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Life in Rural America

3 day camping trip on the Angelina River

Camping on the Angelina RiverIt all started several months ago when I was telling my buddy about the undeveloped / primitive camping spots on the Angelina River here in Jasper Texas.  Years ago we used to go camping along the bayous and marshes around Bridge City and Orangefield, Texas.  But we have not done that in several years.  So after talking for a little bit, we decided to take a camping trip on the Angelina River.

Back in early November, a date of November 29 – December 1 was picked.  The permit was submitted and the site was reserved.

November 26, 2010 – my daughter and I took the boat out – to make sure that it would run ok for the camping trip, and to check on the site my buddy and I were going to be using.  The site we had reserved was occupied on November 26th so my daughter and I could not stop and take a look at it.  So we just turned around, and headed back home.  The boat ran fine, so there were no worries there.

November 28, 2010 – my wife and I drop my kids off at my moms house where my ex-wife will pick them up.  From there, my wife and I head over to my buddies house, visit for a little while, then he rides back to my house with my wife and I.  Instead of him making the drive to my house Monday, we just picked him up on the way back home.

I spent the evening of Sunday, November 28 going through my gear, getting my large MOLLE pack together, rounding up some MREs and Mountain House Meals, charging AA batteries for the camera and flashlight, charging D batteries from my Maglight, dug the tent out… etc.

At 9:00 pm central time, The Walking Dead comes in AMC.  So I take a break from getting my gear ready to watch a little TV.

After watching The Walking Dead, I played a little Left 4 Dead 2 and went to bed around 10:30pm.

November 29, 2010 – A cold front is pushing its way through Southeast Texas and bringing with it lots of rain.  My buddy and I decide to watch some Discovery Channel and wait the rain out.

What looks like the last of the rain has pushed through around 3:00pm.  But if we head out now we only have 2 hours to reach the camp site and set everything up.  Which is no big deal, it will not be my first time setting up camp in the dark.  The problem is, the radar shows a second cold front, and more rain on the way.  So we decided to wait 1 more day before the head out.

Since we moved our plans back 1 day, I call the Corp of Engineers and ask if we can add 1 more day to our camping reservation.  The very nice lady says no problem, and makes the changes on her end.  So our departure date is moved back 1 day.

November 30, 2010 – I get up and check a website that provides local weather radar.  A small band of rain is about to pass through.  It looks like its between Lufkin and Tyler, Texas.  My buddy and I get some breakfast, watch a little TV and keep checking the radar on kfdm.com and intellicast.com.

Somewhere around 11 – 12 am the last of the rain has passed through.  Its now time to uncover the boat, hook it up to the truck, load up our gear and head out.  As we were hooking up the boat trailer to the truck, my buddy and I saw sleet hitting the boat.  We looked at each other and knew that we might be in for a little adventure.

As we were loading up the gear, I realized that my Carhart jacket was in my wifes SUV.  Since she was at work, my buddy and I were going to have to make a detour.

We went to my wifes work, got her to open the SUV and I got my jacket.  Next stop, the gas station.

The boat we were using has 2 – 6 gallon gas cans.  1 can was empty, so we stopped at a gas station, filled the gas can up, grabbed some snacks, box of worms for fishing and headed out.

We launched the boat at Bevil Port and headed south on the Angelina River.  In about 15 minutes we arrived at our camping spot – Angelina 1.

River camping Jasper TexasMy buddy and I arrived at the camping spot on the tail end of the cold front, which means the wind was blowing something terrible.  Usually, people have their tents up close to the waters edge.  But because of the wind, we moved our tents back from the edge of the river and closer to the tree line.  The tree line offered a buffer between our tents and the harsh wind.  I sure was hoping that the wind settled down before night fall.  We off load our gear from the boat, and stack it on a picnic table at the camping spot.

While my buddy and I were gathering firewood – the temps were expected to dip into the upper 20s after night fall – we found a trail that someone blazed through the woods.  Every 20 – 30 feet there was a reflective ribbon, and some reflective twisties around tree branches.  We must have followed this trail for  a 1/4 mile.  The trail went off into whats called Type 2 public hunting land.  So I put on my blaze orange vest and grabbed my Mossberg 590 12 gauge loaded with slugs and some #4 shot.  We were walking through some prime whitetail deer territory, with lots of dense cover, and lots of open spots full of pen oak trees.  The trail finally ended at a tall pen oak tree that was about as straight as a fence post.  Some of the bark had been chipped off by the tree stand.  But the tree was in other wise great condition.  Once the hunter climbed the tree with his stand, I imagine that he/she had a great view of a pen oak thicket.  Standing there looking around, I was envious at whoever found this spot.  It was beautiful, and perfect for whitetail deer.

Ok, enough exploring, time to get back to camp and finish setting everything up.

For shelter I brought an Ozark trail 3 person tent.  The tent is “supposed” to be for 3 people, but its just the right size for 2 people.  I was sleeping by myself in the tent.  The room that was supposed to be for the other person will be used to store my gear.

My buddy brought his No Limits Kings Peak Tent. This is supposed to be a 2 person tent, but its just right for 1 person + gear.

So far we had setup camp, gathered firewood, did a little exploring, so now it was time to do a little fishing.  Close to our camp site was a slew with a bunch of cypress trees.  Even though I got several hits, I was only able to catch 1 little perch.

bug out bag stoveAround 4:00 – 4:30 I decided it was time to eat before the sun went down too much – using the sunlight to see with is easier then using a flashlight.  I broke out my Vargo Hexagon wood stove from ReadyPro.  While unfolding the stove, one of the pins fell out of the hinge, which made the stove just about useless.  The titanium pin is about the same color as the forest floor, so finding the pin was not easy.  After looking for 3 or 4 minutes my buddy spotted the pin, and I was able to put the stove back together.  To compound the problem, my bottle of sterno had dried up.  I guess I did not put the lid back on good after the last time the sterno was used.

Thank goodness my buddy brought his single burner propane stove and agreed to let me use it.  Or else I would have been cooking my noodles over the coals of the camp fire.  It would not have been the first time I used a camp fire to cook with, but a stove is so much faster.

Around 5:30 I called my wife to check in, and this is when she informs me that my DS Arms SA58 FAL has arrived at the gun dealer I made the purchase through.  But by this time we only have a few minutes of light left.  I’am unable to get to town and back to the camping site before the sun goes down and the river turns pitch black.  Dang it.  I have been waiting for almost 5 – 6 weeks for this rifle to arrive, and its still out of my reach.  The gun dealer will be out of town Wednesday, so its going to be Thursday before I can get my rifle.

The night time temps are supposed to dip into the upper 20s.  My Coleman Exponent X32 sleeping bag has a rating of 32 degrees, plus I brought along a fleece sleeping bag to use as a liner and a US Army poncho liner.

The Coleman Exponent X32 sleeping bag really belongs to one of my kids. I just borrowed it from them to take on this trip. Here is a video from 2008 when my son, my daughter and I went on a camping trip and reviewed the Coleman Exponent X32. Even though the bag has a 32 degree rating, it performs more like a 40 degree bag.

Just to make sure I stayed warm, I kept my thermal insulated pants and my carhart shirt on during the night. My feet and legs got a “little” cold, but it was not too bad. I was cold, but not cold enough to shiver. Overall, I got a good nights sleep.

camping angelina river jasper texasDecember 1, 2010 – I woke up to the sound of my buddy getting the fire going – that sure was nice of him.  The morning was frosty, to say the least.  The tackle boxes and fishing poles had a light layer of frost on them.  The temperature change made a heavy fog form over the river.  At one point, a dense fog bank rolled down the river, and visibility was less then 100 feet; when the fog was at its heaviest, I could not even across the river.

For breakfast I had a pop-tart, cracker and jalapeno flavored cheese spread.

Ok, so what was on the agenda for the day?  How about a trip down the river for a little exploring.

My buddy and I loaded in the boat, shoved off and headed down to what is called “the forks of the river” – this is where the Neches and Angelina rivers merge just north of Dam B.

We turned around, and headed north, back towards our camping site.  Just before the camp site, there is a cut that works its way into a slew.  We turned in there, kill the main motor and switched to the trolling motor.

angelina river jasper texasAs we eased into the slew, my buddy and I spotted a bunch of “noodles.”  Noodles are where people take 2 – 3 inch diameter swimming pool floats, and cut them 4 – 6 inches long, tie a string, weight and hook to the float, write their name on the side, and toss them in the water.  Its kinda like a trot line, but a little bit different.  Noodles can move with the tide and current – where a trot line is tied to a log or tree.

The next 3 or so hours we spent trolling through the slew, fishing, and looking at the sights.  My buddy and I spotted some nice camping spots, but your only supposed to camp in designated areas.

When we arrived back at the main river, the battery had just enough juice to crank the main motor.  We had almost killed the battery with the trolling motor.  If we had killed the battery, we would have had to use the pull rope to crank the main gas powered motor.

mountain house meal with stoveWe got back to camp somewhere around 1:30 or so, and I was starving.  Ok, so whats for lunch?  Its either a Sure-Pak meal, or a Mountain House meal.  I opt for a Mountain House meal of Chili Mac and Cheese.  A canteen cup is filled half way with water, brought to a rolling boil over a single burner propane stove, water is poured into the meal, package is sealed, its shaken a few times and left to sit for maybe 10 – 15  minutes.

This is my first time to eat Mountain House foods, and needless to say I was impressed.  The meal was great – it was hot, tasty and hit the spot on that cold winter day.  I have to throw out a special thank you to SafeCastle, prepared.pro for supplying the Mountain House meals.  The Chili Mac came out of the Just in Case kit – its a kit that provides enough food for 1 person for 7 days.  Since I have never tried Mountain House foods, I opened the Just in Case kit, and took out a couple of meals for the camping trip.  The meals were a lot lighter, and tasted better then the Sure-Pak MREs I had brought.

Thinking about the Mountain House meals for just a minute – the ones I have do not expire until around 2017.  That is a whole 7 years.  This makes them great for storing at a bug out location or remote camp.  And their shelf life is a whole lot better then MREs or certain types of canned goods.  Currently I have a couple of cases of MREs at the camp.  But their test / inspect date is around June or July of 2011.  For long term storage, it seems that Mountain House is a better option the MREs.

After eating, we had just a few hours until sun down, so my buddy and I gathered some more firewood – and gather we did.  With some effort we rounded up a nice supply of wood for tonights camp fire.

catfish in angelina riverBy this time its probably around 3:00 or 3:30.  My buddy grabs a fishing pole with an artificial worm and tries out the water.  I grab my fishing pole, and rig it up for catfishing.  I throw the bait (the worms we bought at the gas station) out as far as I can.  Within just a few seconds the line goes tight and I start reeling my line in.  My buddy says something like “you already have a hit?”  Yep, its a small catfish, maybe 6 inches long.

My buddy takes the artificial worm off his line, and rigs his line up the same way I have mine.  Within just a few minutes we are both reeling in catfish every few minutes.  This was catch and release, we did not keep any of the fish.

The bad thing about those small catfish – they will do their best to stab you in the hand.  With a bigger cat, you just grab it in the mouth and take the hook out – like you would do a bass or perch.  But sometimes those cats will swallow the hook and you have to use pliers to get the hook out.  So when you go to catching those small catfish, be very, very, very careful – or you might get stabbed in the hand.  One of the those small cats got lucky enough to stab my left pointer finger.  And talk about hurt – for a little wound, it sure did hurt.

The sunset with my buddy and I on that river catching catfish.  It was one of those days, where you can honestly say you had a good time.

Somewhere around 5:15 or 5:30 we lite the campfire and put our fishing poles down.

After talking about the forum, and survivalism for a couple of hours, we headed to bed early.  This night was not as cold as last night.

A couple of times during the night I heard deer snorting and stomping their feet down close to the river.  I guess they were going into the oak groves at night to eat on the acorns, and got the smell of my buddy and I.

Large molle pack with mossberg 590December 2, 2010 – Since my buddy rubbed it in that he was the one that got up and got the camp fire started Wednesday morning, I figured that I should get up first and get the camp fire started Thursday.  But that sleeping bag was so warm,,,, I just did not want to get up.  But get up I did, and I got the camp fire back going again.

Breakfast was another pop tart, cracker and jalapeno cheese spread from a Sure-Pak meal.  The pop tart for the carbs, and the peanut butter for the protein and calories.  To wash my breakfast down, I had a Monster low-carb energy drink.

This morning there was only dew on the tackle boxes and fishing poles and no frost.

We let the dew burn off the tents and we start packing up.  Man oh man, I’am itching to get my hands on that DS Arms SA58 FAL.  My buddy has grown tired of hearing about my new awesome rifle, but oh well.

To make sure the camp fire is out, I take a 2 quart canteen and make several trips to the river.  My buddy thinks that is too slow, so he grabs the Coleman 16 quart ice chest – takes it to the river, fills it with water and pours it on the fire.  After a couple of trips, the fire has been safely put out.

What did we learn on this trip:

Even though we were camping in prime whitetail deer and hog territory, neither my buddy or I saw either hog or deer.

We saw a few squirrels, but did not shoot any.

The easiest food source we were able to harvest was catfish.

After a couple of days without a shower, I felt pretty nasty.

Post your comments in this forum thread about camping for 3 days on the Angelina River.

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Kevin Felts was born and raised in southeast Texas, graduated from Bridge City high school Bridge City Texas, and attended Lamar College in Port Arthur Texas. Hobbies include fishing, hiking, hunting, blogging, sharing his politically incorrect opinion, video blogging on youtube, survivalism and spending time with his family. In his free time you may find Kevin working around the farm, building something, or tending to the livestock

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