The Brazos River Expedition of September 3, 2001

Passing the railway bridge, I noticed darker clouds starting to form miles to the north and west, beyong the hills of Sand Valley. Flash floods are a constant hazard in Texas and I should have seriously thought of turning back at this point, but I was too intoxicated with the scenic splendor and the thrill of discovery. I had to get to Sand Valley.

About a mile downstream from Inspiration Point, the first tall hill overlooking the river and which marks the entrance to the series of valleys I was seeking, I heard the unmistakeable sound of an airboat at full throttle. Airboats sound almost exactly like small aircraft, due to the large propeller at the aft end. Because of the sound-reflecting properties of the water and the banks lining the river, a channel of sound exists and the darn boats can make you think that a Cessna is about to land on top of you, even though the boat may be a good half-mile away.

Eventually, the fellow and his airboat hove into view and parked themselves on the west bank of the river, at a crudely constructed dirt ramp used as a boat-launching spot at the end of a ranch road. As I approached from an eighth-mile away, the lone driver looked over his shoulder at me from time to time while he tended to his craft. I realize that I made quite a strange site, this lone fellow wading up the river with his glowing yellow waterproof camera bag slung over one shoulder. I would guess that he probably never saw people in this part of the river without an airboat. As I got within hailing distance, I struck up a conversation, as much to assure the man that I bore no dubious intentions as to be neighborly. I admired his boat, and told him that if I were smarter and a bit less cash-deprived, I would hire someone with an airboat to take me upstream and dump me off at my destination. He told me a bit about the boat, and indicated that he was a guest at a large home on the ridge beside Inspiration Point that was used as a weekend retreat by some wealthy folks from the nearby Dallas/Ft. Worth area. I couldn't see the manse from here, but I knew that here and there along the valley there were both ranches and palatial dwellings of the wealthy. Fortunately, there were not so many as to intrude much on the solitude of my journey.