Sunday, April 23, 2006

04/23/2006 – Fairhope (Earth Day)

Launch: Fairhope Yacht Club. Launch Cost: Free. Route: South about 1.2 miles to Fairhope Pier where I had volunteered to help out with the Fairhope Boat Company kayak demo at the Fairhope Pier Earth Day festival. Distance: Unknown. Average Speed: Unknown. Time: Approx 5 hrs. Pace: Leisurely. Weather: Sunny and hot.

(1) Above left. Just south of Fairhope Pier stands a forest of pilings that now only serves as a roost for shore birds. (2) Above right. In the late afternoon during no wind conditions, sailboats started showing up in Mobile Bay. They knew the winds were going to pickup soon.

(3) Above left. I waited for several hours while kayaking around the Fairhope Pier area for the Kayak Demo people to show up. They never did. They had been limited to a small beach area and chose not participate in the Earth Day activities. That was alright with me, I’d rather be kayaking just like these other folks. (4) Above right. The winds did pick up substantially and I sailed the Hobie Outback until the winds got too strong for kayaking.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

04/22/2006 – Wards Bayou

Launch: Poticaw Landing, off the Pascagoula River, MS, about 4.5 miles southwest of Vancleave. Launch Cost: $2. Route: Explore Wards Bayou, Squeeze Belly Bayou, Sawlog Slough, Big Bear Bayou, Poticaw Bayou, and Jonican Bayou. Distance: 23.4 miles. Average Speed: 2.3 mph. Time: Approx 10 hrs. Pace: Leisurely. Weather: 60-70 degrees, mostly sunny, humid after early morning rain, low tide and minimal current.

(1) Above left. Poticaw Landing has two boat ramps, the right one is rarely used by boats due to the steep drop off, but it works fine for kayaks. (2) Above right. Sunrise on the Pascagoula River. (Click on photos for larger view)

(3) Above left. A warbler made trip after trip to grab moss from the underside of limbs which it took back to its nest. (4) Above right. A cardinal took time out from singing to sit for a photo.

(5) Above left. Note the ripples in front of the kayak, made by startled gar fish. When they jump, I jump. Today was one of those jumpy days where I had to keep taking in deep breaths to relax. If you ever had your kayak moved a few feet by an alligator tail splash, then you’ll understand about jumping due to nearby splashes. (6) Above right. The further up in the streams you go, the nastier the water surface gets.

(7) Above left. Some of the cypress trees on this trip left lasting impressions because of their size. (8) Above right. This cypress tree base was huge and despite it being hollowed out, it was supporting a healthy looking tree above it.

(9) Above left. Yellow crowned night heron acting like it had never seen a kayak. (10) Above right. This couple lives in a houseboat and spends their days relaxing, enjoying the great outdoors.

(11) Above left. A large wildflower which might be Warea. I’ve never seen it in the Mobile area. (12) Above right. My, what big eyes this small hairy Damselfly has.

(13) Above left. Due to past hurricanes, there were a lot of trees laying over in the water. Some creatures are already making their home in the unfortunate trees. (14) Above right. Poticaw Landing has about 30-40 house boats, most well kept.

This was my first trip to Poticaw Landing, which is only about 45 minutes away from Theodore. To put that in perspective, Fairhope is about 45 minutes away from Theodore. The launch site was typical of a small river community. What set the Poticaw area apart from the swamps in the Mobile-Tensaw River delta was the eerie silence. There were no trains to be heard, or interstate traffic, or nearby motorboat speedways to echo noise. Most of the bayous are miles away from the Pascagoula River. I’ll definitely be going back to the Poticaw area because there is plenty to explore from that landing and it is kayaker friendly. The hurricanes did topple an appalling number of trees but the locals have trimmed the limbs here and there, just enough for a small boat to go through and boats have to go real slow to maneuver around all the obstacles. Despite all the downed trees, most of them could not be used to get out on to stretch the legs. That will be the only problem for kayakers in Poticaw – finding a place to get out and stretch the legs because it is a muddy environment. Some bayous are all low swamp land. Other bayous, like Wards, have elevated land on both sides, meaning you’re more likely to see deer and other animals. Today was one of those kayaking days that I did not want to end.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

04/16/2006 – Cutoff and Dennis Creek

Launch: Cliffs 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 about 1.5 miles to The Cutoff which is to the left. Up The Cutoff another two miles to where it is blocked by a mass of trees that are blown over, then back to Dennis Lake. Dennis Creek is to the right about a quarter mile past The Cutoff. Up Dennis Creek about 1.25 miles, plus explored some tributaries. Distance: 16.7 miles round trip. Average Speed: 2.3 mph. Time: Approx 7.5 hrs. Pace: Slow. Weather: Temp 70-80 degrees, partly cloudy, calm morning but strong breezy winds out of the south in the afternoon. Kayak Type: Used a paddle kayak today due to the shallow waters and hidden tree stumps. I was exploring The Cutoff tributary which I’d never been in before and found very beautiful and boat free. The same for Dennis Creek.

(1) Above left. After launching, I crossed the Tensaw River in order to watch the glowing sunrise and it was well worth getting up early to experience it. (Click on photos to view larger image.) (2) Above right. A little later the sun finally peeks over the tree tops.

(3) Above left. About an hour after sunrise, I reached the entrance to Dennis Lake. It was remarkable how slick the Tensaw River was because no boats had gone by yet. (4) Above right. An old hunting or fishing shack that the swamp is slowly devouring.

(5) Above left. Wisteria or some type of pea family flower. The colors remind me of Easter Sunday. (6) Above right. A bottom view of a Leatherflower, aka Clematis viornia. Some of the other flowers I saw today were yellow pond lilies, fragrant water lilies, floating bladderworts, violets, butterweed, and never wet.

(7) Above left. Here I was exploring up a small tributary and this is typical of what the upper Cutoff and Dennis Creek areas look like. (8) Above right. All day long song birds, like this Prothonotary Warbler, were singing so much that I can still hear them even though I’m sitting at home now. Also saw a scissor tail kite, hawks, cardinals, and other birds today.

(9) Above left. A small Pearly Crescentspot butterfly. (10) Above right. Dragonflies, aka Mosquito Dragons, can be quite entertaining at times, like when they go flying into the water.

(11) Above left. A red-bellied woodpecker was making his morning rounds, quite noisily. (12) Above right. A big-eyed yellow-crowned night heron that was fixated on the big orange kayak as it went under its nest.

(13) Above left. “He’s back…” This looked like the same humongous alligator I saw back on March 11. If it is, the alligator has moved about 5 miles to another stream. (14) Above right. On day long trips it is necessary to get out of the kayak from time to time to stretch the legs. Here I am taking a break.

The birds make merry music but, at times, when I glide silently around the next bend in the creek, a noise in nearby bushes raises the hair on my arms. Could it be something I've never seen like a bear or panther? Maybe the sound is from a humongous alligator or wild pig ready to pounce? Now I find it necessary to focus intensely on where the sound came from and then finally see a tiny bird fly away. Whew! Tiny birds can make big noise. I take a few more paddle strokes and again glide silently along shallow, narrow streams where no power boats go. In a kayak, I sit in the water so to speak, hands at water level, and then all of a sudden a big fish slaps its tail making a huge splash right next to me and I about jump out of my skin. Whew! At times the swamp can be so peaceful and beautiful. Other times I question my sanity for going into such a wild environment. Maybe that is why I love exploring the Mobile-Tensaw River Delta by kayak because, it is both beautiful and exciting. Every kayaking trip is an adventure and I’m glad some of you are enjoying my adventures.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

04/09/2006 – Meaher Park to Ducker Bay

Launch: Meaher Park public boat ramp. Launch Cost: Free. Route: Paddle along the north edge of Ducker Bay. Distance: 4.3 miles. Average Speed: 1.5 mph. Time: Approx 3 hrs. Pace: Slow. Weather: Sunny, temp in the 70s, low humidity, very little current and change of tide. Type Kayak: Paddle kayak because Ducker Bay is very shallow.

(1) Above left. The two launch ramps at Meaher Park. (2) Above right. A Great Blue Heron looking for food.

(3) Above left. Spider Lily buds with the moon in the background. (4) Above right. A Killdeer.

(5) Above left. Alligators were abundant today. (6) Above right. Meaher Park appeared to be closed. Instead of human visitors, several alligators were sunning on the beach.

(7) Above left. Snails were attached all over on the grasses and sedges near the water line. Plus, if you look closely on the left side of the closest stem, you can see something has laid little white eggs. (8) Above right. This is a close-up image of one of the snails.

(9) Above left. I certainly enjoyed this sunset on Ducker Bay, looking at the Meaher Park boardwalk. (10) Above right. An alligator appears to be enjoying the sunset, too.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

04/02/2006 – Sand 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 pier, then back down Sand Island, then back up Sand Island, then east along the south side of Dauphin Island back to the rock jetties. Distance: 14.7 miles. Average Speed: 2.5 mph. Time: Approx 6 hrs. Pace: Leisurely. Weather: Sunny, temp 70 degrees, 90 percent humidity; winds 10-15 mph out of the south; normal current and tides making this a perfect open water kayaking day. Type kayak: Pedal. I like using a stable pedal kayak in open waters.

(1) Above left. After about an hour of pedaling I arrived at the southeast end of Sand Island where the shore birds are bountiful. I interrupted all but one from their slothful morning rest. (2) Above right. This is the DUKE, a 44 foot long educational boat. Today the education looked like it was fishing. Kayakers around Dauphin Island can now look forward to seeing tour boat operators in the area. I did not see any shrimp boats or dolphin today.

(3) Above left. Two different groups of people decided to swim from Dauphin Island to Sand Island. Swimming that distance is not as easy as it looks. I quickly got the kayak launched and stood by for rescues. It looked like it was a struggle for some of them as they fought the minimal current (high tide), but they all got across without assistance. (4) Above right. These are some of the young kids that swam across from Dauphin Island. When that condo under construction in the background is filled to capacity, I wonder if Dauphin Island prepared to deal with the population explosion.

(5) Above left. This is the southeast end of Sand Island. The waters are getting clear enough to see fish and stingrays. (6) Above right. According to Jerry LaBella’s web site, little stingrays like this are way more dangerous than any alligator. About 5,000 people are stung each year by stingrays. There is a good story about what happens to someone who gets stung here.

(7) Above left. Here are some gull darn jokes! Question: What do you call a man with a seagull on his head? Answer: Cliff. Question: Why do seagulls live near the sea? Answer: Because if they lived near the bay, they would be called bagels. (8) Above right. Look closely on the bottom of the royal terns behind their legs and you will see a bulge. This looks like a pair of expecting royal terns. Speaking of terns, “Did you hear about the butcher that fell in love with one the royal terns in the pet store? The butcher had no cash so the pet store owner agreed to give the butcher the royal tern in exchange for some of his delicious German sausage. The deal was made. It seems the butcher took a tern for the wurst. Heeheehee. Well, at least a two of the birds laughed at the jokes…

(9) Above left. I once thought it might be possible to put stairs on the end of the Dauphin Island Pier to Sand Island. Where there was sand at the end of the pier two months ago is now water so that idea won’t work because the sand keeps shifting significantly in this area. (10) Above right. There is much to be said for being able to take a walk among the birds on a remote island. I hope Sand Island and Dauphin Island never come together because it will ruin the remoteness of Sand Island that is so alluring.