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HomeNL-2012-03 Tough Take-Outs

Tough Take-Outs

by Paul Woodcock & Dana Enos

On a DVD about canoeing they quoted  a paddler saying; “I do not want to be that old codger siting on a couch wishing I had taken some trips.  I want to be the one remembering the ones I did."  I don’t want to be that old codger remembering trips,  I want to be that old codger still paddling.  But with the age and health issues I am experiencing, I have to limit what trips I decide to paddle.  It is really frustrating  because at one time no put-in or take-out was considered too difficult.

With all the discussion about trying to find a put-in and take-out on the Brazos river I have been remembering a trip Mary Zaborowski, Dana Enos and I took from I-10 to highway 90 at Richmond.  Mary had talked to the fire station at Richmond at Highway 90 and they let us park a truck over the weekend and we arranged a shuttle with staff at the Stephen F. Austin State Park to leave a vehicle there and shuttle us to the I-10 bridge on the Brazos.  It was in February and there were storm warnings but I had declared this a "Paul trip".  It would  be canceled only in the event of extreme flooding.  It was a pleasant flat water paddle to the sand bar where we had decided to camp,  but in the north we could see the storm clouds building.  We decided to move the camp into the tree line to have some shelter from the coming storm.  The wind started building and we could see the lightning in the distance.  We put on our rain gear and drug a canoe and overturned it to use as a wind break.  Then hung a tarp vertically to provide a shelter.  We could see the storm fast approaching but we did mange to finish supper before the full force of the storm hit and we retreated to the comfort of the tents for the night.  It was cold and clear the next morning and the sight and sound of a flock of geese flying low overhead prompted that feeling of wanderlust I always get when I hear their honking in the distance.  We got to the take-out and it looked almost vertical.  There was a small sandbar large enough for one person to stand on.  It looked difficult, but was not on our all-time list of difficult take-outs.

It was on the first trip we took on the Bloodvein River.  We had come to a hundred-chain portage and I had hiked down to the end of the portage and looked up-stream with my binoculars.  The rapid looked difficult but decidedly runable.  Dana had hiked to a waterfall that we thought was the main reason for the portage.  The river took a U-turn around a large granite dome and on the back side was a large waterfall but there was a put-in below it and the rapid looked like maybe, a class two.  We decided to set up camp on the dome.  There was a small shelf with a little eddy that we thought we could use to dock if someone held the boat so they would not be swept over the water fall.  Dana hiked back to get his boat and slowly approached the take-out.  He threw us the line and Mary held on to the the bow and stern lines.  The 15-foot length was just enough to reach where she had secure footing and Dana lifted his pack over his head and I grabbed it and hauled it up the granite face of the dome.  After we had drug his solo boat we repeated the process with our tandem.  It was a struggle to haul the 78-lb. duck hunter up the rock but we had a great campsite with the sound of the waterfall providing background noise for a perfect night sleep.



Rapid on the

Bloodvein River

Waterfall on

100-chain portage



the next day

  The campfire

The next morning we ran the first rapid and then a small class one and then heard a roar like a freight train.  We eddied out and climbed a rock to scout the next rapid.  I was surprised.  This was not the rapid I had scouted with the binoculars.  It looked like the Three Tiers Rapid on the Devils River, the Painted Canyon Rapid on the Pecos, and the Upper Madison on the lower canyons of the Rio Grande, all in a row.  We never run something like this in the wilderness because if something happens you would be stranded with just one boat, or worse.  There was no way to portage or line our boats so we had no option but to run it. Fortunately we made it through, both boats were full of water but we were upright so we bailed out water and made the run through the last rapid, but now we understood why everyone was making the 100-chain portage - it would have been the best decision.




Waterfall on the

Bloodvein River

Lining the


The other situation was a portage on the Pigeon River in Manitoba, Canada.  It was a similar situation; a river curving around a dome ending in a waterfall.  We decided to line our boats around the dome and over a rock ledge to the side of the waterfall but our lines were not long enough and there was no place to walk the edge of the river.  So we rigged a rappel line; Mary used a tree as a fulcrum and I walked the end of the line around the edge while lining each boat around the bend.  Dana was there to take the line and drag the boats around the edge of the fall.  As we portaged over the trail we found a plaque dedicated to a drowning victim that had happened the previous year.  We had heard rumors of this event but the details were different than in this article - here is a link to the old story.

On the Brazos we had packed extremely light for a local camping trip (no chairs, tables and other items of luxury because we anticipated a difficult take out).  Dana had only one pack and Mary and I had two.  So I climbed up the bank, threw a rope for Dana to hold on to, to assist him up with his pack, and then we tied a line to his canoe and he pushed and I pulled until we got his solo boat up the bank.  I hauled up the two packs using the rope and once again the tandem took much more effort.  

I will always cherish the memories of the wilderness trips that Mary, Dana and I did over the Canadian wilderness but there is also a sadness knowing that they are memories.

We are not that old man sitting around remembering trips that we have taken in the past.  We are still on the water, but the reality is that we can’t force our bodies to do what they used to do.  I just completed the 20-mile day trip on the Brazos and Dana is planning one more trip to the Boundary Waters.  We have to pick the trips with much easier put-in and take-outs and shorter portages.  No more 6-week trips facing whatever challenges come up with the confidence that we can conquer them, but we still get to hear the call of the wild geese flying overhead, see the sunrises and sunsets, sit around the campfire listening to the sound of rapids, and sleeping in a tent to the sound of rain on the fly.  Life is good.

Paul Woodcock
Dana Enos

Disclaimer: Some of the photos are not actual depictions of the events described.

The authors:

Paul Woodcock (right), 

and Dana Enos (left).