My Montana

My Montana
My Montana

Sunday, April 2, 2017

On the Water Again

March 26, 2017

I couldn't wait to get to Galveston and get back to paddling. My doctor said he was planning to release me to paddle, so I felt no compunction in paddling a few days before my last checkup.

I got to Galveston on Friday to find that Natalie was planning to help with the annual coastal waterways cleanup. The Houston Canoe Club always helps out on Armand Bayou so I was glad to get back there and help. But the cleanup was aborted early due to some thunder and a few sprinkles so I only actually paddled a few tenths of a mile to help remove about a half bag of recyclables and another bag of trash.

But a few days before my travels, Pat Cox, the driver of Ms. Marilyn, called me to see if I wanted to go on a paddle he was leading, to one of my favorite paddling destinations, Lake Charlotte. Of course I did.  And then another friend, Chris, said he was pining for crawfish and would bring a sack of crawfish, lemons, garlic, and onions.  Other people donated corn, potatoes, and asparagus. Natalie and I supplied a range of beverages.

Trip leader Pat readies his boat

The landing is on an old shell midden

Starting out across Lake Charlotte

The morning started of beautiful with a little wind. Natalie and I arrived early to Cedar Hill Park to find almost everyone already had their boats unloaded.  Soon we were all setting out, heading out northwest across Lake Charlotte to the entrance to Mac Bayou. Mac Bayou soon splits into a Y, with one arm going to little Mac Lake and the other to Mac Lake. The further one goes, the more beautiful the trees.  The cypress were all sporting bright green leaves, as was most of the other vegetation. They, and the brightly colored kayaks made a beautiful counterpoint to the blue sky, all reflected on the dark tannic water.

Sunning gator

The kayaks added to the beauty

Winding through a narrow spot in Mac Bayou

The first of several duck blinds

The most elegant duck blind we found

Natalie, Ellen and I were the only women and in the only canoe since this was a Houston Area Sea kayakers (HASK) Trip. But Natalie is a member and I was a founding member, so we get special dispensations to paddle with them where we use an open boat.  And Natalie also has a solo kayak and I often borrow one from one of my friends.

The happy bowman with Natalie and Ellen

There were not many birds about even though wading birds have nested here and this is already the season. We saw a few cattle egrets- recent migrants in the fields just before we reached the park, then a few great, blue and snowy egrets. Ibis, usually plentiful, were completely absent. We saw a couple of white pelicans floating on the lake. But we did get our wish to see an eagle, albiet an immature one. And we only saw several small alligators, some still living as siblings, and one medium sized and one large alligator.


A young bald eagle spotted by Natalie

These are siblings about two years old and probably just left their mother

We had to get our of this boat's way as we stopped for a snack break

Apparently a bridge was once here

Natalie waits for the motor boat to come in 

The willows were in bloom to the delight of the bees

Natalie and Ellen enjoying a snack

The guys taking a break

The largest alligator we saw - at the mouth of Mac Bayou

The same alligator a few minutes later with a visiting monarch butterfly

The wind had picked up considerably when we came back to the lake and made for a scary crossing. We were unable to turn the canoe to run before the waves so we had to hold a point about forty five degrees to the waves and let them carry us sideways across the lake.

After we got the boats emptied, washed, and loaded, we drove a short distance back to the camping area and set up in the covered eating area. Chris soon had the water boiling and had added lemons, garlic, onions, salt and crab boil. I cut up donated corn and sausage and they soon went into the pot along with the little potatoes, followed shortly by the crawfish, then finally the asparagus. In a few minutes more, two guys lifted and drained the pot, then poured it out on the table prepared with a piece of plastic, then covered with  paper towels. And we all dug in. Then Chris repeated the process to give us the second pot, just as we were finishing the first. I quickly cleared off the heads and we put down fresh paper and began again.  People ate slower and slower and got quieter and quieter. Finally the most determined among us, finished the last tail and left only a couple of potatoes uneaten.

Chris adding crawfish boil

The pot coming to a boil with the onions, garlic, and lemons helping to add flavor

The crawfish were waiting in a big tub after Chris poured them out of the bag and removed any dead ones

The bag functioned to save his hands from crawfish pinchers as he dumped them into the pot

Crawfish all in

And getting stirred with the custom stick

Helper gets everything mixed 

Coming out

The pour

Oh the anticipation

I couldn't get this picture until after the second pour when the eaters gave me a minute.

Chris takes a well earned rest

Then we rested and digested a few minutes before cleaning up and dispersing. It all made for a wonderful memory and we talked about our favorite memories of trips past to add even more to our shared memory bank.  Pat reminded me of the tie he brought his then eight year old daughter in a tandem kayak and asked her to dig in and get through a little rough water over a low dam.  He says she, a college student, still sometimes talks about that trip.

I remembered writing up a trip that began under the Trinity River bridge on I-10. I had written up this area, consisting of three lakes, Charlotte, Miller, and Mud, as well as Lake Pass, and Mac Bayou and somehow it ended up as a small writeup in the Sierra Club's magazine. I got a call from a guy in Philadelphia who had just read it and wanted to go there when he came to the area to visit his brother. He wanted to see if I could recommend an outfitter and guide he could hire. Since I knew the only and of course, the best one, was free, I offered to take a health day and take him.  That trip was the only time I've had to deal with an aggressive alligator. Apparently a moma had her babies there and didn't want us coming back through the narrow channel we had to use to get back out to Lake Pass from Lake Miller.  We almost had to try to portage our long boats through heavy brush and trees.  While discussing our options, we  were watching  little alligators coming up to investigate out boats which we had pulled out of the water.  Then I saw her move further away from us and attempted to go past her and she sank, so  we quickly took our boats down past her and escaped.  We also caught a little wind on the way back from Mac Bayou, our last stop on a full day of paddling which made the longer crossing also exciting. I think that guy got his money's worth.  He took me out to supper.

This blog is coming out after I've had two more paddles and a little hike. Stay tuned.