MARTINDALE — My first trip tubing last year taught me a major lesson; leave your glasses at home (or in the car at least). Unfortunately, I assumed that everything would go fine and I wouldn’t topple over at any point in a pretty casual float. Nope, during a random encounter, my tube suddenly flipped and I found myself blinded with no glasses in sight. To make matters worse, we also ended up running out of drinks.
This time, my group learned from our mistakes. We over packed our coolers, doused ourselves in sun tan lotion and I left my glasses in the car (and my Aggie ring at home for good measure). After a short rendezvous in Austin, we all headed south to Don’s Fish Camp in Martindale (about 100 miles from Fort Hood) so that we could float on the San Marcos River.
Our goal was to get there before noon, but maybe the traffic has grown worse since I lived further south, because the trip to San Marcos took much longer than it should have. So if you plan to go, my advice is to go early (before noon will probably cut down on all those travelers).
Once we arrived, getting to the river was pretty smooth sailing. Now, there are three lines and an employee at the entrance is happy to take your money and accommodate you. For instance, I paid the entry fee and rented a tube, while my friend Zane Varney, just paid an entry fee, because he brought his own tube. Two of my friends also bought cooler tubes, which is highly recommended, because temperatures pushed into the 90s and staying hydrated is imperative in the Texas heat.
After gaining access, we all unloaded our vehicles and headed to the buses. It only seemed to take a few minutes until we arrived at a mountain of inner tubes beckoning renters like me as soon as we stepped off the bus. After hearing my friends’ commands to get a tube with a back, I quickly targeted the blue tubes (like the rest of my party).
Being the kind of guy I am, I volunteered for cooler carrying duty when I saw the need. It wasn’t long before we got to the dock and jumped into the river. Yup, good and cold, a great contrast to the 95-degree weather.
As we set off, part of our group got ahead of the other (of course). This tended to happen a few times, because the river really was flowing that day. As soon as some of us caught up, Zane and I found ourselves secluded by at tree swing, so we just chilled out for a while as I practiced my climbing skills on some trees near the shore.
Fortunately, I made sure to tie myself to the most important thing out there, the cooler, so I was sure my friends didn’t lose me. Eventually, they caught up and we stayed together for the most part. Every once in a while, we would lose people, but my friend Dio Schmied kept flopping around like a dolphin (plunging in and out of his tube) to ensure we all stuck together, or at least we knew where everyone was on the river. That really helped because no one felt left behind or became stranded from the group by riding solo.
During the ride, obstacles such as rocks and shorelines created challenges. Raging rapids took out my tube. After flipping over and instantly grabbing my tube, I was fine. Dio witnessed my spill and told me we nearly lost the cooler too, but we didn’t, so no worries there. We also told my friends of the near casualty — eventually.
Along the river, there are plenty of beaches where people camp out, socialize, or just take a break. We only did that once, due mostly to the surging river. My friends and I tried to apply more sunscreen to our burning skin, but it was to no avail. I could already feel and see myself resembling a lobster (no matter what I do I burn after a few hours in the sun).
Despite feeling the burn, riding the river is always fun with friends and it looks like the trip down to Don’s Fish Camp has turned into an annual adventure.