Wood jams, missing cars, and mud

So we hit the river again Saturday. This stretch was 5.1 miles, bringing the new total up to 24.2 miles. This was an interesting trip to say the least, but I’ll get to that. This stretch was refreshing because the river took a turn and headed south, it is very nice to be heading in a new direction, makes me feel like I am making progress. We went out on the falling limb of a flood again, mainly because after a more thorough analysis of the flow record, median flows for January should be at around 400cfs, we have been trying for 200cfs in order to see more features, but this is not going to be likely anymore as we keep getting tons of rain. Oh well, breaking the drought is a good thing right?

We put in at Labatt Road, the one from last time that is “closed”. They had done a lot of work in just 2 weeks, the bridge rails were up, and all that look like they needed to do was surface it, and then lay the asphalt. We got all of stuff down to the water’s edge in about 20 minutes, and we were in the boat in another 30, so I think we are getting faster. The banks were very soggy, which actually kind of helped because we sank into the bank rather than slid off of it. Now that we are floating the river while it is higher, we don’t see as much. The water in this river is incredibly turbid (opaque) due to the high wash load (‘dissolved’ clay). You can stick you hand in the water and lose it. The depth finder is very nice, allowing us to get some idea of what is going on below the boat. Let me tell you, there aren’t many fish…people in Floresville actually fish to eat out of this reach, there is no way I would do that!! The river is starting to widen out a bit, and the meanders are not as tortuous here. We saw lots of wildlife on this outing, starting with a pair of cardinals:

As it was last time, we had a couple of Blue Herons lead us downstream, actually we saw their nesting ground, spotting at least 6 nests on the far banks at the tops of Cottonwoods. Very cool.

Though the wildlife and scenery was pleasant, this trip was perhaps our roughest yet. We had to brave 4…I said FOUR large full channel jams in 5 miles! We were shocked. It is incredibly hard work to scale the soggy banks out of this river with all 400 lbs (we cut back to lighten the load!) of our equipment for any jam, but we had to do it 4 times this trip. Rough. To prove it, here are some pictures:

This was the first full coverage jam, we got out on river right, but realized that putting back in was going to be impossible, so we got back in, crossed and dragged our stuff up the left bank instead. We took everything out of the boat and then carried it over our heads the 200 or so feet to pass the jam. Exhausting, if we had only know what was coming literally around the bend!

I think this one was there because Tim said “Wouldn’t it suck if there was another jam around the bend!” Thanks Tim! Oh well. Same story here, we got out on the left bank and trucked our stuff once more. We hadn’t even caught our breath from the last one. Grrr.

About a mile later we hit this:

We really have gotten tired of this. So far we have seen 74 log jams in this river from where we started, 12 were full channel jams of at least 2 key members, and 7 of those were large enough to force us to carry the boat out of the river. It is unreal that 4 of those happened in just 5 miles. Luckily, we knew we were heading int this last jam, because it formed right at the bridge where I parked my car:

This jam was to original one we saw when we did our first recon of the entire study area back in September. We were shocked then at the massive jam, but now we were exhausted and resigned to our fate. In fact, the portage, though longer than all but one, was actually not that hard. But alas, this trip was over until…

We got to the road, and looked around. My car was missing!!! It was not where I had parked it. Oh no, now what. Well we didn’t freak out or anything, there was nothing we could do about it just yet, so we continued to port the rest of the equipment to the bridge. Once we got everything out, Tim got in the dry bag and turned on his phone as I walked up to where my car had been and looked for signs of broken glass. I found nothing indicating the car had been stollen, my tire tracks were still there, but a new tractor track was crossing mine. The road was bladed (leveled) from the recent rains today, and though I was parked in a right of way, I was in the turn around, and thus in their way. I called 911, and talked to a local dispatcher. I told her were we were and asked if they knew anything about my car. Before I finished she interrupted, “Ya’ll drivin’ that little brown car”, I said yes and was instantly relieved. She confirmed my info and then told me it had been towed, almost hung up on me, and I told her we were stranded and needed a ride. She called the wrecker and that came and got me (Tim stayed behind to watch our stuff) in his brand new ’05 model truck (one of 6 I found out). I was polite, and surprisingly not angry. I was just glad that the car was OK. We got to the yard and he gave me the bill…wait for it…$270 !!!! What the HELL!!! In San Marcos they charge $90. I asked why he was so expensive and his answer was to show me the rates from around town…they were all above $300. Now I don’t know if the guy is crooked or not, but that is bogus. Unfortunately there was nothing I could do right then. I had to pay, and get my car out of tow. Damn.

I am planning on pursuing my options against the outrageous fee, and I am going to try and get the grant to pick it up in any case, after all, we were in the right of way. If they hadn’t been blading the road, all would be hunky-dory. We will see how that works out.

I am tired of this river. It is unyielding, unforgiving, and cruel, but I have to keep on, and so I will. We plan on going back out in 2 weeks, though we need to see what we can do to protect the car from being towed before then, so we will see what happens there. We have two more short stretches (5 and 3 miles each) that we might try and float in one go, and then a 15 mile stretch to be done another day.

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