Monday, July 07, 2008

A Mid-Summer Night's Dreamless

Over hill, over dale,
Thorough bush, thorough brier,
Over park, over pale,
Thorough flood, thorough fire,
I do wander everywhere.

-W. Shakespeare

The woods are not silent in the night. As I stared up at the dark canopy of leaves above me, as I stared at the stars and the fireflies dancing, all I could think was...


Whoever tells of the peaceful silence of the woods has probably never actually spent a night out amongst amorous tree frogs, love-sick cicadas, ten thousand crickets, a friggin owl that thinks it's Frank Sinatra, and a pack of yipping coyotes. Oh yeah, also add to that a beaver splashing around in the river below us and several wild hogs snuffling around out beyond the wall of kayaks we had built.

San Jacinto.jpg
Earlier, and peaceful.

Three day weekends means Merriwether heads into the borderlands. This time it was an over night kayak trip with Lone Star C and his wife, Valkrie. All the local river were very low. Spring Creek was only running at 14 cfs. To paddle it Spring Creek needs to be up around 150 cfs, though 400 cfs is much better (above 600 cfs it gets kind of dangerous, but very fun). Luckily, Spring Creek flows into Cypress Creek and Cypress Creek flows into the San Jacinto River. This section always has enough water in it to paddle comfortably.

We decided to launch from Jesse H. Jones Park on Cypress Creek, paddle the two miles or so to the San Jacinto river, then head upstream on the San Jacinto to a sandbar to camp out overnight. Due to circumstances beyond my control we didn't actually get to Jesse H. Jones park until after 6pm. The park ranger didn't want to let us launch that late in the evening but we talked him into it. I found out later that he chewed out Misseswether on her way out because we hadn't filed the officialcanoe/kayak paddle plan paperwork.

Oh well.

We were blissfully unaware of the grief Misseswether handled on our behalf (she is so awesome). We were already on the water lazily paddling through the beautiful forest. Golden sunlight, beautiful birds, jumping fish. You know, the Mother Nature the way people read about her. All "treasured moments" and "touchy-feely-indiginous-tribes-in-harmony-with-nature" sort of stuff.

It was great. Of course I have no pictures of this portion.

I was a little concerned about paddling against the San Jacinto's current but it wasn't an issue. The river, though deep, didn't seem to be moving at all. It took no effort to go against it. The only problem was we weren't finding any sandbars.

Much farther upstream beautiful, white sandbars stretch for miles along the banks of the San Jacinto. Not so many at this end though. The sun was going down and we were starting to get a little worried. We figured if it came down to it we could paddle in the dark, but it wasn't our first choice.

Lone Star C was the first to notice a funny looking spot on top of a 10' high river band. It was filled with trees, but there didn't seem to be any underbrush under them. He climbed up the bank to check it out. He disappeared for a minute, then returned and said that it was good.

Very, very good.

Cows and pigs had rooted up a section of the forest, leaving nothing but sand, trees, and the ocasional piles of poop. It looked nicer than many man-made campsites I've seen.

San Jacinto Camp.jpg
Our camp along the San Jacinto.

San Jacinto Netting.jpg
My apartment had VERY thin walls and Mother Nature was a noisy neighbor.

The freshness of the poop suggested the cows were close and could return, so we used the kayaks to build a wall around most of the camp and built a fire at the open end. Sausages were cooked, whiskey-7Ups were drank, fireflies were chased, and tales of past adventures were told long into the night. Sometime after midnight we went to our tents and settled in for a peaceful sleep in the woods.

Three hours later I was considering hunting down every friggin tree frog in the woods and strangling them with my bare hands (which is actually kind of tough as they are small little buggers. Sure, crushing them would be easy, but to actually strangle one takes care and precision. Uh, but I digress.)

Of course, it was more than just the damn frogs, it was also all the other woodland party animals. Coyotes were probably the second most annoying creature. Sure, there's something primitive and magical about hearing coyotes yip and howl, but after three hours of it 30 yards from your head it gets kind of old. Cool, but really old.

I would have though the coyotes would have scared the pigs away but I could hear them digging around on the other side of our camp away from the coyotes. Lots of pigs.

The last time I looked at my watch it was past 3:30am. It was a hair after 6am when the splashing of beavers woke me up. Valkire had already been awake for an hour after having a dream about being attacked by a bear, Lone Star C also awoke to the canadensis alarm clock. Fish were still jumping so he decided to try and catch us some breakfast.

San Jacinto Breakfast.jpg
Bass, much better than June Bugs for breakfast.

We ended up having oatmeal and granola bars for breakfast. Oh well.

Climbing back up to the bank we discovered the possibility of upgrading to bacon. Two feral pigs were rooting in the woods just outside our Kayakian Wall of Safety.

San Jacinto pig.jpg
Trust me, it's a pig.

They ran off at the sound of my camera. Bummer, because they looked like the perfect size for roasting.

San Jacinto pig2.jpg
Another pig a bit farther upstream. We saw lots of pigs on this trip.

Camp was broke and the kayaks were back in the water by 8am. We paddled upstream for another hour before finding the first sandbar. Unfortunately, others had been there before us and had left it a mess. There were beer cans, food wrappers, and the remains of fireworks all over it. People can be real jerkwads at times.

We left that sandbar and continued upstream. Another ten minutes brought us to another sandbar. This one was very high and it took some climbing to get up to its top, but it was definately worth it. There were a few very old ATV tracks, but otherwise it was pristine. Oh, except for the occasional cow patty. We poked around this sandbar for a while before heading back to the river. By then it was 10am. At 12:30pm Misseswether was going to pick us up at Edgewater Park.

We had been heading downstream when I picked up the hitchhiker. She was just too gorgeous to leave stranded in the river.

San Jacinto hitchhiker.jpg
A thing of beauty.

Apparently Lone Star C didn't find her nearly as pretty when I tossed her without warning into his kayak. Yeah, sometimes I can be a little impetuous. Sidenote: the spider was already dead when I found it floating in the river. Freaked you out a bit though, didn't I?

Wait a minute, that means there are still live, giant spiders out there. They may have even crawled over me while I slept...

Oh, crap.

Happy thoughts! Happy thoughts! Fireflies, rainbows and ice cream sandwiches!

Okay, much better now.

We had easy paddle back down the San Jacinto and landed at the park at 11:30am. Another great adventure was done.

San Jacinto end.jpg
Passing under hwy. 59 just southof Kingwood, Texas. Yes, unfortunately the water really was that color.

So, what did Merriwether learn?
1. if you are looking for a great but quick over night (or day) paddle close to Houston but all the river seem dry, fear not for there's always water from Jesse H. Jones park down to the San Jacinto. Then you can paddle for hours up the San Jac before hitting shallow water.

2. Current gasoline prices are forcing power boats and jet skis off Texas rivers. This is nice if you are a kayaker or canoeist. Not so nice if you are in the power boat industry.

3. Coleman self-inflating pads are cheap because they suck.

4. If Mother Nature is your neighbor you might consider ear plugs. She parties all night long!

5. Misseswether is totally awesome! She drove through Houston traffic with a big, multi-kayak hauling trailer attached to her Honda Pilot for the first time and she did it with only Mini and Mambo as her copilots.

Peace be with you.


clarktx said...

Allegedly, people eat an average of 8 spiders during their lifetime, while sleeping.

I suspect that you are much above average in this regard.

clarktx said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
clarktx said...

It has been politely pointed out to me that this is not actually true, however, I still stand by the spirit of my original statement that I am sure Mark will eat more spiders than the average person, during his lifetime.

He has already accomplished that feat with Junebugs, probably after he ate the third one. The average could only be as high as 2, if you assume that you count ones accidentally eaten by motorcyclists.

Merriwether said...

"I am sure Mark will eat more spiders than the average person, during his lifetime."

Well, yeah. Though they are supposed to be one of the more yucky-tasting bugs...

Windrider said...

Man, you are making me homesick.

Looks like a really good time!!

Although, the spider being tossed at me would have made me try to walk on water! I have zero fear of alligators or snakes, but spiders turn me into a quivering little girl...

Ahem... So to speak...