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The Mobile-Tensaw Delta is one of the largest wetland ecosystems in the country that serves as a refuge for flora and fauna that is native to this sodden southern sanctuary. It is also the location that Tuscaloosa County Parks & Recreation Authority’s Outdoor Adventures program led by Gary Minor decided to make their next venture which I was fortunate to take part in. For so many getting outdoors and experiencing the sounds and scenery of the southlands is such a rare and beautiful experience and the opportunity to canoe and kayak down the Bartram Canoe Trail makes for fun and excitement in the exploration of the estuary.
We were destined to depart early Saturday morning, October 7th, at 6:00 a.m. and that is when our adventure began as Gary called me on the phone at six o’clock asking where I was about to head out the door I said, ”SIX, I thought we were leaving at six-thirty!” Thirty minutes later we were all loaded on the bus with the gear packed in the back and the canoes and kayaks tracking behind us on the trailer all the way down to the delta.
I started out the trip a little loaded. I was in the Easky 13 kayak and it was stacked high with gear making the secondary stability a little unstable. After just a few minutes I was well adjusted to the new kayak and weight distribution and noticed the amazing surroundings in which I suddenly found myself. The Cypress trees were thick all around us with astonishing magnitude. From high above they watched over us. These centuries old beauties arise out of the water with form and grace. Approaching them from the water the knobby knees of the cypress stick out of the water three to six inches. The tapering roots blend inward to form the papery peeling bark of the Bald Cypress. Tufts of needles crown the top and sometimes, if your lucky, you will see through the other side where a split or hole at the loftiest parts of the tree that goes all the way through to make a nice home for a Wood Duck. The Mobile Delta is home of the highest cypress tree in Alabama towering at 131 feet.
Next, the abundance of birds overtook and astounded me. Blue Herons, Egrets, and Pelicans were in ample abundance. They were so graceful and eloquent that I had to capture them in a photograph.
We had a fairly large group that composed of people of all ages. There were men, women, children and everyone enjoyed themselves and enjoyed being on an outdoor adventure. After admiring the natural beauty and wilderness, and following the map and compass, we soon reached our destination: the floating platforms. These platforms in the middle of the ecosystem provide shelter in the middle of the marshland. We decided to segregate with the women on one platform and the men on the other platform. We let the women have the portable toilet. Men do not need a toilet in the wilderness. For a male, you can look all around you and every place you see is a place to go.
Gary stacked logs from the men’s platform to the bank and after we unpacked our gear the men gathered firewood in the wilderness to make a fire for later. Before it turned dark we decided to make an excursion down the Tallapoosa Bayou which is one of the many blackwater creeks that feed into the delta. It was beautiful and dangerous. Gary canoed to the mouth of the creek where we could go no further. As he turned around, between his canoe and my canoe was this wasp nest hanging on a twig that housed at least 80 or 90 wasps standing on the top of it with their wings pointing straight in the air. Gary with his two sons, Spencer and Logan, had to cross the narrow space with the twig that housed the 80 or so wasps without so much as a breath in the direction of the nest or the fury of this monstrous hive would be unleashed and they would reap vengeance on us all for disturbing this sacred and guarded sanctuary. Needless to say, He made it. Otherwise I would not be writing this article. Maybe with my swollen body in a wheelchair swathed in bandages looking at the keys and desperately wanting to make a keystroke I might be able to get in a word or two.
After our little excursion we headed back to the floating platforms and let the kids kayak while we prepared some food and got ready to light the campfire. The fire was great and we roasted hot-dogs and cooked on a little grill by the fire. The gals: Gene, Raj, and Mercedes headed back to their platform and after some time and philosophical debates among the guys, I decide to rest on a log by the fire. Mike, an avid outdoor adventurist that joined us on this trip woke me up a few hours later and we headed back to the platforms. During the night and unbeknownst to us the tide brought in water and consumed our campfire, stove, and a chair that was left lying on the bank by the fire. Mosquitoes swarmed the platforms, carried everyone off, and in the morning there was no one left on the platforms! While Gary fished and caught some catfish, he observed that Steve had little time for sleep due to the constant swatting of mosquitoes that was an all night job.
The morning finally came and the sun drove the mosquitoes away, Gary waded through the swamp and gathered the chair and grill and brought it back to the platform. The gals came over and we enjoyed coffee, tea, and hot chocolate. I prepared breakfast while the others solved the world’s problems. This time the women participated in the great debates. Steve had an entertaining view on taking care of the mosquitoes, “Wipe out their infrastructure” he said. Interesting…
Then we began our journey home. Gene had made some tasty pastries and we snacked on those until we reached the take-out. We stopped at a local restaurant on the drive back to Tuscaloosa. Of course, being infected with the West Nile virus, I didn’t have much of an appetite.
All in all it was an astonishing canoe trip full of natural beauty and I will gladly go back, and bring a mosquito net. The Bald Cypress trees are amazing to observe and the many species of birds: Blue Herons, Egrets, and Pelicans are extraordinary. Any chance to experience the outdoors is always an adventure and always worth it.
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