Kayak Canoe Alabama

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Horn Island

Saturday & Sunday, October 30-31, 2004 brint.adams@us.army.mil

This was a Larry McDuff-led "Big Boy" paddle on what turned out to be a beautiful weekend. We had six paddlers (Larry, George, Steve, Randy, Julie and I) with McKenzie and Ruby, her dog, watching after us in George's skiff, outfitted with a 25 HP motor.

We traveled west on I-10 into Mississippi and took exit 75, turned left and then right onto Hwy. 90. This took us into Pascagoula, where we turned left on Market St. to the bay, then right to the public boat ramp and parking lot. We put in at 9:30 AM, circled around the Naval Station and headed south to Round Island, where we came around the east side and stopped for lunch. On the south end of this island, there are the remains of an old brick lighthouse, which we checked out. After a short break, we continued with relatively calm seas and a following tide.

We arrived at the east end of Horn Island at around 2:00 PM and checked out a couple of areas to set up camp. We decided to camp on the north side at the east end of the tree line behind the sand dunes. Several of us split up to explore, as we were able to climb up on top of the sand dunes behind us and see across to the south side of the island as well as to the east end and quite a ways towards the west. The island is about nine miles long and fairly narrow. In some areas it may widen from 100 meters to probably a half mile. We could see some interior ponds with quite a few trees and alot of dune scrub. There are supposed to be a few artesian wells, although we did not venture down the island to the west end to find them. Maybe next trip we will camp on the west end and explore a completely different area.

I decided to check out the far east end of the island and paddled down there, which was about a mile further east. When I returned, the others were already setting up tents, so I did as well. Once everything was set up, I decided to cut across to the south or Gulf side and do some surfing. The surf was pretty rough, but only about 1-2 feet and breaking in pretty close to the beach. There were a couple more kayakers in from New Orleans already camped out on the beach on the Gulf side.

After a good Mexican wrap dinner, we sat around for awhile trying to avoid the mosquitoes before turning in at around 8:30 PM.

In the morning, Julie and I headed west along the north shoreline, she about 1.5 miles out at a leisurely pace and I went out about 2.5 miles at a 80% level workout pace. We found another group camping along the beach, who had come out in a powerboat and a few fishermen. There was plenty of barge traffic crossing along between us and Pascagoula, as we had a clear view all the way to the coastline.

After breakfast, we all broke camp and began our trek back at about 10:00 AM. It was fairly hot already, but we were fortunate to have an nice following breeze nudging us along to Round Island. This leg took us from 1-1.5 hrs as we stretched out our group on the return. Once at Round Island, we stopped for lunch and hung around for almost an hour. A couple of us had to show our macho side by climbing up on top of the 20' lighthouse ruins. McKenzie stopped to help a fishing boat who had battery problems, and so she and George took one of them to the coast and back to help them out. In order to shorten our time on the island, we decided to pull George's kayak behind mine, which also slowed me down to everyone else's pace.

On the return, we skirted around the west side of the island and headed to the Pascagoula River bridge on the west side of the Naval Station. The breeze continued to give us a good push with some one foot rollers taking us all the way in. Once we made it under the bridge and into the channel, we were greeted by a Navy boat which came out, watched and followed us for awhile as we skirted around the ships they were guarding. It was in this area, that George caught up with us in his powerboat and took over towing his kayak the rest of the way in, only about a half mile.

We arrived back at the parking area at about 2:30 PM and were all thankful for a safe trip to a most beautiful strip of island out in the Gulf.

Whiskey Ditch

Friday, October 29, 2004 brint.adams@us.army.mil

This was a true Flash Paddle, as Bob called me at 1:00 PM to post the trip for 4:00 PM. I got to the old Riverdoc's parking lot at about 4:15 PM and rushed to get into the water and try to catch up. The temperature was a still hot 84 degrees, with a breeze out of the south, a high and still rising tide and clear sky.

I turned the first part of the paddle into a speed workout as I made it to the Apalachee River in 9:15 against the current. I turned north up the river and continued to paddle furiously to the entrance of Whiskey Ditch without seeing anyone so far. I continued about halfway into the ditch, when I finally caught up to Bob and Dennis, the photographer who is publishing a coffee table book of photographs of the river delta area.

We continued back to the pond, where Dennis set up to take pictures of the remaining burr marigolds. After we started back, he continued to take pictures along the way of the flowers as well as the invasive water hyacinths. Once we reached the Apalachee, I decided to continue my workout and sprinted ahead the rest of the way back. My time from the Apalachee back to the parking lot was 6:45 with the nice following current. It was a nice last minute paddle to get ready for the long paddles on Saturday to Horn Island.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Bay Minette Basin

Wednesday, October 27, 2004 brint.adams@us.army.mil

Bob Andrews led a group of nine of us into the basin for a beautiful evening show. We met at Buzbee's at 6:00 PM with a temperature of about 82 degrees, clear skies, no wind and a high tide. Before dark, we were able to see a few remaining burr marigolds and duck potato along the way.

Not long after we turned up into the basin, the moon came up over the trees and was very bright, while the sun settled over Mobile like a big red rubber ball. As we meandered around, the moon finally began to cross the earth's shadow to begin the lunar eclipse show at around 8:00 PM. After paddling around for about four miles, we decided to move our moon-watching off the water, and so headed back to Buzbee's.

After an aborted try to eat dinner at Blue Gill's while continuing to watch the eclipse, we all split up and headed home. Linda and I watched the rest of the eclipse from our front porch where we had a great vantage point.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Bay Minette Basin

Sunday, October 24, 2004 brint.adams@us.army.mil

A group of five (Matt, Steve, Nancy, Barbara and I) met at Buzbee's on what turned out to be a beautiful Sunday afternoon. We started out as usual on Matt's Monet paddles with a turn back into the man-made canal to view his "Monet Cypress". After exiting, we turned north up through the many grassy islands, where we saw blooming burr marigold, duck potato and cardinal flower. It was also especially memorable for all of the waterfowl sighted, including terns, coots, kingfishers, osprey, mallards, egrets and herons.

As we meandered up along the shoreline, we stumbled across a natural archaeological site, where Hurrican Ivan pushed over several trees back inland. This uncovered some large areas under the trees along the shore where Indians shucked and left thousands of oyster and mussel shells. We stopped and within a few minutes found about a dozen shards of pottery of various origins. One of the pieces of china had a partial monogram stamp on it, which I identified later to be Royal Ironstone made by Alfred Meakin, England somewhere between 1891-1897.

We continued up into the basin as far as we could go, which was pretty far with a high tide. At the end, we came upon a cormorant who let us get within about 20 feet of him while he quietly swam ahead of us.

On our return, we admired the beautiful colors of the sunset as we paddled back between the grassy islands to our take-out at Buzbee's. It was just another day in paradise!

Saturday, October 23, 2004

McVoys Lake from Cloverleaf Landing

Saturday, October 23, 2004 brint.adams@us.army.mil

We drove up Hwy. 225 past Blakeley State Park and turned left on Cloverleaf Landing Lane to the Tensaw River. At 9:00 AM, it was partly cloudy, 73 degrees with a slight southerly breeze. The tide was high and just starting to fall.

We paddled north up the Tensaw and quickly turned right between the grassy islands as we headed into McVoy's Lake. There were splashes of color along the way as we saw burr marigold, water hyacinth and cardinal flower. There were also some very tiny blue flowers, and some lavendar and white flowers.

When we left McVoys, we paddled down the Tensaw past the Cloverleaf and the bluff at the turn in the river towards Blakeley State Park. At a point about 50 meters north of the boat dock where the Delta Explorer ties up, we turned into a tiny passage into the thick woods. On the USGS map, it looks like this is called Baptizing Branch. It is a beautiful, quiet meandering creek that goes deep into the woods in Blakeley. Although we did not realize it until we were right next to him, we snuck up on a large gator, who quietly dropped below the surface within one foot of the side of our canoe. I was thankful Linda did not see him at all.

After leaving this hidden paradise, we stopped at the Blakeley covered shelter along the wooden walkway overlooking the Tensaw. We ate lunch and then took a leisurely walk around the nature trail looping back to the river.

On our way back upriver along the bluff, we experienced our first bald eagle sighting. He was absolutely magnificent as he circled around us at a relatively low altitude of no more than fifty feet. We just stopped paddling and watched him for about five minutes. It was a great way to finish off the paddle on a beautiful morning.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Apalachee River to Causeway XXIII

Thursday, October 21, 2004 brint.adams@us.army.mil

I met Jim Chamberlain this afternoon at 5:05 PM at the old Riverdoc's lot for a paddle workout session. He wanted to see what it was all about and get in a good workout as well. There was no wind, partly cloudy skies, 84 degrees with a low tide that was just starting to rise. We followed my regular course eastward past the restaurants to the Apalachee. My first split was 7:01, while Jim turned around at Blue Gill's. As I passed the parking lot, my time was 14:47, heading into a beautiful sunset.

With the tide very low, I had to carefully follow the channel to stay out of the shallow areas on both sides along the Causeway. My time at the turnaround was 32:05. After a quick drink, I finished strong, finding Jim along the way heading back to the parking lot. He found a couple of friendly gators to hang out with while watching the sunset after getting in a pretty good workout of about three miles. My overall time was 49:19 which was satisfying, since it was my first timed workout following the Phatwater race.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Magnolia River Weeks Bay

Sunday, October 17, 2004 brint.adams@us.army.mil

After the great weather, blooming flowers and variety of birds on the Whiskey Ditch paddle yesterday, I thought it would be nice to try for two days in a row. So, I put a post on the club website yesterday afternoon to see if there was any interest in paddling Magnolia River this afternoon. Well, it turned out to be another beautiful day, but either no one checked the website or had other things to do, as no one else showed up for the paddle.

So, I put in on my own and decided to turn the paddle into a tough workout. The temperature was around 82 degrees under a clear sky, a good breeze coming out of the southwest with a low and rising tide. There were a few boats out either fishing or just putting around and many others out enjoying the afternoon working on their piers and boat houses.

There were very few flowers blooming, but quite a few brown pelicans, cormorants and a couple of osprey.

I pushed the trip out at a pretty good pace, but not at full race pace, making it to the old Lulu's by the mouth of Fish River in 59:29. After a short water break, I decided to pick up the pace a little on the way back to go along with the following current and made it back in a negative split with an overall time of 1:54:09 over the 11.5 mile course.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Whiskey Ditch

Whiskey Ditch
Saturday, October 16, 2004 brint.adams@us.army.mil

This trip brought out both old experienced paddlers as well as newbies on a magnificent morning in the delta. We had a total of nine boats and eleven paddlers take advantage of the perfect weather. The temperature started out at about 68 degrees and when we returned was about 75 degrees with a slight southerly breeze and absolutely clear sky.

After our put-in at the old Riverdoc's parking lot, and with a low tide, we paddled lazily eastward down Pass Picada past the restaurants and turned north up the Apalachee River. The tide was low and still dropping as we entered Whiskey Ditch along the west side of the Apalachee about 0.75 miles north of the turn. Along the way we saw Blue Herons, White Egrets, White Ibis, Cormorants, various terns, gulls and ducks.

Once we turned into Whiskey Ditch, we also saw about ten White Pelicans in migratory formation as well as a Red Tailed Hawk circling overhead. As for foliage, the burr marigolds were everywhere in full bloom and glorious. There were also water hyacinth blooming as well as a plant with groupings of white petals along a straight vertical stalk which I believe is duck potato.

With the water low and still flowing out, we paddled to the small lake at the end where we stopped for a few minutes before our return. On the way back, a 4" bass jumped into our canoe in order to get his picture taken. Once back on the Apalachee, a larger mullet jumped over the middle of our canoe right in front of my face.

This was just a great time to be alive and enjoy the outdoors in the lower Alabama river delta.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Whiskey Ditch

Whiskey Ditch
Wednesday, October 13, 2004 brint.adams@us.army.mil

It was such a beautiful afternoon, I couldn't stay off of the water any longer after the race last weekend. So, I went to check out Whiskey Ditch to see if we would lead a paddle there this Saturday. I arrived at 5:00 PM and found a brisk wind coming out of the southwest with a high tide just starting to fall and a temperature of 82 degrees.

The paddle down Pass Picada was very quick as I surfed the rollers pushing east and made it to the Apalachee in 6:20. I turned north and got out of the wind heading up to the entrance of Whiskey Ditch. The fall flowers were peaking which will be great for the Saturday paddle. This was the first time I tried to paddle my Seda Glider into Whiskey Ditch, which made the trip interesting. With the added length, I found it was not very maneuverable, which cut down my speed. I made it back in to the lake in 28:30 and only stopped for a quick drink before heading back out.

By the time I came back out of the ditch and headed back down Apalachee, the wind had died down somewhat. This made the trip back west on Pass Picada a little easier, as I paddled hard the last mile. My overall time for the trip was 55:29. The best thing was I did not have any aches or pains left over following the Phatwater race.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Phatwater Kayak Challenge

Saturday, October 9, 2004 brint.adams@us.army.mil

All I can say is WOW!!! The long, extremely hot workouts on Mobile Bay and in the delta over the past four months were definately worth it. Paddling the Mississippi River was challenging, exciting, exhausting and satisfying with beautiful scenery around every corner. But, since this was a race, the end result was equally important to me. I bettered all expectations and goals set for myself six months ago when I decided to enter and train for this race. When it was all over, I finished in 5th place overall in 4:39:24 and in 2nd place in my boat category.

Linda and I left Spanish Fort Friday afternoon, the day before the race, and traveled I-10 to I-12 to Hammond, LA, north on I-55 and west to Natchez, MS, taking 4.5 hours. After checking in to our motel, we went to the east bank of the Mississippi in downtown Natchez and found our way down to the area called Under The Hill. The check-in was in the Under The Hill Saloon which has a great view across the River and overlooking the Isle of Capri Riverboat Casino. From this point, you can look north straight up the river for as far as you can see. The next day after the race, we found out one can actually see upriver for over 13 miles with a telescope. After checking in, getting last minute instructions for race morning and recommendations for dinner, we left to go back to the motel to rest for an hour.

We decided to try Pearl Street Pasta in downtown Natchez for dinner and it was an excellent choice. I got plenty of carbo loading in preparation for the next day. Afterwards, it was to bed early and back up at 4:30 AM. Without any locking system for my kayak, I decided to put it in our motel room, which was on the ground floor with an outside entrance. So, with the kayak stretching from just inside the door all the way to under the sink, we had to be careful getting up in the middle of the night.

When we arrived to meet caravan heading up to the start near Grand Gulf, MS, we were a little apprehensive about the weather with tropical storm Matthew heading our way. When we arrived at the Claiborne County Port boat ramp a little before 7:00 AM, the morning light started out very dim and gray. It was very breezy with a misty rain and threatening skies. After hearing safety instructions, all boats were put into the small bay, where we warmed up and waited for the start. At about 8:15 AM, the gun went off for about 50 boats of all varying sizes, shapes and colors. There were surf skis, a couple of real K-1 racing kayaks, tandem kayaks, plastic rec kayaks, along with several canoes. The most popular boat on the water was the same as I had, the Seda Glider.

We got off to a pretty safe start, knowing we had a long way to go, with no need to get into a sprint mode right away. It was obvious from the start that without any mishaps, there were three boats out in front,who were going to fight for the top places. Following them was Richard Savoie, the champion from the past two years. The next group of four paddlers including me, tried to keep the frontrunners in view for as long as we could. I knew with all of the experience Richard had on this course, he was who I wanted to focus on as long as I could keep him in sight.

After the first several miles, I still had Richard in view, with Keith Benoist, the race director, starting to pull ahead of me. Just behind me were two others, with a large gap ever lengthening back to the next group. The surface of the water was fairly flat at the start and was not bothersome. It was difficult to gauge how fast we were going until we passed the large buoys. It amazed me to see the water rushing past them, and then how fast we went by. I just got into a good paddle rhythm and concentrated on my breathing rate. I went into my mind state where I counted strokes per breath, which reminded me about every half hour to drink and/or eat a GU gel packet.

As we paddled downriver, we passed river lights on opposite banks about every two miles as well as about 7-8 sets of pile and stone dikes around the curves for shore protection and to maintain consistent boat navigation. The idea was to stay away from the dikes, as they caused turbulence and slower current. So, I tried to stay near the navigation buoys where the water was swiftest, but out of the way of the barge traffic. We encountered about 10-12 large barges, the largest was five wide by about ten long, with a huge tug boat pushing it upriver and causing some large turbulence and wake action. In the lower half of the course, the wind increased and pretty well came straight out of the south and directly in our faces. Fortunately, the rain held off during the whole race, and with the heavy cloud cover, the 72 degree temperature never was a factor.

At about this point, I pulled away from the other two paddlers who had been right with me up to that point. With about ten miles to go, I started to close the gap with the one paddler still in sight. He decided to get closer to the east bank, trying to get out of the direct wind and the wave action coming upriver towards us. I stayed out in the middle of the river where the current was swifter and ever so slightly pulled ahead of him. We were still neck and neck as we could see the river bluffs of downtown Natchez about five miles off in the distance. This is where I decided to really pick up my stroke pace a little more and took the more direct route rather than closer to the east bank. We were probably about 100 meters apart horizontally, while I was maybe only 10-20 meters ahead. With the water moving so rapidly downriver, I made sure I aimed towards the shore well upriver from the Natchez Under The Hill boat ramp. As it turned out, I aimed well and did not overshoot the finish line. In one of the closest finishes, I was able to beat the next guy by 40 seconds, after following him for most of the 45 miles.

When I hit the finish line, I was pretty exhausted and barely able to get out of my kayak. I stumbled around and needed some help just to get my balance before I could walk up the hill to the saloon. It was definately a sweet finish to a great day of paddling on such an awesome river.

Once all of the boats came in, taking well over 6.5 hours, we had the awards ceremony, which by that time took place in a light rain. The top finishers were as follows:

1st - 4:22:02 - Win Nouwen, Memphis, TN (from Holland)
2nd - 4:26:08 - David Bartell, Montgomery, TX
3rd - 4:32:46 - Richard Savoie, Des Allemands, LA
4th - 4:35:59 - Shawn Wilber, New Orleans, LA
5th - 4:39:24 - Brint Adams, Spanish Fort, AL
6th - 4:40:04 - Keith Benoist, Natchez, MS
7th - 4:49:00 - Jeb Berry, Gulfport, MS
8th - 4:49:23 - Chris Marmande, Houma, LA
9th - 4:49:39 - Don Chesler, Edmond, OK
10th- 5:01:20 - William Reitzer-Smith, Addison, TX

1st - 5:19:19 - Ann Reitzer-Smith, Addison, TX

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Apalachee River to Causeway XXII

Wednesday, October 6, 2004 brint.adams@us.army.mil

With the hay already in the barn, tonight was my last paddle workout before the race on Saturday. I put in at 5:40 PM at my usual spot with cloudy skies, 82 degrees and a good breeze coming out of the east. The tide was low and almost at the bottom.

I took off eastward into the wind, past the restaurants and reached the Apalachee in 7:51. As I turned, it was obvious the wind was going to help out on the way back. I passed the parking lot in 15:03 and continued on towards the Causeway and then to the Interstate bridges. The wind-induced wave action was pretty much straight ahead, so I had a pretty good push the whole way, making it to the turnaround in 32:00.

After a drink break, I turned and headed straight into the wind and waves all the way back, making it to the finish in 50:51. When I arrived, there was a van in the lot and two men sitting behind it, cooking their dinner on a campstove. They were passing through on their way to Oklahoma. We talked for awhile about the area and hurricane, etc. while I packed up.

Well, if I am not ready now, I never will be. So, my next post should give the account of the race and hopefully I will finish strong and safe and not embarrass the family name.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Apalachee River to Causeway XXI

Sunday, October 3, 2004 brint.adams@us.army.mil

With the big race now less than a week away, I am continuing to taper my workouts, so no more long hard weekend paddles. I put-in for a five mile speed workout at 6:40 AM with a temperature of 73 degrees and a strong falling tide. The wind was starting to pick up a little out of the northeast as my good gator buddy floated by heading east, out in the current.

As I headed east down Pass Picada, I was sheltered from the wind and hit a really good time at the turn in 6:19. I paid for it on the return, as I fought what seemed to be uphill, making it back past the parking lot in 9:41 for a total split of 16:00.

Once I got out into the open Chacaloochee Bay, I had to fight across the wind-induced rollers the rest of the way. There were several fishermen out at dawn along the Causeway as I passed by through the turbulence where the current changes directions. I made the turnaround between the Interstate bridges in 34:35, where I stopped for a water break. The return was more of the same fight with the rollers as I finished in a pretty good time of 51:13. My gator friend was waiting for me and smiled his approval.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Apalachee River to Causeway XX

Saturday, October 2, 2004 brint.adams@us.army.mil

I decided to hit the water very early this morning, so arrived and put-in at 5:35 AM, under a still almost full moon. The temperature was a great 71 degrees, no wind, but a fast falling tide. This was evident as paddled past the restaurants, arriving at Apalachee in 6:29. I turned and knew I was paddling uphill as it took me 9:18 to cover the same distance past the parking lot with a split of 15:47.

I continued toward the Causeway, hitting turbulence at the drainage culverts where the current changes directions from west to east. With the following current the rest of the way to the turnaround, I picked up significant speed and made the turn in 33:48. As I stopped for a drink, I noticed the fog starting to quickly roll in.

I started back and as soon as crossed under the Interstate bridge out into the lower end of Chacaloochee Bay, the fog immediately became very dense. I headed in toward the Causeway, to stay fairly close to the shore which sacrificed speed as the water is pretty shallow in a low tide.

After I passed the culverts and had a following current again, I tried to head back out away from shore, but had to come back in to the shallows to keep the shore in sight the rest of the way back. This hurt my overall time as I finished in 51:24, still before sunrise.