Friday, December 29, 2006

12/29/2006 - Briar Creek

Launch: Brynes Lake in Baldwin County off Highway 225.
Launch Cost: Free.
Route: West out Brynes Lake, across the Tensaw River to Gravine Island Sandbar for a break. Then northwest toward Mobile River, then north into Big Briar Creek up to the first tributary to the right, then returned to launch site.
Distance: 11.1 miles round trip.
Average Speed: 3.1 mph.
Time: Approx. 3.5 hrs.
Pace: Leisurely.
Weather: 65-70 degrees, sunny, and light winds.

1) Taken from the top of the sand on Gravine Island.

2) A variety of Lichen blankets limbs of trees.

3) The palmetto plants provide a bit of green in an otherwise drab environment.

4) The waters were slick on Briar Creek Tributary.

5) A variety of Lichen blankets limbs of trees.

6) The sun lowers on the horizon on the trip back, only to be hidden by the trees later on.

7) A rather interesting tree structure.

8) Several times, the otter would pop up on the right bank ahead of me, then slowly cross the creek on an intersecting course.

9) As I got closer, the otter would slap its tail and disappear under the water, only to pop up on the right bank again to repeat the game.

10) On Byrnes Lake, an otter darts out in front of me.

So ends a year of great kayaking adventures on the Mobile area waterways. I look forward to breaking in 2007 on the waters. Hope to see you out there next year. 
Happy New Year!

Nature is the greatest teacher and I learn from her best when others are asleep. In the still dark hours before sunrise God tells me of the plans I am to fulfill.
-George Washington Carver

Sunday, December 17, 2006

12/17/2006 - Orange Beach

Launch: Beach at Gulf State Park at Perdido Pass under the big bridge.
Launch Fee: Free.
Route: Out Perdido Pass to the Gulf of Mexico, then east about 6 miles, out a little ways into the Gulf, and back.
Distance: 15.3 miles round trip.
Average Speed: 3.3 mph.
Time: Approx 5 hrs.
Pace: Leisurely.
Weather: Temps 60s to low 70s, rising tide, wind out of the east 10 mph, waves 1-2 feet, and sunny.

1) Not very crowded eh? This spot is great for launching in protected waters, only about 100 yards from the car.

2) This Condo is my favorite of them all because it looks modern. 

3) However, whoever designed these two Condos had great visions in my opinion.  Notice that all the beaches, on this 70 degree day, are empty – no doubt everyone is out shopping for last minute Christmas gifts.

4) I pedaled about a mile offshore and found the waters there to be occupied by many gulls, pelicans, and loons. This gull didn’t mind my close presence as it was to busy eating something in the waters.

5) This was an interesting buoy off Perdido Pass. It has a horn that seems to make sound based on the rise and fall of the buoy. The more the buoy bounces in the water, the louder the horn.

6) The beaches along Gulf Shores – Orange Beach area are dense with Condominiums. The vast majority of Condos seemed to all look similar -rather box like and basic. 
7) Speaking of eating something in the water, this looks like a risky sport.

8) A great heron stands nearby a fisherman waiting for a handout.

9) Word of caution about Perdido Pass – there are plenty of big boats (this Hooters boat is little) going through this pass that leave big wakes. If you kayak through or around the pass, I would advise wearing a spray skirt if you have a sit in kayak and be prepared for 4 foot waves. This pass is not for the faint of heart because there can be challenging confused waves bouncing off the west seawall, and depending on tides, the current may also be quite challenging for a kayaker.

10) In the middle of winter, after two hard freezes, we still have wild flowers growing.

11) I loaded the kayak on the car with enough time to sit down and enjoy the wonderful sunset.


12) As I was leaving the launch site in the dark, a scuba diver was putting on his gear to go night scuba diving under the Perdido Bridge at about where I launched the kayak from. I will definitely be kayaking from Perdido Pass in the future when the waves in the Gulf are bigger.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

12/16/2006 – Three Mile Creek (Delta)

Launch: Cloverleaf Boat Ramp.
Launch Fee: $4.
Route: About 3 miles southwest down the Tensaw River to Threemile Creek (not to be confused with the Threemile Creek that runs through Prichard), then on the return trip, go north into Cable Creek, then return to the launch site.
Distance: 13.5 miles round trip.
Average Speed: 3.1 mph.
Time: Approx 4.5 hrs.
Pace: Leisurely.
Weather: Temps 60s to low 70s, calm to variable winds, and sunny. Days like this were made for kayaking!

1) Conditions were very pleasant as I started paddling southwest into the Tensaw River at the split with the Apalachee River. 

2) Just north of the entrance of Threemile Creek, this lady was proudly showing off her catfish.

3) Temperatures were perfect, the water was slick and I had just passed the only two boats I’d see for the day. I love the winters in Mobile!

4) This hawk appeared to be keeping a keen eye out for food.

5) At the entrance to Cable Creek, an Osprey Eagle was squawking up a storm because I invaded its territory.

6) The rich greens of fall have given way to the toasty browns of winter.

7) Back out on the Tensaw River sits the Delta Explorer on the shoreline of Blakeley Park. Using twin Honda 130 boat motors, the Delta Explorer takes groups of people on 2-hour guided tours.

8) As the sun gets lower on the horizon, the colors take on a reddish-orange hue.

9) The colorful sunset tints are even more noticeable on the bluff just north of Blakeley Park. 

10) After taking in another deep breath of the cooling evening air, I exhale, “Ahhhhhh, life is good.” Hope your kayaking trips on this day were as beautiful.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

12/03/2006 - Black Creek

Launch: Tucker’s Launch (aka Brooks Park) on the southwest corner of US 43 at Chickasaw Creek.
Launch Cost: $3.
Route: Southeast down Chickasaw Creek to the Pumphouse Canal, then east to Mobile River, then north to the west side of 12 Mile Island, to Bayou Sara, then south into Black Creek, and back.
Distance: 15.0 miles.
Average Speed: 3.1 mph.
Time: Approx 5 hrs.
Pace: Leisurely to Moderate.
Weather: Mostly sunny, temps up to low 60s. Very low tide, minimal current, and winds were calm to gusty from the northwest.

1) Waters were so low today that half the sewer pipe was exposed making for some wildly contrasting waters. Are you drinking 8 glasses of water a day?

2) I had to contend with some gusty winds on Mobile River up to the railroad trestle, where a fire was raging.

3) The wildlife of Black Creek used to be off limits to hunters which might why I usually see more wildlife up there than anywhere else in the Delta. I did see a deer today, but unfortunately, I was two weeks too late to see the prime foliage colors.

4) There were an awful lot of robins around today.

5) Wave action and boat wakes undermine Cypress trees.

6) A raccoon getting a drink of water.

7) As I turned from Bayou Sara into Mobile River, a passing tugboat left a little wake.

8) Back in the Pumphouse Canal, ripples in the water caught my eye. It looked like small otter as I closed in to take some photos. After watching for a few seconds and getting closer, something looked wrong. It wasn’t an otter, but a river rat and it kept spinning in the water and occasionally stopping for a few seconds. It was dying or already brain dead. I’m surprised its activity on the water’s surface didn’t attract an alligator, but then again, I didn’t see any alligators today. Been kayaking for over 5 years and this is the first rat I’ve ever seen. Maybe the hunters I saw cruising up and down the Pumphouse Canal shot and wounded the rat. Even though it was a rat, it saddened me to see its predicament. Kayaking is always an adventure into the unknown.

9) Even though the winds picked up and winds occasionally howled in the tree tops, the banks along the Pumphouse Canal block winds from the north making for easy paddling.

10) Back in Chickasaw Creek, the edge of another cold front makes its way into the deep south. This was another fine kayaking weekend!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

12/02/2006 - Dog River Christmas Parade

Launch: Hoppe’s Launch on the northwest side of the Dog River bridge at Dauphin Island Parkway. Launch Cost: $5. Route: Pedal northwest then west to the Rangeline Road Bridge on Rattlesnake Bayou and then back. Distance: 13.7 miles. Average Speed: 2.9 mph. Time: Approx 6 hrs. Pace: Moderate during afternoon paddle, then stationary during parade. Weather: Sunny, temps in the 50s-60s. 10 mph winds from the northwest, low tide, minimal current.

NOTE: You may notice the usual 2 side-by-side photos post format that I had been using has gone to a single photo per line format. The blog had to be rebuilt after losing the links to the Picasa web site and the new Blogger editor no longer allows friendly movement of photos - it is near impossible to re-create the 2 photo side by side format. I'm sure that having to meet the needs of new media, like Ipads and Iphones forced the Blogger to make changes. Anyway, the text below the photos apply to the photo above the text.

1) This is the bridge under Rangeline Road at Rattlesnake Bayou
2) The moon came up during the trip back to the launch site.
3) As the sun lowered on the horizon, parade boats started making their way to the start of the parade, which was about 2 miles to the northwest.

4) Another boat headed waiting till it gets dark to turn on their lights.

5) I had planned to launch at the Beachcomber on the southwest side of Dauphin Island Parkway, but they wanted $8 to launch, so I went to Hoppe’s, not far from where this photo was taken, where I was returning to pick up a 12v battery and light. Sadly, the woman at Hoppe’s that was expecting to be busy on this evening only had one kayaker for business.
6) Having stopped briefly to gear up to be legal (visible light), and warm, I returned at sunset to watch the parade. The winds died down and waters slicked off. This was a nice sunset!

7) The clouds turned pinkish as the ducks watched the sunset.

8) This is the first year I’ve gone out in a kayak to watch this river parade. My reason for not attending a parade in the past has been the cold. After pedaling all afternoon in shorts and bare feet, this evening, as temperatures quickly dipped down to 49 degrees, I now had on sweat pants, Chota boots, a couple of sweatshirts, and gloves. I wasn’t cold a bit except when taking photos (without gloves). It took a while for the boats to make their way down Dog River, but it was worth the wait.

9) I’ve kayaked along the Bayou La Batre Blessing of the Fleet several times now and I must say that Christmas on Dog River was much more exciting. Crowds along the river were roaring as the beautiful parade boats and yachts passed by. It was like Mardi Gras, with people on the boats throwing beads and candy.

10) There was Christmas music blaring from many boats and “Merry Christmas” was the greeting that was being shouted from all the parade boats in this family atmosphere event.

11) These photos are still images – most boats had flashing lights, moving objects, and the colorful reflections continually flickered on the water. The boats started looping in the narrow area of Dog River near the DIP bridge for quite a while.

12) I’m really sorry for not attending Christmas on Dog River before now. You can bet that I’ll bundling up next year to experience this parade from the water. Who knows, I might even decide to decorate up my kayak with flashing lights and join the parade in a Santa outfit. Thanks to all of you in the parade who decorated your boats. I thoroughly enjoyed Christmas on Dog River.