Kayak Canoe Alabama

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Apalachee River to Causeway 2005 V

Sunday, January 30, 2005 brint.adams@us.army.mil

After several days of dreary weather in Las Vegas, it felt great to be back in sunny LA, so naturally, the first thing to do after getting off the plane, was head for the water. I arrived at the Riverdoc's parking lot at 12:30 PM, under sunny skies, 60 degrees, a rising tide and about a 10 mph northerly breeze. There were three fishing boat trailers already in the lot along with a couple of dead ducks along the side and a rotting wild hog skin laying on the boat ramp.

I put in and took off towards the Sunday brunch crowd in the restaurants, trying to stay out of wind. I arrived at the Apalachee turnaround in an unremarkable time of 8:29, albeit against the rising current. On the return, I passed the parking lot in 16:10 on the way to the Causeway. Although the wind drew me towards the north, the chop wasn't near as bad as I feared. The waves got a little more difficult to deal with the rest of the way along the base of Chacaloochee Bay until I was able to get between the Interstate bridges, where the supports break up the waves somewhat. I made the turnaround in 35:00, which was also unimpressive.

After a short break, I turned and used the following current and waves coming in partially from the rear left side and tried to make up some time. I was able to cut the time down to 18:00 for the last leg and made the finish in a total of 53:01. It felt great to finally be back in a boat, after the week out of town and off the water.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Seven Runs, Red Bay, FL

Sunday, January 23, 2005 brint.adams@us.army.mil

Bob and I met at Malbis, combined boats on his truck and headed for Florida at 10:00 AM, with the temperature still in the low 30's and a stiff northerly wind. The eastbound I-10 bridge over Escambia Bay is now open, with some temporary steel spans, although just one lane. As we made our way along the two hour trip, we saw many solitary Black Vultures soaring above in the thermals.

We finally made it to exit 96 and turned south on FL 81, past Red Bay, a small bump in the road, to the Seven Runs Recreation Area. Just before the bridge over the creek, there is a turnoff to the right, down to a little parking lot with a covered pavilion and portajohn. For this paddle, this was to be our upper-end turnaround halfway point.

We continued south on FL 81, just about 0.25 mi., and turned left on Dead River Road, next to a cemetary. After a short distance, the road turns to dirt, which we took for about 3 mi. to the campsite and launch put-in area. Upon arrival, we spoke with some hunters, who were hanging around their campfire at noon, well into their first six-pack each. By this time, the temperature had risen a little to the low 40's, but the wind was not a factor in this heavily wooded area.

We put in and headed left into a large cypress forest with little definition to the creek bed, due to the high water and flooded forest condition. It soon became evident we were going to have a difficult time finding our way, as we cut through and around the many cypress. These were magnificent trees, and even with the high water, there were many very tall and large cypress knees sticking up above the water, some over six feet tall.

As we attempted to find any semblance of a defined creek, we followed a narrow passage with a sandy bottom for some time, with difficult turns and log jams. Unfortunately, neither of us thought to bring a saw along, which would have come in very handy under the circumstances. At times, we climbed over logs, other times went under very low clearances, turning sideways by laying out to the side, almost into the water. Finally, we had to get out and look around to see if there was another flow of water nearby. Bob found another cut about 25 meters away, so we portaged over and put back in. We were confident we found the real creek this time, as we had advanced far enough north above the flooded area, so there was a good current coming down the creek. We advanced upcreek, but found many more logjams. After negotiating a whole series for half an hour, we felt we were almost up to the bridge over the main road, which we could hear in the distance.

So, knowing we would have to do the limbo all the way back as well, decided to turn around and find our way back. Once we passed the point where we portaged to the real creek, we thought it would be easier to find our way back. But we soon found it was just as difficult to find our way heading downstream as up. We fought our way around and through a whole new set of Cypress until we finally recognized some trees close to the launch area.

We decided to travel past to see what the lake looked like below the campground area. The water opened up considerably for about a half mile until we came to the south or east end. We were not exactly sure where the creek joined with the Choctawhatchee River, as we returned to the launch area. This is definately an area we will return to in the spring to explore when the area greens up and water level returns to normal.

On our way back up north to I-10, we took a little detour to the east on Hwy. 181 to take a quick look at Morrison Springs, to see if it was still the same as Bob remembered when he used to dive there back in his teenage years. He said it had changed very little in the past 30 years.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Byrne's Lake

Saturday, January 22, 2005 brint.adams@us.army.mil

The first thing we noticed when turning off of Hwy. 225 towards the Byrne's Lake park, was the newly completed roadway all the way to the parking lot. The next thing was all of the cars, trucks and trailers parked there. This was the most crowded I have seen the park for some time. When we started to put in, we noticed a pickup truck with a dead deer in the back. As we got into our canoe, a kayak paddler came around the corner, all decked out in camouflage. When he got out, he was carrying a pistol with a scope on it, and his sit-on-top kayak was all covered in blood. He had carried the deer draped over the kayak and over his lap to get it back to the pier.

After this excitement, Billy, Taya, Linda and I set out from the Byrne's Lake launch area at 10:10 AM under partly cloudy skies, 70 degrees, 10 mph wind and a low tide. We began paddling upstream and went about 0.5 miles, as far as we could go. Wintertime opens up the woods, so you can see deep inside to the hills and other varying characteristics, which are not visible during the summer when all of the undergrowth is grown up and leafed out. We saw much more of the underlying landscape on this trip than during any of the other seasons.

Most of the trip out to Tensaw River was uneventful, as we passed several fishermen and a campsite along the north shore, almost out to the river. The campers were in the process of carrying their gear back out on several trips, by way of a small jonboat. On our way back, we decided to take the small waterway off to the south.

When we got about as far back as we could, we made a small turn and surprised a very large alligator (about 12 feet long) who was sunning himself on the bank, just out of the water. Linda was in front, and when the gator lifted and turned his head towards her, they were no more than 6'-10' feet apart. As Linda screamed, the gator got up, thrashed his tail around and dove under the surface. At that point, we had glided over the top of where he went under. As we turned around in the close quarters, he surfaced between our canoe and Billy's kayak, who was coming up behind us. So, of course Linda was right next to him again, as the gator looked around at both boats, thrashed in the water and dove under again. This time both Linda and Taya screamed, as both boats eased on out towards the main channel.

The remainder of the trip was not nearly as eventful, as we continued to discuss our close encounter. Overall, we paddled about five miles in about 1.5 hours. We were out, packed up and on our way by noon, on what turned out to be a beatiful morning, with a little excitement thrown in for good measure.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Apalachee River to Causeway 2005 IV

Friday, January 21, 2005 brint.adams@us.army.mil

It was such a beautiful day today, I had to take off early and head to the bay for some TGIF paddling. I arrived at the old Riverdoc's parking lot at around 3:45 PM under sunny skies, 71 degrees, a slight breeze with a high and still rising tide.

Since I started out east on Pass Picada against the rising tide, I made the turn at the Apalachee in 8:48. There was little activity around the restaurants and bars, only a few Cormorants and Snowy Egrets. As I passed the parking lot on the return, my time was 15:45. There was barely a ripple as I headed on towards the Causeway, where there were several fishermen around the drainage culverts. I arrived at the turnaround under the Interstate bridges in 32:01 and stopped for drink.

As the sun started to set behind me, I headed back, making it to the lot in a total time of 50:21. The early exit from the office was well worth it.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Canal Island Platform

Sunday, January 16, 2005 brint.adams@us.army.mil

On a beautiful, sunny, 60 degree afternoon, seven paddlers in six boats pushed off from Hubbard's Landing toward the Mobile Tensaw Delta's northernmost covered paddlers platform, placed last year by the State of Alabama. We traveled north on I-65 to exit 31 and turned north on Hwy. 225 to Stockton. After meeting at The Stagecoach Cafe, we continued north on Hwy. 59 for 5.5 miles and turned left on CR 98 for 3.5 miles to Hubbard's Landing.

Bob, Fritz, Gary, Tom, Rich, Carol and I headed from the boat launch north on Tensaw Lake against the moderate current and northerly breeze at 12:25 PM. After about three miles, we took a left fork on Big Beaver Creek, following about five s-curves for 1.5 miles. We passed Bear Creek on the right where we saw numerous abandoned fish/hunting camp structures. Just ahead on the left, we turned down Little Lake to the two entrances around Canal Island on the left. The first entrance is narrow and not easily recognized. Most of our group went down to the next entrance left and paddled counter-clockwise around Canal Island to the platform. There were a few trees down, but did not present any problems getting around them.

The platform is in a nicely protected area, where few powerboats would be tempted to venture. The platform is built exactly the same as the other two locations behind Dead Lake Island and Jug Lake. We stopped for a breather, snack and hot mint tea before the return trip.

Along the way, we were fortunate to see a nice v-grouping of about twelve White Ibis in undulating flight over us as well as numerous Cormorants and Snowy Egrets.

The return was much faster, with the current and wind pushing us along. The total trip was just under ten miles, taking about three hours to paddle. This will be a nice trip during other seasons, with numerous streams close by to explore.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Apalachee River to Causeway 2005 III

Saturday, January 15, 2005 brint.adams@us.army.mil

With a coldfront coming through yesterday bringing a northerly wind, today was iffy for a paddle. At the temperature rose from the 30's to the upper 50's, it was time to give it a try anyway. At 2:30 PM, it was mostly sunny with a temperature of 60 degrees, a 10 mph northerly wind and a low, but rising tide.

As I arrived at the old Riverdoc's parking lot, there were several boat trailers there waiting for duck hunters to return. I started off heading east down Pass Picada against the rising tide and partially into the wind. The restaurants had no outdoor activity with only a couple of Cormorants and a Brown Pelican hanging around. I made it to Apalachee River in 8:50, turned and passed the parking lot in 15:45.

Once out in the open water of Chacaloochee Bay, the north wind kicked a pretty good chop hitting me directly on the side. It made paddling with a good rhythm difficult, as I passed the Causeway fishermen. At this point, the rising tide comes together from two directions at the culverts, making the water there "confused". I pressed on to the Interstate bridges and made the turnaround in 33:23.

The return was just as difficult to negotiate along the Causeway with the chop adding a few whitecaps. I pushed on hard to the finish in 52:55. There were two boats of hunters finishing their day as well. It was definately worth getting out of the house and giving the bay a try on this beatiful afternoon.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Grand Bay

Sunday, January 9, 2005 brint.adams@us.army.mil

A group of seven, including Bob, Tony, Gary, Larry, Jim, Julie and I explored around Grand Bay, AL on what turned out to be a pretty great January afternoon. To get there, we took exit 4 on AL I-10 and turned south for two miles to Grand Bay, turned left for 200 meters on Hwy. 90, turned right (south) for 0.5 mi. on Hwy. 188, where Hwy. 188 turned left, we went for about 0.5 mi. more and turned right on Henderson Camp Road. We traveled south for 4.5 mi., the last part through Grand Bay Swamp on dirt and large gravel, until we arrived at the gate to the private boat dock on Grand Bayou. The proprietor let us in, where we parked and put in next to his houseboat for a $3 fee.

The water in Grand Bayou was a dark coffee color, shallow and narrow where we put in. We put in at about 1:45 PM under cloudy skies, 65 degrees and absolutely no wind. Once we exited Grand Bayou, which was about 0.25 mi. long, we looked southwest and paddled out one mi. to Marsh Island. As we started to quickly understand, it was duck hunting season, and there were many blinds set up with hunters actively shooting anything that flew nearby. Along the east end of the western piece of Marsh Island, we saw about 50 ducks sitting on the water. I went over closer to see what kind they were and found many different varieties, all made of plastic. Fortunately, the hunters hiding on the island didn't mistake me for a Merganser, so I escaped back to the rest of the paddle group.

We paddled west about 1.25 mi. toward an unnamed island extending south from Bayou Bubie. As we slowly approached, we were able to get fairly close to a flock of about 100 White Pelicans, with a couple of grays mixed in. We turned north and then west around the island, by paddling from Bayou Bubie into Bull Bay Bayou. We meanered around the bayou until we came to an oyster shell mound with a couple of large oak trees. We got out and looked around for awhile and scoped out the remainder of our paddle.

Once back in the water, we continued south out of Bull Bay Bayou and into Bayou La Fourche Bay. We continued southwest for about 1.5 mi., out to Little Bay Island and to the east end of Long Island. The White Pelicans put on quite a show, as they flew over in formation. We steered clear of Little Bay Island, as we continued to come across more hunters set up in there blinds. At this point, we decided to head straight back, traveling east and northeast past Marsh Island and to Grand Bayou (4 mi.).

The water was like glass the whole trip and very clear out in Grand Bay, as there aren't any tributaries emptying in, which might bring ground runoff or other pollutants into the bay. We arrived back at the put-in at about 4:30 PM, after exploring a very enjoyable 9 miles of Grand Bay.

On a day ....Small Gifts (Bob's Excellent Grand Bay Paddle)
A perspective by Gary Worob

On a day when the wind is perfect,
The sail just needs to open and the world is full of beauty.
Today is such a Day.

(Rumi, Love Poems From God)

The wind was perfect for today's paddle....almost non-existent. It was one of those wonderful gift days, when all about you is OK and each paddle stroke is another gift. We glided out from somewhere south of Grand Bay and headed out through the channels. We did not know we would be so gifted, to have an absolute flat, calm day, with perfect paddling temperature and hosts of White Pelicans v-ing their way all around us. Occasionally, they covered a beach area, making it look like white sand from a distance.

The map showed one island in front of us, but it was yet another split island with lots and lots of oyster shells everywhere. We headed off to the west and wove through inlets and oysters beds, and came upon a campable mound with oak trees and good views of more Pelicans, Mergansers and Loons. Not a ripple was in the water. The closest description I have ever heard of this wonderful phenomenon, is "slack tide." The sea unbuckles it's belt after a full day, takes a deep breath and just sits back in the easy chair and reflects and relaxes with the moment. These were my favorite paddling experiences in the Inside Passage in British Columbia, especially with a full moon. You could get lulled to sleep, easily by the gentleness of the ocean. Today was that kind of a day.

I guess the seven of us paddled about eight miles. It wasn't important. What was important, was just to experience a rare gift the sea can give you. Once, when paddling alongside Bob, Brint and Julie, I could see their mirror images in the water. So, today was a day when the wind was perfect and another great paddle.............................thanks.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Pelican Island

Saturday, January 8, 2005 brint.adams@us.army.mil

It was a day befitting Elvis' 70th birthday, as a crazy number of Lower Alabamians converged on Dauphin Island for the first parade of the 2005 Mardi Gras season. There was bumper to bumper traffic backed way up the highway and bridges leading onto the island, which meant I arrived at the golf club about ten minutes late. The last part of the drive was along the parade route, where hundreds of party-goers were setting up tailgate parties in anticipation of the floats, bands and throws.

I had to hustle my boat down to the beach and was able to catch up to rest in a couple of minutes before rounding the near end of the island by the pier. The temperature was 62 degrees with cloudy skies and about a 10 mph northeast wind. The tide was probably two feet higher than two weeks ago, so we were able to circle around the island much closer to it. There were seven paddlers to start, with Gene and Carolyn starting even later than I, and not catching up until we made it all the way back.

As we made our way along the outer (Gulf side) of the island, it was evident right away the water level was higher, as we came across a wide high tide cut through the island, which was not there two weeks ago. The water was fairly calm, with some two foot breakers in close to the beach. When we got out to the end of the island, where there is the normal cut with a small piece of island isolated, there was a much wider cut than usual with a much smaller, almost non-existent piece left. We took the cut and had a good time surfing through to the bay side.

Once on the other side, we came in to the beach for a supposedly short break. The wind picked up somewhat from about 10 mph to probably 15 mph. While we stood around eating and jawing, we saw Gene and Carolyn on the other side, and decided to wait for them to come around and catch up to us. We watched them go past and keep going off into the mist and fog and kept waiting. After waiting for about 45 minutes, I started to get a little chilled, so George, McKenzie and I decided to head on back. Once in the water, I decided to paddle back out towards the lighthouse and look for Gene and Carolyn and see what they were up to. Once out around the end of the small cutoff piece of the island, the water got pretty crazy, with about 4' swells coming in from three directions, producing what Bob calls "confused seas". I never saw the tandem out there, and decided to turn back. Once back by the others, all got back in and started the return to Dauphin Island. I found out the others saw Gene and Carolyn paddling back along the outside of Pelican again, so at least they were safe and heading home.

We say rays, some dolphins and a myriad of local birds (Pelicans, Gulls and Cormorants) as well as a number of varieties of duck which were migrating through, including Scaups, Mergansers and Buffleheads.

It was a successful and interesting paddle, with a completely different view from what we saw just two weeks earlier.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Apalachee River to Causeway 2005 II

Monday, January 3, 2005 brint.adams@us.army.mil

Just another day in paradise! I started out at 9:15 AM under clear skies with a temperature of 65 degrees, a slight breeze out of the southeast and a low, still falling tide. The egrets, herons, ibis, cormorants and pelicans were all out in full force to greet me.

With such an uplifting morning, I decided to really go for it and hit it hard from the start down to the Apalachee in 7:47. My time as I passed the parking lot on the return was 15:41, as I headed for the Causeway with the breeze to my back. Several fishermen were there to greet me as I turned towards the bridges and my turnaround point in 32:57. After a short water break, while hiding under the bridge and out of the sun, I really cranked it up on the return and made it back to the lot in total time of 50:24. I guess the extra effort over yesterday's paddle was needed just to get close to the same time, due to the breeze today.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Apalachee River to Causeway 2005 I

Sunday, January 2, 2005 brint.adams@us.army.mil

The weather is almost unbelievable, but I am not complaining. I started out the new year with a paddle this morning at 10:30 AM, a temperature of 72 degrees, no clouds, no wind and a low, but still falling tide.

There were plenty of fishermen, both on the banks and out in boats this morning, as well as some hunters zipping around in their camo boats. I headed east past the restaurants at a good, but not killer pace, and made the Apalachee turn in 7:21. As I came back past the parking lot, I noticed my time was 15:30, so even at a less than full-bore pace, I was moving along pretty well. As I passed the Causeway, there were several fishermen as well as alot of traffic, especially motorcycles out for a morning spin in the sunshine.

I headed for the Interstate bridges and made the turn in 33:00. After a short break under the north side bridge to stay out of the sun, I picked it up a little on the way back. I hit the finish in 50:21, which was pretty respectable and a good start for 2005.