I'd been itching to get on the beautiful river in our kayaks, but we simply couldn't figure out the obstacles, like how to get back to the car after a float downriver. So I decided to book a short guided trip on the river with a local kayak shop. We'd have to use their rental sit-on-top kayaks, which I hate, but it was that or nothing.
We met the guides and the other tourists at the take-out point, a nearby park on the river, and the van ferried us all upriver to the put-in. I was a little nervous to go out with a group since we hadn't been paddling in a long time. This river requires navigating down some narrow chutes that join the different water levels, and I was hoping I could handle them. My pride was still hurt from our kayak outing on Lake Powell, when we unknowingly booked in a group that included German mountain bikers who were physical fitness fanatics. Halfway through the morning I was so far behind the pack and so exhausted that I had to give up and board the support boat. And that was seven years ago!
Let's just be honest about it, I didn't want to look like the old lady that I am. Grrrr.
The first physical test came in simply getting the rental kayaks down to the river. There was a fair amount of downhill portage from the parking lot on uncertain footing; and my kayak, even one end of it, was just too heavy for my anemic grip. So I settled for being cheerleader and let the young strong folk (and my husband) lug and drag the things down to the water's edge.
Once we were on the water, though, I needn't have worried about looking foolish or inept. There was a family along with us, a couple with a teen-aged girl and a younger boy. The "guide" (or babysitter) provided very minimal instruction and was apparently along just to make sure nobody drowned in three feet of water. The kids thrashed around with their paddles like broken-winged birds. Their mother, who fancied herself more skillful than she was, kept trying to instruct her daughter in paddling technique. The girl would listen to Mom for about 30 seconds, then take off thrashing wildly just as before.
When we reached the first chute, I followed the guide's instructions religiously: make sure your kayak is lined up correctly, fide the chute, then start paddling hard as soon as you hit the open water at the bottom. Score!
I caught up with Mike after my descent, and as he looked back upriver he said, "I thought so," And there was the teenager, stuck sideways at the top of the chute. So on this trip at least, I wasn't going to win the Rank Amateur Award.
A bit downriver, both Mike and I successfully negotiated a second chute. As I was approaching him, Mike took off paddling furiously back upstream. It seemed the teenager had gotten stuck again, and mom and dad were out of their kayaks, barefoot on slippery rocks, attempting to help. In his sturdy sandals, Mike quickly climbed back up to drag the girl's kayak down-chute, so all three could concentrate on not falling down.
Our "guide" remained placidly in her kayak, watching from a distance.
Aside from the chutes, the river was just as serene and beautiful as I'd imagined. I dug in with my paddle and used all my strength and skills to pull away from the thrashers in back so I could enjoy some moments of solitude.
The tranquility was broken a bit when we passed under a bridge with rumbling traffic on it. But it was still fun to paddle among the giant support columns. A bike-and-pedestrian-only bridge was much quieter to pass under.
I noticed Mike lingering along the banks, turtle-spotting. There were grapefruit-sized green turtles sunning on the riverbanks and almost every rock. You could sneak up pretty close to them before they plopped into the water. Mike got a couple of good photos using his zoom lens.
But I won the wildlife sweepstakes by finding this little slithery fella. He was moving fast, but he couldn't outswim Mike and his trusty Canon!
The paddle was just about my speed, a couple of hours going with the current. I enjoyed it very much, especially since we never got on the Rio Grande, and hoped we would get on the water again on this trip. But I don't expect to see the likes of the San Antonio River anytime soon; it is really special.
Mission San Jose
One of the city's historic missions, Mission San Jose, was just down the street from the RV Park and we finally got out to visit it on an overcast day.
San Fernando Cathedral: The Saga
On Sunday evening, we returned to the downtown Main Plaza to see "The Saga". This 22-minute laser light and music show, projected onto the facade of the historic San Fernando Cathedral, depicts the history of San Antonio from its native inhabitants to its modern incarnation.
I took a video of the entire show; here's an edited, shorter version. Below are a few stills I captured from the video.