Sunday, November 20, 2005

Late fall stroll on the water

Even on a mild November day there is plenty to see. The best thing about today was I was in no hurry, I had no plan, I had no objective other than to enjoy some kayak time. My GPS shut off due to low batteries, but I went the same basic track out towards the gulf that I have done many times. The tide was very low. I bet there have been times when the whole bay emptied out completely. It was only a foot and a half to two feet deep all the way across. The herons and egrets were prevalant as usual but there were quite a few more ducks. Some of them seemed very small. I noticed how they start flying and have to get a running start with their feet slapping the water. The cormorants do this too, especially if they haven't had time to dry out their wings after swimming.

A group of 3 little raccoons was wandering around in the mud digging up snacks...

I'm a little out of paddling shape, but I really didn't have trouble with the trip all the way to the gulf and back. I passed about a dozen boats with people out fishing. Over by the boat dock, the first house on that street was in the process of being razed from hurricane damage. It still seems very quiet on the north side of the bay, where all the houses are gone and no one is there on the empty lots. One thing to be aware of now, the water is colder, and wouldn't be any fun to capsize. I suppose if I went where the water is very cold, I would need to be more prepared!
Recommended book: Across the Savage Sea by Maud Fontenoy.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Fort Bayou

Here's a trip I've been meaning to do for a while and finally got the chance. Did it today while the boat traffic is still almost nil and the weather is great. Not too exciting of a trip, but a good one to do. The tide helped me out but it was 9.3 miles. The best thing about this trip: now when I drive over the bridge and look down at the water and think, "I'd really rather be there than on my way to work," at least I can think of when I was out there in that very spot!

The tidal current was noticeable coming out of Bayou Talla. I realized that so far my kayaking is mostly focused on the world above, with the water as simply a transportation medium. The interaction with the water, while it varies in it's character depending on the location, is fairly predictable. I suppose that with whitewater kayaking the water in itself is an interaction, requiring attention and providing an adventure in addition to the above-the-surface world. So, then... does this double the experience... or split it in half?

One bit of excitement on this trip -- a mullet took a big jump towards me and almost landed in my lap. I was wondering how long it would be before one took a flying leap right at me. Man those things can jump. Wheee!

Friday, October 14, 2005

Water welcome

Here is a picture from this morning that shows how the water just came and took the houses away. Pilings, slabs, and shells of houses are all that remain along the water's edge.

On a rare day off today I had a chance to enjoy the water for a nice route around the bay and bayou. The temperature is so nice now. It's not crisp or cool yet, but the heat of summer seems to be gone. The trees are confused; they lost all their leaves during the hurricane and have grown new spring-like green leaves, yet others are brown and burnt looking still. The water seemed soft. That was my first thought. When the kayak glides through the water so easily and the paddle feels like it's pulling you through a cloud, it feels soft and inviting.

I went first up into the north side and saw some more of the houses that are gone and destroyed. Then across the bay and down the bayou. One boat was out in the bay and I believe it was the crab-pot man putting his crab-pots out.

The water was nice and I did not see debris except for over by the boat ramp. There were LOTS of fish and birds -- caught a fish jump on camera! OK, a fish splash.

The bayou in the middle is the nicest part - very natural and secluded. I'm sure the gators love this area but I have not seen any since the storm. There was a picture in the Mississippi Power newsletter of power crews working along the causeway. "A sheriff's deputy watches for alligators in Graveline Bay as crew members prepare to raise a Singing River EPA line flattened by Katrina." Guess they know how much the gators love this area. I wonder if the gators survived the storm?

Herons, egrets, rails... many kinds and many birds. I know the snowy ergets and the American egrets now. Snowy egrets have black beaks and yellow feet. American egrets have orange/yellow beaks and black feet. What a nice arrangement. Funny what an ugly voice they have, as pretty as they are to look at. Croak, croak, crooooooaaak.

I'll go out again this weekend, to look around with Mom and see that the bayou part of home has not changed and is taking care of itself.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Deer Island

Finally, a good pleasant return to the water. What a strange environment! I can imagine what it was like a few hundred years ago, before the coastline was built up, before the bridges, before the boat traffic. In a way we've been taken back to those times. Things are somewhat back to normal in the natural world -- the trees are regrowing, the crabs and fish and birds are doing all their normal things, the water is fine. I thought we would see all kinds of debris on Deer Island. There was some debris in the middle of the island in the swamp grass but not too much along the beaches. The east end restoration held up well. Salt water burned the pine trees to a crispy brown. They're just starting to show a few green needles.

Travelling up the tidal creek in the middle of the island took us to the beach connecting to the south side. The black biting flies were vicious! Again, not nearly as much debis as I expected. I suppose most of it just overwashed the island.

The trip was enjoyable; 4 of us went across, told storm stories, relayed information, discussed rebuilding issues along the coast. One kayaker is interested in forming a paddling club for weekend trips. I'd like to do that to discover new places, but most of the time I think I enjoy more exertion, more of an aerobic experience comapred to the average touring kayaker.

The pelicans seemed happy to be ruling the water with less encroachment from people. They were flying, swooping, preening, diving for fish. I thought this guy was aiming to poop on us, but he didn't.

Upon return to the mainland we went into the harbor, viewed all the boats that had been left up on land or on the houses. One house had 60 boats in the yard after the storm, but most of those have been cleared out. Final note on return was a reporter from a local newspaper doing a story on the effects of the storm on the ecotourism industry that has been growing in this area in recent years. As our kayak guide told her, the infrastructure of the ecotourism industry rebuilds itself.... so we're in good shape.

Had to share this also -- a picture taken from the dock this morning at my favorite kayak spot.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

First post-Katrina venture

4 weeks later, I finally got the kayak in the water again. The bay had 1-3 foot waves today and was too rough to go anywhere, but I went to the end of the dock and back. The water scared me. It may have been that I didn't have a chance to get comfortable in the boat again. Might have been that the wind (related to the Hurricane Rita weather system) was kicking the waves up intermittently and I couldn't tell how bad it was going to get. At the end of the dock there were about 20 pelicans resting. It had been so long since people had been out there, they didn't know what to make of it. I got out to where they were and they finally flew up, hovered, made a circle, and came back as I went a little farther out from the dock. I made a circle and got sideways to the waves... tricky, but maneuverable, then took off back towards the launch area as fast as I could, adrenaline pumping, riding the waves inand trying to stay upright. The waves tried to knock me over but my new paddles kept me steady. But actually, I think the real reason the water is scary is that when you see all around you what it can do, when the houses are wiped clean off the slabs and everything that was out there is scattered for a quarter mile or more, it doesn't seem so friendly anymore. I'm looking forward to the next day when it's calm, when it reminds me of times in the past instead of reminding me of Katrina.

I have all the essential gear, thanks to a relief mission from Mom and great salvage work by Dale. I'll have to adjust my methods somewhat since there is no longer a place to store the kayak out there. We got a trailer which works pretty well for transporting the kayak. Guess it will have to come back and forth from home. It does give me some peace of mind to know that the ability is still there. I'll feel better once I can explore the water again, though that will be scary too, no doubt, there's no telling what I'll find out there. If I can see the fish and birds and gators, looking like nothing happened, that will be a good sign of life back to normal in this Mississippi home, at least in one way.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

8.5 with another storm brewing

The shortcut is easy to find going the other way, but now I know exactly where it is, have a tree for a landmark, and will find it coming into the bay as well as leaving it. Took the north route up towards the houses. It looks to me like this is natural bayou area, but then some of the paths must be cut channels. It was nice to see another new area and I found some other places to explore up there. Today was a race challenge and I'm worn out. Two bends away from the boat ramp it was 11:15 and I had to be somewhere at 12:00, so I was breaking speed records getting back. Good conditioning for my next race!

Creatures included one jellyfish in the bayou and another in the gulf, lots of egrets and herons, an average number of fish, no gators, no mammals. Caught this heron taking flight with the Pentax. It's a bright sunny day with few small clouds, but hurricane Katrina is spinning up to bring devastation somewhere near here by Monday. It was high tide while I was out today... wonder how high the water will get...

A little philosophy for today. I was thinking how kayaking is like life, you get choices along the way and decide which way to go. Sometimes you can turn back easily if you change your mind, other times you have to stay with your choice and follow it through. There are clues as you travel which help you make smarter choices if you're paying attention. This ability to review the trip with the GPS track gives valuable feedback. There are things like that in life where feedback is available to show you what you did right and wrong, and it can really help you develop your skills for the next time.

Sunday, August 21, 2005


Expert GPS says by my tracklog I went 9.5 miles today!! I got lost in the swampgrass, is why I went so damn far. I set out to do a distance trip, to the gulf and back. Took two small side trips into interesting areas, and went farther out than I have before from the mouth of the bayou. Coming back I thought, I'll take the short cut down past the boat ramp and through to the south side of the bay. It was high tide, and I had been through once before from the other direction. Well, it is not so easy to find, going back. The picture of my track shows where I went, and where I missed it, and where I then gave up and went ALL the way back around through the main bayou.

First trip with my new Maui Jim sunglasses, and they were great. I see now how the polarized lenses work - mainly to cut through the sun's reflection on the water. They work extremely well in some light. Other times there's not much difference from other sunglasses, but they are very confortable and give great protection for your eyes. I saw more under the water, though still there is so much going on that I can't see... those big fish cruising around... and I didn't see a single gator today, which is highly unusual. What I did notice is a lot more mud trails of things scooting away as I go by. Flounder? Crabs? Skates or stingrays?

Saw one new creature when I stopped on the sandspit at the gulf, a horseshoe crab wandered up right to the water's edge and then back down to deeper water. The birds were out today in force and I started wondering about their seasonal habits. What will they be doing when the weather gets colder? They seem so at home in this area, as all the other living things. How many creatures live there. How long have they lived there. How long has this bay and this area been as it is today. It is well-taken-care-of right now, which means no one is messing with it too much. I think it will stay that way, because there's not much to change in the surrounding area. Glad to see it as it is intended.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005


Until last week, I had only kayaked in Mississippi. While in Ft Walton Beach I rented a sit-on-top kayak in 2 places, Choctawhatchee Bay and the Santa Rosa Sound. Both were really nice, the clear water, the Florida sand. In the bay we say a pod of dolphins catching baitfish and ended up in the middle of them. Nice scenery along the edge of the water. The sound was a half mile across but the storms to the north threatned to overtake our position so we stayed close to the marina after a short venture to the other side. Florida is nice but it's not home. I feel like an imprinted bird who woke to the surroundings of one place and will always consider that natural habitat. Went out tonight in the bay back here at home, and saw an unexpected sunset, extremely orange through the clouds, shining pretty on the water. No gators, lots of fish. Funny I was in the middle of the bay coming back across, and the tide was so low I was hitting the bottom at two feet. It's like a huge puddle, teeming with life. The crabs are so thick on the bottom it looks like you could scoop them up straight into a pot. My paddling technique was good tonight. I've got it right and can go the distance now. When can I make the run to Horn?

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Gators rule

GPS: Garmin etrex Legend
Software: Expert GPS
Trusty camera: Pentax Optio S

Tonight's post warrants both a picture and a GPS track. The law of the land was in full force this evening! Big fish chasing smaller fish. Gators ruling the water. I love the little gators. Their little eyes peeking up above the water, nose sticking out just enough to see that they're small and not a threat. But the big ones, man! I saw a 10 footer tonight. Right where the GPS track stops, which is also the left side of this picture. I sat there a while debating whether to pass where he had splashed into the water over to the other side, but decided against it, as no one knew where I was exactly and it might not be wise. They are INCREDIBLY fast. I've read that the big males are territorial sometimes. What would they do, exactly? Cause if they came after me I sure couldn't get away, as quickly as they move. I don't think they're likely to come after me though, and I don't worry too much. Mostly they stay in the water and stay away. But you do have to wonder what might set off that little pea brain to go towards you instead of away from you.

The little fish were like fireworks in the water. Something cruising up after them, and they go shooting out in all directions trying to not be the last one in line. I call them waterfall fish, because sometimes they make sort of a rainbow-waterfall as they jump over each other out of the water, and they're shiny in the sun.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005


How to make sunset last an hour: Take the kayak out on the bay when the sun is about 15 degrees above the horizon. Head away from the sun at a sprint. Get a rhythm going and enjoy the speed and the sound of the water. As you approach the other side.... glide.... listen to the quiet ripples of water, the birds, the fish jumping. Slowly move toward the shore in the otter home, and sit for 15 minutes watching the amazing array of fish, birds, shrimp, unidentified water cruisers making ripples in the water. The sun slowly goes down and gives it's last firey blaze. Then the clouds above come to life as the angle of the sun shines up on them. This is the time to head back, watching every second change the scene and the light as the water glides by around you. Last step: on the west side of the bay, drift close to the marsh grass until the last brightness of the sky stands out behind the grass in dark contrast. One last look towards the east and the full moon rises above the water, leaving it's reflection dancing. A summer night in coastal Mississippi... beautiful!

Wednesday, July 13, 2005


I love it when I can make computers do what I want. Downloaded the pictures from the camera. Downloaded the route from the GPS. Selected the route and changed the display. Used screen capture to select it and - voila! The route tells the story. I was wandering tonight, not too energetic at first, but the adventure of new places pulled me forward. I went to the gulf via a shortcut. Not too pretty I must say - the canal is man-made and has none of the natural beauty of the meandering bayous. But it was interesting, and I met a lady at the end who was curious about how I got there, as the canal comes up behind the houses and seems to not connect to anything. I stepped out of the kayak, and as I suspected, the gulf was only about 30 feet away on the other side of the dirt road that came in from the other side.

Found a nook in the trees with all kinds of birds. There were so many herons in there, I saw feathers flying around in the air as I got to the end and they flew off, stating objections to my presence. I like the bayou areas near trees, the trees are pretty, but the stubborn scrubby trees more out in the open interest me the most. They look like they endure so much and stand their ground. Kind of like the pitcher plants that grow in "nutrient poor soil." At first thought it may seem like plants like that are not so grand, if all they live in is the poor soil -- but no, it is just the opposite. They are the strongest and most resourceful; the only ones that can live in those challenging conditions. Like explorers on Mt. Everest. These scrubby trees remind me of that.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Favorite Route

Although I didn't go out tonight in the kayak, I experimented with Expert GPS and captured my favorite route from previously saved tracklogs. The track is hard to see in black and white image, but goes across the bay and through the bayou, which looks like a river. I've done this journey three times and I believe it's about 7 or 8 miles total. This was from Sunday, July 3rd, actually it was the one I wrote about in First Blog. The oysters are halfway down the bayou and almost in the gulf. The entrance to the gulf is a little hazardous, as the waves are coming in while the tide current is moving through the channel. The beach out front is nice but nothing to get excited about, as the Mississippi coast waters are brown with sea life and mud. People catch a lot of speckled trout in the bayou. I like it in through here because there's not much boat traffic. Every time I've been out I've seen more wildlife than people... and that's the idea.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Calm before the Storm

Smooooooth as glass. The bay just looked like it was wishing for a kayak to slide across it. Mom and I each took our kayaks and went over to the otter home. Couldn't find him, again, but saw a night heron, several gar, and a great blue heron. It was already after sunset when we went out, and almost completely dark when we got back, but all the light in the twilight sky was doubled by it's reflection on the water. The pink, blue, and gray gleamed like it was polished on the surface of the water. The sliver of the moon next to Venus was jewelery on an already pretty background. It was so quiet. Two favorite things of mine: when you build up speed and then coast in the water, you hardly feel yourself moving but the scenery changes around you ever so slightly, gradually altering your perspective. Also if you put your hands in the water you are flying through it. The water is warm and balmy, and seems such a pleasant place for the birds and the fish.

Hurricane Dennis churns into the Gulf tomorrow, setting it's sights on the coast. Maybe we'll get lucky once again and it will stay far enough away. One thing's for sure, the water will continue to be there, ready for wanderers like me...

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

The Bayous Post-Tropical Storm Cindy

Wasn't planning a trip tonight, but there was so much activity in the water due to the storm I wanted to check out things from the water. The sky and the air are so clear and beautiful once the storm moves on, it's hard to believe that much of a change can take place. The water in the bay came up about 6 feet -- more than halfway up the yard. The entire dock was underwater. Luckily no damage. Now everything's good as before, except for a big tide line of bay trash deposited at the high water line. So impressive, though; both in that line of trash and with all the debris in the water, not one piece of human trash. It's all dead grass, sticks, leaves, and branches. I headed straight out from the dock south across the bay, and went up the third gut towards the causeway. What a ride! The current out of the bayou was fast and furious. Each turn was an adventure trying to head the kayak back the other way. Not too strong of a current to fight, but just enough to wonder which way it was going to catch as I rounded a bend. Not that it would have been anything to contend with in a shorter kayak. Just that mine is not meant for maneuvering turns. I was surprised to not see much activity with the birds and other animals, but I suppose it's not a big deal to them, just a little wind, rain, high water. They are also waiting for the water to recede so they can go back to business.

Once again, an easy trip. An upper body workout like a walk or a jog around the block. When I started it was quite difficult. Not many activities utilize the upper body in endurance exercise. Not only are my muscles stronger, but they seem to be getting more connected together and working in harmony. Just feels like something I should keep on doing.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

4th of July splash

Took my friend's 10 ft Loon out in the bay yesterday just for fun. Space opens up when you have something to float in. No longer are you sitting on the edge of the water, on a dock looking out at the water, submerging in the water. The water is open and accessible, you can drift and go where you want. The Loon is extremely maneuverable and feels very short after being used to my Millenium 160. I didn't even intend on going out, but why not? It's like taking a little walk. The tide was extremely low again and went to see if the gators were hanging out on the bank, but didn't see them. They're out in the bay now and very bold. Hope they don't want to knock over a little boat :-)

Tropical Storm Cindy visits tonight. Will have to take another evening this week, as there is another one on the way due to arrive this weekend.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

First Blog

Attempting to build endurance for the big run to Horn Island, I made another run to the gulf today from the bay. The birds seem to be more natural now. I watch them preening their feathers, stepping through the mud, skimming for fish, and it now feels more like I'm catching moments of their life, rather than a quick glance of what they want to show me. The tide was very low today. I wanted to collect the oysters at the side of the bayou, but the fishermen I asked said they are not edible, due to high mercury levels. Something to learn about. I saw a raccoon picking things out of the mud. It made me think of a story Tyler and I read a few months ago about a raccoon (Rascal).

The GPS said I went 8 miles. I will download the track with ExpertGPS, and see what it looks like. Need to learn to reset the odometer each trip, then will have an accurate assessment of the distance I've travelled. Will see if Paul's 3 mile per hour holds up with me. I think I have much more potential, but even now travel faster than the average kayaker.

A good paddle, after an already full day on the water! Good holiday weekend.