My Montana

My Montana
My Montana

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Wonderful Watery Thanksgiving

When Bob, my Boundary Water buddy,  said he was leading a trip on the Neches River, in the part that runs through the  Big Thicket National Preserve, I immediately signed up. He said he would only have eight people. The first trip that I ever paddled with Bob, was this trip, Thanksgiving weekend 2001 with 8 people.. To totally recreate this trip, I also needed to cater Thanksgiving dinner and the Friday lunch of leftovers. This is a trip of about 38 river miles, but since we paddle from bank to bank, around each outer curve of the river, to ride the fastest current, we actually did more like 47 miles of distance. But since the current ranged from 1 to 1.6 miles, we didn't have to do all that much paddling to get on down the river.

 I planned a meal of turkey, divided into light and dark meat, gravy,  Cajun Cornbread Dressing, Chiptole Sweet Potatoes, Molded Cranberry Salad, Shallot and Mushroom Green Beans, Moma Stambergs Cranberry Relish. Pumpkin and Pecan pies. I precooked everything but the beans and transported it in a cooler. Thanksgiving evening, as soon as everyone had their tents up, everyone had to set up their stove and heat something. The dressing was cut in cubes and wrapped in foil, then steamed. The gravy was divided into two pots, and the white and dark meat was added. Dutch didn't have to cook because I left the sweet potatoes home. (But Natalie and I already enjoyed a slight modification of them as breakfast cakes with plantains.) I cooked the beans at camp - first cooking them, then sauteing the shallot and mushrooms - which Dutch had to cut up for me - and then adding the beans back and heating them up. It was all delicious and we were all soon stuffed.

Cajun cornbread dressing  fresh from oven

Thanksgiving morning found us driving though a heavy fog towards Silsbee, Texas where we planed to put in at the Old Sheffield Crossing -FM 1013 crossing, - 5 miles east of Spurger, Texas. We drove through heavy fog. I suggested we NOT follow the route given us by our leader, but go up a back way to make up for lost time and to avoid I-10 in the fog. I was also hoping to get out of the fog zone faster. We didn't get out of the fog early, but later found we had missed a 140-150 vehicle pile-up on I-10 in which we could have been involved.

The pins show our put-in and take-out.  Click for larger view.

Loading up at the put-in

Me checking the balance of my load - later I had to add two tables and Dutch's food bag

Almost ready - Natalie has most of the Thanksgiving dinner also

Our first camp site taken Friday morning from my tent
The first thing Rob did each night was to gather wood for a huge fire. He, Dutch, and Bob dragged whole small downed trees to the fire and pretty much just fed them  into it throughout the evening. It took a lot of wood because the trees were very dry and decomposing. But the guys were up for the task every night and had coals to un-bury in the mornings when I appreciated the fire even more.

One of Rob's beautiful fires.

Me getting to play in the fire Friday morning after hauling in more wood
For Friday lunch, I supplied leftover turkey in wraps along with cream cheese, fresh spinach and the cranberry relish. We managed to kill off all of a 22 pound turkey in the two meals, plus Natalie and I had turkey slices for breakfast.  Dutch supplied a wonderful orange molded salad for desert.  I ate some of it again at supper and, I think, finished it off at breakfast the following day. I even ate dressing and cranberry relish for one breakfast.

Some of us on a lunch stop Thursday

Lunch stop on Saturday
Pat eating his supper on Saturday night
Terri with mascot
Natalie and Zootie
The river was beautiful and the weather wonderful.  We had a cloudy day on Friday with several little warm misty showers.  We all enjoyed all of the showers except for the one that made us put on our raincoats for a few minutes.  Then Saturday and Sunday were exceptionally bright.  I woke up at 4:00A M. on Saturday morning and saw probably the most beautiful Texas night sky ever. Even though I was freezing - only had my socks and long underwear top on - I had a hard time going back into my tent. Sunday we woke to frost on our tents and boats.  But it was shirt-sleeve weather again by the time we left, around 10:00A.M.

Sunrise view from my tent on Saturday

Morning View of frost and mist from my tent on Sunday

Natalie and Zootie matching the colors around them
Sunday morning was bittersweet as we enjoyed each others company, the beautiful day but knew the trip would be over in a few more hours.

Real men don't need shirts - Sunday morning about an hour after the frost melted

All weekend, I was  was truly thankful  for such great friends, the wonderful wild quiet, the beautiful fires Rob and friends built each night, and the fantastic stars and early morning views. And of course, I loved all the hours I spent paddling.  The only thing I'm not thankful for was the end of the trip.  If only I could have paddled longer. And of course, I'm now paying my dues as I clean the sand out of everything and get it all dry and packed away.

It's all over but packing up the cars - waiting for the drivers to return about 2:00 P on Sunday.
Now I'm dreaming of re-paddling all the Neches River. Maybe I'll just pack up and go for a couple of weeks and get someone to retrieve me at the end.

There is lots of information on trips on this lovely river.  Here is the link to the description of the paddling portions of the river.
And here is a wonderful article on the history of the river.
I put up an album for each day on my Picasa site, if you need to see more pictures. 

 Hope you too can enjoy this river. Or have stories about it to share. I would love to hear them in the comments.