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Paddling Black and Red

2014-10-24

Paddling Black and Red

Paddling in red.

For our first new moon paddle, the BR in PaddleBR stood for Black and Red.

We’ve done several night paddles already.  Ward Creek, Bayou Manchac, Bayou Braud, Spanish Lake, and so on.  All of them have been around the full moon, giving plenty of light (except when clouds come through).  This time was different.  We planned the trip around the new moon, which meant it should be quite dark, indeed.  Additionally, we would only use red lights while on the water to preserve darkness and night vision.  It would also be our first nocturnal trip down Bayou Fountain.

Underway.

We arrived at Highland Road Park around 6pm and got everything loaded, and we were on the water just after sunset as twilight was in full swing.  (Any sparkling was simply coincidental.)  As we headed downstream, there was still enough light to see by, at least for a while, and enough to get a somewhat motion-blurred photo or two.  Then, as we continued, the light faded away and we were left in the dark (literally, for a change).

Lighthouse Jonathan

We had several varieties of lights among the four boats on the trip.  Some were decent.  Some were not too helpful.  And then there was Jonathan.  The rest of us spent a good bit of time watching what his light was showing, as its red light output was vastly greater and more focused than ours.  It looks like Amazon is going to sell a few $12 red-light waterproof flashlights before the next new moon paddle.

The Villa at night

It was quite dark most of the way, but there were a few places with light near the end of Bayou Manchac.  The Mediterranean Villa with its fountains into its elevated pool looked quite fetching in spite of the missing trees and palmetto that would normally grace the bank.  It did give us a few yards of spillover light to navigate by, but that may have been a bit too easy, as it was right around there that Mike went headlong into a low-hanging tree.  He wasn’t hurt, nor was his camera, and I think that closed the deal to sell another of those $12 flashlights.

Paddling along Bayou Manchac at night

Once we made the turn onto Bayou Manchac for the last half mile to our exit at Alligator Bayou, we started to see more eyes.  Alligator eyes are retroreflective, and with our eyes night-adjusted and our lights red, the eyes were especially notable.  I wasn’t able to successfully get a photo of any pairs of bright red dots, but they were certainly out there.  It’d be a shame to do a night paddle in Louisiana and not see alligator eyes looking back at you.  Nobody was eaten or threatened, of course, as the alligators disappear as you approach, their red dots winking out to leave nothing but black water.

With four very experienced paddlers on the trip, we made rather quick work of the 4.5-mile run (without rushing a bit) and shortly found ourselves as the brightly-lit (relatively speaking) exit.  The bank was steep as always, and it seemed a bit harder to get the boats back *up* to the road than it normally is to get them *down* to the bayou.  Gravity, or something.  Still, it was no problem, and we soon had everything loaded up for the ride back to the park to meet our waiting vehicles.  It had been an excellent adventure, and we’re all looking forward to the next time… with a few better red flashlights.

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