Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Chickasaw Creek/ Mobile River 10 JAN 07

Here Gator Gator

I was out in prime waters to see alligators, any other time of year. It's a bit chilly for them, since this morning's lows were in the upper 30s and the highs never got into the 60s. No sightings, no tracks on the banks. Thank God, really. Snarky subtitle aside, I'm really in no mood to deal with one of those scaly buggers in a capsize-happy, flimsy sliver of a kayak with a gunwale scant inches above the waterline.

This was an after-school paddle; once I wrapped up class just after 1 this afternoon I headed home, had a decent lunch of leftover steak and mashed potatoes, and got ready to go. After gathering all my gear and ensuring that the camera had fresh batteries, I set off for Tucker's Launch, hitting the water at 3.

With 2 1/2 hours of daylight remaining, I had to crack on to make it to the Cochrane Bridge, my intended turn point, and back to the launch before twilight ended just after 5:30.

The distance covered was 9.5 miles; time enroute was 2 1/2 hours; these comp out to an average pace of 3.7 mph. Considering that I made several stops to snap photos and wait for a handful of barges and tugs to pass, I averaged a 4 mph pace per my GPS display. Not bad for a stumpy 10-foot-long, 28-inch-beam entry level kayak. This is the fastest paddle trip I've made yet.

1: Pumphouse Canal:
I made a short detour into the canal to check it out, planning to take it further next time I'm out that way. Narrow and wildlife-laden, it's well worth seeing once or twice.

2: Turntable rail bridge (upstream of Cochrane Bridge):

Rail bridge configured to permit passing barge traffic. In 1993 a tug pushing six barges got lost in heavy fog and collided with a similar bridge a few miles away at Bayou Canot. The collision pushed the end of the span three feet out of true just minutes before an Amtrak train passed over and derailed, disintegrating the bridge and resulting in the deaths of 47 passengers. More here.

3. Cochrane Bridge: This bridge sustained damage when Katrina hit, but not owing to any structural weaknesses; an oil rig moored in the shipyard downstream broke free and was washed into the span by the storm surge. It's not particularly large by suspension bridge standards, but from a kayaker's perspective (mere inches above the surface), its 140-foot clearance height cuts an impressive figure.

4. Concrete ship: It has been speculated that this is the S.S. Latham, one of a class of ill-conceived and impractical ships built of concrete during World War I. The aged, unseaworthy hulk appears to be in use as an auxiliary pier these days.

5. Docks at sunset: I haven't been out on the water this late yet. It's worth it on a crisp, clear day like this.

6. Dusk in the wetlands:
Wow. It would have been perfectly silent and still, if not for the tug traffic. Even as it was, I'm not complaining.

7. Journey's end: Under the rail bridge and Highway 43 back to Tucker's and thence for home. An exhausting, albeit exhilarating, trip. When I started paddling regularly just over a month ago I never imagined that I'd be able to sustain a 4-mph pace for 2 1/2 hours. What a workout!


John said...

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John said...