Saturday, March 25, 2006

03/25/2006 – Cable Creek (Half Mile Bayou)

Launch: Cloverleaf Boat Ramp. Launch Fee: $4. Route: Southwest down the Tensaw River to Cable Creek, then northeast up Cable Creek, and back. Distance: 3.3 miles. Average Speed: 2.1 mph. Time: Approx 1.5 hrs. Pace: Slow. Weather: Temps 55-65 degrees, low tide, gusting winds from the north, but not sustained, sunny, low humidity. Kayak: Paddle kayak due to shallow waters.

(1) Above left. There is no mistaking the Cloverleaf and Steam Mill Landing area on the Tensaw River because of the approximate 40 foot high nearby bluff. (2) Above right. After cutting across the Tensaw River, about half a mile southwest is the entrance to Cable Creek which is why I call it Half Mile Bayou. Paddling up this creek will get you away from boat traffic and wind.

(3) Above left. You can only go about three quarters of a mile up Cable Creek before the waters get shallow and clogged with Alligator Weed. (4) Above right. The pipeline canal is blocked after only about a quarter of a mile by a tree.

(5) Above left. This red-eyed Coot would fly ahead a few hundred feet, land in the water and wait until I got closer. Then it would do it again, and again. It kept scaring away other birds and put alligators on alert. The coot was acting as an alarm to creek life. (6) Above right. The Belted Kingfisher's behavior also seems to alert wildlife to the presence of danger. It typically flies ahead of a kayak squawking loudly, always staying about one bend ahead of you in the creek.

(7) Above left. Went on this paddle in search of yellow-crowned night herons but only got to observe a family of Little Blue Herons. Never saw any active nests. (8) Above right. Two Viceroy Butterflies were having a happy moment of quiet intimacy together in perfect weather.

“Happiness is as a butterfly which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but which if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.” --Nathaniel Hawthorne

Sunday, March 19, 2006

03/19/2006 – Bayou La Batre

Launch: Public boat ramps in Bayou La Batre. Launch Cost: Free. Route: Up Bayou La Batre about 5 miles and back. Distance: 10.6 miles. Average Speed: 2.9 mph. Time: Approx 3.5 hrs. Pace: Slow. Weather: Cloudy, 65 degrees with 20-25 mph winds from the east, 60 percent humidity, and current and tide minimal. I wanted to kayak at Dauphin Island today, but wind and waves were not suitable for testing out a new kayak. Bayou La Batre was the safer choice.

Today, I am again testing out the Hobie Adventure.

(1) Above left. Shrimp boat Cap’n Wade, the one they were pulling last weekend, is finally in the water. (2) Above right. In the upper end of Bayou La Batre, the water has a greenish tint and the banks of the bayou are high. Looking at these waters, it is hard to believe the wind is blowing strong in the tree tops.

(3) Above left. A very sweet smelling flower, Wisteria, filled the air with the aroma of spring. (4) Above right. You usually have to look high to see this flower, Trumpet Creeper.

(5) Above left. The mallard family provided plenty of entertainment. I spent about 30 minutes watching them and wish I had brought binoculars. (6) Above right. This snake was perched out on some limbs about 3 feet above the water. It sure has a unique smile.

(7) Above left. This is a typical scene at the mouth of Bayou La Batre – shore birds, trash on the banks, and stranded shrimp boats. (8) Above right. On the way back to the launch site, I decided to help out the boater on the left whose fuel line got fouled up. I pedaled hard while holding on the side of their boat. They were impressed that the little pedal boat was able to push them to the boat ramps so swiftly. The boat on the right didn’t bother to help their stranded fellow boater.

(9) Above left. The Hobie Adventure took me up the bayou swiftly where I slowed down and paddled or just drifted, listening to the sounds of nature and enjoying a quiet stream. This was a berry good trip. (10) Above right. As I was leaving, the duck turned to me and shouted, “Nice kayak! Bye-bye. See you next trip.”

Saturday, March 18, 2006

03/18/2006 – Bay Minette Creek

Launch: Buzbee’s. Launch Cost: $3. Route: Up Bay Minette Creek to the Bromley bridge and back, then to Yancey Bay and back. Distance: 15.1 miles. Average Speed: 3.5 mph. Time: Approx 4.5 hrs. Pace: Variable. Weather: 60 Degrees, cloudy, 15-20 mph winds out of the north then subsiding later in the afternoon.

Today I tested a Hobie Mirage pedal kayak Adventure, about four feet longer and six inches narrower than the Outback. I give it a thumbs up!

(1) Above left. This is the Hobie Adventure, near the Bromley Bridge where I turned around. (2) Above right. A deserted looking fishing camp.

(3) Above left. The yellow pond lilies are out. (4) Above right. Blue butterwort was abundant along the banks of Bay Minette Creek.

(5) Above left. The banks along upper Bay Minette Creek were loaded down with white flowers. Think they were Titi shrubs. The white flower dotted landscape reminded me of the landscapes Bob Ross would paint. (6) Above right. Toward sunset, I went out into Yancey Bay and was treated to an aerial spectacle put on by thousands of birds that were feeding. How can it be that with so many birds going in different directions, there are no collisions?

(7) Above left. Wild azaleas in bloom on the river bank. (8) Above right. Not sure what this blooming shrub or tree is. The flowers are so small they are barely visible from a distance.

(9) Above left. A photomerge of Golden Club flowers as they lined the river bank. (10) Above right. A blanket of clouds had been pulled overhead and was just shy of the horizon to the east creating an image of a sunset – a nice colorful way to end the kayak trip.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

03/12/2006 – Bayou La Batre

Launch: Public boat ramps in Bayou La Batre. Launch Cost: Free. Route: Up Bayou La Batre about 5 miles and back. Distance: 9.8 miles. Average Speed: 2.4 mph. Time: Approx 4 hrs. Pace: Slow. Weather: Partly to mostly cloudy, 68 degrees with 15 to 25 mph winds from the southeast, 98 percent humidity, and current and tide minimal. (Click on photos for larger view.)

(1) Above left. I went to the protected waters of Aloha Bay near Dauphin Island Airport and found the waters were too shallow to pedal in. I did not want to get wet from the big waves in the open waters, so, the next choice was kayak in Bayou La Batre. (2) Above right. Near the entrance to Bayou La Batre, abundant trash still lines the shore and plastic bags still cling to the trees. It is sad to see that very little has been done to clean up the river banks.

(3) Above left. Upstream from the lift bridge, Rosa laevigata, aka Cherokee Rose was hanging from some trees. (4) Above right. Also saw several Crinum americanum, aka String Lily, Seven-Sisters Lily, but mostly known as Swamp Lily.

(5) Above left. In the back of a building, every minute or two, a pile of oyster shells would come shooting out of one of the many covered holes in the wall. Seagulls would immediate land on the oyster shell pile and start hunting scraps of oysters. (6) Above right. The upper part of Bayou La Batre reminds me of Fly Creek. Ducks like to paddle along with you. Cute little thing.

(7) Above left. Statue like deer are hanging out by the concrete bus stop monument. Hmmm. (8) Above right. This once nice tree house took a beating from last year’s storms. I doubt insurance will cover it even though the house was built to be flood proof.

(9) Above left. Floor to ceiling, this boat was crammed full with crab pots. (10) Above right. Shrimp boats in Bayou La Batre as the sun was peeking out from between the clouds.

(11) Above left. Near the entrance to Bayou La Batre, a big crane built on a barge slowly extricates a shrimp boat. To give you an idea of the immensity of the task, look closely at the bottom of the bow of the shrimp boat. There is a backhoe digging out a path to drag the shrimp boat through. The saga of the stranded shrimp boats in Bayou La Batre continues. Removal funded by foreign nations? (12) Above right. The Titan Maritime jack-up salvage barge Karlissa B sits idle. Karlissa B raised the Hunley. What is the Hunley? Click here. It is always fun to explore Bayou La Batre. For a memorable kayaking experience, mark this on your calendars - Blessing of the Fleet - first Sunday in May.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

03/11/2006 – Red Hill Creek

Launch: Cliff's Landing in Baldwin County off Hwy 225. Fee: Free. Route: North about 2.5 miles on the Tensaw River, then split right into Dennis Lake, then a quick right into Red Hill Creek, and back. Note: There is another “Red Hill Creek” located north of I-65. Today’s trip is on the one south of I-65. Distance: 10.9 miles round trip. Average Speed: 2.5 mph. Time: Approx 4.5 hrs. Pace: Slow. Weather: Temp into the 70s, partly cloudy, strong breezy winds out of the south – small craft advisory, which is why I chose to use a paddle kayak in a deep woods inland destination today.

(1) Above left. According to the Bug Guide, this spider is an Elongate Long-Jawed Orb Weaver. They are quite common on vegetation along the banks and frequently drop onto or into a kayak when twigs are disturbed. (2) Above right. This photo was taken while heading back to the Tensaw River after exploring one of the many river recesses.

(3) Above left. A turtle out of the cold water is enjoying the sun and warm air on this beautiful spring day. (4) Above right. The round eyes on this water snake are a sign that it is harmless. Want to learn more about snakes? Try the Florida online guide to snakes.

(5) Above left. Saw this four foot alligator in one of the many little offshoots on upper Red Hill Creek, where Golden Club was lining the stream banks. Like most reptiles today, this alligator was out soaking up the warmth. (6) Above right. Close up of the alligator’s head, zoomed in and cropped.

(7) Above left. Gelsemium sempervirens, aka Yellow Jessamine, was in bloom sporadically along the river banks. (8) Above right. Acer rubrum, aka Red Maple, also provided some colorful moments along Red Hill Creek.

(9) Above left. Wowzers! This was one of those moments where no photo will show you how big this alligator was. It was one of the biggest I've ever seen. (10) Above right. I backed up and turned around. This monster alligator had all of my respect because it looked like it was missing an eye. There is no telling what a big blind alligator will do in a narrow creek with an orange kayak. Click here for Croc/Alligator news links.

(11) Above left. This serene photo was typical of lower Red Hill Creek, which is still suffering from the gray leaf-less colors of winter. (12) Above right. On the return trip, the Tensaw River had turned nasty while I was in the tree protected creeks. The choppy waves caused me to put on the spray skirt and and the strong wind caused me to feather the paddle. I kayaked out in the middle on the way back, because all the speed boats were confined to the edges of the river. What a fun finish to a very memorable trip on Red Hill Creek.