Kayak Canoe Alabama

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Econfina Creek

Saturday, February 26, 2005 brint.adams@us.army.mil

Linda and I left Spanish Fort Friday afternoon and drove east on I-10 into Florida to exit 85. We turned south on Hwy. 331, traveled 13.8 miles to Freeport and turned east on Hwy. 20. After passing through Bruce (Hwy. 81), Ebro (Hwy. 79) and past Crystal Lake (Hwy.77), we continued east on Hwy. 20 for several miles until we crossed Econfina Creek. As we continued up the next hill, the next crossroads was Blue Springs Rd to the right and Padgett Drive to the left. Another mile further, Blue Springs Rd also turns to the left (north), which we took and carefully made our way for 1.5 miles on the loose sandy surface. We came to two gates on the left, letting us into the Blue Springs campground.

This is a beautiful site capable of handling 25 campers. After a 2.5 hour drive, we arrived near dusk, and set up our tent. We found Gary, Tom, Tony, Fritz & Paula and others already set up with Bob, Carl, Charlene and Wendy and Billy to arrive later that night. We had a nice campfire, clear sky, and song with Tony's guitar accompaniment, to close out a beautiful evening.

In the morning, after a nice bike ride exploring the dirt roads in the area, we all left for our put-in on the southwest side of the bridge over Econfina Creek. We started out heading upstream against a moderate current, passing the pontoon landing on the north side of the bridge and Pitts Springs along the west bank. We continued upstream and took the next left turn into a beautiful spring tributary. The water immediately cleared up to a beautiful blue or aqua color with white sand bottom covered with bits of sparkly shell. There were dozens of large 6" tadpoles sitting on the bottom or swimming around, as well as numerous small fish. We found our way to the end of the spring, where we circled a small island like riding a carousel.

Upon exiting the spring, continued north for another 0.5 miles, and took the next left up into Williford Springs. We stopped here for lunch, while several adventurous paddlers donned fins and snorkles, to dive down to the cave entrance about 13' below the surface, where the crystal clear spring water was bubbling from.

Our trip back downstream was, of course, considerably quicker, so we continued past our put-in, to visit two more springs about 0.5 miles downstream below the bridge. One of the springs had a large PVC pipe pumping water directly out of the bubbling source, which we were told is the source for Coca Cola's Aquafina bottled water.

After taking out of Econfina, we drove back to the campground, where Linda and I put in for a short paddle around Blue Springs and out to the entrance to Econfina Creek. This is another beautiful springs area teaming with fish, water birds and plantlife.

Late in the afternoon, Gary, Tom, Billy and others set up a sweat lodge, which later would accomodate eight participants. We went out and collected more firewood, cut it up and stoked the fire to begin heating the flat, round river slicks Tom brought to heat up the sweat lodge. When all was ready, eight of us entered, while we had a designated rock provider on the outside, start to hand in the red-hot rocks on the end of spade. It did not take long, and we soon were all well heated up and drinking from our water bottles. All of a sudden, Tom broke the silence with a scream that shook the trees, echoed around the springs and made several people jump right off their towels. He continued with a spirited Indian chant that added to the eeriness of the experience.

After about 20 minutes, we all filed out of the lodge and proceeded to jump into the spring to complete the sweat lodge experience. We then joined the others around the campfire for a great feast and continued festivities into the night. Carl and Tom brought several beautiful drums, which were enthusiastically beat and pounded for hours, while others shook rattles and I took a long turn blowing on a 3' long wooden digeridoo, making sounds like a wild female water buffalo in heat. We had a great time, and while the crowd around the fire dwindled down to only a few, we finally all went off to our tents, leaving Tom snoring by the fire.

In the morning, we awoke to light rain, which appeared to be socked in for several hours. Linda and I decided to break camp and not try to wait it out. He headed out by 8:00 AM, on our way back to Spanish Fort. Along the way, we took a little detour to see the Seven Runs area, we had planned to paddle that day. Even in the rain, it was a beautiful, flooded Cypress forest, where we almost decided to put in and explore for awhile. But, clearer heads prevailed, so we continued back home after a very enjoyable weekend of paddling, camping and cameraderie.

by Gary Worob

When do one and one make more than two? When you combine the unlimited talents of Brint and Linda, into the dynamic duo of entertainment. Certainly the kumbaya king and queen of our camping trip on Econfina.

The neighborhood was rocking Saturday night in more ways than one. Tom got "hot rocks" going for the great sweat lodge, that he brought and we filled it full of sweaty bodies, song and chants to start the festivities off to a rolling boil. It was an easy dash to the springs to rinse off and be "renewed" for the great feast that followed.

Hard to believe that such great foods could appear in the middle of the woods and harder to believe that anything was left, it was so good. But what followed was an amazing rockfest, started by Carl and progressed to the "Rockette" version of the Lind-Y., courtesy of our own favorite belle de la nuite-Linda. She was creating some of the most innovative sounds and limericks I ever heard.

No sense in talking about the body count, cause no one even dared, but two were huddled by the campfire, for part of the night and more will try to figure out how they made it to their campsites or vans....I, for one, can't remember and I, for sure, never touched a drop. I swear to it!

As for the paddle, it was just as wonderful as any could be, with 16 of us exploring the beautiful springs and some of us donning snorkeling gear and diving to the cave in Williford Spring. Blue Springs Campground is part of the Northwest Florida Water Management District, and they do a wonderful job of keeping a great campsite, right on a series of beautiful pristine springs. We also discovered a series of sink holes in the woods and speculated about the creation of the area, and the changes that time was making in front of us.

The actual paddle was barely 4 miles, if that; but the visuals at Econfina Creek are always wonderful and the chance to dive into a beautiful and powerful spring is worth the drive.
I always have to use a big rock to be able to go down to the entry of a 175' lateral underwater cave.

I had another unexpected venture, when Bob Andrews and I started out in little canoes, about an hour before sweat lodge time, through the Blue Springs and out into the Econfina Creek. I was unable to navigate the creek a couple years ago, due to excessive downed big trees. Bob asked if I wanted to try to go the 4-5 miles and have him pick me up. No hesitation and soon I had one of the best slalom paddling courses I ever experienced. It was just me and the many deer along the banks, ducks that took off when I got near, and I raced the course as if it were a real slalom race. It was great fun and I planned to have most everyone do it early in the morning before the next paddle at Seven Runs Creek, but the heavy rains came and we all packed up and went our ways.

We ran into George and Mackenzie on the way home and Bob and George paddled Seven Runs Creek into the great cypress forest. I went home after two weeks on the road having camped along and explored many rivers along the way in Florida. I swam with the manatees, dove with the cormorants, tickled an alligator and saw the amazing sights of some of the great rivers and springs in Florida, and was anxious to be back in Fairhope and rest up for the next great adventure.

The diversity in this club is apparent and the harmony is sublime.

Apalachee River to Causeway 2005 X

Sunday, February 27, 2005 brint.adams@us.army.mil

After returning in the rain from the Econfina camping trip this morning, it was nice to see the rain finally stop this afternoon. I decided to give the bay a try before it started to rain again, arriving at the old Riverdoc's parking lot at 3:30 PM. It was heavily overcast, 58 degrees with a stiff breeze coming in from the northwest. The tide was high and still rising with a strong current running.

I started east with the breeze to my back, but into the current, which slowed me down to 10:24 when I reached the Apalachee. As I passed the parking lot on the return, my time was 16:45, which indicated the water was really flowing strongly.

There was no one out anywhere either fishing or boating as I approached the causeway, where the water was really churning around in front of the drainage culverts. I made it past OK and on to the turnaround in 33:15.

After a short drink, I turned around and stayed close to the south bank. The was increasing as I made the turn at the causeway. I was able to use the wind at my back to an advantage, even into the rising current, making it to the parking lot in 51:45.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Byrne's Lake

Sunday, February 20, 2005 brint.adams@us.army.mil

Due largely to Larry McDuff's charisma and magnetism as a group leader, upon arrival at the Bruno's lot, I was not surprised to see a number of vehicles carrying boats. After only posting this as a flash paddle on Friday, we had ten paddlers in nine boats push off from the Byrne's Lake launch area at around 1:00 PM. The skies were fairly dark and threatening, but with a slight breeze and a warm 76 degree temperature, we were energetically off and paddling. The group consisted of Larry, Mary, Nick, Roland, Margaret, Dottie and I in kayaks, with Mike and Sara in their canoe.

Larry decided to go straight for the gator den, so we paddled downstream and took the first left into a side branch. Larry and a couple of other paddlers in the front were greeted with the same large gator I wrote about on our January 22nd trip, just a month ago. However, this time he was awake, saw us coming and silently slipped into the water while we were still 25 meters away.

We continued out to the Tensaw River and poked our noses out into the Tensaw's choppy waters. We debated briefly about paddling across to Gravine Island, but decided to turn and head back. After passing the park area, we continued as far as we could upstream. I broke out my saw, which allowed us to continue for another 100 meters or so.

This is a beautiful and fun little paddle of about 4.5 miles, which took us about two hours. Although the landscape was still overwhelmingly winter brown, there were some hints of green starting to pop up and some golden club starting to poke out of the water along the bank. It won't be long and spring will arrive in all its glory.

Apalachee River to Causeway 2005 IX

Sunday, February 20, 2005 brint.adams@us.army.mil

This morning was almost a repeat of yesterday afternoon. I put in at 9:00 AM with a southeasterly breeze, 68 degrees and a rising tide. One difference was it was just past low tide, so the current was not moving very fast, as opposed to when paddling in the cycle halfway between low and high tides.

So, with similar effort, I made the first turnaround in 8:29 and back past the parking lot in 15:45. There were several fishermen working the Causeway drainage culverts as I passed and headed along the lower end of Chacaloochee Bay. With the water very low, I had to make sure I stayed within the channel markers, so as not slow down in the shallows. I made the turnaround between the Interstate bridges in 33:15.

My return was strong, even though I finished in 52:08. The difference was I had just ridden a hard road bike sprint workout just before loading up and getting in the water.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Apalachee River to Causeway 2005 VIII

Saturday, February 19, 2005 brint.adams@us.army.mil

This afternoon provided near perfect conditions once again for a strong workout. I put in at old Riverdoc's at 3:30 PM with a southeasterly breeze, 64 degrees and a rising tide.

As I turned east down Pass Picada, I hugged the south shore to try and stay out of the breeze. As such, I passed closely by the restaurants. Blue Gill's was setting up their stage on the outside deck for the evening Marc Broussard concert. A warmup band was playing loudly in the afternoon, prior to Marc's arrival. Against the current, I made the turn in 9:10 and back past the parking lot in 16:15. The breeze did not kick up much chop, so I was able to get in the groove past the Causeway and cruised in to the turnaround in 32:20.

The return was also pretty quick as I sprinted home, finishing in 51:16.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Whiskey Ditch

Tuesday, February 15, 2005 brint.adams@us.army.mil

We could not pass up the opportunity to paddle in such beautiful weather, as my mother was in town visiting and wanting to get a taste of the delta. We put in at the old Riverdoc's parking lot on the Causeway at 11:30 AM, under clear skies, a slight breeze and 65 degrees. The tide was rising with the water level already high.

We started out paddling easily down Pass Picada, as several Ibis were browsing the shoreline, while a couple of fishermen were trying their luck near the restaurants. We turned up Apalachee River along the west shoreline and turned into the entrance of Whiskey Ditch. It was still early for the vegetation to start greening up and flowering. The high water was flooding over the normal shoreline, widening out the normally narrow ditch. As we made one of the many turns, I noticed a gator nearby, sliding into the water from the sunny bank. As we made our way back into the small lake, we scared up many sets of ducks, some cormorants, osprey and tri-colored herons.

We stopped for lunch at the end of the lake, and relaxed in this beautifully hidden spot in the middle of the delta. On our way back out, I noticed ahead in the same spot, the same gator sunning himself again. He was about a twelve footer and appeared to be totally black. As we approached, he slid back into the ditch while we were still about 50 meters away.

We arrived back at the lot by 2:00 PM after a thoroughly enjoyable and peaceful paddle on a perfect afternoon.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Bottle Creek Indian Mounds

Saturday, February 12, 2005 brint.adams@us.army.mil

With a little trepidation, I led an ambitious canoe trip for Linda and my mother, Hally, who turns 79 next week. We traveled north on Hwy 225, passed over I-65, through Stockton to Rice Creek Landing, where we put in at 9:35 AM. The morning warmed up nicely to 65 degrees with partly cloudy skies, no wind and high water.

We paddled down Rice Creek, following two Auburn researchers, in their small powerboat. The water was like glass and very clear. The undergrowth had not started to green yet, so we could see deep into the Cypress woods, where a good part of it was partially flooded. Once out into Briar Lake, we crossed over and around the bottom end of Richardson Island, and continued west into the narrow cut-through to Tensaw Lake. The water was flowing rapidly out of the Tensaw and into the cut-through, so we had to paddle hard to make progress to make it through.

Once into Tensaw, we turned left and followed along the right side, which is Larry Island. The current was behind us, so we were able to relax for a short time, until we came to the entrance of the Tensaw River at the bottom of Larry. Looking straight forward, we crossed the Tensaw diagonally to the entrance of Bayou Jessamine. As we entered, the current was coming out, but not as swiftly as we had seen so far. The bayou was clear all the way to the split to Jug Lake.

At the split, we took the left fork, continuing on Jessamine, where the current became much swifter. We fought our way forward around the tight twists and turns, past the turn on the left to Little Bayou Jessamine. We soon came upon some of the blockages Bob and I encountered a few months ago, albeit at a higher water level. As we continued, we saw Rich and Carol coming downstream towards us. They indicated there was a large log across the bayou, requiring a portage, forcing them to retreat.

When we told them we wanted to take a look, they decided to turn around and see if we might work together to get both boats around the log. When we arrived, there was a fairly low bank on the right, allowing us to get out and pull our boats out and around to the other side. In just a few minutes, we were back in and paddling ahead to the end of the bayou. We did come across another log, which was still high enough above the water for us to pass beneath. So, we all ducked way down and worked our way under the log and continued.

Once we reached the end, we turned left downstream and with the current, on Bottle Creek. A short distance ahead, we reached a sharp bend to the left and came to the beach on the right bank in the bend, where we found two other canoes. I recognized them as Bob's and Larry's boats, as we found a place to get out and pull our boats up on the bank.

We began our hike inland on the trail to the Indian Mounds at noon, and soon came across the first of several large downed trees across the trail, thanks to the hurricane. We worked our way around, through the Palmettos, and came across the first of three swamp and stream crossings. The trail is typically fairly dry, but with the water up high everywhere in the delta, we had our share of water and mud to cross along the way.

When we reached the large mound, Larry, Julie and Bob called us up to the top to join them for lunch. We exchanged stories about our trip and their first night spent on the Canal Island platform. We all returned to Bottle Creek together and began paddling upstream to the entrance to Bayou Jessamine. When we reached the same portage, Bob was trying to saw an opening through the tree. He finally gave up and we all made the same portage as before.

Upon reaching the Jug Lake split, we decided to follow the campers the 1.1 miles up Jug Lake to the covered platform, where they were going to spend their second night out in the delta. Linda was about played out, but when coaxed on with the anticipation of a glass of Bob's wine upon arrival, she found renewed energy to pick up the pace. We rested for a half hour and took off at 3:30 towards Rice Creek.

The return was downstream for the most part, except for the Tensaw Lake alongside Larry Island, so we made fairly good time, making it back to the landing by 4:45 PM. The overall paddle with the side trip into Jug Lake was about eight miles, which was all Linda and my mother wanted and more. The sighting of our car was none too soon for them, as we quickly loaded up and headed back to Spanish Fort. It was a beautiful afternoon and a very enjoyable, although tiring, paddle for all of us.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Apalachee River to Causeway 2005 VII

Monday, February 7, 2005 brint.adams@us.army.mil

After a busy Mardi Gras weekend of partying in New Orleans, it was a welcome relief to be back on Mobile Bay this afternoon. I put in at 3:00 PM at the old Riverdoc's parking lot under cloudy skies, no wind with a temperature of 68 degrees and a rising tide. There was a Brown Pelican sitting on an old pier post right where I took off. He didn't flinch or even move his head as I glided past about 15 feet away.

The current was flowing rapidly as the tide was midway between low and high, but there was hardly a ripple. I moved out rapidly and thought I would have a pretty good split at the Apalachee turnaround. But, paddling against the current left me with a slow 10:00 split. I turned around and pushed hard again heading west with the strong following current and made up time, passing the parking lot in 16:07. The water around the culverts was swirling and deceptive as it tried to twist and turn me around as I passed from a following current to heading into it. With no chop out in the bay, I was still able to keep a good rhythm going and made the turnaround between the bridges in 32:30.

The return was slower, even though I put on big push and sprinted the last quarter mile to finish in 51:57. After all of the beer, seafood and king cake over the weekend, it was a good start to the week.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Apalachee River to Causeway 2005 VI

Friday, February 4, 2005 brint.adams@us.army.mil

It was blustery day and I wasn't sure I wanted to paddle out in the open bay, but since I was there, I went anyway. I put in at 1:30 PM with a brisk north wind, partly cloudy sky, rising tide and a temperature of 62 degrees. The first east leg was slow into the current, although with the partially following wind I was pushed along with the rollers,as I arrived at the Apalachee in 9:14. The return was much quicker, even though I was breaking through the rollers, passing the lot in 16:10.

Once in the open bay, the rollers got larger and more difficult to negotiate. I wasn't able to get much of a rhythm, arriving at the turnaround in 34:09. The return wasn't much better, as I pushed hard, but only finished in 52:54. Well, at least tonight, we are starting our weekend Mardi Gras celebration with some Wintzell's raw oysters, before heading over to New Orleans.