Feb. 23 – We left Castroville after lunch and planned on camping at Seminole Canyon State Park. With snow and 35 mph winds out of the north, we chickened out and went on to Sanderson and found a motel.
Feb 24 – We had a leisurely drive into Big Bend and observed turkey, white tailed deer, mule deer, coyotes and other forms of life, including humans. We camped at Rio Grande Village Campground and had foil-wrapped meat and vegetables followed by a Dutch oven cobbler.
Feb 25 – It was 28 degrees at the crack of dawn and the other members of the group waited until the leader of the group got up and made coffee. As we had breakfast tacos, one member of the group commented that it was a three dog night and he had left all of his dogs at home. We ferried one vehicle to the take-out point (Heath Ranch) and launched about 1:00 pm. Round trip to Heath Ranch takes 4 hours.
The river was flowing at about 2,000 cfs and heavily silt laden. Normal flow for this time of year is about 250 cfs.
We found an appropriate camp site at 4:30 and hauled out. It was on the Mexican side and was a silt and gravel bar about 8 feet above the river level. After supper (everyone fixed their own), we talked and did a little star gazing. Even though the moon was nearly full, there were many more stars to be seen than in more settled parts of Texas. By 9:00 pm headed to bed.
About midnight the canyon winds joined us. About 3:00 am I heard a shot. In the morning I learned that it was not a shot, but the fly on one of the tents providing a sky-light for that tent. Periodically my tent would lay down on me and then pop back up. About 5:00 am it quit doing that when two fiberglass tent poles snapped. As the tent quit trying to stand up and be a real tent, the canvas quit flapping so much and I got some sleep.
Feb 26 – Breakfast was oatmeal and fruit cups. We were a little slow in breaking camp (9:30) and heading down river into the heavy headwinds. We hauled out for a long lunch about 11:30 and fired up the propane stove for hot soup and hot coffee or tea. By 2:30 we found a campsite on a silt bar about a mile from the park boundary. As noon approached, the headwinds died down. While others went hiking, I patched equipment.
Feb 27 – We had told one of the group who was touring Big Bend by vehicle and foot that we would be at the take out between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm. We arrived at 10:15 am. The de-launch spot is on the inside of the curve of the river. At high water levels the current wants to sweep vessels to the other side of the river. If that happens, it is a long way to the next take out.
After loading up, we headed to Sanderson for hot showers and decent meals.
Feb 28 – We returned home.
Fill up at Del Rio (Wal-Mart on north side of town has best price).
Fill up at the Phillips on the north side of Sanderson.
Gas is available at Rio Grande Village for $1.00 per gallon more than it is at Sanderson.
When one tries to take photos, take notes, and program campsite waypoints into a GPS while floating into a rapid, the result can be interesting. I ended up plunging into a Carrizo Cane patch draped over the river. I thought my kayak was going to proceed without me, but when I told it to stay, if behaved better than any dog I ever trained.
Do not take binoculars. We saw a mountain goat on the top of one of the cliffs. Paul pulled out his binoculars and studied it. He concluded it was a white donkey.