Sunday, July 17, 2005

07/17/2005 – Boathouse Landing to Pine Log Creek

Launch: Boathouse Landing near Fort Mimms on Boatyard Lake. Launch Cost: $4. Route: Southwest on Boatyard Lake about one and a quarter miles, then left (southeast) into Pine Log Creek. Also, up the Alabama River to Holly Creek Landing and into Holly Creek. Area in minor flood stage. Distance: 13.3 miles. Average Speed: 1.9 mph. Time: Approx 7 hrs. Pace: Leisurely to Struggling. Weather: Sunny, hot, and humid. Widely scattered thunderstorms in late afternoon. Kayak: Paddle (as opposed to a Pedal kayak).

(1) Above left. An energetic dog was sad to see me leave without him. In the background is Boathouse Landing which is the next launch site north of French’s Lake. I quit going to French’s Lake because every time I’ve been there, the narrow streams have been clogged with fallen trees making kayaking impossible, and the currents are nasty. The Upper Delta is known for high waters and swift currents in some areas. I didn’t check the river levels before leaving and was surprised to see them about 4 feet or more above normal since we’ve had little rain in the past week. Pine Log Creek, as locals will tell you, can be an eerie place, and today was no exception, although it is much more beautiful when the tide is low. My car is the only one at the launch site, (that alone is eerie) and management advised me the creek was out of the banks from flooding due to Hurricane Dennis (a week later). “Are you sure you want to go out on the water?” Yup. (2) Above right. Here is a photo from later in the afternoon, from the Holly Creek Landing, which is only about a mile northwest from Boathouse Landing. This was a campsite and notice that the water level is close to the roof on the building on the right. You can also see a little bit of current around the tree with the stop sign.

(3) Above left. Deep in Pine Log Creek, there is no creek, just water everywhere. When the water levels are in flood stage, you can kayak almost anywhere in the Delta you want to go. I’ve put two links on the weather category for river conditions. Both SERFC and AHPS indicate the same thing. If Coffeeville, Clairborne, Leroy, or the Barry Steam Plant are in flood stage, you can expect high waters just about anywhere in those vicinities. There are reasons why you might want to know if flood conditions exist in the Upper Delta. Number one: When you can’t see the banks of the creek, which way does it go? I had to backtrack several times today because I lost the path of the Pine Log Creek. It didn’t even look like the one I’d kayaked on in the past. You can easily get lost. Number two: Currents. I fought against 3 to 3.5 mph currents today that were shoving and yanking the kayak in all different directions. It is easy going down river, or across the deep woods, not so easy to go upriver. If you get in the wrong current, you won’t be able go upstream at all. (4) Above right. They grow some big trees in the Upper Delta. It is Sunday and when I pass by huge trees, it feels like I’m on sacred grounds and in the presence of a master Designer of Life.

(5) Above left. The upper woodlands provide some gorgeous scenery where outstretched limbs draped with Spanish Moss serve to capture your attention and lure you to go under them. (6) Above right. You do know to look closely at limbs before you go underneath them, right? This snake’s body was as big around as my ankle and perched at a perfect height to fall right into a canoe or kayak if disturbed. In times of flood, when there is no dry ground, you can bet there will be more snakes in the tree limbs than usual – today was no exception.

(7)(8) Above left and right. It was very enticing to kayak through the deep woods, blazing trails where no one has kayaked before. While kayaking very close to trees, sometimes something would move across the bark and disappear to the back of the tree. These Houdini critters are spiders and some of them get rather big – a leg span of over 3 inches. They can swim and stay under water for 30 minutes, catch fish, and scare the crap out of you if they bolt when you are right next to them when passing a tree. They are master of disguises and will blend in with the bark. These are Brownish Gray fishing spiders. The one with gray must be an old one.

(9) Above left. Holly Creek near Holy Creek Landing – the current became almost impossible to paddle against going upstream. When kayaking in flood conditions, you will generally hear the areas you want to avoid (rushing water). (10) Above right. In contrast to Holly Creek conditions, this is my favorite tree to photograph in Pine Log Creek, where current is almost nil. On this kayak trip, I heard lots of strange noises, including deer and bobcats, something you don’t usually hear in the Lower Delta. I always get on edge when kayaking up in this area. There were sounds of something big slogging through the water in front of me at one time. Could have sworn it was the head of two or three deer in the water, but due to the distance and no binoculars, it was hard to tell.

(11) Above left. This flood displaced millions of critters. While weather forecasters can warn us to head to higher ground, the rest of nature is left to fend for itself. I bet you didn’t even know there was flooding going on a week after Dennis only an hour north of Mobile. In this photo, a nest of ants had to crawl up the stalk of a weed and call it home until waters go down. Somewhere in that mass of ants is the queen. (12) Above right. More displaced critters. Just paddling through this one area was nerve racking because the current kept moving the kayak against these weeds and things I’ve never seen before would drop on the kayak or would be inches from my face and body. So, while I’m trying to knock critters off the kayak with a paddle, my face and body would find the big spider webs crossing between the weeds. Felt something crawling on my bare back and I plucked a spider off. Yes, I paid a price to get these two photos, but it was worth it. In this photo, there are about four different kinds of spiders, two centipedes, some odd bug between the two centipedes, and two cricket type bugs. All the vegetation in this area had similar insect zoos living on them. One thing for sure, the spiders were having a field day with the displaced critters and I could have spent all day here taking photos if it weren’t for all the bugs. Hehehe. Another remarkable adventure.

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