Saturday, May 30, 2009

05/30/2009 - Fairhope

1) Getting to see the sunrise over the Fairhope Yacht Club required an early start in order to be at the Grandman Trialthon on time.

2) Triathlon participates are split up into seven waves to make it safer. If they all swam the 1/3 mile course at the same time it would be chaos.

3) Swimming in waters so shallow many racer simply bounce along the bottom instead of swimming. 

4) The Mobile Bay Canoe and Kayak Club had members stationed all along the swimming course to provide support for the swimmers. The Grandman Trialthon benefits Mobile Baykeeper, The Gulf Coast Area Triathletes, The Baldwin County Trailblazers, and Camp Rap-A-Hope.

5) The last of the swimmers make their way to the transition area where they hop on their bicycle for a 16 mile ride and then conclude with a 5k run.

6) After the all the swimmers were on land I headed over to Fly Creek. A Fly Creek group is suing over upstream construction activity that was polluting the waters. Ironically, this Fly Creek resident is polluting the air around the creek they want to protect.

7) Colorful sailboats on protected waters make for nice reflections.

8) The new Fairhope Yacht Club building can be seen in the background. The old building was destroyed by a hurricane.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

05/16/2009 - The Dog Paddle (2009)

Below are photos from "The Dog Paddle" of 2009. Click on images to see a larger view.

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Other activities besides the kayak races were a blood donation bus, live music, dog parade, food and drink, educational booths, flea market and more. This was a real nice event.

Thanks go to all the Dog River Clearwater Revival organizers including president Bruce Coldsmith, Ann Gathings, Claire Wilson and others. A big thanks also go to the sponsors of the Dog Paddle - The Hiller Companies Inc, Alabama Capital LLC, Springdale Travel, Grand Mariner Marina, Fairhope Boat Company, Merchants Transfer Company Inc, Kangal and Associates, Five River Outfitters, Port City Rentals, Alabama Outdoors, Dog River Marina & Boatworks, Greer's Market, Dees Paper Company and Parkway Storage.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

05/02/2009 – Choctaw National Wildlife Refuge

Launch: Service Park boat ramp which is about 3-4 miles west of Coffeeville. Coffeeville is 30 miles northwest of Jackson, AL – about a 2 hour drive from Mobile.
Launch Fee: $3. (Lock box envelopes have tag for display in your vehicle.)
Trip Distance: Approx 20 miles.
Route: Paddle up the Tombigbee River 3 miles to the Turkey Creek entrance of Choctaw National Wildlife Refuge, explore the many available waterways, and then return.
Pace: Leisurely.
Weather: Sunny, 70-85 degrees, no tidal influence, winds calm to very light, almost no current except for very slight current in the Tombigbee.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife manages the Choctaw National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) primarily for migratory waterfowl. What’s up there? That’s what I wanted to find out today.

1) Foggy morning at the Coffeeville Dam Service Park boat ramp.

2) After the first hour of paddling, I thought I’d wasted my time because it is an ugly paddle up the Tombigbee unless you like looking at tire dumps. This tire erosion control does not appear to work very well.

3) The do’s and don’t of the refuge posted at the Turkey Creek entrance.

4) A cormorant taking flight.

5) There were areas blanketed by sedge flowers.

6) Birds like this prothonotary warbler were plentiful. Bird music in the air waves was vibrant.

7) When one boater said to another, “boy, that kayaker has a lot of guts…” I could tell this might be a good place to kayak. Choctaw NWR indeed is a wonderful place to kayak. Lots of Alligators to see at this time of year.

8) There are submerged stumps in the refuge waters so most power boats move very slow using a trolling motor – that means no wakes and no noise. Paradise! Don’t let your guard down though – kayakers hit the submerged tree stumps too.

9) Alligator smiling for the photo.

10) There were plenty of water lilies in bloom. You can see a spider marveling at the beautiful flowers too.

11) Choctaw NWR reminds me a bit of the open prairies at Okefenokee Swamp because of the brown peat in some areas.

12) Wild pigs running along GG'ing (grunting and grubbing).

13) Herons were all over the place.

14) Dozens of ibis and other birds in a feeding frenzy for crabs.

15) I followed along at a bird’s pace with some of the water fowl as they walked along the vegetation digging for food. They were aware of my presence but were unafraid. The only thing I’ll shoot them with is a camera.

16) Choctaw NWR is a birder’s paradise. 

17) This shot is typical of the area. There is not a lot of shade so bring your sunscreen and wide brim hats.

18) This dog almost fell overboard trying to get a bite on the wiggling fish. The dancing dog was cute. This couple said the dog also likes crickets and once got into trouble by eating one with a hook in it.

19) The sign on the right was enough to influence me to turn around. What's a submerged dam? The rule that says, “When in doubt, don’t,” applies to kayaking. Here is a aerial view of the dam looking upstream. Even a little submerged dam is very dangerous. Check out this dam link.

20) Taken on the Tombigbee River looking downstream towards the dam.

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Today was absolutely beautiful – a big two thumbs up for the Choctaw National Wildlife Refuge. It is definately worth a two hour drive from Mobile and is big enough that it would take a week to fully explore. There are motels in Jackson (30 minutes away) and a campground at the Service Park launch site.