San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance •  107 E. Hopkins St. Suite 121A; San Marcos, Texas 78666

The Loop


“Hiking” the River Trail to the Coast

Feature Story:  Meet the Trail Crew

Mark Taylor at Rio Vista on the paddle to the coast

Some time in the Spring we first hear the song of the returning Summer Tanager, repeating softly in the early morning. For some, this song says warmer weather is ahead. Others pull out their binoculars to get a better view. For me, this call clearly says, “It’s time to start practicing again for the Texas Water Safari”. My Water Safari teammate Pat Stroka and I begin settling into a pattern of activity – monitoring flows up and down the San Marcos and Guadalupe Rivers, watching rain events closely, picking out different sections of river to paddle on the weekends, long practice runs preceded by breakfast tacos and chocolate milk, punctuated by stops on shaded gravel bars for lunch or snacks. Lots of paddling, reading the river, negotiating obstacles, looking back to see if the fork we didn’t take would have been the better choice, learning the river’s lessons, often the hard way.

The route of the Water Safari is a trail – San Marcos, Martindale, Staples, Fentress, Prairie Lea, Luling, Palmetto Park, Gonzales, Hochheim, Cuero, Thomaston, Nursery, Victoria, Tivoli and Seadrift – a river trail of 260 miles that must be completed in under 100 hours. For Pat and me, “hiking” this trail in the Water Safari means lining up shore crew “team captains” (kudos to my brother Jeff, and our friends Dan Duncan and Jon Cradit this year) to meet us at checkpoints, resupply us and encourage us from steep, muddy riverbanks. It means preparing ourselves and our boat to paddle night and day, deal with soreness and pain all over our bodies, and take naps on the ground in odd, often noisy places. It means, at the end of the race, paddling a choppy bay into a stiff headwind for hours before Seadrift is in sight.

Portage over the Staples Dam

“Hiking” this trail also means enjoying a oneness with nature all along the way. The pristine upper San Marcos, the broad (but still tricky) Guadalupe below Gonzales, the marshy delta as we approach the coast. The marvels of birds, fishes, turtles and alligators. The ubiquitous pecan, cottonwood and box elder trees, and every now and then the lines of stately cypress trees along river banks, spared from human harvest and floods.

We’re often asked, “Why do you do the race?” Our best answer is, “We love the river”. Perhaps a more complete answer, given the extent of the efforts we expend along with our team captains, is “Because it’s there”.  We tip our hats to the Victoria Advocate for their opinion column – 

–Mark Taylor

Stories in this series are from the trail crew on their otherworldly adventures.

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