I think now that I’m in Alabama I should plan to leave a full hour earlier than I anticipated to build in “gab time.” Alabama is rich in amazing rivers, of which I’m only seeing a small part. It could be a destination for that alone, as we are here right now at another ACoE maintained campsite. These sites are clean, well laid out, NOT infested with biting ants, and right on the water with well maintained boat ramps, bathrooms with water, and everything you need. Yesterday I stashed the canoe at a quiet day park and camped on the other side of the river.
We had a tad later start than anticipated, but it was worth it. We spoke at length with the couple that are the “park hosts,” volunteers that live there and take care of the place, at the day park. Carley and Ray were just a joy to talk to, and of course I gave them blue marbles! They told us to call them if we have issues any where, much like Fred, the canoe guy had offered. Wonderful waterways are clearly not the only resource Alabama has to boast about, warm friendly people rate another bragging point for what I think is an overlooked state.
Once I got out on the water I had a minor hold up as a tow and barges locked through ahead of me. I had checked the guidebook I’ve got for the lock’s VHF channel, and either I wrote it down wrong or the guidebook had it wrong, but it seemed that the lock was completely unaware that I was out there, as I got no response after multiple tries on 13 and 16. Of course the lock was busy with the barge but I’d figure I’d get a reply at least on 16 (monitored also by the USCG) after the lock signaled to the barge the go ahead for safe passage out of the lock.
I paddled over to the pull signal and still met with silence. I then decided I’d email a ACoE contact to see if he might offer some assistance like a phone number or the appropriate channel if I was using the wrong one. Meanwhile, I had been floating free by the entrance of the lock, preoccupied with making contact with someone, and looked up in time to see the whirlpools forming as the lock filled up again. They were pulling me to the closed gates and strengthening as the suction increased. I quickly turned the canoe and dug deep to get myself out of there.
I called my contact and he provided me a phone number, which I used to then successfully reach out to the lock operator. Lesson learned tho, never let your canoe go pass that little light or you’ll be sucked right into the gates!
Once out I continued on, paddling at a pace that I hoped would add some decent miles before the heat slowed me down. It really is hard to push forward at length at a good clip in this heat. I occupy myself by looking out for wildlife along the river banks. It’s funny, I haven’t seen as many cypress and palmettos and other southern plant curiosities like those giant lily pads as I did between the locks at Aberdeen and Columbus. I haven’t spotted any alligators yet, either, and more than likely won’t until I’m on the Hurricane Creek side going into Mobile Bay.
As hot as its been during the day I’m so thankful for the cooler nights now. I really should be on the water at the crack of dawn, to get some good miles under my belt before the heat of the day. I ran out of water about three or four miles before my first anticipated stop, which was four or five miles back from the new spot Poco picked. This is the way better stop, but it sure was tough. Fortunately I could hide in the shade, turn on my music, and forget my thirst.
I did stop at my original spot, another ACoE boat ramp, but there was no running water there. A rumbling noise in the background had me wondering until I realized it was the barge I had passed. I’d chatted with him earlier as I passed him, he was on his way to Demopolis. So paddling alongside the tow and barges, listening to “The Oxymorons,” and enjoying the coolness setting in as the sun started to sink below the trees gave me the final push I needed to dig in and get to my destination.
Poco and I have this quiet campground to ourselves, and last night I startled an opossum on my way to the bathroom. The critters come out when the place is quiet. Leaving the bathroom I turned my head in time to see an owl land where I guess the opossum was hiding. He took off when I tried to get a closer look.
This place is pure bliss, it’s sad to leave this quiet spot, but the river awaits with its enticing bends and curves, making me always wonder, what’s up there?