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Project Clearwater — Expedition 42

2014-10-24

Project Clearwater — Expedition 42

Al-li-ga-tor

We scouted Bayou Fountain one year ago.  It’s much better now.

With the night paddle coming up, I wanted to be sure the bayou was ready.  The poison ivy tree was waiting to be moved, and I wanted to get an idea of the conditions on the last two miles.  With the night paddle on a Friday, there was nothing to do but take a day off work and head out for a rather long day.  Of course, since it was a “day off”, I took the liberty of sleeping in… which didn’t end up amounting to much.  It’s the thought that counts, eh?

The

When I replaced the cable on my comealong winch, I decided to splurge a little.  I ordered the new cable with safety-latch hooks, and I added an extension handle, too.  I figured the former would make it a bit easier to work solo, and the latter would be useful for when other people take a turn pulling.  I got to the remains of the tree just past the bridge, and almost immediately, the latching hooks became my best friend.  It’s *so* much easier to set for a pull when things aren’t falling off.  The geometry for the pull was just a bit awkward, so I pulled out the extension handle and gave that a whirl.  Twice the length, so half the force.  With several times the swept arc, I couldn’t crank as many clicks per swing, but it ended up helping quite a bit with such a heavy pull from a floating canoe.

Out of the way.

With that out of the way (and yes, I got a bit of poison ivy while working it), I headed on down the bayou.  Just past the three mile marker, I came across a few turkey vultures.  They didn’t seem to be too concerned at first, but one by one they took off and flew away through the trees.  If an owl flies silently like a sailplane, those things fly with the noise of a Harrier.  I suppose carrion eaters don’t require much subtlety to sneak up on their dinner.

I don't know.  What *you* wanna do?

Everything pretty much went swimmingly the rest of the way.  Around the two mile mark was the shallowest area, with available depth increasing slightly from there on through the downstream shallows.  That’s consistent with the gauge reading on Bayou Manchac at Alligator Bayou, and it meant the night paddle shouldn’t be too difficult.  (I planned to wear boots and waders anyway, just in case.  Ready for anything.)  With fairly smooth running all the way to Bayou Manchac, I figured I’d go all the way to the Alligator Bayou end, just to be sure everything was clear.

Alligator ahead.

With the water just a bit chilly, it wasn’t too big a surprise when I passed by an alligator sunning itself on the bank.  He was rather larger than most of the alligators I’ve seen on Bayou Fountain, and he graciously put up with my taking a few photos as I passed.  (On the return leg, he stayed still until I was just beyond his spot, and then he entered the water with the sound of a large tree falling.  That was one large splash.)  At the Alligator Bayou end, I paused momentarily after turning around, and while looking down, I coasted right up to and almost onto the back of another alligator sunning on a mostly submerged log.  I didn’t notice him until the moment he noticed me, and let me tell you, a startled alligator a foot off your gunwale will rather get your attention.

On the way back to the park, I did a little trimming of fallen branches and the like.  At one point, I was picking up a large branch to toss it aside, when with one last gasp of inconvenience, it grabbed a hold of my saw and flung it into the water.  This was most unfortunate, what with it being a new saw with only a week or two on it.  No problem, really, as I’d just reach over the side and… oh.  Turns out, it fell in one of the deeper spots along the entire lower half of the paddle trail.  Well, it being a newish saw and all, I had to try.  I hopped out and waded in, probing with my trusty rake and my anchoring stake.

Deep enough for ya?

The water was rather chilly, but the waders worked well.  I found quite a few pieces of wood, small logs, branches, and other debris, but neither the stake nor the rake gave as much as a ping against anything metallic.  After several minutes going up and down the area and only just managing to keep the top of the waders above the surface, I finally gave up.  I’d just pull up one more stick and shrug the saw off.  I pulled with the rake and reached down to catch the stick, and even through my glove I could easily note that the stick had just a bit more in the way of pointy bits than was normal.  I looked down as I pulled it up, and sure enough, it was a shiny flat metal stick with teeth, i.e. my wonderful saw.

Saw in hand and spirits lifted, I got back in the boat and finished my trip back to the park.  There was just enough time to head out for a quick bite to eat before returning for the night paddle, for which everything was now prepared.  Paddling down a dark bayou at night with minimal light should be fun, eh?

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