This is the first time that our kayak has accompanied us on a road trip, and we’re really happy that we brought it along. In our long distance travels, we’ve often stood on the banks of a river, lake, or marsh and longed for our kayak. So this trip, we hoisted it on top of the truck, sandwiched between our bikes, and hauled it with us. We’ve put almost 7500 miles on our kayak this trip—granted, most of it has been simply riding on top of the truck, but the 35 miles or so that we’ve actually had it in the water has been well worth the effort of dragging it along.
In the past three months, we’ve kayaked the cypress swamps of east Texas, the wide expanse of the Suwanee River, crystal clear springs in Florida, reedy marshes on the east coast of Florida, and most recently, the South Llano River in west-central Texas.
We spent a couple of nights at South Llano River State Park on a cross-country trip several years ago, and at the time, wished for our kayak. The beautiful jade-colored river is a favorite tubing spot for locals—I’d like to do that sometime, although it means being in Texas in the summer, which isn’t a pleasant thought.
This is another excellent Texas state park. In addition to river activities, the park has miles of hiking and biking trails, and about a half-dozen bird blinds with water features and feeders that attract a variety of birds. Spring migration is likely the best time for birding, but we enjoyed the cardinals, Carolina wrens, black crested titmice, and white-crowned sparrows that showed up in abundance. We heard turkeys, but never saw them—the park is a refuge for wild Rio Grande turkeys, which roost in protected areas. Last time we saw many—who knows why there were none around this time? Maybe it was too close to Thanksgiving for them to feel comfortable strutting their stuff.
We spent half the day biking and visiting various bird blinds, and the afternoon kayaking the river. We expected a mellow float—after all, this is a tubing river, not a whitewater run. It turned out to be a lot more exciting (and fun) than we anticipated. Brief mellow stretches alternated with fast-moving currents and shallow rapids the entire way, with the river twisting and turning and keeping us working the whole time. There were many obstacles to dodge and numerous times that we had to dislodge the kayak from gravel bars.
The most interesting bird that we saw at the park was a bright red vermillion flycatcher, perched high in a bare-branched tree on the bank of the river. At first glance, I thought it was a fishing bobber that someone had lost with a wayward cast (I speak from experience). But because we happened to be on a calm stretch of the river for a couple of minutes, we were able to enjoy a great view of this beautiful little bird.