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Bayou Fountain — May 30, 2015

2015-05-30

Bayou Fountain — May 30, 2015

Foam Island

These days, it takes more than just another paddle trail maintenance expedition to wear me out.  Three trees should about do it.

I arrived at Highland Road Park ahead of schedule Saturday morning.  With the rain of late, we were expecting some things to have shifted around (as they do), but anticipating a bit of work doesn’t detract at all from a beautiful morning.  The bayou was up (but not too up), and when I walked over to check out the level and current to report, not a single mosquito accosted me.  Everything was just about perfect for a day of fun and hard labor… well, except the help I’d made sure to enlist was unexpectedly absent.  Phone calls yielded no results, so at 8am, I headed down the bayou solo and thought to myself that chances are it wouldn’t be too hard.

Mostly fallen tree.

Almost immediately, I came across the first mostly fallen tree.  There was room to pass under it, so I did what we normally do and left it for the return trip.  The way we like to work on the trail maintenance expeditions is straightforward.  If there’s a problem that you can get through, over, or around with minimal effort, we pass by it on the way downstream.  If it’s something that completely blocks the way (a fallen tree, logjam, or large catch), we work it right away so it’s out of the way of anyone paddling through.  Working this way means that we get to any real problems and have them corrected before Saturday paddlers come by, and working the rest on our way back to the park means that if we run out of time, picking off the leftovers takes much less paddling.

Another fallen tree.

As I continued downstream, I soon came across a second fallen tree.  The extended rains had apparently taken their toll on some of the trees embedded in the banks, but fortunately, neither tree was particularly thick.  For this second one, much of the trunk was submerged enough to paddle right over it, but once the rains are gone and the water level drops, it will soon turn into a larger problem.  I made another mental note about the now even longer return leg and continued on down the bayou.

Third tree.

Apparently, this was the week of the tree, as I had yet one more encounter.  This fallen tree was not like the others.  Where the first one was suspended and the second submerged, the third tree of the day was pretty much totally blocking the way.  There was no putting it off for the return leg, so I managed to use branches and elbow grease to work my canoe to the downstream side, and I got to work.  There was quite a bit of sawing to do as I started dismantling the branches on the downstream half (naturally, it had two complete trunks).

As I was about finished with the first trunk, a couple people who live upstream on Bayou Fountain arrived in a small aluminum boat.  We chatted a bit about the bayou (they’d pulled a couple large items already, including the cooler that I’d last seen near Rackley Bridge), and together we took care of the second trunk.  They tied off to it, I cut it, and we pulled it around and out of the way.  Then off we went downstream, with their boat outpacing me in my canoe.

No more tree!

I actually caught up with them once more where some overgrowth had caught some logs and debris, but right about the time I caught up, they managed to power through and break up the catch.  It was smooth sailing from there to Bayou Manchac, where after saying hello to some people on the far bank, I turned and headed back upstream.  I knew there were a couple more trees left to work on the trip, but I still took a bit of time to lightly prune some of the prolific branches that have gradually grown together over the bayou since last summer.

Alligator, with inset.

It was turning into a rather long day, but I was in for an unexpected treat.  As I paddled along just upstream from the mile two marker, there on the north bank was a nice looking alligator.  He casually turned toward the bayou, climbed over some foliage, and gracefully slid down into the bayou.  I managed to grab my camera in time to get a quick zoom shot, hoping I’d catch him.  I blew it up, and sure enough, there’s an alligator.  (He popped up again to check me out from the opposite side of the bayou as I paddled by, but only for the briefest moment.)

Pull!

When I got back to the second tree, I went right to work.  I dismantled the leaves and branches as much as I could, and then I made a couple cuts on the trunk.  It was a long trunk, however, and mostly submerged, which worked against the usual plan (i.e. cut it into short logs that can float away).  So, I broke out the heavy tackle.  With the big comealong winch and some fun with straps, I was soon rigged and pulling the entire trunk around.  Near the end of the first set, the root ball finally started to pivot more, and a second full pull had the trunk pointing downstream and the way wide and clear.  For good measure, I cut off the accessible portion of the trunk right below the water level.  (You can see a little slice just breaking the surface in the middle of the “after” photo.  It’s above and just right of the right edge of the buckets.)

Tree two, dealt.

All that was left was the mostly-fallen tree across the bayou right there near the start.  I figured it was probably stable enough to be safe to leave it until later, as I was quite tired and worn and about ready to call it a day.  Of course, one ought not assume, so when I arrived back on the scene, I stood up in my canoe, put some weight on the trunk, and gave it a bounce or two.  There was some snapping on the top end, and the trunk dropped a bit:  it wasn’t very stable.  Oh, well, back to work.

Cutting up fallen trees or large branches or long logs is one thing.  Sawing through a mostly fallen tree, on the other hand, is not so simple.  It’s not just that using a hand saw while standing in a canoe (and perhaps reaching up) is an exercise in balance, forces, and inertia.  What takes it up a level is being constantly aware of yourself and your canoe and never allowing anything under the thing you’re working on.  Saw, saw, swing the canoe back, saw, swing, saw-saw, swing, underhand-saw-saw-sawity-saw, swing…  It took a while, but eventually, the middle was no more, and the way was again safe and clear.

Fully fallen tree.

It was rather a longer day than I’d been expecting, what with three trees to deal with on an unexpectedly solo expedition.  Fortunately, a little work never hurt anyone (well, not much, at least, and sore muscles recover in a day or two).  We’re glad to do the work maintaining the paddle trail so everyone can use it, and when we’re out there and we see paddlers enjoying it, that makes any amount of effort worthwhile.  Of course, if you want to join us for a Bayou Fountain paddle trail maintenance expedition, we’d love to have you along, and if you’d like to support PaddleBR by becoming a member or picking up some stickers or such, we thank you for your support.

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