Sunday, July 18, 2010

Why I'm a Buffalo Gal

I just got back from a short but sweet trip to the Buffalo River. I left at 2 AM, and met friends at Grinder's Ferry at around 9 AM. Up to this point I had no idea what section we were going to paddle, whether we'd be doing one night, two nights or no nights on the river, or who was going. Things happened quickly, as I had been looking at the river map Mon. AM and to my surprise there were blue diamonds indicating moderate water from St. Joe, down. I immediately posted an all call on the ACC forum and got a nibble. Richard was in;PainterBob really wanted to go to the upper sections, but they didn't look like they had enough water based on the map/gauge. Neither Richard or I wanted to deal with the bony "slide" which had eaten a hole in one of his boats.
We decided on Woolum to Grinder's Ferry, a section I'd never done. The water was around 6 ft if I remember correctly, and was moving at a pretty good clip. Richard and I decided we'd do one night on the river, but neither PB or Steve could join us. Their loss.
The thing I love about having Richard on a trip is he's so knowledgeable about the river; its geology and history. We made a stop at a spring Richard had earlier discovered that isn't even listed on the maps, which indicates it might have appeared in the past twenty years. Karst topography is so amazing, being responsible for caves, springs, underground rivers, not to mention interesting formations like Skull Bluff, Elephant Head and others. At every bluff or point of interest, Richard let me know where we were and offered a tidbit of info about it.
At times I'd wished the water wasn't moving quite so fast so that I could savor it all, the sheer walls with hanging maidenhair ferns,the nooks and crannies. That's what eddies are for, but I seemed to miss them when my eyes were elsewhere.
When I'm away from the Buffalo, and it's a good ways away, it seems my mind gets focused on other things; work, the daily grind, planning the next trip somewhere. Since my last Buffalo trip,in August '09, I rediscovered hiking, so many trips were planned for that. I spent time hiking in New Mexico, Big Bend, and the Texas Hill Country.
But, after returning from the Buffalo I really want to spend all of my time there.
I don't have time left in my life to see all the wonders of nature all over the planet, but hopefully I have time to really get to know the flora and fauna, geology and history of the Buffalo area. Texas has amazing natural places and I love exploring them, but for me, nothing compares to the Buffalo.
With the others heading to the takeout, Richard and I stayed behind at Arnold Bluff, just about one of the prettiest campsites I've seen on the river. One or two kayakers glided silently past, and then we had the place all to ourselves. The sun was setting behind us, casting golden light on the bluff and reflecting it onto the water. Even though I'd been up since 1 AM, once the stars were visible, I just couldn't go to sleep without gazing for a while.
The next morning as we sat talking, we were entertained by a pair of male Indigo Buntings, apparently vying for a female we barely spotted down by the river's edge. I saw several groups of Dayflowers that were the bluest I've ever seen, and butterflies were flitting about.
As we headed out to the takeout, the water had already dropped a foot; the silt was beginning to drop out, and the water was changing from brown to green. We glided along the banks looking at rookeries, formations, and wildlife. We saw several more Buntings, and I spotted a gray snake resting on a limb over the water which appeared to be too slender for a Moccasin; at home I looked up what I believe was a yellow-bellied water snake.
We were off the water by 11, and on Richard's suggestion, we headed to the Tyler Bend visitor center which I'd never been to. We had a good time talking with the park staff, and the center is worthy of time spent. Afterward, Richard led me to the Collier Homestead, where after exploring the cabin we said our goodbyes and I headed down the trail to the overlook. What a stunning view!
Short as the trip was, it was magical, as any time spent on the Buffalo undoubtedly is, at least for this Buffalo Gal.