The Theory of Relativity: Hidalgo Falls Trip Report
In post-Einstein life on this rock flying through space – life where people still find ways to complain about the weather, their job, and those political parties deemed perpetually terrible instead of being thankful for the flying rock – some things are absolute and things that are relative.
Time is relative, right Albert? Time varies based on how fast you’re moving.
While my knowledge of science gets pretty hazy at anything above 8th grade introductory physics, time on the river has made me an expert at noticing the skewed perception of time’s relativity and some real-world applications that my man Dr. E narrowly missed discovering over one hundred years ago.
The Relativity of Alarm Clock Reception
I’m not a morning person; far from it. However, the old school buzz – now rivaled on the radio under the over-glorified Dub Step genre – that I have programmed to play every morning at 6:30 am is uncharacteristically welcomed on paddling trip mornings. The alarm sounds, I shoot out of bed, get ready, and hit the road in the time that it usually takes me to start a good game of Hide and Seek with my snooze button on an ordinary weekday.
This Saturday was no different. My plans to paddle Hidalgo Falls – a protected section of the Brazos River through the Texas Rivers Protection Association access point in Navasota – had been circled on my calendar for a couple weeks now to the point of bleeding through onto the next page like a school girl feeding an overwhelming highlighter addiction. Excited was an understatement.
Here’s why: This stretch of the river is not open to the general public for fishing, sunbathing, or swimming; it’s only for kayaking and canoeing the seldom-found-in-Texas rapids. Yes, rapids. The thought of getting tossed around like a pair of dirty underwear in the washing machine was enough to wake me up and get me on the road coffee-free.
People Stop Listening Before You Stop Talking
I jumped in the car, loaded the Old Town NEXT, and met a buddy and my parents at the TRPA property on the Brazos River after an hour and a half drive northwest on the main highways and the ensuing ten minute drive through swamped dirt roads and crop fields that put the remaining worn out tread on my tires to the test. The brush parted over the dirt road, I used the every ounce of wiper fluid left to clear the mud from my windshield, and we stared the type of stare that our Moms had always told us was inappropriate when we got our first glimpse of the rapids.
This was going to be fun.
It would be a while until we hit the water because unloading the gear down to the cliff seemed like it was going to take a couple of trips. On top of gearing down two canoes, five paddles, three big dry bags, and a pile of other accessories, the rapids were going to take some time to scout. It’s not like jumping in line to ride the waterslide down to the deep end of the pool; this was much more serious, and we were going to prepare accordingly. This preparation time was necessary, but it was killing me as I waited.
I wanted to be in the boat right away! Any unnecessary prolonging of the preparation process was as unwelcomed as the mosquitoes that were having their last supper on my legs in celebration of our arrival, including an unusually lengthy conversation and orientation from a friendly TRPA representative that stood between me and my river sloshing.
I couldn’t tell you the rules and regulations that were covered in that conversation because of the paddling daydream repeatedly playing in my head like a True TV Cops marathon on a Saturday night. However, that wasn’t the only root of my distraction.
It happens all the time; people stop listening before you stop talking. Time is relative to not only how fast you’re moving, but just then I noticed that it is also relative to the role you are playing in the conversation. When you’re talking, time seems to go much faster than the mental school zone speed trap that pops up in front of you when you’re forced to listen for extended periods of time. It’s human nature, and this human was ready to get the hell out of this fifteen mile per hour conversation and feel the pedal hit the floor in that roaring, muddy, freeway nature down below.
Time Flies When the Waters White
After escaping the handcuffs of a seemingly unnecessary – yet equally practical – orientation to the property, we hauled out tandem Mad River Angler 14 and our utility boat, the Old Town Next 13 down to the south bank and began to scout potential runs. Even though river whitewater looks like easy-to-maneuver waves in the ocean because of the aerated rough (white) water, rocks, currents, and swirling chaotic conditions, the two share a fundamental difference that requires a different kind of scout.
Yes, the two types of whitewater share some characteristics, but like Bruce and Caitlyn, they are actually very different. In the ocean, the wave shape is moving through the water and the water is only moving up and down in a circular fashion as the wave passes through. In a river, the waveform is stationary, and the water is running through it, as a current.
We scouted a couple introductory runs and – without further painful delay – we let the branch hit the water for the first time.
Boulders separated the run into three different parallel sections, conveniently ranging from the easiest and closest to our launch to the most difficult, roughly thirty-five yards across the river. This meant we could run different stretches of the river over, and over, and over without a) getting bored – like that was an option anyway – and b) having to worry about portaging or paddling too far up or down the river to catch the next run. It was a real life, full-blown jungle gym right in front of us in a Central Texas world where jungle gyms are typically made up of one slide, a three-mile stretch of stagnant river, a teeter-totter, another five mile stretch of stagnant river, and then a two-hour drive home.
Look, I’m sitting here helplessly forcing words out at the computer screen – covered in more red lines than a Casey Anthony lie detector test – realizing that simple words and my cheesy metaphors don’t do the excitement justice. It was the best paddling I’ve ever experienced, and it flew by before I could even notice that my stomach was beginning to eat my backbone to fend off starvation.
They say time flies when you’re having fun, but it’s more than that; time disappears when the water is white. All of a sudden, it was gone, and all I had to show for it was a drive home, over a thousand self-snapped GoPro photos, and a sunburn that would have impressed even Pocahontas herself.
The Drive Home is Always Faster
We pulled out of the property on the now dried up dirt road, and it became just another memory. The reverse route of the morning drive up – the drive that anticipation stretched into what seemed like a multi-day affair – took only minutes. The next thing I noticed, I was sitting at home looking at future water level projections that didn’t quite add up to the perfect conditions I just flew through and hoped to replicate soon.
Hey, Einstein. I’ll let you steal these practical amendments to your Theory of Relativity if you dig down deep in the big ol’ brain of yours and conjure me up some science for another day of perfect conditions on Hidalgo Falls. Deal?
[widgetkit id=”42″ name=”Gallery: Brazos River Whitewater”]
Tax deductible contributions can be made to the Texas Rivers Protection Association and sent to Tom Goynes, President, TRPA, 444 Pecan Park Drive, San Marcos, TX 78666.