There are thousands of places worth exploring that guides and shuttles won’t take you. Some require long walks or bike rides to get to and others require a kayak. Post Oak Falls, located a mile or so up the river from Colorado Bend State Park is one that comes to mind. Maybe Colorado Bend State Park isn’t the best example because they are at least renting out kayaks that you can paddle upriver to Post Oak Falls.
What if the park isn’t renting kayaks, there are creeks galore to explore, and the current is too strong to paddle upstream when you’re ready to return? You could just chalk it up as a loss and drop your hopes of ever seeing that beauty for yourself, or you could get a little more creative. I’d suggest you don’t let the lack of tour guides, outfitters, or shuttle services, keep you from seeing all the beautiful places in the world.
One method for shuttling yourself would be to drive two vehicles and park one at each end of your trip, one for the put in and one for the take out. This is practical for nearby destinations and when you are going with a paddling partner. If you are traveling five or six hours, then the cost and logistics might make this a pain in the butt. Another, simpler solution would be to transport your own shuttle.
Instead of bringing two vehicles, or relying on finding a shuttle at all, strap a bike to the back of your kayak and use it hump it back to the vehicle. Like this:
Yup, that is a Trek 3700 strapped to the back. The handlebars fit perfectly into the splash guard gutter around the cockpit and the seat just over the stern hatch. Using the same tie down strap for strapping the kayak to my truck, I was able to strap the bike securely to the back of the kayak. We decided on this because our destination didn’t have a sure shuttle service from our take out, back to our vehicle at our put in. We called around for possibilities, no one returned our calls, and information online was spotty, at best, for what we needed. We even tried Lyft. There was actually a Lyft driver online out in the remote country area, but the driver wouldn’t confirm our pickup, leaving us to fend for ourselves.
The Illinois River in Tahlequah, OK is an ideal spot to do this method. The river makes a big horseshoe and there is a road connecting the two ends of the horseshoe. This means your miles by land are much shorter than your miles by river. Thankfully, rivers are twisty and curvey by nature so many rivers have these convenient turns, making your river trips long, and your bike back much shorter.
Biking from the take out wasn’t completely easy. First, the temperature really makes a difference. Having done this before in August, with Texas temperatures around 100, a two-mile ride back was brutal after hours of paddling. I would not have done this in the peak heat of summer. This trip required a 6.5-mile ride back, but the temperature was under 90. The difference was significant. Enough that I would recommend avoiding biking back when the temperatures are over 9o degrees. The road makes the heat so much worse when it radiates back up to you.
The only real difficulty of this ride back was the first mile. For that mile, I was riding straight up, climbing elevation, my legs burning, all the way to the top. My speed going up was probably only walking speed. The remaining 5.5 miles were not hard, having climbed straight up a giant hill (not a mountain) I was tired.
All in all, my time from take-out, back to pick up Jen and the kayaks, was about 45 minutes. My time was about tied with that of the shuttle services being offered nearby and we saved the $60 on shuttles. I guess this method could also be considered the frugal explorer’s shuttle.