Kayak Canoe Alabama

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Causeway to Mobile River 2005 IV

Sunday, July 31, 2005 brint.adams@us.army.mil

Fortunately, the sky was mostly overcast this morning, as the temperature was a warm 83 degrees, with little breeze. I put in at the public boat launch near Felix's Fish Camp with a high water level and a still rising tide. This allowed me to start out the first several miles up Delvan Bay and Spanish River at a 5.6 mph pace, although there was a slight breeze in my face and some flood water was still coming downriver. I arrived at the Pontoon Saloon, covering the 5.6 miles in 1:00:42. No one was around the pontoon, so I continued up the Spanish to the entrance to Mobile River at 5.2 mph, against a stiffer downriver current.

After the turn south down the Mobile River, I moved out towards the middle to get the most downriver effect I could. For the next several miles, I picked up the pace to 6.6 mph, making the highrise bridge in 1:42:52 and by the Alabama Shipyards in 2:16:45. There was quite alot of river traffic this morning, from many tugboats, to two large tankers coming upriver, to numerous fishing boats and yachts. The shipyards were also busy with several ships in drydock getting exterior makeovers.

I moved down the remainder of the Mobile River to Choctaw Pass in a 6.4 mph pace, but after making the turn back north towards the Causeway bridge, hit the receding tide. This slowed me down to 5.3 mph the rest of the way back. The total distance of this trip was 17.27 miles paddled in 2:56:23, for an average pace of 5.9 mph.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Little Bateau Bay to Lower Crab Creek

Saturday, July 30, 2005 brint.adams@us.army.mil

At 8:00 AM this morning, a group of five pushed off from the old Riverdocs boat launch and headed north into Chacaloochee Bay. This is a state-owned property along the north side of the Causeway highway 31/90/98 in Spanish Fort, AL. It is an unmarked dirt parking lot, about 100 meters west of Ed's Seafood Shed. The water level was high, right at high tide with a temperature of 80 degrees, clear skies and a slight northeasterly breeze.

Rob, Bill, Steve, Danny and I eased north one mile, past the entrance to Conway Creek and Big Bateau Bay, around the extended arm out into Chacaloochee Bay. We turned northeast and headed towards a couple of tall cypress trees marking the entrance to Savage's Ditch. This is a narrow cut that turns north, winds and then turns east and connects to Conway Creek. There is another cypress announcing the entrance to Conway. We turned north on Conway for about a half mile to the entrance on the right to Little Bateau Bay. Right before it there is a narrower cut on the right which connects eastward to the upper end of Big Bateau Bay and Red Maple Slough.

We turned north up the connector to Little Bateau and took the right or east fork. Along the right shoreline, there used to be an elevated camp and old boat dock which are now completely cleared away. We are not sure if the state did this or the owner, but it took away a nice place to stop and stretch. We stopped anyway, and a couple of us got out to check out the clearing where the camp used to be last year.

We continued towards Little Bateau, which is just north of the wooded area known as Red Maple Slough. Once we turned into Little Bateau Bay, we immediately came into a huge area of lotus, which is taking over most of the bay. We were a little past the peak blooming period, but there were still a number of fully open blooms and some buds ready to open. We stopped for a few pictures and proceeded to wind our way around and through all of the lotus until we came across the middle fork and turned back south to Conway Creek.

At this point, we had paddled about 6 miles and decided to lengthen the trip by heading further north on Conway to the Tensaw River. Upon reaching the Tensaw, we turned north, diagonally crossing the river to the entrance to Crab Creek. There are some cypress marking the entrance, with Upper Crab Creek heading straight north, while Lower Crab Creek is the tributary heading slightly southwest. With the tide falling now and the breeze somewhat behind us, we moved easily along at five mph along the south side of the tree line. There are two tributaries coming out of the woods, which we passed for another day. After paddling west for about a mile, Lower Crab turns south and empties into the north end of Delvan Bay.

We paddled due south to the narrow spit of land separating us from the Tensaw River, crossed the river southward to the Interstate bridges. From here, we turned east under westbound lanes enjoying the shade from the intensifying sun. Once we reached Chacaloochee Bay again, I decided to take off at a faster pace, heading east along the Causeway on my routine workout course and back to the Riverdocs parking lot. The total trip was 14.5 miles and took us about 4 hours.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Apalachee River to Causeway 2005 LIV

Thursday, July 28, 2005 brint.adams@us.army.mil

As it turned out, I arrived a little too late, getting on the water at 6:30 PM, to get in a complete workout. The sky was dark with rainclouds, lightening crackling off in the distance, but still a southerly breeze, low water level and falling. I got in quickly to see how far I could get, among five gators hanging out to see what the weather was going to do.

About two minutes into the paddle heading east, the wind completely reversed directions. It started blowing at about 15 mph out of the north, pushing me towards the south shoreline. the temperature dropped about 15 degrees almost immediately, and the lightening starting to close in. I made the turn at the Apalachee in 7:54 and quickly turned around, trying to hug the north shoreline and stay out of the wind. The restaurant patrons looked on in bewilderment, as an idiot paddled past with a downpour just minutes away. When I got up towards the end of Pass Picada and ran out of protection, I made a dash, angling across to the south side, trying to get back to the parking lot before the rain started. I made the return in 8:43 for a total paddle of 16:37.

All of the gators were smarter than I, as none were to be found on the surface. I jumped out of my boat, grabbed my paddle, PFD and watch and ran to the car. I ran back to get my boat, but when I got back to the car, the rain started and it was too windy to try and put the boat on top, so I put it in the tall grass next to the car and jumped in right as the rain hit. I waited the rain and wind out for about 20 minutes, before loading the boat and heading home. It wasn't a total bust, but not what I was hoping for. There is always another day.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Apalachee River to Causeway 2005 LIII

Tuesday, July 26, 2005 brint.adams@us.army.mil

Due to a major thunderstorm this afternoon, I left my office later than usual to try and avoid the heavy rains. By the time I crossed the bay, the rain was gone and the water was like glass. I arrived at Riverdocs parking lot at around 6:00 PM with cloudy skies, no wind and the temperature a still high 86 degrees with stifling humidity. The water level was fairly low and the tide was barely moving at all, maybe just slightly falling, but not enough to even notice while paddling.

Since I was passing the restaurants closer to dinnertime, I had more spectators than usual, with several waving from out on the deck at Bluegill's. There were a couple of egrets standing around, but no gators to be found. I reached the Apalachee in 7:36 and back in 15:10 and on to the Causeway with still perfectly still water, even in front of the culvert. I pushed on to the bridges and got in underneath as soon as I could, to hide from what little sun was left. I reached the turnaround in 32:19 and stopped for a quick drink.

On the return, hit it hard and came in with a time of 50:12. There was a mother with two small children watching from the parking lot as I approached. I asked if they had seen any gators and proceeded to tell them about my buddy, who usually was there to greet me. So, they looked intently all around the bay to see if they could spot him, but never did.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Suwannee River

Sunday, July 24, 2005 brint.adams@us.army.mil

Popularized by Stephen Foster's song which became Florida's state song, the Suwannee River in the area of the Suwannee River State Park, is a beautiful and historic area to visit, hike and especially kayak. I was drawn by the Florida Competitive Paddlers Association's weekend twelve mile kayak and canoe race called the Mere Mortals Race.

I drove over on Saturday, arriving at the heavily wooded campgrounds around 1:30 PM. It was very hot and humid, so the only thing I could think of to do was to get out on the water. The boat launch was close by, so I carried my equipment from the campsite down to the water.

The water was high for this time of year and the current was probably 3 mph. I eased downriver, past the park and around the corner, where the Withlacoochee River was flowing in at an even faster rate. Ahead were the railroad and vehicle bridges and also the remains of the civil war-era bridge, which was an important strategic stronghold for the Confederacy.

I turned up the Withlacoochee against a 4 mph current and tucked in as close to the shore as I could, to find some calmer water to paddle in. There were several turns on the way up, so I had to cross back and forth to find the calmest water, being able to paddle only 2.5 mph at times and up to 4.5 mph along the shore. Once I turned and shot back down the middle of the river, I was able to hit some areas at 9 mph. The Withlacoochee was somewhat muddy, while the Suwannee was pretty clear, although a dark coffee color.

The rest of the afternoon was spent staying out of the sun and trying to keep cool. In the campsite across the road from me, were a family also in for the race. I hung out with Mike, Rea and Michelle for awhile in the late afternoon and again in the morning. We checked out each others rides, with Mike in a C1 and Rea in a shiny new OC1.

Later, around dusk, I hiked a couple of the marked trails around the fortified earthen berm area, where Confederate soldiers defended the bridge, as well as off to a civil war-era cemetary, around where an old sawmill town used to thrive.

The night never cooled off much, so sleeping was uncomfortable. Next time, I will bring along an electric fan, as the campsites had hookups available. Finally morning arrived, so I could sweat outside the tent and wait for the arrival of the rest of the race crowd. The first to arrive was Shawn, who came over from New Orleans with a sleek new Nelo K1, weighing in at about 24 lbs. Then the rest started to show up from all over Florida, one as far south as Miami, with a wide array of fancy racing canoes, kayaks and surf skis.

Soon, it was 9:00 AM CDT, with me thinking I had another hour to warmup, while the others were gathering in the water. As I was bringing my boat down to the water, Michelle told me the others already took off. I couldn't believe it, but rushed to get in and going. As I turned out of the launch area, no one was in sight, so I rushed off to try and catch up. The starter/timer was up on the hill in the park and had seen me come up to the start line late, and noted my start time as 3:20 behind the true start.

I frantically paddled down to the turn and up the Withlacoochee River, where I could still see a couple of boats ahead, off in the distance. I tucked in along the shore again, and soon caught up to the rear of the pack. We continued up for 1.5 miles to the turnaround buoy, so I was able to see all of the frontrunners coming back down, long before I got to the buoy. Along the way, I was able to pass a few more paddlers, as we turned back down towards the Suwannee. Once there, we turned upriver on the Suwannee, paddling for another 3 miles to the second buoy. As the paddlers were faster and more proficient, I was not able to catch up to many others quite as quickly. I did manage to pass a few more, but was still far behind the leaders.

This morning, the current on the Suwannee was almost as fast as on the Withlacoochee, so it was hard slogging along at a slow rate, trying to cut in and around low branches overhanging and trees fallen in along the banks. I watched others ahead to make sure I was timing my cuts across the river at the right times, in order to find the slowest water on the way up. Once we finally made it to the buoy, the return was again very fast, but just as fast for everyone else as well. The key was to find the fasted current, sometimes in the middle and sometimes crossing back and forth to the outside of the turns.

We finally came back down to the park and had one more upriver segment, on the same Withlacoochee leg we started off with. After the final turn, we raced back the final 1.5 miles to the finish. As it turned out, the 3:20 made no difference in my race position or in the awards.

Once back in the boat launch area, I spotted Michelle and asked her how far her mother paddled, since I did not see her after the first Withlacoochee leg. She said her mother was still on the water, although no one had seen her or another man for about 1.5 hours. It turned out, they took the wrong turn and ended up way downriver on the Suwannee, before figuring out their error. It took them another two hours after we finished, to make it back upriver, so they were out for almost 4 hours on the water.

After loading up our boats, everyone relaxed in one of the park pavilions for a great lunch of burgers, many salads, pastas and desserts. I pigged out too much as usual with such a fine array of food. Awards were presented and everyone broke up in the afternoon to head off home. It was an exciting event for me, as I had never seen anything like those racing boats before. I took a number of photos of just the boats, as I wanted to remember just what I was up against that day. It was a fun race, where I learned alot about how to race up and down a swift moving river and about how much faster some of the other boats were than mine. I may have to do something about that before the next time I enter a race with them!

Race Results:

1:39:26 - K1 ICF Men Open - Shawn Wilber
1:40:45 - USCA C1 Men Open - John Edwards
1:51:22 - USCA C1 Men Senior - Tony Bond - Melbourne, Australia
1:51:35 - K1 ICF Men Open - Karl Vogel
1:55:37 - K1 Touring Men Veteran - John Keaveny
1:56:07 - USCA C1 Men Masters - Rod Price
1:58:14 - K1 Touring Men Open - Brint Adams
2:03:38 - Standard C2 Mixed - Pat & Lewis Bayers
2:05:40 - USCA C1 Men Open - George Blakely
2:07:31 - K1 Sea Kayak Men Senior - Edward Francaville
2:15:51 - USCA C1 Men Veteran - Mike Sieber

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Apalachee River to Causeway 2005 LII

Thursday, July 21, 2005 brint.adams@us.army.mil

This afternoon was stormy, but did not stop me from hitting the water. I drove through some pretty heavy rain on the way, which added a few inches of water to my cockpit. The one good thing about the rain was that it brought the temperature down from 95 to 78 degrees with no wind. The water level was pretty high with the tide falling and flowing pretty swiftly.

As I paddled down Pass Picada, there was quite an audience viewing from Cock of the Walk, shaking their heads as I passed by in the light rain, with lightening off in the distance. My time at the Apalachee River turn was 6:41 for a 6.9 mph pace and back past the parking lot in 15:43 at 5.2 mph. I fought the current to the Causeway culverts and had a following current the rest of the way to the bridge turn. My time at the turn was 32:48, with the water still flowing by rapidly.

On the return, the sky turned even darker off in the east, so it gave an me extra incentive to get back sooner. When I passed the culvert again, the current direction reversed again, giving me a push to finish, where I noticed my pace was up to 7.2 mph, finishing in a total of 49:48. My good gator buddy was smarter than I, as he decided not to show his face as I came back in to the finish area.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Apalachee River to Causeway 2005 LI

Tuesday, July 19, 2005 brint.adams@us.army.mil

I knew something was up when I emailed Roland about paddling tonight. My suspicions were confirmed when I arrived and I saw he was hiding a different kayak in the grass by the launch area. Over the weekend, he went off to Bay St. Louis and got himself a slick little racing shell.

We put in at 4:00 PM under a blazing sun and 95 degrees. The water was still pretty high, but had been falling since morning. As we started out eastward towards the restaurants, Roland started to immediately pull away, and I knew we starting a new era of my now following substantially behind him from now on.

Unfortunately, my Forerunner was out of battery juice, so I had to turn it off and therefore I did not get any times this afternoon. What I did know was that I paddled as hard as I could to try and keep Roland in sight as we turned around and headed back towards the Causeway and the bridges. He pulled in to the turnaround in probably about three minutes ahead of me.

On the return, I kicked it up a notch and finished the last leg in only a few seconds behind, but with the new boat, I was clearly at a disadvantage. It will make for some good tough workouts to see how well I can keep up. As we turned back in to the launch, our same gator friend was there to watch us cruise in. Also, Danny Hart arrived to explore Whiskey Ditch as we loaded up and headed out.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Justins Bay

Sunday, July 17, 2005 brint.adams@us.army.mil

Bob Andrews picked Justins Bay for an early full moon club paddle last night. We met the Meaher State Park boat ramp at 6:00 PM, with Bob piloting his war canoe, carrying about 7-8 passengers. Linda and I also paddled a canoe along with about six kayaks. The weather was very comfortable, with about 87 degrees and a nice breeze to cool us off.

After exiting the lagoon into Blakeley River, we turned north against a falling tide, but a southerly breeze behind us. After passing beneath the Causeway bridge, we continued north until turning west into Sardine Pass. The first fork to the right took us meandering in to Justins Bay.

This time, with the water level up fairly high, we ventured south, almost back to the Causeway, where we took a cut through the tree line along the west side. This took us to what appeared to be a straight and narrow man-made cut just behind the trees. We turned north and paddled up about a half mile before returning. Up at the end, we found the grass matted under a tree, indicating a large gator nest. There were no inhabitants as we passed by, which Linda was thankful for.

The sunset was very nice reflecting off high cloud cover all across the sky. The moon, not quite full yet, was high in the southeast sky, guiding us back. We topped the night off with a nice meal out on the deck of the Beach House Grill, overlooking the Blakely River, listening to the sound of the Wes Loper Band. A very nice evening, indeed!

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Apalachee River to Causeway 2005 L

July 17, 2005 brint.adams@us.army.mil

This morning was clear, sunny, hot with no breeze already at 7:00 AM. I started out with my hat pulled down over my eyes as the sun was directly in front of me. The water level was very high and still rising as I paddled east towards Apalachee River. My time at the turn was 8:44 and 6:49 on the return with the following current.

I had the bay to myself this morning and got into a good paddle rhythm, as I cruised into the bridge turnaround in 32:03. The return was tougher into the current, but I pushed it hard and finished in 50:39. It was a satisfying workout with my good gator buddy waiting to welcome me on the return to the launch area.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Bay Grass

Saturday, July 16, 2005 brint.adams@us.army.mil

This morning provided very good conditions for the eleven paddlers who pushed off at 8:00 AM in ten kayaks. Under partly cloudy skies with a 5 mph southerly breeze and 80 degrees, we put in at the boat launch along the Causeway near the I-10 crossover. High tide was also at 8:00 and with plenty of water flowing down the rivers following Hurricane Dennis, the water level was almost up into the parking lot. While putting in, there was a six foot gator hanging around, appearing to be waiting for handout. We didn't oblige him, as he began to follow us away from the launch area. We started out north to the I-10 bridges, turned west between them and then northwest and diagonally crossed the Tensaw River and Delvan Bay. We paddled north along bank of Delvan to where it turns into the Spanish River.

Along the shore, we passed several cypress trees with large osprey nests. Each was occupied as we arrived and angrily vacated when we got too close. A couple of adult osprey were carrying fish as they squawked, flew off and circled around until we passed by. The entrance to Bay Grass is along the east bank, almost directly across from the last osprey nest. I led our group diagonally over to the east side, but overshot the entrance, so we continued north for about one mile, before deciding to return.

The morning, water and scenery were all beautiful, so no one objected to the little extra paddling. We turned into Bay Grass Creek, connecting to the bottom end of the bay. We continued north along the east side until we reached a small tributary at the upper end of the bay. The water was clear and cooler as we meandered into the woods. Around every corner we saw something different, such as a group of five snowy egrets, an 18" gator sunning next to us, flowering pickerelweed and some extra-large black grasshoppers.

After paddling back out into Spanish River, we crossed over to the east side and took a narrow cut through to Polecat Bay. The tide was following us as we headed towards the Interstate bridges, making it a little easier to finish up. Then to make the trip more interesting, we crossed the Tensaw River current as it flowed under the bridges. The water was a little confused making it difficult to make a straight line crossing.

Three of us decided to add a little extra with a trip around Goat Island and were not dissapointed, as we came across a herd of about eight hanging out along the south end. Finally we turned back in towards the boat launch after paddling for 11.7 miles in just under four hours. The morning was beautiful and we were all happy to have found a new very nice paddle destination, which we will certainly revisit again in the near future.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Apalachee River to Causeway 2005 XLIX

Thursday, July 14, 2005 brint.adams@us.army.mil

The weather was a little iffy as I headed home in a steady rain all the way from my office. But, by the time I met Roland at Riverdocs at 5:00 PM, the rain stopped and it was still a hot and humid 82 degrees, cloudy, no wind, water level down and still dropping.

Roland took off a few seconds ahead, which gave me something to focus on as we raced past the restaurants to the Apalachee in 6:56. On the return, I caught Roland and we passed the parking lot again together in 15:22. Since it had just finished raining, there were no fishermen or boats out and we had the bay to ourselves. There was a bit of a chop which seemed to slow us down a little, as we cruised into the bridge turn in 32:21.

The return back was classic as Roland took off ahead of me again. As we approached the Causeway, he cut outside of the buoys and was slowed down a little in the shallow water and underwater grass. Once he got back over into the boat channel, I was gone and never looked back. We finished in 50:15 for a 10:15/mile pace. As we pulled back in to the boat launch area, our good ol' gator buddy was there waiting for us. He barely dropped below the surface as we passed by and then popped back up again about 20 meters away, to watch us load our boats.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Apalachee River to Causeway 2005 XLVIII

Tuesday, July 12, 2005 brint.adams@us.army.mil

Well, Hurricane Dennis came, fizzled and moved on with little damage (or even rain) to Spanish Fort or the Mobile Tensaw Delta. I have a good system down now for boarding up the windows on our house, taking only about two hours to put up and less to take it down. With a couple more possible storms heading into the Carribean, we might have to make hurricane preparations again in the next few weeks.

But, I cannot let a little storm interfere with getting out on the water, so out I went this afternoon after work. When I arrived at Riverdocs, the water level was very high, almost flowing into the parking lot. It was high tide about a half hour before I got there, but the over-riding reason was all of the rainfall coming down river, dumped from Hurricane Dennis over the past two days. At 5:15 PM, it was 83 degrees, partly cloudy with a southeasterly breeze and the start of a falling tide.

While I put in, there was a fairly large gator hanging around only about 10 meters away. He eyed me warily, until I started to slowly paddle towards him, when he ducked under the surface. I started out heading east as usual, in the high water, and got to the Apalachee in 6:59. On the way back, I tried to hug the south bank to stay out of the current and passed the parking lot in 15:52. The big gator was back on the surface watching me paddle by on the way to the Causeway. There were no fishermen or boats out as I headed for the Interstate bridges, making the turn in 33:34. This was not a particularly fast time, even though I was paddling against the current, for the most part, so I decided to try and pick up the pace on the return, even though the sun was still pretty intense.

My return time was a fairly quick 17:06, for a total of 50:43. The big gator was still hanging out, to welcome me back.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Apalachee River to Causeway 2005 XLVII

Saturday, July 9, 2005 brint.adams@us.army.mil

My trip to the Birmingham track meet was cut a day short with Hurricane Dennis bearing down on the Gulf Coast. By Friday night, we learned Interstate 65 was to be closed off to southbound traffic by 8:00 AM the next morning. So, several Mobile officials decided to head home Friday night. I finally got home at around midnight.

In the morning, the weather was beautiful, so I headed to the bay at 7:00 AM to take advantage of it before the hurricane got any closer. I put in at 7:12 with clear skies, 76 degrees, no wind and a rising tide about half full. There was little vehicle traffic either way on the Causeway, as most people who were going to leave town, did so on Friday.

As I started out eastward, I saw workmen out early putting up hurricane protection plywood on the restaurant windows of the Cock of the Walk. Not much else was going on, with no boat traffic or shoreline fishermen. As I was paddling against the current, I made the Apalachee turn in 8:49 and back by the parking lot in 15:35.

The lower Chacaloochee Bay was fairly calm, so I made good time along the Causeway and on to the Interstate bridges. The birds and gators must have been anticipating the storm, as there was not much activity yet from the regular bay residents. I arrived at the bridge turn in 32:08 and stopped for a quick drink. The wind started up a little out of the southeast and made it a little more difficult on the return. My total trip time was 50:30 for an average speed of 10:07 per mile over the 5 mile course.

After loading up and waiting to exit the parking lot, a Daphne resident pulled in and asked me a few questions about purchasing the right first kayak for him. I suggested he check out our website and come along on a supervised paddle after trying out a couple of models from the Fairhope Boat Co.

Once home, I proceeded to board up the windows on our house, and we headed for Alexandria LA to wait out Hurricane Dennis, before returning home on Monday, July 11th.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Apalachee River to Causeway 2005 XLVI

Thursday, July 7, 2005 brint.adams@us.army.mil

Roland and I met earlier this afternoon at 4:00 PM at Riverdocs, so I could get an earlier start on a track officiating trip to Birmingham later that night. It was sunny, little breeze, 87 degrees, with a receding tide and a fairly full pool since high tide was only about two hours earlier.

We took off at a good pace to get loosened up and made the turn at the Apalachee in 6:34. On the way back, Roland drafted off of me until we reached the parking lot again in another 8:38 against the tide for a total of 15:13 at that point. As we continued on to the Causeway, I pulled away from Roland a little, so he lost the benefit of the draft. We cruised into the bridge turnaround in 32:30. It was nice to stay under the bridge for the last 800 meters to cut down on the hot sun effect.

With the help of the tide effect, we hit it hard on the way back and finished in an overall 49:20, which was excellent considering the hot mid-afternoon conditions.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Apalachee River to Causeway 2005 XLV

Monday, July 4, 2005 brint.adams@us.army.mil

After a long, hard hot paddle yesterday, I wanted to see how I would recover a day later on my normal workout course. So, I arrived at the old Riverdocs parking lot and put in at 6:40 AM. It was already a hot and humid 87 degrees, clear skies with absolutely no breeze and rising tide. My young gator buddy was there to greet me again, although I surprised him by coming early today.

I started heading east, looking right into the bright sun above the horizon on glass-like water. There was no activity along any of the restaurants yet, although I woke up several herons, egrets and a white ibis. I felt pretty good as I loosened out the sore muscles and made the Apalachee turn in 8:12. There was no boat traffic, so I stayed right in the middle of Pass Picada and used all of the rising current on the return and passed the parking lot in 15:15.

The rest of the paddle was pretty uneventful, with no fishermen along the Causeway and little going on this early 4th of July. I made the bridge turn in 31:56 and thought I would hit a pretty good time on the way back. But, the rising tide and the heat slowed me down a little and I came in to the parking lot in 50:04, not quite what I wanted for such good water conditions. If only it were a little cooler.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Causeway to Mobile River 2005 III

Sunday, July 3, 2005 brint.adams@us.army.mil

This morning was another typical day in the hot and humid paradise of Mobile Bay. I arrived at my put in spot at 5:40 AM, next to the boat launch by the crossroads of the Causeway and the I-10 Interstate in the middle of the bay. It was bearable, but already a warm 82 degrees, clear skies and a slight southwesterly breeze. I made a tactical error by assuming I had enough battery time left on my Forerunner (wrong) and not bringing a backup watch.

So, I started out with a rising tide, which after getting over to Delvan Bay, followed me all the way up to Spanish River with the help of the the following breeze. I tried to hit it pretty hard all the way to the Pontoon Saloon, which was my first short water break at 5.6 miles and probably about 1:02. There were quite a few osprey hanging around the several nests along the west bank of Delvan. This morning, there were several fishing boats cruising on up to their fishing holes as I turned up the left side fork into the Spanish River. When I arrived at the Pontoon Saloon, there were three fishing boats tied up, so I thought I might find someone hanging around the deck. I stopped only briefly in the shade, but no one was around, or they were still asleep (I doubt), or maybe eating breakfast.

Anyway, I moved on up the Spanish, passing alot of floating and new lodged tree debris out in the middle. There was a pair of fishermen working the high electric line piling at the turn into the Mobile River, as I slowed to take a drink. After pleasantries, I started down the Mobile with only a little current help. There was not much river traffic on this July 4th weekend, so I hung out in the middle, trying to get as much current help as was there.

I stopped at my usual shade spot, under the highrise bridge for a quick drink and moved ahead down into the normally congested industrial area of downtown Mobile. There were workmen painting a large platform rig, which was up out of the water on barges, and further down a couple of tankers, raised out of the water getting a new paint job, as well. Through this area, I counted paddle strokes, to get an idea of how long a half hour was, so I could take scheduled water stops.

While passing the cruise line terminal, I finally came across a tug pushing a single barge upriver towards me, as I diagonally crossed over from northwest to southeast. But, other than that and dodging all of the floating debris, it was uneventful through downtown. Once I cleared the shipyards and turned east through Choctaw Pass, the tide and following breeze came back into play and helped me out on the return.

I kicked it into high gear for the push north and back to the finish. As I passed under the Causeway bridge with the wind and tide to my back, one of several fishermen called out to say he thought I was moving along pretty fast. I called back that I was going about 6-7 mph, as I kept moving on into Delvan Bay and the final cut-through under the Interstate bridges back to the parking lot. My guess is that I finished in about three hours of paddling time. I was just glad to get out of the sun before it got any hotter.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Juniper Creek

Saturday, July 2, 2005 brint.adams@us.army.mil

The directions to the Juniper Creek put-in and shuttle to the take-out are found by clicking here.
Our Gary Worob-led group of about twenty paddlers met at 9:15 AM, at the Shell station in Milton, at the turn on Rt. 191. We caravaned to the put-in, left our boats, shuttled the cars to the take-out, and returned to get on the water at around 11:00 AM. So far, this was a replay of last year's paddle.

Then the similarities ended. The water was definately higher this time around, which meant faster running water and an easier paddle, we thought. After going only about 50 meters, we found out how unfriendly Hurricane Ivan was to Juniper Creek, and to what extent it had been cleared, unlike what we were told.

Fortunately, I brought along my saw, as did Gary, and we commenced to cut our way through the first blockage in few minutes. Then there was another and another, some too big to cut. On several of the blockages, rather than portage around, I got out of our canoe and helped everyone out, pulled kayaks and canoes over logs and put the paddlers back in and sent them on their way. After catching up to the group, when they reached the next logjam, I repeated the system. We did have one stoppage next to a sandy beach, so everyone got out, pulled their boats around on the sand and back into the water.

After only making it about one mile, it was lunchtime and everyone had already stopped on a beach and were relaxing in the water or eating lunch in the shade along the edge of the beach to the woods, when we arrived. In addition to our own lunch, Gary and Deborah shared some delicious home-made gazpacho and fresh-picked blueberries from Frank Laraway's farm. Once replenished, we started again, only to hit several more blockages, until finally the creek widened enough to where we could get around the remainder of the treefalls to the take-out.

We swiftly passed many beautiful beaches, some with family or friend's camping groups, on this hot 4th of July weekend. Once group was in the process of getting busted by the state police for drinking beer, as we passed. There was one belligerent guy, whom I would guess talked his way into a little jailtime, for talking back to the officers.

When we passed the Red Rock bridge, Linda thought out loud about wanting to stop there, although we were only about half-way to our destination. There was quite a large group of swimmers and picnickers hanging around this spot, some jumping off the low bridge into the swift water. We did not stop, so Linda didn't have a chance to give the notion of stopping much further thought.

From the bridge, Linda and I hung together with Billy and Mike, who were each in their kayaks. We had no idea how far back any of the others were at this point. The last five miles were uneventful, as we continued to swiftly pass many large turns around beaches on the inside and high clay banks on the outside. It was all very beautiful and peaceful, except for passing the occasional campsite. Linda decided to sit down in the bottom of our canoe for awhile and rested her eyes.

We came around the final turn to see the Indian Ford bridge up ahead at around 3:30 PM. All of the logjam delays added about an extra hour to our overall trip time. Soon thereafter, several more in our group started to arrive, while we were loading up. Except for the time and effort to get everyone over, under or around the blockages, the weather was perfect and most had a good time with our "expedition."