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Ward Creek — Expedition Two

2012-06-23

After Ward Creek Cleanup One, we had a good idea of just what was needed (and where) to open the two blockaded bridges for paddle-through access.  With the derelict bridge had been cleared of the vast majority of its litter flotsam, it was high time to open the route.  Yet again, I was joined by my good friend Mike, who has now participated in half a dozen Expeditions.  We set off from East Harbor yet once again, and off we went toward the first blockaded bridge, Pecue Lane.

I suppose I should mention a little more about what we actually do.  For trailblazing Expeditions, I load up my hand winch (a two-ton Wyeth-Scott More Power Puller comealong) and a collection of straps and lines.  The lines are used to pull things like semi-floating trunks and general debris tangles — anything that can be moved by simple force of human muscle power.  That accounts for a large amount of what’s there in the blockages, but it’s certainly not all.

For things that simply won’t budge, either by sheer mass or by being completely entangled in a giant woven mass, we call in our mechanical advantage.  With plenty of high-quality straps (all with several times the working load of the winch), we strap to a large log, trunk, or cluster of debris.  The winch is anchored with a 3-inch extra-wide strap so as not to damage the anchoring tree in any way.  Then it’s just a matter of laying your back into it as you ever so slowly pull whatever it is you’re moving.  Almost always it requires multiple rounds of resetting the straps for a different angle or distance before you finally reach the intended resting place.

As wood in the water makes for excellent habitat, wherever possible we merely relocate enough of the blockage to facilitate canoe travel.  In any case, the amount of material moved is small compared to the total in the blockages — when you’re using human power, you tend not to go overboard with the hard work.  Oh, and every so often we have to pull out a hand saw, e.g. to cut one side off a forked down tree that’s wedged through both sides of an immovable object.

So, anyway, we attacked the first blockaded bridge.  In the first half of the time lapse video, you can see that a large amount of time was spent on one large trunk.  It had to be about 18 feet long or so, just judging by arm spans, and it was rather thick, too.  If you pay attention, you can note multiple pauses in its movements.  Most of those are delays while we reset the straps and anchors for another pull from a different angle or distance.  (At least one is a gatorade break, but hey, it’s *HARD* work.)  The smaller tree that you see being pulled and then released and cut was wedged in so well I hit the capacity limit of the tackle, but it had to go or it would catch more debris and rebuild the blockage.

After we opened up Pecue, it was on to the derelict bridge.  There was a ton of stuff to pull there (including an entire tree lying flat just under the surface), but I think the best (and by far more annoying) single piece was apparently the entire floor of, I don’t know, perhaps a very large deer stand?  Mike’s time lapse ran out well before the work did, but it’s still a sight to behold, I dare say.

We were indeed successful in getting through both bridges’ blockages, and you can now paddle from Bayou Manchac all the way to Bluebonnet Boulevard without having to portage around any debris dams.  It should help drainage at least a bit, of course, but the primary purpose was to make the lower half of Ward Creek canoe-navigable.  With it now fully open, we can continue doing litter cleanups without the hassle of having to unload and reload the canoes every time we have to cross the derelict or Pecue.

I was certainly exhausted by the time we returned to East Harbor, but I dare say Mike was worse off than I.  (Can I help it that I have unfathomable reserves, hehe?)  I had him lie down while I took my time carrying all the gear back to my car, and you know what?  Canoes are *heavy* after a full day of intense manual labor.  Go figure.  Still, it was certainly a job well done, and I can hardly wait to get back out there for another cleanup.

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