Monday, February 27, 2006

02/27/2006 – Red Maple Slough

Launch: North side of Causeway by the triple public boat ramps. Launch Cost: Free. Route: Pedal northeast across Chacalloochee Bay, up Conway creek, across the Conway-Big Bateau cut, up Red Maple Slough, and back. Distance: 12.0 miles (counting detour). Average Speed: 3 mph. Time: Approx 4 hrs. Pace: Slow. Weather: Sunny, temp in the mid 50s, winds were calm at the start, then increased to a steady 10-12 mph from the south making for a chilly trip. Waters were low and tide was rising.

(1) Above left. The waters of the lower end of Chacalloochee (aka Chocalata) Bay were low enough for the birds to stand. Pedal boats are confined to using one small channel that is still hard to follow despite white pvc pipe markers. Once in Big Bateau, I had to turn around and go the long way up Conway Creek to get to Red Maple Slough because it was too shallow and I couldn’t remember where the deep water was. Pedal boats can be a handicap sometimes, but then again, even regular kayaks would have been scraping oyster shells today. (2) Above right. In Savage Ditch, there were green signs of warmer days soon to come. I’m starting to get excited about kayaking again!

(3) Above left. Many of the trees in Red Maple Slough lay on their side showing a large but shallow root system that proved to be no match for last year’s hurricanes. If you look hard, you can see a little red on the tips of the mangled trees. It is still too early for the Red Maples to be in full display. (4) Above right. I took this photo on 3-23-2002 about a hundred yards before the photo on the left. Sadly, Red Maple Slough will never look like it does in this photo because it will be a long time before signs of the hurricane are eroded away.

(5) Above left. After spending an hour going down Conway Creek fighting a headwind and opposing current, the setting sun provided no warmth as I pedaled southwest back across Chocalata Bay. A relentless bone chilling wind created a small chop that was hitting the kayak causing a spray to get my left side wet. (6) Above right. The dark horizon of the Mobile Skyline showing the current height of the new RSA building underneath the dyed sky made up of the setting sun, a mixture of clouds, jet trails, and smoke from fires. The sunset made me forget it was chilly out and I was still wearing shorts. Here is what the RSA tower (building on the far right) will look like when it is (finished). You can find photos of the construction of the RSA tower, from another perspective, here.

(7) Above left. The sunset featuring the battleship USS Alabama which is now back open for business. (8) Above right. The sunset featuring the huge Atlantic Marine and Alabama Shipyard cranes which are prominent fixtures on the Mobile Skyline. If you ever want to know what the Alabama Shipyard is building, click here for present and past shipyard history. According to the record, Alabama Shipyard last built a hopper dredge for Manson Construction. I love kayak trips that conclude with a sunset.

"When I admire the wonders of a sunset, my soul expands in the worship of the creator." --Mohandas Gandhi

Sunday, February 05, 2006

02/05/2006 – Dauphin Island

Launch: Southeast end of Dauphin Island by the rock jetties. Launch Cost: Free. Route: South to the far end of Sand Island, then northwest along the north side of Sand Island to the public beach, then east along the south side of Dauphin Island back to the rock jetties. Distance: 9.2 miles. Average Speed: 2.9 mph. Time: Approx 3 hrs. Pace: Moderate. Weather: Sunny, temp 50-55 degrees, 20 percent humidity, winds light about 5-10 mph. By the rock jetties, there was stronger than usual current. It was a bit chilly, but with a pedal kayak, exercise will soon warm you up.

(1) Above left. I only saw one motor boat in five hours today. Saw no dolphins. There were however, plenty of birds, like usual. After arriving at Sand Island, I got out of the kayak and hiked around to take photos of birds, like the gulls in the left photo. The end of Dauphin Island (Fort Gaines) is visible on the left horizon. (2) Above right. Pelicans were out in force. What a beautiful bird.

(3)(4) Above left and right. The Sanderling on the left is about half the size of the birds on the right. I think they are some species of sandpipers. If you know what they are, leave a comment. Thanks.

(5) Above left. This bird looks like a reddish egret. (6) Above right. Not sure what this duck like bird was. It had the capacity to swim under water and stay down for a long, long time. This one accidentally popped up next to the kayak and froze in astonishment just long enough to take a photo. It must have never seen a pedal kayak before.

(7) Above left. Taken was near the north end of Sand Island. There is another condo going up. (8) Above right. A heron patiently waits for a handout from the fisherman on the pier. This was taken from the west side of the pier looking southeast. Sand is visible around the back piles. That is how close Sand Island is now.

(9) Above left. Recent winds created some interesting terrain, from the perspective of being on your elbows. This reminded me of a scene from another planet. (10) Above right. I don’t remember seeing a wall of sand on the northwest side of Sand Island in the past, but it is there now. This shot was taken from about knee level.

(11) Above left. The best way to end a kayak trip is by experiencing a sunset. Here, a great heron crossed its legs in an apparent pose. (12) Above right. There is no mistaking the outline of a tern. Kayaking just doesn’t get any better than this. Football? Nah, I’d rather be kayaking!