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My 2002 trip down the Brazos river


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I ran across this document from a while back and thought I would share it. We went again the next year and it was always mostly fun. 


April 14th 2002


My wife Connie and I had planned a canoe trip down the Brazos River last fall, but we didn’t make it then due to several factors. This time we did, but without any friends to go with us. It seems it is hard to find people who are adventurous today.


The driver from Rochelle’s Canoe Rental dropped us off, and we put in at the hwy 16 bridge below the Possum Kingdom lake dam Thursday morning April 11 at 9 am.

Now, this is a 19-mile trip from the put in point, back to Rochelle’s Canoe Rental, so we had decided to stay out for three days and camp twice so we went about 7 miles the first day.


The first seven miles on this trip are uneventful, and as always we had planned for low water levels when the river would be “safe”. Along this first seven miles you see mostly sheer rock face bluffs and cedar trees and scrub vegetation, and steep rock banks with very few places to camp. Also we had a hefty head wind most of the way on the first day. Sometimes the wind there is so strong it will push you upstream if you stop paddling. This is the part of the river I don’t like because of the wind and the drab scenery, except for the cliffs and the low, rough hills. Incidentally, these cliffs and bluffs are what are referred to as the Palo Pinto Mountains. They are hardly mountains, but I digress.


We reached the first good campsite about 2 pm on a wide, shallow section of the river right before it narrows into a rock garden trough where we fell out the first trip we took here. The campsite was a nice grassy knoll above the rivers generating level, and resembled someone’s yard. Unfortunately the campers who had stopped there before us had left a lot of trash, mostly paper cups and plates and about 400,000 empty beers cans and wine bottles. Connie and I bagged it all up and put it aside. We would have taken it out with us but did not have room on the canoe.


We then set up camp. I put up our four man Kelty tent with the rain fly, which would be very much needed later, while Connie fished. I don’t really like to fish. We had dinner and watched a large hawk like bird dive down to the river trying to catch its dinner. Unfortunately some thing under the water caught the bird and ate it, while the bird howled desperately. Poor thing. We went to bed about 9:30 and listened to coyotes howling in the distance.


Next morning we woke at 6, and broke camp after coffee and breakfast. About 10 we got back on the river and lined through the rocky shoal where we usually fall out of the canoe because of all the hidden rocks. What was surprising this time was that I noticed the great campsite on the left bank. It’s about half a mile of gravel sand bar with nice little grassy areas that bordered on a wooded area, with plenty of firewood. Funny how I missed that the four other times we came on this trip.


We got back in the canoe and had gone about two miles when we came to where Ioni creek joins the Brazos. The river narrows here and about a half mile on down there is the first set of rapids. As we floated down toward the rapid, I decided to thread the rocks there on the left instead of going on the right and the middle as I had all the other times. Bad move. We did not see the BFR (big f***ing rock) right below the water. We hi-centered the canoe on it and our movement flipped us over. Terror gripped me! The canoe was on its side half full of water, and Connie was struggling to stay above water. It was over our heads deep.


Wisely, we had on life vests, which many people choose to not wear for some reason. I managed to right the canoe and then looked over at Connie. She was gasping for air and I grabbed her hand and told her to hold on to the canoe. They tell you to stay with the boat, and we did. Good advice! We could NOT lose it or our supplies. We slowly began to swim the canoe and ourselves to the shore, beating our knees and shins and feet on the rocks beneath us. Thank goodness the current was not strong. After what seemed like forever, we could stand up. We were right next to a scrub brush bank where I had seen many snakes on several of our other trips. We don’t like spiders and snakes.  In fact, that afternoon, watching from our hasty camp, a cottonmouth swam out and was basking on the very rocks we landed on!


We managed to pull the canoe ashore and empty it, and miraculously, found that we had only lost my fishing rod, and Connie’s cigarettes. We tie stuff down good!  To put it mildly, I was panicked, but luckily we had managed to keep from drowning, thank goodness. The canoe had hit Connie on the head and she had a nice bump to show for it. I also found we had lost a paddle. Bad. It would be a major pain to get down the river safely with just one paddle. Water had also gotten in my binoculars and they were useless.


The place we beached was not a good campsite in any way, but I was determined to stay put until I was certain Connie or I was not seriously injured, and until we regained our confidence. We packed the canoe up and waded across the river, after letting a herd of cattle cross, and pulled our supplies and the canoe up on top of a grassy ledge. We set up camp at noon that day.


I decided that I would walk up a road that was there and see what I could find. Yes, it was trespassing, but I was looking for a way out. I took my .22 with snake shot and magnum hollow points and walked about a mile or so and saw only woods and brush with no sign of human life or even the sound of a car, except for some type of tank, and a frame of a house from many years ago. It was isolated, with only the smell of skunk and the occasional murmur of something in the woods.


I went back to camp and relaxed for a while. We decided that it would not be wise for me to walk onto someone’s property or come up on somebody’s house carrying an AK47.  I told Connie that I would not leave it behind, because of coyotes, and that I would not leave her alone at camp, for fear of me getting lost, or her coming up against some animal. She can use a single action revolver, but has never wanted to learn any other firearms. Fortunately more canoes came by about that time and we asked if they had a cell phone. (I’ll never forget mine again). One guy laughed and asked if we had a dollar for the call, and then said he didn’t have a phone. We asked about ten canoes in all, and never were even asked if we needed help. It would occur to me to that if I was going down a river in the middle of nowhere, and someone appeared in the woods asking for a cell phone, that they might need some help. Maybe we scared them, I don’t know, but all the guns were hidden. Luckily the guy who lives on the river about a mile up came by in his boat and loaned us a paddle.


We slept well that night and awoke at 6 again, had coffee and a candy bar and got back on the river. This time we went to the right and through the middle of the rocks and made it just fine. You can’t imagine the tension I felt though. And Connie was upset at the people who just didn’t want to help us, and I was in fear that if we fell in again Connie may get hurt worse and I would not be able to help her.


Well we made it! We portaged the rapids for fear of getting hurt more, as rocks are everywhere there. We saw the guy in the boat again and he agreed to let us keep the paddle until we got back to Rochelle’s. We had got to about the 13-mile point when all of a sudden we noticed the sky had gotten darker. Much darker. Then we heard loud thunder.


I told Connie we should head for the bank but she wanted to go on, because, as she put it, “I want to get the hell out of here!” I agreed of course, but the fear of nature was on my mind. Just then, two flashes of lightning changed her mind and mine, and we turned around and beached on a grassy area right on the waters edge. We barely got the tent up before it hit. Boy did it hit. It was raining so hard I couldn’t see past about a quarter mile up river, and the wind was gusting at what I guessed to be 50 to 70 mph gusts. It would blow so hard that it would move the tent up a little with both of us in it! I don’t really know the wind speed but it had to be high. Thank God it was just gusts. The steady wind was about 25 mph or so.


We saw the two guys we had just passed come on down the river, with their canoe sitting heavy in the river, meaning it was full of water, and I got out and asked them if they wanted to come in with us out of the storm. To my amazement they thanked me and said no. Just about then the whitest, hottest, biggest lightning bolts I have ever seen hit the bank over by where they were. They quickly moved to the shore opposite us and sat there getting drenched. We waited it out in the tent, witnessed several more such lighting strikes, and heard the locomotive sound twice that people say a tornado makes. For all I know one may have formed somewhere nearby. It was an eerie sound. Kind of like a thunder clap that just keeps going!  Awesome! Man what a spectacle!


After about an hour and a half the storm stopped. We got out and folded up the tent again and noticed the temp had dropped about 15 degrees. We turned our canoe over and emptied the water out of it and got back on the river. I realized how the term “gully washer” originated. Many gullies more pouring muddy water into the river, raising its level a bit.


About four uneventful hours later, we floated into Rochelle’s and got in our truck and left. What an adventure! We have never experienced such a trip! Both of us swore we would never go back. Certain parts were just terrifying, but the storm was THE most amazing thing we had ever seen. The lighting bolts were brilliant and beautiful.


By the time we were home drinking a beer and watching TV, we were talking about buying some paddles to tie on the canoe, just in case we ever lost one again again! The storm was the most amazing thing we had ever seen.


Well, I gotta go clean the two guns I took, my Ruger New Model Single Six, and my Mak-90. They can only take so many dunkings!  Hope I haven’t bored you.


But we are glad to be home.



**** Things I learned ****



Nature IS awesome.


Morning will come, if you want it to or not.


You CAN do it.


There are always options.


Some people really will not help you.


Some people will help you


You still smell bad after a bath in the river.


Fat people don’t float.


Dry bags are not always completely dry.


A five-gallon bucket with a hole cut in the bottom and a toilet seat attached to it works.


I didn’t take enough pictures.


We need to be in better shape.


We aren’t in too bad a shape.


22 CB shorts hit the water much closer than 22 WMR rounds do. (DOH!)


30 rounds of rapid fire from an AK do not attract any attention after all! (Hey, I had to dry it out, you know, dry firing!


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