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Thursday, September 13, 2001

Paddle Report: The Double Bayou Tour, Sept. 9, 2001

Let me say it first off, I love the area around the Grand Bay Wildlife Refuge, Bayou La Batre, Coden and Fowl River for sea kayaking. While most of the Alabama Coastline is a maze of concrete condos and oversized homes for the well to do, there is a little bit of sea kayak heaven in the Grand Bay area. Imagine an area with some of the best salt marshes along the Gulf Coast , extremely little powerboat traffic (and no jetski gnats), and a stark beauty and sense of isolation that many of us crave from time to time.

Our trip began at 7:30 AM at the landing at the end of Bayou Heron in the Grand Bay wildlife refuge. Only two other paddlers showed up: Jeff Breit and Mark Vance. We locked our kayaks up to a tree. We then made the 20 mile shuttle from route 90 East to Route 188 East to Lightning Park at the mouth of Bayou La Batre. This is a real nice mellow drive. We took all three cars where we met my lovely and gracious wife who, although too lazy to paddle , drove our van and shuttled us back to the landing (thanks Ruth, we really did appreciate it!!!!!).

About 9:45 AM we finally got going. Mark gave us an impromptu demonstration at getting in a kayak and how to use a bilge pump! It took only about an hour to travel to the mouth of the Bayou (2.3 statute miles) and then to the white oyster shell beach of Barton Island. This is one of my favorite islands, nice beach and interesting walk. Every time I come here I notice significantly more erosion. Many plants were wiped out on the beach where only last year or two there were many.

Iva frutescens (shrub in the daisy family) was getting ready to bloom, just in time for the upcoming Monarch butterfly migrations. Sea purslane as usual is always there to provide succulent green ground hugging foliage and beautiful purple flowers. The Spartina alterniflora flowers are real pretty when fresh.

The ubiquitous Uca fiddler crabs were there to greet us. We saw at least two species, U. panacea and U. longisignalis. The first is a very small species, the cute one, that likes burrowing in sand. The much larger longisignalis likes more muddy areas amongst the Spartina. These are cool animals, kind of like cute little animated robots.

We then proceeded down the fascinating labyrinth of salt marsh channels in Bayou La Fourche Bay, but changed our minds due to technical difficulties and we made the 4 mile crossing to Point Aux Pins. This is a big spit extending south into Mississippi Sound that has a cluster of very large slash pines that are visible for over 4-5 miles . It is a great landmark in a beautiful sea of uniformity. After stopping at two nice beaches on Pt. Aux Pins, we made the 2 mile crossing to Bayou La Batre, the Alabama Shrimp Boat capital.

This approximately 9.5 mile trip is a great one to build up your confidence for sea kayaking. You are never far from land, but yet there is the opportunity to test yourself on crossings of 1 to 2 and 4 miles. My feeling is if you can easily make a brisk 4 mile crossing, especially with some decent waves, then you are probably safely capable of some more adventurous trips .

Paddle Report: Pelican Pointe to Magnolia River, September 6, 2001

Well, what a night. We all gathered at Pelican Pointe, end of county rd 1 around 6 pm. We are 14 kayaks. As we arrived in waves, ended up being separated into 2 groups and off we went. The wind was soft out of the south, pushing us north to the mouth of the Magnolia River. The night had great promise..........................

After steady paddling, we made it into the Magnolia without event. Although spread apart slightly, we remained a group (at least the first 9 kayaks, the last 5 were the late arrivers and were a little behind). This paddle leader kept close track of her crew though. There was sign of revolt when the sun set behind our back, but I only promised a different vantage point of sunset, which in this case meant turning your head. We had a new-comer to our group - Joe ????(sorry, already forgot your last name) from Foley. We hope that he joins us on future paddles, as the shrimp in his lap was a great addition to our paddle.

As paddle leader, I felt the need to keep us on a time schedule (after-all, there are particular members who require fine food and drink after a paddle, and the bar was closing at 9:30). So, I was keeping close track of the time..........that is until 2 particular people, one, male in a white tampico, and one female in a white and yellow arctic hawk performed mutiny on the leader, stealing her watch. After that, everything was 'up in the air'. By the way, the arctic hawk will deny mutiny, but I know better.

We rafted together at Notle Creek for an appetizer and fine drink - water or beer, and headed back in the dark. There were a couple of boats on the river, but none were a real threat, thanks to Fritz and his yellow paddle raised high in the air. There were no
real emergencies, unless you consider the leader of the paddle being attacked by a flying mullet an emergency. I hear that Joe landed a shrimp in his lap, and a mullet bounced off his tummy. It was quite a night for aquatic life!!! I believe they won.

Seriously, the evening was one in a million. After the sun set, the stars came out (moon was absent until about 10 pm that night), and the night sky was alight with heat lightening. The wind died to nothing and both the river and Weeks bay were slick................. A magical evening, one that I believe even the hungriest of paddlers didn't want to end.

Thanks to all who attended. I was most pleased with the turn-out. An easy 6 mile paddle. 14 boats - even though we were separated into two groups. Dinner after was great fun at pelican pointe grill. Had all of us not had to work the next day, I bet we would have hit the water after dinner. Again, thanks to all for a wonderful evening of kayaking.

Your leader, Harriet

Saturday, September 01, 2001

Paddle Report: Bob's Surprise Paddle, Thursday, 23 August 2001

Bob planned a good surprise for us. We put in at 6 p.m. at Lulu's at the north end of Weeks Bay. Eleven paddlers showed up: Fritz, Sherilyn, Terri, Jane, Bob, Carl, Lisa, Julie, Steve, Frank, Bruce. The boats were very colorful across the bay : green, red, yellow, white, even natural wood color ! Fritz was on point and led us east southeast around the left edge of the bay to stay clear of the motor boat traffic. The evening air was warm and muggy initially. We paddled towards the mouth of the Magnolia River taking a break to raft up near a point of land. I heard about four separate lively conversations going on at once.

At the mouth of the Magnolia, Fritz took us across the bay heading west toward the sunset. Some high cirro-cumulus and cirrus clouds decorated a patch of sky ahead of us. As the sun sank lower these clouds lit up with red and pink as the sun disappeared into a slightly purple cloud shield. A land breeze started up from the east which blew away some of the mugginess. We turned north toward Lulu's about 7:30 no longer playing follow the leader; we all know where the food is!

At the take out, some of us traded boats to try something new and different. By then the sun was gone and just a little twilght was left. The moon was just a quarter so the light from the restaurant was the biggest help in seeing where we were going.

The staff at Lulu's was very kind to us. We pushed three tables together to make group seating on the elevated deck. This deck was open to the sky last year, but now it has a peaked roof with open rafters and ceiling fans. Out the end of the roof we could see that quarter moon shining. Gene and Carolyn came to dine with us so we had more guests at dinner than on the paddle. That is something that has made me very happy with our club; folks can always show up to visit after a paddle and make merry.

I was glad to see y'all out on the water. Bruce