Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | May 15, 2015

Paddling in the Rain

Preparing for the 2015 Texas Water Safari

Cramming for a final exam — that’s what this final month before the start of the Texas Water Safari feels like. With little time left to train before the start of this grueling 260-mile death march from San Marcos to Seadrift, Doyle and I can’t be picky about the weather or anything else on our training days. Bottom line is, we have to take advantage of every remaining opportunity to get on the river.

Although rain was in the forecast for today, we loaded our boat and gear early this morning and headed down Interstate 10 toward the San Marcos River. Our plan for today was to do a fast-paced paddle from Zedler Mill Dam in Luling to the low-water crossing at Palmetto State Park, a distance of about 15 miles. With every passing mile down the interstate, the skies turned a little darker and ominous with hints of rain along the way.

Doyle at Palmetto
When we arrived at Palmetto State Park, the rangers told us that the water was running fast and high over the low-water crossing, one of the checkpoints on the safari. Doyle and I walked down to look at the water, scoped out an exit point, and then headed to Zedler Mill Dam to begin our training run. When we arrived at Zedler Mill, the water was clearly running faster than normal. And, to make things even more interesting, it started to rain.

Doyle near Son of Ottine
We decided to go ahead and do our training run in spite of the rain. And because the water was running faster and higher than normal, we also decided to wear our life jackets, something we normally don’t do until we reach the open waters of San Antonio Bay. Last month a young 30 year-old engineer from Austin drowned while training for the safari. With that sobering thought in mind we gladly donned our life jackets.

Omar on San Marcos in Rain
According to our GPS, we paddled almost two-miles an hour faster than our usual pace — an indication that it was the current making the difference and not our paddling. The San Marcos River is beautiful at this time of the year. However, the overcast skies and gentle rain made it even more so. The colors just seemed deeper and richer today. The recent rains have also weakened the soil along the banks resulting in many more trees that have fallen into the river.

Ottine Dam
This section of the river presents two challenges to paddlers — Son of Ottine rapids and a portage around Ottine Dam. The high water made it a little easier to run the rapids but also made Ottine Dam that much more dangerous. A few years ago the San Marcos police chief drowned at Ottine Dam while on a training run. There has been talk of removing this 100-plus year-old dam that is decaying and broken. But, so far, it’s still there — and it’s definitely a hazard.

Omar at Ottine
Once we portaged around Ottine Dam, we paddled the final mile or so to the low-water crossing at Palmetto State Park. We arrived soaked to the bone but happy that we had a good training run. We had the river to ourselves today. No big surprise there! All of the sane people were in out of the rain. Even so, I’m glad we paddled in the rain. After all, there are no guarantees that it will be all sunshine on the day of the race.

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