. Then I figured it'd just be an easy run through forbidden territory to get loaded up.

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So of course a wheel fell off.

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Plan "B".

Misseswether, bless her heart, knew at this point that she should offer encouragement not criticism. Eventually I got the canoe up to the open portion of the road, loaded it onto the Pilot, and we all drove home arriving eleven hours after I first left.

So, what did I learn?
1. 50 cfs is too low to enjoy paddling Spring Creek unless you are naturally a very cheerful person who isn't discouraged by slogging through water dragging your canoe behind you.
2. Always bring lots of drinking water. I went through more than four liters and still ended up a little dehydrated.
3. Make sure your emergency kit is packed in a way that allows it to be useful.
4. A canoe may or may not be considered an "Unauthorized Vehicle" when it comes to lawful use of a road.
5. If a road is involved in your plan, make sure someone hasn't decided to dig a four foot deep trench across it.
6. The worst day on the water is still better than the best day at work.
7. The weatherman here SUCKS.

Adventure! Excitment! Adaptability!

5 comments:

chris said...

That sucks. So I guess you probably don't want to hear about my trip down Spring Creek just the day before... Too bad… It was absolutely wonderful. Riley Fuzzel to Jones park. The weather was great and the flow was just enough to keep us off the bottom.
Note: The people who decided that, after 4 hours of paddling, carrying all your stuff up a muddy hill cutely call a "canoe launch" should be severely punished. The Jones takeout was horrible... though not illegal, LOL.

Izzy G. said...

I love how at the very end the wheel fell off.

Merriwether the Adventurer said...

Chris,

Aaarrggghhh!!! I knew I should have gone on Sunday!!! I saw some scrape marks in the sand along the way. I'm assuming they were from your kayak. I'm glad you had a good trip. It really is a great paddle, especially for being so close to Houston. And you are right, the cliff Jones Park calls a canoe landing is friggin nuts. That's why I continued down to hwy 59. I thought it'd be easier...

Izzy,

At the very end?! I had to to carry the canoe a over a quarter of a mile! True, my portage technique sucks but that's the only way I can do it without shoulder pads.

E6B said...

Having read your adventure logs for over a year now, I betting that when that white sycamore falls, you'll be under it. :)

Stay safe!

PSM (visiting from ETS)

NightHiker said...

Wow, 2000 miles away and we have the same weatherman!

Actually, it sounds like a great day. It wouldn't be an adventure if it went exactly as planned and it didn't involve a trip to either jail or the emergency room.

Thanks for sharing.