The SFA Outdoor Pursuits planned this trip for the stretch of the Angelina River between Highway 63 and Martin Dies Jr. State Park. I was stoked to do this trip. I’ve done a decent bit of paddling, but I’ve never camped out of my canoe before. My wife and I signed ourselves up and hoped for the best.
We had a full roster, but had a few last minute cancellations. A couple of those spots got filled, so thankfully we didn’t wind up with a small group. It was a good group of folks. The group dynamic worked pretty well, and I never saw any conflicts. Unfortunately, I’m absolutely terrible with names so I only remember a couple of the folks who attended. My lack of short term memory in general doesn’t help here.
I had some new gear to play with on this trip, too. Of course, I had my GPS along to record tracks, but I also had a still camera and a new GoPro HD Hero. You may have seen my earlier attempts at making vids with mountain biking footage. A canoe happens to have a great variety of places you can attach one of these gopro cameras, so it was easy to get different angles. I played with the waterproofness of the housing a little bit, but the local river water is so murky, I couldn’t get anything useful completely submerging the camera.
Saturday was probably the best of the two days. The river was narrower and the winds were less of an issue. They did give us a hard time for a bit because the upper stretches had longer straight sections that just happened to line up with the wind direction to kick up some chop, but the period of high winds didn’t last all day. I tried my hand at fishing on the trip and the fish weren’t terribly active. I think the still-cold water temps and lack of flow kept the fish from being too active. I’m told water hadn’t been let out of Sam Rayburn for a couple of weeks prior to the trip. As such, there was ZERO motion to the river. It was like one long lake from the dam at Sam Rayburn to the next dam downriver at Steinhagen.
Our campsite was on a big sandbar that appears to have been used as a campsite for decades. There was an old rusted grill and a few other old rusty tin cans and such up there (probably considered archaeological artifacts by now) in addition to a significant amount of more recent trash. We bagged up a lot of it, 1-2 bags full per canoe, and hauled it out. We may not have made much of a dent in the trash outside the camp area in the woods, but at least the stuff visible from the river was very much cleaner than when we arrived.
Sunday was rough. It started out well enough, but it didn’t take the wind too long to pick up and give us fits all day. It was especially problematic after the Angelina River merged with the Neches after Bee Tree Slough. The river channel got really wide, so it didn’t matter which way you were going, you got buffeted by the wind because there was no longer any shelter. After a bit, we paid some fisherman in a bass boat to tow us (all 6 canoes) to our takeout at Martin Dies Jr. State Park right at the beginning of BA Steinhagen Lake.
There was a convenient spot for folks to do a portage on a really twisty bend in the river. There also happened to be a geocache located there. I wasn’t able to find it, but I really didn’t have enough time to locate a micro in the woods. I had to get to portaging my canoe and keep up with the group. Prior to setting out on the trip, I saw two other caches along the river, but considering the wind, there was no way I’d be able to go after them (especially the cache on an island in the lake). After getting home, I learned that the cache owner had placed a few in Bee Tree Slough on Sunday and had seen my group paddling down the river. Those caches might have been more obtainable.
To be honest, I think I prefer the upper stretches of the Angelina and the Neches with all the downed timber in the rivers. Yeah, it can be rough climbing over all that stuff, but at least the corridors are pretty sheltered from the wind and a lot of the sun and the water moves at least a little bit.
I only have a GPS track for day 2. I forgot to save the track from day 1, so the GPS overwrote everything. Oops, it’s not often I do multi-day trips where I want to save all the tracks.