10.04.2007,8:19 AM
Ride-about in Hill Country: Ol' Man River
colorado river1b

Ol' man river.
That ol' man river.
He don't say nothin'
But he must know somethin'
Cause he just keeps rollin'
He keeps rollin' along.
- Oscar Hammerstein II

Six miles or so along gravel roads, through cattle pastures and over cattle guards, I found a private small campground along the Colorado River. Situated on a working cattle ranch spanning hundreds of acres, the spot was refreshingly devoid of touristy trappings. A simple block building accommodated a few showers and toilets, half a dozen picnic tables of various sized and construction were scattered around, and spigots for fresh well water dotted the upper bank. These spots also had electrical outlets all connected to a bank of generators under shelter apart from the campsites. A rough gravel and rock road meandered down an embankment and alongside the river's edge. That's where I wanted to be.

Parking the bike on grass above, I walked down the embankment to scout for a spot to set up the tent. A small grassy outlet of land overlooked the river, the water only a foot or so below the bank. Small shrubs sheltered the spot on one side and the river cut into the bank on the other. Another bush separated the spot from the rocky road and I immediately declared it mine by a silent proclamation.

Riding the Whee carefully down the rocky road, I missed the spot on the first pass. The roadbed back up to the top of the embankment was rough and gouged with washed ruts. This was going to be tricky to ride up. I picked a line on the side and began to ride up, but realized quickly that this wasn't going to work. The back tire started to fish side-to-side on the rocks and I knew instantly that I had to roll that throttle wide open to stay upright and onward. Or we were going to go down hard. After fishtailing on the rocks, we made it up on the top of the embankment and my heart was a percussion kettle drum fed by adrenaline. I sat on the upper road for a moment to catch my breath and started back to the other side and try it again.

We rode carefully down again and onto the grassy spot I had picked out, pointing the front tire diagonally to the road. I checked the under belly of the bike after dismounting to make sure my oil filter was still on the bike. The bottom of the engine and the centerstand were scraped with telltale white chert but so far nothing looked loose or damaged. Nor was it the last bottoming out the bike and I were to do this journey.

Now fully sweating in my mesh gear, I pulled off everything but the spaghetti-strapped shirt and thin shorts, replacing boots with sandals. Ahhhh........ much better and the shade enhanced the relief from the sun and heat. I stood and gazed up and down the river and across to the bank on the other side. Fantastic place to spend some time!



While I began unloading the bike of gear and camping equipment, two men strolled over from their camp down the way and introduced themselves. They were courteous and hospitable, and graciously carried a picnic table for me down from the bank above. I was later to share their evening meal of beef roast and vegetables cooked in a dutch oven and visit late into the night.

The tent went up quickly, saving the fly for later in the night. Mattress pumped with air and sleeping bag with pillow positioned inside, my spot was all set to enjoy for the next few days. Eager to get closer and down into the water, I grabbed the camera to take with me. Marty and his family knew the older couple that lived on and owned the ranch and riverside there; he was a guidebook to the riverside and its native occupants. I was warned to stay out of the water near the campsites; it was home to water moccasins, one of Texas' poisonous snakes.


At his suggestion I wandered down the river bank to shallow and open rapids bordered by limestone ledge at river level and an island. On the other side was the towering cliff that bordered a ten-foot wide swath of grassy bank with trees. It was here that I spent some time exploring and walking in the rapids, cooling my body with the water caressing my feet and lower legs. And, as is my nature, I explored.







The entire trip report is here and begins with the first post at the bottom.

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posted by Macrobe
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