Kayak Canoe Alabama

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Apalachee River to Causeway 2005 LXXXVIII

Tuesday, November 29, 2005 brint.adams@us.army.mil

While there is a blizzard crossing the country today, I feel so lucky to be able to go out and paddle in the winter. This afternoon, I rushed out to the Causeway to get in a workout before darkness, arriving at Riverdocs at 4:30 PM. The temperature was 59 degrees as the sun was going down fast across a perfectly clear sky. There was an uncharacteristic westerly breeze coming in with a rising tide. This caused an interesting dichotomy with part of the paddle on calm water and part with a 1-2 foot chop.

I started out paddling east down Pass Picada with the wind to my back, but into the rising tide. Although it seemed like I was riding the waves, it was obvious by my time and the number of strokes that I was moving slowly. I reached the Apalachee River turnaround in 8:40 at 5.4 mph. While turning around, there was a nice 25 white pelican V formation crossing overhead. On the return, I was crashing through the chop into the wind, but moving along at 7 mph and passed the parking lot in 16:00.

The chop continued to the Causeway, where the tide changed direction. When the tide and wind are moving in the same direction, the water surface is basically calm, so the rest of the paddle west was much easier, albeit slower. I reached the bridge turn in 33:27, which was slow, but knowing the return would be much faster. The sun was down, but there was still a lingering glow on the horizon, while the lights on the Interstate bridges turned on.

With the light fading and no moon out, I was motivated to get back before it got much darker. The first part of the return was quick over calm water, until I passed the Causeway culvert again and got back into the chop. Even so, I pushed through the waves, reaching the parking lot in 50:44. The temperature dropped another 5 degrees, which motivated me to get loaded up and out of the wind. I am still grateful for the good weather and just hope it continues for a few more weeks.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Bay Minette Creek 6 mi.

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

I was greeted by a warm, brisk breeze this morning following an overnight shower. So, I opted for the safety of Bay Minette Creek for an early morning workout. At 6:50 AM, it was overcast and 62 degrees with no wind in the well-protected valley. The water level was up and didn't seem to be moving much in either direction.

I took off, but didn't seem to be able to get going in the first mile, barely able to keep ahead of my 10:00 pace virtual partner "Roland". There was no one out to greet me, not even the dogs when I passed the subdivision. Other than a few fish jumping, the only living thing I saw of note was an osprey. In the third mile out, after the creek widens out some, he swooped down about 50 meters in front of me, picked up a fish and flew off to the top of a nearby cypress. It was absolutely awesome to see him at work, successfully fishing for a fresh breakfast.

My mile splits on the way downstream were 9:48, 9:38 and 9:36. On the return, I was able to get into a little more focused mindset, and against the slight downstream current was able to hit splits of 9:49, 9:59 and 10:19 for a total time of 59:12. The osprey sighting made the trip all the more satisfying, while I got in a great morning workout.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Apalachee River to Causeway 2005 LXXXVII

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

New morning, more shotgun blasts! I arrived at Riverdocs at 7:00 AM again this morning during day two of the start of duck season. The sky was heavily overcast with a strong southeasterly breeze, 58 degrees and a medium pool level that was rising.

With the wind in my face and into a rising tide, I pushed off eastward down Pass Picada. There were a couple of brave pelicans and a few shorebirds who were oblivious to the constant gunfire along the pass. I had to really fight to try and minimize my lagging behind my virtual partner. I managed to reach the Apalachee in 8:16 and back much faster, passing the parking lot in 15:25. The chop wasn't overly bothersome, but it did have some effect on my paddle rhythm, as I caught up to and passed my partner. I will need to think of a name for him (maybe I will substitute Roland for now).

The temperature was a good ten degrees higher than yesterday morning due to the change in wind direction from north to south. I pushed on down the Causeway along the bottom of Chacaloochee Bay and cruised in to the bridge turnaround in 32:38, just ahead of pace. On the return, I knew the last leg home past the drainage culverts was going to be slower, so I tried to maintain a lead as I started back to try and maintain a little cushion. Well, it pretty well dried up by the time I got back by the culverts, so I knew it would be all but impossible to beat 50:00 without trying an all-out sprint. I hung on pretty well, finishing in 50:09, but still :09 over my fast little partner.

As I pulled into the launch area, there was another paddler just shoving off. I spoke to him briefly, never having seen him around before. He had an interesting wood kit kayak and paddle. Then, while I was loading up, one of the duck hunters came back with his daily bag limit of six, laying out neatly side by side in his boat. The hunters will be off now for one week, before they are allowed back to hide out again in the delta for the next two months.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Apalachee River to Causeway 2005 LXXXVI

Friday, November 25, 2005 brint.adams@us.army.mil

Duck hunting season opened this morning with the sounds of many shotguns off to the north of the lower delta along the Causeway. I arrived at Riverdocs and put in at 7:00 AM just after sunrise on a crisp, clear morning with a northwesterly breeze accentuating the many nearby shotgun blasts. There were even four boat trailers at the lot, when usually none, as I put in during a falling neap tide. The water level was still low due to the north winds from the previous cold snap and again this morning. The temperature was a cool 48 degrees, perfect for a hard paddle workout.

I started out down Pass Picada at a 6.4 mph clip, reaching the Apalachee River in 7:06 and back past the lot in 15:05. The pass was protected and perfect for paddling. As such, I was able to gain almost 400 ft. on my virtual partner pace of 6.0 mph. But, once I hit the open water of the lower Chacaloochee Bay, the chop whipped up a little, which slowed me down just a little and I gave up most of my lead by the time I reached the Causeway. With the conditions a little brisk, there were even a few early morning fishermen along the Causeway as I passed through the confused waters around the drainage culverts. My slower pace continued all the way to the bridge turnaround, due to fighting the northwest wind, putting me about 300 ft. behind my pace.

With the wind partially to my back, I gradually lowered the deficit, even against the rising tide until I reached the last leg, just past the tide switch at the culverts. Once I had the falling tide and wind to my back, I started to really make up time and almost caught back up to my partner. But, alas, I fell just short, with a time of 50:06, with the quarter wind and resulting chop, my excuse. As I put my boat up, there were many more sharp reports from the hunters off in the distance. It was hard to tell who won, the hunters with full bags, or the ducks and coot escaping for another day.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Bay Minette Creek 6 mi.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005 brint.adams@us.army.mil

With more north wind and low tide, the Causeway was extremely low again, so I opted for Bay Minette Creek. This was my first try at late afternoon dusk paddling on the well protected creek. Already at 4:30 PM, the sun was down behind the hills, even though not fully set across the bay yet. The weather was great at 60 degrees, no wind at all and very clear skies.

I shoved off, debating whether I would have enough light to go 4, 5 or 6 miles before too much darkness. I was really set on going 6 miles in about an hour, but along the way, did think about cutting it short. The water level was low, but still much better than if I tried to paddle out along the Causeway, which was also windy and choppy. My mile splits down to the turnaround were 9:37, 9:30 and 9:20, so I was happy to stay under my goal of 10:00 miles (6 mph speed) in the rapidly declining sunlight.

On the way back with less visibility, I had to be careful not to take a couple of wrong turns and had to quickly avoid a couple of logs at the last second, which seemed to pop out of nowhere. I also scared up a couple of blue herons and barred owls. With almost no light left back at the Bromley bridge, I came in with a total time of 58:07, with the return mile splits of 9:44, 9:46 and 10:08. The temperature had also dropped down to 48 degrees when I got back to the car. The paddle was exciting at dusk, as the landscape looked different while I tried to push hard to get back before darkness.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Bay Minette Creek 10 mi.

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

I had so much fun yesterday, I had to go back for more and a longer course this morning. I put in at the Bromley bridge at 7:52 AM under clear skies, 48 degrees, no wind and a slight falling tide. I set my new toy for ten miles at a 6.0 mph speed and took off. This morning I scared up a couple of great blue herons and came across a few early morning fishermen, but that was about it, as I pretty much had the creek to myself all the way down to beyond Buzbee's and the Hwy 225 bridge.

On the way downstream my mile splits were 9:55, 9:41, 9:38, 9:23 and 9:26. The turnaround is almost a half mile out into Bay Minette basin beyond the 225 bridge.

On the way back upstream, I had to fight harder to try and maintain pace, although I continued to hit over 10:00. My splits were 10:21, 10:22, 10:16, 10:13 and 10:16 for a total ten mile time of 1:39:34. So, again I was able to hold on and beat my little virtual buddy, this time by only 26 seconds.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Bay Minette Creek 6 mi.

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

With a stiff northerly wind coming down with the cold front, I opted to paddle with the protection of the upper section of Bay Minette Creek. I put in at the Bromley Bridge at 8:12 AM, with a beautiful sunrise spilling through the woods. The water level was down due to the north wind keeping the bay level down, but it was very clear and calm. The temperature was 40 degrees, perfect for a hard workout.

I set up a couple of new options on my Forerunner 201 to spice up the personal competition. I have the capability to race against a virtual partner, which I set up for six miles and one hour. So, I started out fast and tried to keep the pace going as fast as possible the whole way. There were a few kids out fishing in their backyards along the section with a subdivision backing up to the creek. I also automatically marked one mile splits, which were 9:46, 9:36 and 9:18 at the three mile turnaround.

On the way back, I passed a couple of fishing boats, one with a couple of dalmations aboard. The fishermen were all bundled up as I flew by in my t-shirt and shorts. My splits on the return were 10:06, 10:03 and 10:19 for a total of 59:11. So, this time I beat my virtual opponent. Next time, I will lower his time to make it a little tougher competition.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Apalachee River to Causeway 2005 LXXXV

Thursday, November 17, 2005 brint.adams@us.army.mil

What a difference a couple of days makes. A major cold front dipped all the way down to our area and is supposed to drop the temperature down to freezing tonight. When I arrived at Riverdocs, my suspicion of low water was confirmed, as the north wind blew out the bay water to the lowest level I have ever seen yet. It was so low tonight, I could not even put in at all, as there was only deep goopy mud out for at least 100 feet, before reaching the channel. I decided to drive back east and try to find another access to Pass Picada. I settled on the old Eco Tours property just east of the still shutdown Bluegill Restaurant.

There was a no trespassing sign which I drove past and parked next to the old inlet launch. I should have gone a little further all the way out to the main channel, as I ended up walking out in high ankle-deep mud to put in. It was a mess, but I was able to wash my sandals off before getting fully into the cockpit. By this time, it was 4:54 PM and the sun was already setting with a chilly northwest wind and 38 degrees. I followed my same course, just starting and finishing about a half mile east from Riverdocs. At least the water level was rising a little from the record low level as I started out. My split from Apalachee River east to Riverdocs was 7:15 on the way to the Causeway. The sun was already down and getting dark as I continued to make good time at 6.0 mph, even through the shallow lower end of Chacaloochee Bay to the turnaround.

But, the return in the dark was a totally different story. I misjudged a marker and got too close to shore in the wrong place and got hung up in the mud. The only way to get back, against the wind, was by hand. So, I moved forward on my fists until my kayak finally cleared the mud and I was able to get a little speed going again. At that point, I was paddling against the rising current, so my pace was slow anyway as I tried to sprint down Pass Picada to my new finish. When I arrived, I decided to take out along the main channel bank and scramble up about a four foot bank. It was still windy and getting even colder, so I hustled around with numb fingers and in wet clothes to get loaded and out of there. After I got home, I checked my watch to see I finished in a slow 52:26, but just glad to be back home and dry.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Apalachee River to Causeway 2005 LXXXIV

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

This was another beautiful fall late afternoon, as I arrived and put in at Riverdocs at 4:40 PM. The temperature was 72 degrees, clear sky with a southeasterly breeze. The water level was high and still rising as I turned east down Pass Picada. There was not much activity going on, other than a few mullet jumping. I fought the current down to Apalachee River, hitting the turn in 8:21. On the way back, I let the current help me to a split of 15:08, as I pushed on to the Causeway.

There were about a dozen fishermen out enjoying the great afterwork weather. With high water, I concentrated more on technique than worrying about shallow water. The southeast breeze kept the chop down, so the water was relatively flat along Chacaloochee Bay heading over to the Interstate bridges. I made the turnaround in 31:41 as the sun was just setting behind the downtown skyline.

The way back was slightly slower into the current, but I was able to surge ahead as the sunlight faded without losing sight of the buoy markers. With only a faint glow on the horizon, I crossed the finish line in 49:28, quite satisfying at 6.1 mph over the five mile course.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Apalachee River to Causeway 2005 LXXXIII

Sunday, November 13, 2005 brint.adams@us.army.mil

I arrived and put in at 8:25 AM with the water level low but starting to rise. The temperature was 65 degrees, no wind and partly cloudy skies. Somehow, I left my wing paddle at home, so I had to break out my older carbon Werner. It felt pretty good, so this would be a good test to see if there is much time difference in paddles.

I made the first turn in 8:00 against the current and back again 15:32. I was able to maintain pretty good form and cadence, making the bridge turn in 33:12. With the current at my back for the most part on the return, I was able close with an overall 50:07, which was pretty comparable to recent workouts, but still a minute slower than Thursday night. So, it was still hard to tell if there was a minute spread between paddles or something less. I will have to give it a few more test paddles to make sure.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Bay Minette Creek 6 mi.

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

Close to perfect conditions set the stage for a fast paddle. I drove to the north end of Bay Minette Creek and put in at the Bromley Bridge at 7:15 AM. The temperature was 50 degrees with a clear sky, no wind and no current. As I started down the narrow creek, crowded in on both sides by mountain laurel, there was a light misty fog starting to lift over the glass-like water.

Even with the sharp s-turns in the first half mile, I could tell this was going to be a fast paddle. I seemed to hit the turns well, staying away from the shallows and maintaining focus on form. No one was out this morning, not even the dogs to greet me. So, I concentrated on form, while glancing at my watch as I hit each half mile. I made the three mile turnaround in 28:35 for a 6.3 mph pace, which was well ahead of my plan.

I wanted to maintain the same pace on the return in the first two miles, knowing that the turns in the last mile would be a little slower. As long as I could stay ahead of 10:00 per mile, I would beat my goal. I was able to do it by paddling the return leg in 29:18 for a total of 57:53 for the six miles at a speed of 6.2 mph (10Kmph), a new PR (woohoo!). This was a very satisfying morning!

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Apalachee River to Causeway 2005 LXXXII

Thursday, November 10, 2005

I was able to start a little earlier today at 4:27 PM, as I took the afternoon off to attend the McDuff Trail Dedication in Daphne. The conditions were ideal, with a slight but dying northerly breeze, 65 degrees and low tide, just barely starting to rise.

I was pretty pumped up and hit it pretty hard, with a 7:35 to the turnaround and 14:54 back past the parking lot. The fishing must be good as there were alot of people out along the Causeway giving it a go. I breezed by on the way to the bridge turnaround, making sure to make a wide berth north to stay out of the shallows. The strategy worked as I made the turn in 32:27. The way back was much faster as I cruised in for a total time of 49:05, one of my faster times all year. The conditions were great, the sunset was beatiful and my mood was lifted after enjoying the dedication events earlier in the afternoon.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Apalachee River to Causeway 2005 LXXXI

Tuesday, November 8, 2005

With the time change back to standard time, the sun was setting as I put in and started at 4:50 PM. There was a south breeze, very low water level and a rapidly rising tide. As such, I had slow water heading east down Pass Picada, reaching the turn in 8:22. The Original Oyster House is now open, taking over the space formally occupied by Cock of the Walk. So, there were a few diners at the windows as I cruised by. The way back was, of course, much easier as I passed the parking lot in 15:10 and on to the Causeway lined with late afternoon fishermen.

I had to pick my course carefully, with the low water and through the confused drainage near the culverts under the highway. Out in Chacaloochee Bay, I got into a short shallow stretch that slowed me down briefly, but once I got under the bridge was able to speed back up to the turnaround in 32:13.

By starting out just a little earlier, there was enough glow left from the sunset to see well on the return. Coming back into the tide was a little slower, but I powered my way back in a total of 50:04 over the 5 mile course.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Seven Runs Creek

Sunday, November 6, 2005

After spending the morning exploring the springs on Econfina Creek around Hwy. 20, Roland, Bob, Julie and I started our drive back to Alabama and made a last stop at Seven Runs. On our way back east on Hwy 20, we turned north on Hwy 81 at Bruce, to the dirt cemetary road down to the launch and campground area.

There was quite a difference from my last paddle there when the water level was about six feet higher. The water level was very low, exposing the huge widened trunks of the cypress forest. We put in and started upstream, which winded around through the beautiful cypress at their peak of color change to a deep auburn orange. The water was very clear, as it was mostly spring water, with no rain or runoff in several days.

The sky was mostly overcast and with us hidden down among the dense cypress, it appeared to Roland we were in a mystical black forest right out of the Lord of the Rings books. We paddled up stream for about a mile, then returned to the launch area for lunch.

This is a an interesting area and great place for a short paddle on the way back from a weekend trip further east. Do not pass it up!

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Econfina Creek

Saturday, November 5, 2005

A beautiful fall weekend was in store for Roland and I, as we drove from Daphne, AL to just north of Panama City, FL early Saturday morning. A group of eleven other paddlers with various kayaks and canoes had already left to set up the shuttle vehicles and shove off while we were about an hour away. We drove straight to the put-in at Scott's bridge in an attempt to catch up with the gang.

On the way along Hwy 20, we came across various aid stations for the 112 mile bike segment of the Panama City Ironman Triathlon, which was underway. As we turned north on Hwy 231 towards Scott's bridge, we came across the frontrunning cyclistswhich was pretty exciting.

We found the water level of Econfina Creek to be pretty low, so we were glad to have our plastic boats for what we figured was going to be a shallow ride with the possibility of a few portages. Little did we know what we were about to find. At least for the first three miles, the creek was fairly clear of debris and blockages, thanks to Gary leading the first group with a chainsaw. We saw some of his handiwork and figured sooner or later we might catch up to the group.

It didn't take long until we heard the chainsaw and caught up to the gang. It turned out they started out about 20 minutes ahead of us. After paddling together for another mile, we stopped for lunch after paddling for two hours and almost four miles. Along the way, we passed through numerous narrow passages through high rock walls, with a fairly quick drop and a few minor rapids. For this far south, it was the most I have seen and was alot of fun and quite strikingly beautiful.

After lunch, we all took off together, but it didn't take long before we were stopped by the first of many treefalls blocking our passage. Gary dutifully led us through several blockages after efficiently cutting his way through with his chainsaw. But, it turned out there were just too many and Gary eventually ran out of gas, both for his saw and his body.

So, we were on our own to get over, under or around the numerous trees across our path. Towards the end, over probably the last three miles, a few of us took up the challenge to compete in an impromptu adventure creek race, to see who couldmake their way over all of the blockages and paddle the quickest to our eventual takeout at the Walsingham bridge at the boat ramp and picnic area. I especially had a contest to see if I could compete with a canoe creek specialist. It was a spirited race, which I eventually won, claiming bragging rights for kayakers over canoers.

Overall, Roland and I paddled for about five hours over the 11.2 mile course. Obviously, all of the tight turns, low water, narrow channels and fallen trees blocking our way slowed us down, but the paddle course was fantastic and one we plan to do again when the water level is a little higher.

Following vehicle retrieval, most of us retreated to the Blue Springs campground for a great potluck dinner, a campfire and well deserved rest. We scared away all of the owls that night with our extended playing of African drums and Aussie didjeridus. It was a good time for all.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Apalachee River to Causeway 2005 LXXX

Thursday, November 3, 2005 brint.adams@us.army.mil

After last Thursday's workout, I mentioned the time change and that we would probably halt weekday afternoon paddles due to the earlier darkness. Roland suggested we paddle anyway, so tonight was our first workout during mostly darkness. We met at the usual time and started out at 5:04 PM with a light southerly breeze, clear skies, 70 degrees, medium pool and a rapidly rising current.

The leg east down Pass Picada was into the current and took 9:05 for a slow speed of 5.1 mph. The return brought us back past the parking area in 15:29 for a lap time of 6:24 and much faster speed of 7.4 mph. On the way back west, we paddled into an impressive and beautiful deep orange sunset over the downtown skyline. The sun quickly dropped, leaving us only glow from the highways to guide us to the turnaround. I couldn't see the watch as I stopped it while we turned and took a drink. It turned out we made the turn in 31:37. The way back was a little dicey as we tried to make it back to the markers along the Causeway. At one point, we paddled a little too close to shore, getting the shallow water effect and slowing us down, until we figured it out and moved away.

We kicked the final half mile and still turned in a good time of 50:03, very respectable for in the dark. I also got a chance to try out my new boat light marker which put out a surprisingly bright light and will come in handy for future nighttime workouts and moonlight paddles.