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Project Clearwater — Expedition 31

2014-07-27

Project Clearwater — Expedition 31

Which old winch?

After another aborted offshore kayak run, the bayou beckoned again.  Mike and I had more than enough to keep us busy.

For the second time in as many weeks, I headed out to Mississippi to do a marathon kayaking/camping trip.  This time I was going to make it 100 miles over four days instead of 70 miles over three, as having no shuttle required me to loop it.  About 17 miles in, I noticed a problem with the right pedal on my Hobie.  Not quite seven miles later, the pedal snapped off completely and I called the second scrub in two trips.  After camping overnight on Round Island, I headed back in… and less than 13 miles later, the crank arm snapped, too.  (It snapped at the adjustment pin, just like the left one had done about 44 pedaled miles earlier.)  So, I called Mike and arranged to hit the bayou on Sunday (giving me a whole day to rest from the 48-miles of the aborted kayak trip).

Round Island

*Not Bayou Fountain.

Sunday morning found the bayou at about 3-1/4 feet below bridge level, which would’ve been perfect for collecting all the big stuff with the Canoemaran.  It would’ve been, that is, except for my hunch that there were almost certainly some problem areas thanks to the recent very high water.  With that in mind, we didn’t rig the Canoemaran, instead setting off in two canoes with the full load of heavy tackle.  The hunch was proven right a mere 3/4 of a mile in, as we arrived at a blockage created primarily by a rather large trunk that had floated down and lodged.

Watch out for that... tree.

I mounted the winch deck on my canoe and set an anchor strap as Mike worked the business end.  The root ball was right at the bank with the trunk angled downstream into the watery tree on the right, so pulling it around upstream and toward the opposite bank was called for.  After a first set to free it up a bit, the second set pulled it around and over.  By the time we finished with it, it was well out of the way and angled such that high flow should do nothing but hold it more firmly in place.  (We can hope, eh?  It was a bit too large for our saws.)

Open season.

There were some pockets of flotsam and logs where something, usually a long log (including about a 30-foot-long log at one point), had caught and collected various bits.  Those were dealt with in the way we usually deal with them — saw the long bits into short logs and send everything along.  Hard labor apparently increases the incidence of puns on the bayou, or so it seems, so not only is this process now officially known as “metering” (after the approximately three-foot lengths of the resulting logs), but it’s also “yard work”.  (Example usage: “So, I was out on the bayou for the usual yard work, which wasn’t so bad until I had to spend two hours metering a newly fallen tree.”)  Note to paddlers who may want to lend a hand once in a while:  If you really hate puns, we can probably keep them to a light trickle while you’re out there, but they really do help the work along.

Downed tree, opened.

With all the rains and high water, there were a couple smallish trees that had fallen partially into the bayou.  (For some reason this seems to be the season for small trees falling on top of other small trees, which hold them up over the bayou.)  We took off the tops of a couple to restore an open path down the bayou, and we opened up the spot where we’d “tunneled” through last week.  It should remain passable now.  There’s a bit of trimming left to do on some of the fallen bits, but we’ll do those tweaks as the water levels make them accessible.

And speaking of accessible, the water was low enough to get to one of the very large trunks (or just call it a tree, really) that formed part of a set of giant interlocking logs not much more than a quarter mile from Bayou Manchac.  The trunk in question had its root end partially wedged at the bank with the rest angled upstream, and as the water level dropped, it was going to become a problem.  Fortunately, the water was low enough this week, so with Mike there to handle the free end, we deployed the winch again and went to town on it.  It took multiple sets over an hour and 45 minutes or so to get it locked in near the opposite bank, at a useful angle, and actually nicely snugged underneath another trunk, but the way is now clear to all expected water levels.

Kayak tracks!

After the long working leg heading downstream, the paddle back to the park was much faster and pleasantly uneventful.  It was quite a hot day working out there, and I don’t think I’ve seen Mike down that much Gatorade before.  (My Powerade bucket was dry by the end, too.)  We were back at the park around 6pm, and after a brief pause to get a good photo of some kayak tracks on the bank, we called it a day.  (The kayak tracks, complete with sliding-foot-prints, were on the sloped area just to the downstream side of the more stair-like area we use on the other side of the tree.  That spot gets *really* slippery when wet.  I hope nobody ended up in the bayou.)

It was a long, hot, and quite full day working out there, but the two big trunks are out of the way and the various catches have been cleared.  It was actually not as bad as I thought it might be after all that fast-flowing high water.  (The Bluebonnet gauge does not often hit 11.5′, after all.)  I’m anticipating a somewhat easier trip down the bayou next weekend.  The plan is the usual: launch at Highland Road Park at 8am Saturday morning (unless someone prefers a different time) and hope for an easy day, perfect, too, for anyone who just wants to get some enjoyable paddling in.

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