Where to start! What a finish the other day, on Saturday, September 24th. I only wish I had taken photos of Andrew Whitehurst, Scott Eustis, and Eleanor who guided me in to the final destination, the backyard of a friend of Dita and Peter McCarthy’s who lives right on Bayou St. John. This little bayou was the original waterway into New Orleans, back in the day. One of my tasks for myself is to locate a book or books that can tell me more about it. The history is such a fascinating aspect, and one I’m craving to know more about. I sure hope my reference librarian mother doesn’t retire any time soon!
Scott and Andrew work at the Gulf Restoration Network. One of their many restoration projects is rebuilding wetlands in Bayou St. John. Anything which encourages the diversity which we’ve destroyed with our bulkheads, canals, golf-course styled lawns, pavement, and other impervious structures is a good thing, and they’ve already seen a difference in what they’ve created reflected in the bird population there.
Karen and Rick Gould helped me carry my gear down to the dock where my canoe sat waiting patiently, with my water shoes as bumpers. This marina is a big beautiful brand spanking new one built in the last few years. Neither it nor the canals with big modern homes and golf-course manicured lawns were here when I paddled through this area in 2009. I searched out my blog from that paddle and couldn’t believe I had nothing in it about the Crystal River in Florida. This wonderful new place in Slidell is certainly slated for the same water quality issue that the Crystal River currently battles because of degrading run-off and apparent unwillingness to take into consideration “best practices” for watershed management.
I explained this to Greg Worley, the kind director of marine operations there at the Lakeshore Marina, who let me keep my canoe there. I told him how a marina and dive ship owner in Crystal River, who grew up diving that crystal clear waterway (hence the name), and whom I had met, watched as the developers came in and did just what they are doing in Slidell, popping up homes with huge manicured lawns going right up to bulkheads-no buffers no nothing. I can’t believe I didn’t write anything in my blog back then about that mess, because I took photos of it and have used the shot I took of the algae clogged boat ramp at the marina there at the Crystal River and tell about the dive shop operators frustration at every single presentation I do because it is such a stark example of how poor planning and development can ruin a waterway. There are so many simply gorgeous examples of developing “right” that I can’t believe the developers of this part of Slidell got it so wrong. Steinhachee Landing along the Gulf Coast of Florida as well as Dita & Peter McCarthy’s home, and the gorgeous development where my family and I were hosted in Harbor Springs, Michigan, last year are all beautiful examples of development done right. How does one ignore the science of clean water and build something like what I paddled through in Slidell with its man-made canals on a former wetland? I do hope that the marina operations manager and others in decision making capacity there can take a visit to that spot on the Crystal River as well as the places that have got it right with watershed management.
To understand the implications of watershed management and what it takes to limit negative impact on our nations water (and food–remember-what you eat needs clean water, too, AND wetlands, which provide food a habitat for fry and the young creatures which eventually grow into what we eat), please check out this video. Protecting our water resources does way more than protecting a pretty place in nature, it also protects our economy. http://www.wlox.com/story/33133648/usda-gulf-restoration-strategy-starts-inland-with-wooded-areas
Oh-just a note about the paddle in. In 2009 I remember paddling the Rigolets as being “no big deal” probably because I went with the tide then. Also, it wasn’t as hot. I remember the last day, going from Slidell to the beach on Lake Ponchartrain as being a hellish battle into wind and chop. This time it was the Rigolets leg that was horrible due to the current and oppressive heat & running out of water, and the paddle to NOLA was a sweet run with a light wind at my back, following seas, and having the right heading so I didn’t have to paddle forever around the airport bulkhead which juts way way out.
It was slightly death defying though, to cross the channel by the shore as there were cigarette boats going at like mock 10 in a race, and no one responding on the VHF about their float plan. I hung out with the sailboat regatta for a bit, figuring I could sort of use them as cover, besides, if I got hit by one of them I’d probably survive and it wouldn’t hurt so bad like it would if I got run over by a speeding cigarette boat.
When I managed to cross the channel I met up with Andrew, who kindly guided me into Bayou St. John and helped me cart my gear over the portage. He also knocked the biting ants out of my shoes for me, as I didn’t realized until too late that I had stepped in a nest of them. Shortly after, Scott and Eleanor arrived with their tandem kayak. Before we knew it we were gliding to the canoe’s resting spot in the backyard of Joe Swider.
So today Carl and I will bid farewell to Linda Vice, who has been my wonderful personal NOLA tour guide, and her fun friends Carl and I just met. It was such a stroke of luck that she planned to be here for a week and that she was able to meet my better half. I haven’t seen Carl and the kids since I left Medford Lakes on the 8th of August and my heart has been aching for them. The sweetness of being in my lover’s arms again overwhelms me, and I’m glad I’ve settled in my mind that this is my last journey ever where I’ll be gone from him and those funny young people at home-those strong minded maturing individuals that constantly amaze me and who I can’t believe are our kids.
Carl and I will leave NOLA today and take the scenic route to Birmingham, where we’ll hopefully arrive in a timely manner. Linda Vice pointed out to me that I am overly optimistic about my time constraints, and she is right. It’s most definitely a hereditary defect that even setting the clocks 20+ minutes ahead doesn’t seem to fix. We will try to make time where we can. It’s also why the OC1 (outrigger canoe), a racing vessel, is my boat of choice for these journeys. Sometimes you can make up for “gab time” with speed on the water (ha-but I AM the “slowpaddler,” I just have a fast boat!) I suppose this is also a rationalization for my lead foot….
Time to hit the road!
Sent from my iPhone….with typos and all….