Sunday, February 25, 2007

02/25/2007 – Red Maple Slough

Launch: North side of the Causeway at the old River Docs.
Launch Cost: Free.
Route: North through Big Bateau Bay to Red Maple Slough and then back via Conway Creek.
Distance: 8.6 miles round trip.
Average Speed: 2.8 mph.
Time: Approx 3 hrs.
Pace: Leisurely.
Weather: Sunny, temperature 75-80 degrees, winds were out of the west northwest 5-15 mph. Waters were high, tide was rising and there was no noticeable current.

1) This was a Mobile Bay Canoe and Kayak Club trip led by Harriet and Fritz. Despite the name, the only thing left at the River Docs launch site is a dirt parking lot.

2) Over a dozen kayakers were excited to start the trip on this nice warm sunny Spring-like day.

3) Two seagulls intently watch the parade of colorful kayaks float by.

4) The kayak parade as seen from the seagull’s perspective.

5) This was taken near the entrance of Conway Creek.

6) The group enters Big Bateau Bay.

7) Everyone takes a brief break on the west edge of Big Bateau Bay.

8) Fritz’s neon green shirt reflects brightly on the dark narrow waters of Red Maple Slough.

9) There was very little red in the red maple trees – it will be about another week before they are in full color. No one really cared though because they were enjoying the camaraderie with other kayakers on a beautiful spring day. Great trip!

10) Trip Track.

The February sunshine steeps your boughs and tints the buds and swells the leaves within. -William C. Bryant

Saturday, February 24, 2007

02/24/2007 – Conway - Lower Crab

Launch: Triple public boat ramps in the middle of the Causeway on the North side.
Launch Cost: Free.
Route: Northeast across Chacaloochee Bay, north up Conway Creek, across Tensaw River, southwest down Lower Crab Creek, south across Delvan Bay, around the corner into Polecat Bay (out of the wind), then across the Tensaw back to the launch site.
Distance: 13.7 miles.
Average Speed: 3.1 mph.
Time: Approx 5 hrs.
Pace: Moderate.
Weather: Small craft advisory in effect. Cloudy, gusty winds from the southeast about 15-25 mph. Tide was very high and rising and there was no noticeable current. Temperature stayed about 65 degrees all afternoon.

1) After getting soaked (sit-on-top kayak) crossing Chacaloochee Bay, I eased up Conway creek and decided to check out Savage Ditch.

2) Why would I go out in a small craft advisory? To ride the waves – that’s why! It was a bit disappointing because the waves were pretty small. I should have gone to Dauphin Island. Do not go out in windy conditions unless you are experienced and know your limitations.

3) A nice tailwind and a little extra speed from riding waves made the trip up Conway Creek quick.

4) Over on Lower Crab creek, the conditions improved mostly because the creek was perpendicular to the wind.

5) Out in Delvan Bay, I was getting soaked again. I would not have enjoyed the trip in a paddle kayak. In the pedal kayak, very little momentum is lost when pedaling as compared with paddling where for a brief second momentum is lost when the paddle is out of the water and the wind starts to slow you down. The winds do not slow down the pedal kayak very much and that makes a big difference in windy conditions. 

6) I didn’t expect to see the sun and at the last minute, I decided to go around the corner into Polecat Bay (out of the wind) to watch the sunset.

7) It was suppose to be raining and here I was watching a nice sunset. Life if good!

8) The sun had just disappeared behind the clouds.

9) This is what it looked like on the way back to the launch site. The upper clouds started turning all different colors.

10) Trip track. This Conway Creek – Lower Crab Creek is one of my favorite loops. It usually takes about 4 hours but today I went up several little side creeks and also stopped for about 20 minutes to watch the sunset. The areas in red indicate where I was getting soaked from spray. This was a fun day to kayak.

"Throw caution to the wind and just do it."
-Carrie Underwood

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

02/20/2007 – Douglas Lake

Launch: Upper Bryant Landing (about 5 miles north of Stockton).
Launch Cost: $3.
Route: North up Tensaw Lake a little over a mile, then northwest up Douglas Lake to the end. Back down to Tensaw Lake, up Watson Creek about a quarter of a mile and then back to the launch site.
Distance: 10.5 miles round trip.
Average Speed: 2.2 mph.
Time: Approx 5 hrs.
Pace: Very slow.
Weather: Mostly cloudy, temperature 65-70 degrees, winds out of the southwest 5-15 mph, minimal rising tide and minimal current.

1) Trip track map.

2) I felt like exploring somewhere new today. Here is Upper Bryant Landing which had a sandy bank for easy launching. Douglas Lake is also listed as a day trip on the Bartram Canoe Trail.

3) I did not see much wildlife or birds on this trip, but the cypress trees were plentiful and amazing.

4) Half way up Douglas Creek is a convenient rest point for getting out to stretch the legs. For those not wanting to kayak a full 10 miles, turning around here would cut the trip length down to about 6 miles round trip – a nice 2-3 hour trip.

5) It seemed like there were huge cypress trees on every corner of the lake, each having its own unique characteristics. (You may have to scroll to see all of the photomerges.)

6) There were a few times when the wind died down allowing the waters to slick off as shown in this photomerge of the rather dreary winter landscape.

7) In the midst of the lackluster grays of the deciduous woods were occasional clusters of beautiful color – leaves killed by recent freezes.

8) The sun came out for very brief moments and although it is hard to see in this photo, maple trees were beginning to show their red – a sign that this year’s kayak season is about to begin!

9) Around the corner of the Upper Bryant Launch site are some bluffs which add to the landscape diversity.

10) I took a short trip up Watson Creek and was astounded to see crystal clear water – something you don’t see much of in the Delta. I definitely want to get back to this creek on a bright sunny day, especially in the spring when the colors are fresh green.
A friend asked me a few weeks ago what my kayak plans were for the year and I had no answer. I do find an enhanced sense of excitement when exploring a new waterway, like today when exploring Douglas Lake. My kayaking plans for this year? To experience more dawns on the water. To explore more of the Upper Mobile-Tensaw River Delta. Stiggins Lake, The “T”, Chippewa Lakes, Doctor Lake, Poll Bayou, Little Lake, Bates Creek, Dominic Creek, Napp Lake, Clearwater Lake, Bilbo Creek, Bear Creek, Proctor Creek, Red Hill Creek are a few of the places I have never been to and want explore. Douglas Lake is now on my list of favorite paddling sites.

"What humbugs we are, who pretend to live for Beauty, and never see the Dawn!"
-Logan Pearsall Smith

Monday, February 19, 2007

Bad Kayaking Day?

So, you think you've had a bad kayaking day?
It could be worse...

Sunday, February 18, 2007

02/18/2007 – Chocaloochee Bay

Launch: Public boat ramps (triple set) just west of the I-10 crossing on the north side of the Causeway (Highway 90).
Launch Cost: Free.
Route: Counter clockwise around Chocalata (aka Chocaloochee) Bay.
Distance: 9.6 miles.
Average Speed: 2.4 mph.
Time: Approx 4 hrs.
Pace: Very slow.
Weather: Sunny, temperature about 50, very low tide, minimal current, winds out of the northwest 10-15 mph with occasional gusts.

1) Coot, coot, and more coot.

2) Fly coot, fly.

3) I had planned on going up Conway Creek. This is the first time I’ve seen the tide so low that I could not get to the south entrance of Conway Creek. The upper entrance was also land-locked and so was Savage Ditch. I was stuck with doing a loop in Chocalata Bay where the winds were strong out of the northwest and the waters were only 6 to 12 inches deep.

4) I was even able to get out of the kayak and walk on the bottom of Chocalata Bay. The unusually low tide explained why there were no boats at the Causeway boat ramps.

5) A great heron stands about 4 feet tall, towering in stature above most other birds.

6) The waters were so low that some of the marine life taking place under the normally dark waters was quite visible today. These clams looked like they were smiling.

7) A talkative pelican said, “Dude, great day for a paddle, eh? Cool kayak!”

8) My Necky Zoar kayak, from the perspective of a pelican. The white strips are reflector tape shine brightly when a light hits them. A boat can see me a mile away. Anyone who goes out at night should reflectorize their kayak.

9) Since Hurricane Katrina, the goats are gone from Goat Island, which is just to the right in this after sunset photo.

10) Trip Track. Though I was initially disappointed due to shallow waters blocking the planned route, after seeing so many birds and another fine sunset from protected waters, what disappointment?

Sunday, February 11, 2007

02/11/2007 – Polecat Bay

Launch: Public boat ramps (triple set) just west of the I-10 crossing on the north side of the Causeway (Highway 90).
Launch Cost: Free.
Route: Northwest across the Tensaw River to Polecat Bay, cut across to Spanish River, back to Polecat Bay, then back to the launch site.
Distance: 9.3 miles.
Average Speed: 2.6 mph.
Time: Approx 3.5 hrs.
Pace: Slow.
Weather: Sunny with temps in the middle 50s. High tide and minimal current, winds initially calm and then picking up to 5 mph out of the south.

1) Photomerge from the Tensaw River between I-10 and US 90. Temperature was cool, it was sunny, very little current, high tide, no wind, slick waters – perfect kayaking weather.

2) Photomerge from Polecat Bay - this is one of those days where I shout with joy at the beautiful mixture of sky and water.

3) American White Pelicans can be seen frequently in shallow Polecat Bay. You can see the graduated plates on the pelican’s upper mandible in this photo.

4) This looks a little like a Tri-colored Heron.

5) There were a lot of Ibis in the upper end of Polecat Bay.

6) For a moment I was excited to see some new ducks that were photo friendly. No wonder why they didn’t fly away – the ducks were plastic decoys that hunters have left behind.

7) On the north side of the Polecat Bay Cut in Spanish River, there are a few Osprey Eagle nests.

8) The view looking across Polecat Bay. I had hoped the waters would still be slick, but eventually the winds picked up out of the south.

9) The Mobile Skyline as the sun is about to disappear below the horizon.

10) Now that the sun is gone, the clouds go through a huetiful metamorphosis.

11) Photos never quite show the whole picture compared to being there in person. This sunset caused me to give many thanks to the Creator as I slowly paddled in awe. May the Church of Sun and Clouds bestow many blessings on you.

12) Trip Track.