Prepping for a paddle trip on the Pecos River

Chris LeBlanc paddles the Colorado River between Little Webberville Park and Big Webberville Park on Easter Sunday 2018. Photo by Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman

 

I discovered paddling last year.

Between March and October, I canoed or kayaked portions of six Texas waterways – the Colorado River, the Llano River, the San Marcos River, Mexican Creek, the Pedernales River and, my favorite of them all, the Devils River.

It’s spring, and we’ve (finally) gotten some rain, so I’ve been getting out again.

Last Monday, I settled my butt in a very tippy one-person race canoe for a test run on Lady Bird Lake, from Austin High School up to Red Bud Island and back. I didn’t fall in, so I consider the excursion more or less a success. But I also realized how difficult it is to steer a long, needle-nosed canoe, how little I know about proper paddling form, and how little my swimming fitness translates to paddling fitness. Plus, I’ve got a whole new vocabulary of jargon to learn.

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All that’s hard to swallow, because I want to learn how to go fast in a human-powered boat. And I’m not known for my patience.

On Easter Sunday, I took a quick run on the Colorado River downstream from Austin in my very own Alumacraft canoe, a big metal beast of a boat. It’s an easy, placid run, and with last week’s rainfall, conditions were perfect. (I’ve been hearing from paddling friends that the San Marcos River is flowing too high for beginners like me.)

My husband and I dropped our canoe at Little Webberville Park, then called Neal Cook at Cook’s Canoes, who for $20 helped us shuttle our truck down to Big Webberville Park, then drove us back to our boat.

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We spent the time practicing our cadence. As driver, I sit in the back and call out “hut” whenever I want us to switch paddling sides. It’s a struggle, still, to direct the boat exactly where I want it to go, but I’m learning. (Just not fast enough.)

We pulled off in a little inlet to eat sandwiches. Later, we encountered a school of gar, which was pretty exciting. The long, torpedo-shaped fish look like miniature alligators, and it looked like they were coming to the surface to eat insects (although for all I know they were just peeking out of the water to see if the sun was shining.) I didn’t dangle my fingers in to find out.

I’m super excited to say that I’m gearing up for another big paddle adventure. In two weeks, I’m heading west again, this time to spend five days paddling the Pecos River from Pandale down to the High Bridge near Comstock.

Stay tuned for a full report on that one…

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