Canoeing Colorado River II | Canoe Vibes | Columbus TX Paddling Trails

Having a Good Plan B – Colorado River Trip II

I’ve never been much of a Boy Scout.

While technically I did serve a year as a Cub Scout way back when, the combination of my severe opposition to tucking in my shirt and curiosity to see what happens when bending the rules turns into breaking the rules has always kept me a safe distance away from both the troop meetings and the slightly less literal societal classification of the word.

I have to give it to them, though. They’re really on to something with this whole ‘always be prepared’ concept. You don’t have to wear knee-high socks and race matchbox toy cars to get down with a state of readiness mixed with a little backup plan preparation. Most of us do it every day! For me, having little built in contingency plans for the unexpected can range in severity from writing a potentially life-saving ACA float plan for every trip to the slightly-less life saving yet still equally important clean underwear backups that I bring to every river I paddle.

While I like to think that I can hang with the best of the badge-wielding boys in beige, I took a pretty big shot to the gut when my thoroughly planned 50-something mile Guadalupe River trip had to be cancelled less than twenty-four hours before launch. I was stuck without a backup plan. After a week of successful planning, we pulled the plug on the trip because low water conditions would have made the trip less of a canoeing adventure and more of a weekend long game of dodge-rock against the notorious canoe shredding rocks of the upper Guadalupe.

That ‘Getting Stood Up on a Date’ Feeling

When the water is up, and the river hasn’t yet been taken over by summer vacation tubers, the Guadalupe is beautiful. Her clean water suckers me in, and the rocky banks lined with cypress trees keep me close until her rainbow and brown trout fully knock me head over heels. In south central Texas, there aren’t many other paddling options as cosmetically appealing as the Guadalupe. I’ll stop drooling as long as you understand that she’s the closest thing to a supermodel that I have in my reasonable arsenal of paddling options.

At five o’clock on Friday evening, I sat there packed, planned, and excited for our rendezvous when she stood me up like I was just another one of her casual flings.

First there was denial as I called multiple outfitters to confirm the low water levels weren’t an internet glitch. Next came anger, swiftly followed by some bargaining that maybe a single day trip could be salvaged from my original plans. No? How about just a couple miles? Maybe just some fishing? Water level depression stopped in for a quick bite to eat at the Grief Diner before I decided it was time to make peace with my misfortune and move on to a river that would never treat me like this.

Coming Crawling Back

Bless her heart. She always tries so hard. She never questions where I’ve been the last couple weeks, and she always welcomes me back with open arms. The Colorado River – from LaGrange to Columbus – is a nice stretch of river but it’s water is murky, current is slow, and, well, comparatively it’s just pretty average.

Well, who am I to be picky right now? I’m packed, my schedule is cleared, and I’ve got an itch that needs to be scratched. As soon as I got her text back, I was ready to get this river date rolling!

Going Back to her Place

This backup plan of a trip would have to suffice. We pulled into LaGrange, and she stood there smiling at us while we forced a smile back at her. You know that smile you give when a relative gives you a present that you’re not quite sure what it is? That was the smile we gave back to her. It was good to see her but, well, she was no supermodel.

The following 32 miles was nothing to write home about but it was the best option available. I remember not too long ago when the twists and turns of the shallow Colorado currents used to get me excited. However, not anymore. The paddle was fast, the turns were well-maneuvered, and the day was fun in an uneventful kind of way.

There was one thing different about this trip; this time we decided that we were spending the night camping on the river. There would be no drive home, no fast food dinner, and no tents. This was our real version of a river camping trip: a couple of tarps, two sleeping bags, a ziplock bag of trail mix, and two flasks of whiskey.

The deer grazed just 30 yards from our Skid Row looking campsite. After laying out our tarps, attempting to lure the deer in with a ration of our trail mix, and finishing the whiskey to the tune of a 9-2 win for the good guys on the Astros radio broadcast thanks to our EcoXGear BT Speaker, we hit the hay. The hay was quiet. The hay was uncomfortably natural. And the hay gave me one of the best night’s sleep I’ve had pre-dating the Netflix era.

There’s something to be said for the hyposensitivity that the sights and sounds bring on by emerging yourself in nature. When we woke up at sunrise, I stood up and walked around until the dew evaporated and the weather warmed up. While I was up, all I wanted to do was get back into my now dew-soaked sleeping bag on the uneven ground covered by my uncomfortable tarp. Mornings at home in my comfortable bed aren’t like this. Mornings in the city make me hypersensitive to every dump truck that passes, every alarm that sounds, and every roommate that walks out of the house before me.

This was different. The hypo sensitive nature of the outdoors made me oblivious to everything going on around me. All I wanted to do was get back in bed and ignore all of life’s usual distractions so I could enjoy my hyposensitivity to the world while being warmed and comforted by the rising sun.

Is that overly romantic? Maybe. Was it true? Ask Philip. I cuddled up in the damn sleeping bag until almost noon when it turned into more of a heat chamber and less of a warm, protective cocoon.

Regardless, we woke up again, packed our shanty campsite back into the canoe, and continued down river the remaining 8 miles to the takeout with a new appreciation for a quality backup plan and pretty darn satisfied with the Plan B that the beautiful bitch of a supermodel, Guadalupe, left us with.

Distance: 40 Miles | Average MPH: n/a | Canoe: Buffalo Canoe 15‘ Standard Tandem

[widgetkit id=”47″ name=”Gallery: Colorado River Plan B”]


canoeing, editorial, trip reports

Mark Vlaskamp

After four years as Marketing Director for Yak Gear, Mark now partners with creative outdoor brands and pursues the gray area between freelancing and (f)unemployment. Currently, he is floating between Austin and Houston, TX - still searching for new water, cool people, and cheap beer.

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