The Coastal Texas Unlitter Kayak Tour
United States Texas South Padre Island
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I'm now at Matagorda Bay but am not following the ICW so don't have to make that huge crossing across the bay. I'm gonna hug the island like I have and I can go see the two cuts and jetties. As I get across the jetties I see a guy walking out to the end. I wanted to stop there anyway as it's a really cool looking place. I find those guys that I was hanging out with the evening before and this is where they are setting up their fishing camp. Cool. I hang out with these guys some more, hike around a bit and enjoy the spot they picked out for themselves. I gotta come back and visit these guys sometime! But it's onwards for me ……..
More marsh and as it's getting late nothing looks at all promising to set my tent on. On the gps and the charts I see where there is a house marked up inside one of the bays, but more importantly I see sanddunes and it appears that I can find some high and dry ground nearby. I didn't get as far as I would have liked and going up this long bay I hoped would turn out fruitful or I'd wasted time getting there and it would be even later. As I pull into the bay nothing to this point was camp-able.
I close in on the house and see dry ground nearby but there's also people there. I come up along side the dock and introduce myself and tell them my story and that I'm in need of a bit of dry ground to set up my tent on for the night. Here is where I meet another set of fun, interesting, and very nice and helpful people. I've paddled all day, without any possibilities of a camp for half a day and not seeing a soul, then out in the middle of nowhere I come across this little oasis . It's like out of a movie about ancient times or from a fantasy film, and still to this day I have trouble trying to describe this. I forget their names now but I have this saved on my digital voice recordings on the mp3 player/recorder that I started using after corpus. They, father, mother, son, invite me in for dinner on their porch of the fishing camp but not before I'm told I have to take a shower first! They have such a thing as a shower out here, in the middle of nowhere? Really? Nice! After dinner we talk about my route as I'll be coming up to the Colorado River which presents a bit of a challenge. In the morning I take off early, must be before any of them were up so I didn't get the chance to say goodbye.
The Colorado River: camp12
As I exit the bay and just on the other side I see a spot where I could have camped. So close, yet so far, but if I saw that I'd never had seen and met these great people. Sometimes I feel like the hand of god comes down and helps steer my boat for me.
After hours of paddling and passing by many fishing boats and trying to stay away from them all I passed one boat and they were waving their arms at me like I was too close to them? I gave them plenty of room so I was at question about why. I get past the fleet and pull over to take a break on a bit of beach which is too far and too few between. One of the fishing boats is coming in close and they finally beach next to me. I thought that they were just gonna be wade fishermen but it turns out they had seem my post on the texas kayak fisherman forum and stopped to say hi!
We talk about my route and the Colorado river and they mention that where i'm headed the charts and gps don't have quite right and to follow the middle channel on in. We chat and take some pics and then head on our way. As I get close to the end of Matagorda Bay a boat pulls up to me and it's the same guys and they guide me the right direction.
My plan is to jump into the East Matagorda Bay by crossing the Colorado River by making two portages. The first portage is into colorado river across a 100 yard dry flat area but I soon discover the blood suckers find me. Time for bug spray! and it's the first time I've had to put it on. There was always mosquitoes but I always got into my tent before they came out. here it is daylight and I wake them up and they are hungry! but the deepwoods off does the job and they disappear! It was like magic. On landing I had to completely empty the boat and make two trips across to the river, then the last one I dragged the kayak with some light stuff inside. I pack it all back into the boat and take off again. All this took a lot of time and I still had another portage yet to do and that was into the East Matagorda Bay. As I paddle up the Colorado River I get to the first of a bunch of houses and find a place to pull over and get out just before the first house. I scout it out a bit to see what is what. I have to cross a roadway but there is a channel parallel to the road on the other side. It will be a short portage but I don't want to go thru another unpack repack job as that will eat up much time. I drag my boat up as far as I think I can take it to make it easy to unload and find to my surprise that while fully loaded the boat slides pretty easily so I keep going right up to the road surface and then it slides even easier so across I go and much to my surprise cross the road and am on the bank of the connecting channel. Wow, did that just happen? Was I worried about the bottom of my hull? Not really, not after what the oysters have already done with it, besides, it was a plastic boat and it could handle that. Never would I do this with a composite boat!
I paddle into the small channel which connects to another that has a sign on it saying it's part of the Texas Paddling Trail, not that means much to me as this is a trail system is meant for day paddlers, not thru paddlers like myself. It does bring me into East Matagorda Bay though and it's time to kick in the paddling yet again and make a wake. Again the backside of the island is just bays and marsh and not much dry ground. I find an area where there's some fisherman and there's cars with them? Cars and Trucks? Hummm….. I'll have to come back out here with my motorcycle and ride this section of the beach. I'm trying to ride as much of the Texas beach as I can and have already done a fair amount, and still looking for more "available" beach. I pass some kite fisherman and pull over a short while past them to set up camp. It's relatively dry, barely but good enough!
There's still plenty of East Matagorda Bay yet to go and I tire of it and I'm ready for a change. I shoulda stuck with the bay until the end as there's another pass that I would have liked to seen, oh well. The crossing became rough and just as I get to the ICW a very large sport fishing curser goes by sending up a huge wake which crashes into the wind driven waves of the bay catching me directly in the middle and smacks me on both sides with some pretty good force. I ride it out and am then into the calm ICW waters and paddle on. It's straight and boring but I don't have to figure out much for navigation so that was good. I was also hoping for some supplies. the gps and charts say there's a marina up inside one of the channels in Sargent and I head up that way. It's late sunday afternoon and the place is empty of people as I guess the weekend was over and it was time to get back to work. I've learned to rely on local info from the locals so the first and only guy I saw I asked about the marina and mentioned what I was doing and needed a place to crash for the night with my tent. Here it happens again, I met up with some really cool people! I'm really bad with names but during this trip my ability to remember names got really good, at least during the trip. The bad news is that my mp3 player/recorder died so I no longer have any record of their names . dang it! Anyway this guys tells me it's perfect timing as he's just getting started cooking dinner and he can join he and his wife and I can pitch the tent right there. Later I just sleep on the floor of the dayroom/kitchen of the patio.
I tell them my story of what I'm doing and he mentions that they are sailors and had traveled for years living on their boat and just recently came back to land life. He offers me an iced tea ……. wow I said! Ice! It's been awhile since I had anything cold to drink and that sparked a story about when they met up with a german solo sailor and they offered him a iced drink. His boat didn't have an ice maker and like me it's been awhile since he's seen and had ice and he said the same thing! though with a german accent ……..
We chatted about many of the similar concerns and ways to travel while unsupported. It was good to find someone of the same feathers
Next stop camp 14, Freeport and Quintanna and a defender of the Alamo.
More ICW and mud and increased barge traffic. I get to two major rivers that dump into the gulf here. I came across the intersection of the Brazos River and the ICW and things get a bit tight. I get out of my boat and go talk to the operator of the south side of the intersection. Here I learn a few things, these are tow boats and I'm now where they consider and refer to the direction as east and west, not north and south any longer . There's a tow boat that I can see trying to make the turn but the operator tells me I got plenty of time as these vessels have to jockey a bit to line up to get thru the intersection. Current is moving in my favor and I sprint thru the lock like weir and into the river and out the other end. It's a bit of a race but slowly I get overtaken but it takes awhile!
It's that time again to think about a camp site and I see on the gps and charts that there's a marina down a side channel that has houses on it. I see a guy in his backyard and I ask him about it but he doesn't think I'm gonna find what I'm looking for and asks me to pitch my tent right in his backyard. Perfect. He is also got the bbq going and I get a a bit of a treat. We introduce each other and I have a bit of confusion and I think he's meson' with me a bit and has been following my spot track and knows my name because he says William Barrett and I'm thinking just how is it does he know my middle name? As it turns out HIS name is William Barrett and mine is Dennis William Barrett. How Strange is that? He is also a direct defendant of the William Barrett, Defender of the Alamo. Are we cousins somehow? Anyway it's all pretty bazaar.
On ward ho …… to camp15 and a nice bonfire!
As much as I wanted to paddle past San Luis Pass I figured I'd stay in the ditch . My first stop was at a good sized marina and maybe something good to eat. I ask the gal in the shop about food and says there's nothing right near by. As it turns out she had no idea what she was talking about because right on the waterfront next door was a nice place to chow down. I did manage to grab a shower and wash what i was wearing before I left and that sure felt nice!
Each day I try to estimate where I can make it to and Chocolate Bay was my last big crossing for the day, could I make it? I did and found some nice islands to scout out but there were too many birds there. I saw that the gulls had a field day with some of the nests and there were broken eggs everywhere, bummer. As I was leaving, some of the parents much have just come back thought I was the problem and let me know about it. I tried to explain it was the gulls but they weren't having any of it. I paddled to the other side of the channel and found a nice quiet area to set up and to top it off there was plenty of driftwood, so it was a fire night, my first and only on this trip. No bugs, a bonfire, a scenic view, and I watched plenty of tow boat traffic go by, nice.
camp16, Pelican Island
time to make tracks and try and get past galveston with maybe a bit of stocking up. I made the crossing across the bay at the cause way and stopped to snack and was confronted by a real jerk. Welcome to galveston! so all I wanted to do was to get moving on to the Galveston Channel, but first I had to get thru the port. Next time I'll avoid the city as much as possible, oh well. My head was on a swivel all thru the port. Big ships everywhere, big sounds, I felt like I was in the land of the giants and I was a mere ant and hoping to not get squashed! yes, I did want to get supplies but I just didn't have any good vibes here and it was getting late so It was time to look for a camping place, hopefully away from the hustle and bustle of the city. I found a spot on the far side of seawolf park where I could watch the ship traffic and come up with a plan to make the crossing.
camp17, the crossing, another strafing run and the search for drinking water.
Being a bit stressed I didn't even have dinner the night before. I was able to find a pattern in the ship traffic and ferry traffic. There was a sunk ship wreck that I could hang behind just outside of the channel and use that as a jumping off point. As I was striking camp a twin engine aircraft started making passes over the channel as if they were looking for something. Me? I did have my spot tracker on so maybe? Once they made a pass directly over my position and then just flew off into the distance.
I made my way over behind the ship wreck and could see both red and green channel markers, That was the highway I had to cross and it was going to be a sprint! Since I hadn't provisioned I was on the light side which I liked and that helped give me an edge mentally. I only have about a gallon in reserve after today so it was about 2 gallons on board, not 8. I watched a few ships go by and noticed the timing, then when my window opened up made the dash across. Everything went fine so it was onto my next concern, drinking water.
Since the last Hurricane things on the Bolivar side were still in shambles. I made a hike around in one place with no luck, and went back to a more promising spot that I saw a bit back. There I found the most wonderful thing, a water machine! There was no place to beach so I had to climb up the dock, it was a bit tricky! Now I was ready to get a move on and blaze a trail, though without dinner the night before I was craving real food! I thought that I'd get that in galveston and it looked like I was starting to miss any chance for real food the farther east I got.
I stopped at a rv park to ask around and was told there was a place to eat just up the ice a bit so I held out. I knew when I saw it I had finally found what I was looking for! Stingarees! and I got a couple of shiner bocks and a big ol' hamburger with fries, yes, I deserved every crumb! I didn't want to leave but had miles yet to go.
I had a decision to make soon. Once I got to Rollover Pass I had to either take the ICW route or the offshore route. I wanted to finish at Sabine Pass, but I'd still have to paddle into Port Arthur to get home. When I got into Rollover Bay the wind, wave and current said go to the ICW so I continued on. I found a spot to camp next to a spoil dumping zone that was being rebuilt. It was hard ground and I didn't know if I'd see that again for awhile so I played it safe.
camp18, a long day
the night before I estimated my distance on the charts and found the end of a road to look for as a possible camp site. Once I made it there it was still early and I was torn into playing it safe and camping there, or paddling later and making my last day shorter. Every mile I did that day would be one less the next. I did not want to hit port arthur in the evening having to find a place to stealth camp. I pressed on, and that was a mistake. That road that I saw was the last dry ground. Anything that did look even remotely ok appeared to already have a resident. There were plenty of "gator slides" and nothing wanted to camp on or in. I think I screwed up and now it's dark with nowhere to pull over, no bug spray, no lights and totally not ready to paddle into the dark, but was exactly what I had to do. It was Port Arthur or Bust!
I started seeing gator heads here and there and then they'd submerge. I saw small wakes or ripples on the surface near by. Yup, I was in gator territory. As it got really dark I wondered just where that full moon was suppose to me to help me navigate my way. It got pretty dark but I pressed on into the darkness. At one point I thought I was coming into the outer fringes of town only to see that it was only a slow moving towboat. I came to a section where the ICW narrowed down to only one lane and it was skinny and wouldn't you know it, here comes a towboat. There was this one particular gator off to my left that seemed to be watching me, not big, but not a baby either. As the towboat approached it began to suck the water out of the shallows where I and the gator was. Quickly we were both high and dry! But I couldn't concern myself with the gator because I knew what was coming next, a huge wall of water! Soon I was surfing this wave up against the 6' tall mud banks. While keeping my boat upright I wondered just where that gator was going to end up? I moved a pretty good distance in a short amour of time while surfing and as it calmed down I pulled out the gps to check my position and noticed that I was moving 4.5 mph without even paddling so I took this as a good omen and paddled on into the night. Before not too long I saw more lights, it was the outskirts of town and I was passing lots of barges and towboats pulled over and I just slipped on by next to the bank to get past them all. Almost without warning I was at a bridge and I knew what that meant, a campsite! Nice and high and dry too! It was now 11pm as I set up camp.
The last day:
Since I made such distance the night before I only had a short day to finish, but where? I had made such effort just getting out the door to start this journey but my finishing plan was less than perfect. I did talk to a kayak store and asked around on a surfer's forum about what to do, where to stash my boat, how to get to the bus station, etc, but my best plan was an old friend that lived on spi up until just recently, Janet! I had my fill of huge ships, barges and gators and once I made it to Paradise Island I gave her a call to come fetch me up. The adventure was almost over ……. she got me to a motel room, stashed my boat and gear and got me to the bus station the next morning. Thank you Janet, my Hero! In one day I was back home and planning on my next adventure, to go pick up my kayak but that's another story …….
So what's next? Plenty! Concerning this trip though I plan to do it several more times! I traded in my surfs for a better expedition kayak which is bigger, longer, faster and more comfortable. I want to do my next run up the coast all offshore, if I can. If not, then a straight shot up the ICW to give me a better time is what I'd be after. I'm training for bigger, and longer adventures so this is just like a training run for me now. Stay turned for the next adventure!