On March 24, 2022, at about 11:00AM, 11 canoes, 2 kayaks, and 30 souls launched at Sheffield’s ferry boat ramp for a 40-mile trip down the Neches River. The river was several feet above normal level due to recent rains. 1st Lt. Adams and Mr. Hulin assured us there would be sand bars to sleep on, as expected they didn’t let us down. The sand bars were even dry. The weather was beautiful, sunny in the day, nice and cool at night, making it perfect for a big fire.
Day One: paddled 10 miles. Stopped in the afternoon and set up camp. Some took a dip in the cold river. Some played in the sand. Some napped. As each family prepared their meals, the sand bar filled with the aroma of all kinds of food, from hot dogs to deer meat.
As the boys went out and collected wood, Sgt. Major Bilodeau set up the American and ALERT Cadet flags. Anyone passing by would know who we were, however, being in the Big Thicket National Preserve, no one passed by.
As the temperature dropped, the fire grew. 1st Lt. Adams led us all in singing while playing a canoe-size guitar. Later 1st Lt. Adams led us in a fireside devotion. The night ended with marshmallows, and s’mores for all.
Day Two: paddled 17 miles. We got up, not too early. Everyone made their own breakfast. Soon the camps were being tore down as the men and boys began to load up for another day on the river. By mid-morning we were under way again. As the sun rose, so did the temperature. Soon we were ready for lunch again. We stopped at another sand bar along the river. Coolers and sandwiches came out, along with a quick game of Frisbee. After lunch, all paddles were back in the river. A few more miles down the river, we stopped for a break and a short conference. The question was raised: do we stop here for the night, or do we push on?
If we go further down river, we will have less to paddle on Saturday. But there was no guarantee of a decent sand bar to sleep on. The men all agreed: push on. Soon we were resting at our new camp site, and yes, a sand bar was found. This night Sgt. Major Bilodeau demonstrated starting a fire with a makeshift bow and a piece of wood. Soon another fire was burning, and 1st Lt. Adams was on the guitar again. Later, Mr. Gideon Schlichter led us in the night’s devotion. Followed by, of course, marshmallows and s’mores. Most of the guys seemed to head off to bed a little earlier on Night Two.
Day Three: paddled 13 miles. Again we were packing up the gear after breakfast, looking forward to completing our journey. 1st Lt. Adams called the men into formation. Gabriel Adams was promoted to Sgt. Father/Son Camp ribbons and stars were awarded to all who had finished their Basic Training Manual. Before we shoved off for the last leg of our journey, 1st Lt. Adams and Mr. Hulin gave a short briefing for the remainder of the trip. The river was going to be faster; today was the most likely day for someone to tip. Mr. Hulin summed it up, “This last part could be, as they say up North, technical, or as we say here, tricky.”
None were too concerned as they paddled off from our last camp. We all made it the last 13 miles, even through the technically tricky part. On Saturday afternoon, 11 canoes, 2 kayaks, and 30 souls landed at the takeout point Eva Dale. The 40-mile trip was made without one boat tipping over, well done!!! The outfitter was waiting to take the drivers back to their vehicles. Soon the phone numbers were exchanged, goodbyes were said. The Dallas folks headed north and the Houston folks headed south. A good time was had by all.
Thank you, 1st Lt. Adams and Tx2B, for opening your yearly river trip up for a regional Father/Son Camp this year. This trip has been a long-standing tradition of the Houston unit for years. This camp is a very relaxed time designed for the fathers and sons to bond with each other, during the challenge of the wilderness preserve. Back in Houston during their bimonthly meetings, 1st Lt. Adams runs a tight ship. I have been to his meetings. They are very structured. Uniform inspections and all. I’ve seen the bonding that takes place both in the meetings and on the river. It’s a great combination.
A special thanks to two men: our guide, Mr. Dwight Hulin. He has made this trip many times. He is known as “that guy” by many on the river. Also Sgt. Major Bilodeau He came down from Big Sandy to accompany us on the trip. I think he will be making it to many of the camps. He was a great asset to have on the camp, being an outdoorsman himself. It was also a pleasure to get to know him.
Submitted by Capt. Daniel Schlichter