Friday, July 13, 2018

Tim's Ford Blueway

Headed up Thursday to check out a couple of the camping islands on the Tim's Ford Blueway.

The AC in the van went out while I was still in the driveway.  I have a HEAVY chest cough and Ben is just getting over a similar funk.  My energy level is about 3 out of 10.  Then Matt called from the doctor's office to say they figured out why his back hurts-he's fractured it.  There's a meeting Monday to discuss what to do about it and how much it will cost.

We parked at the Devils Step Boat Launch/Day Use Area.

We arrived and Ben got sunscreen in his eyes.  Then he tried really hard to pull off his toenail on a rock.  Alex had a paddle that looked like squirrels had eaten 1/3 of one blade.  He had a splinter in his foot that my tweezers were useless against.  There were terrified feral kittens in the weeds that we could not catch.  It was a REALLY WEIRD, really off feeling day.  It was hot, too.  Heat index in the triple digits.

There was an info kiosk, but no way to sign in, as it states is required to use the blueway.

So, we launched our boats.  We went over to Devil's Step Island and paddled around it then back to the van to get first aid, then back to the island to try to find the cemetery.  It's very easy to find, it's right next to the campsite.  The campsite smelled like someone had used diesel fuel to try to get wood burning and the smaller trees all around the site were chopped about belly-button high.  It looked awful between the piles of partially melted trash in the fire pit and the hacked up trees.  Not where I would want to set up even if it is next to a cemetery.

The cemetery was pretty beaten up.  The fence around it had been hit by trees over the years and at least 2 graves had collapsed.  There were 3-4 stones that were still readable.

After we got back in the boats, we headed across toward Maple Bend island.  It was rough going in the heat and we pulled off to have a snack and drink.  We discussed going for a swim, but the water is VERY warm, it was not refreshing.  We made the last push to the island and checked out that campsite.  It was in the sun, slanted red clay tent platform, just as trashed as the first site and it smelled like everyone who had ever camped there had peed in the same spot.  The smell was overwhelming!  It was like goat pee.

We got back in the boats and went over to Goose Island, but none of us even wanted to see the campsite, we just wanted to get back to the parking area.

As the day went on, more and more boats were on the water.  The wakes from them made for HARD paddling, there was lots of stopping to swing our boats into the waves to keep from tipping, then paddling hard to get some distance before the next boat.  One guy was just doing circles, coming back over and over to turn at the last minute before hitting one of us.  I BET HE DRIVES A TRUCK.

So, keeping in mind it was not the best day to begin with to head out to melt in a plastic tub on some water, I still have to say the blueway is was not worth it.  The total disregard from the other boaters, the damage and disgusting state of the campsites we did see plus the fact that the water is likely teeming with all kinds of horrors because it's basically a giant, overheated pond all combine to keep this off my list for the summer.


First, Ben has some confusion about how to kayak.

Then he realizes he has no paddle and starts looking around for it.

Cypress!


The launch is clearly visible from the island.






All of the banks are badly eroded and nearly all are mostly rock ledge.  There's not much shore, at least in this part of the lake.  It drops off quickly.


You can't paddle right smack next to each other.


I'd apologize for the bright lighting, but that's what it looked like.



Back across, it's Maple on the right and Goose to the left.  Maple Bend is a HUGE island.

There are 3 more islands with camping to check out.  They are closer to the state park, so maybe a little less manky?  There are also two "non-motorized boats only" launches near Estill Springs, so I want to check those out in hopes that there is at least a small section of the lake that isn't overrun with fast boats.

For now, the van is at the shop.  We had hoped Matt's $150 battery Monday was it for the month, but no. My van is unwilling to let another vehicle hog the budget.   My voice is gone, Ben feels so rotten he's actually skipping band.

Update: It was a fuse.  Which might be a fluke or it might be the compressor going out.

I'm going to have a few days of downtime.  I have the house clean and the yard mowed, so I am declaring this a holiday weekend and we are not going to do anything that does not involve being in front of a van or at least neck-deep in cool water.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Hambrick Cave, Guntersville

You know how I have a list of places I want to hike to?

I have another list, of places I want to paddle to.  It's almost as long as the hike list...

Near the top, even from before I had a boat, I had Hambrick Cave.  It's a very unassuming slot cave at water level near the dam, recently fenced off.  It looks like it might be a rain-runoff waterfall track which makes me think there are multiple exits.

To get to it, park at either end of the Honeycomb trail and paddle parallel to the trail until you see the cave.  It is impossible to miss, there's even a couple of signs.  It's closest to the dam end.

I don't know why I thought it would be more difficult to locate or dangerous (because of boat traffic) to visit.  I guess it's what my brain does with locations.  I felt very comfortable going last night, even though it was with 20+ total strangers and one person-Jennifer-I have only hiked with a couple times.  I think it's because I KNOW the Honeycomb Trail, I've hiked that thing a dozen times now.

The group was, as is almost required in the area, made up mostly of engineers.  I talked to men who worked for NASA, on the Arsenal, who owned small companies.  People who spend weekends in caves or climbing cliffs or building robots and brewing beer in the garage. It was an eclectic mix of about 15 or so men and 6-7 women and boats...I love Spero, but gosh  She was very low end in that flotilla!  A couple yaks looked set to head into a month in the Arctic.  No one else had named their boat though.  I felt sorry for them.  We were the youngest people there by 10 years.

I ended up talking to a couple from a town near us!  NEAR US!  His name is Phillip and his wife is Stephanie and they had borrowed kayaks-also Perception Swiftys!  Theirs were the older models that REI carried years back. One was sun bleached and the other had been set upon by squirrels. (hello, new worries) He tried to make our own radio station called Swifty 95, DLX.  Then I said it was 9 point 5, as in the boats are 9 and a half feet long and I can't sing.  So then we gossiped about the Cullman paper when Dick's-where we got our boats-opened the headline said: "Cullman has the Smallest Dick's in Alabama".  Ah. Hometown pride.  hahahahahaha

His wife seemed worried about snakes (he did too) and bat poop and other things.  But she had a shaved head, so she is badass in other ways no doubt.  I will just go ahead and say now that snakes are NOT GOING TO TRY TO GET IN YOUR BOAT.  I see them every time I am out and they are always going off in the other direction.  Even the one that dropped out of a tree over the water the other day made sure to drop next to the boat and not in it.    I will, however, say that if one DID fall in the boat, I would probably get out PDQ until I could flip the boat and remove el snakeo.  I'm not afraid of them until they try to touch me.  hahaha!  

We arrived around 6 and put in.  There is NOT a boat ramp above the dam.  When you pull in at the dam, there's a 'river access' road off to the right near the bathroom.  That goes below the dam.  Above the dam, there's AMPLE parking and a spot to upload tiny boats and a very narrow and steep rock ramp that can accommodate 1-2 boats at a time.  


I had tried to take some pics of the seaweed growing at the put in.  I know it's not seaweed, but it is very kelp-looking.
Anyway, it left my lens spotty.  Those aren't orbs.


OMG, what is that waiting around the bend?  A monster?


oh
He's super not-scary.




WHERE DOES THIS GO???



WHERE?



The barge had zero wake.  It was like swimming near a whale, the other boaters paddled up near it and waved back and forth with the crew. 
I will admit, barges were one of my bigger worries about being on the actual river.
Turns out, the assholes of the water are IDENTICAL to the assholes of the road.  People who drive trucks are the least considerate drivers, hands down.  And they use those trucks to drag boats to the lake and go as fast as they can, sending out a wake that can flip smaller boats.  Of course, by that time, they are a tiny dot in the distance and don't give a rat's ass anyway.


It's the cave!
We got here by 7 and everyone clumped up and chatted, then floated apart and reclumped.
Matt and I shared a small container of Zevia and vanilla rum.
It was...interesting.  I have had to give up nearly all diet drinks, but stevia sweetened things don't bother me.  So far.  I am keeping it to one can every few days just to be safe.  And I am neutralizing it with alcohol.






The bats did not emerge in a Scooby Dooesque swirl, but in twos and threes until it was almost too dark to see.
People who had been there before were bitterly disappointed, but I thought it was really cool the way they dipped and swept right next to the boats and our heads.  I've seen the bats emerge at Sauta in a wave that was terrifying and I've seen them trickle out nearly unnoticed.  It happens.  I don't know what the difference is.







Paddling back in the dark was very enjoyable.  The canoe people with lights flanked the larger group, the rest of us kept between them and the shore and didn't turn on our lights at all.  There was no traffic, just our little fleet heading back to the tiny ramp.

It was our first time loading the boats in the dark and that was easy, too.  Though I left my water bottle in my boat for the ride home!  eep.

Also, I discovered I am a slow paddler.  I had no idea.  hahaha!


Storm Glass says it will be another fine day!

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Long morning on Short Creek




Matt had the day off for the 4th and so we woke up at his usual time and instead of going to work, we went kayaking! 
We went to Short Creek since I have been and he hasn't.
We arrived by 7, so we piddled around and stopped several times to look at things and get out and walk around. 













corndog plant

Pretty good example of why we get along so well. 
Stop and take a pic of this thing I have seen!  



Swamp Rose Mallow




I found a helgramite 

tasty!









Picked these from the water!


I don't know that I have ever seen a spider web attached to another web like this.


One of two eagles we saw today! 




Matt found an unattached chrysalis in his boat!




We walked this way for some crazy reason.
Look through the gap in the trees, it's a heron!



We came bustin out of the...um...rocky streambed to see the creek continuing upstream.
There was a pretty little set of cascades, I'd like to go back when we can secure the boats better and explore!



that is a sweaty head, complete with fogged over glasses. 
Only one thing for it.

Whee!


I floated back to the little island where we left the boats

Matt does not float.  :(

We were nice and cooled off for the return paddle.



We paddled up the right side of the island and surfed, paddling against the current.  Until I realized my arms were tired and I still had 3 miles to get back to the van!  Oops...

Okay, fishing people.
DO NOT CAST UNDER SYCAMORE TREES.
I have pulled 20 lines and lures at LEAST off of sycamores in the past month.

Hopped out to check out this nice, chilly side stream.

UGH!
That mud STANK.  It was, I don't want to know.  Maybe fish poop.


I live for these spots on a paddle.  I LOVE sliding up under a big shady tree! 



We got back to the van and loaded without any trouble. 
I just got my starter replaced so the van actually started, which was becoming kind of a mental game of roulette any time I turned the key.  Turns out, you can jump-start a car with a failing starter for a LONG ASS time before someone realizes it might not be a battery issue.

Remember a whole year ago when the van would not start and the kids and I had to hitchhike for help?  Yeah.  That wasn't the battery, either.  Grrrrr
A WHOLE YEAR!

Anyway, the good news is that with my new $300 a pop totally unwanted subscription to the random part of the month club, I am slowly over the course of this year, replacing my old van with a brand new one! 2006 is the new 2018!

I love my van, but Matt says it's time to start looking for the next adventuremobile.
I say he's crazy, that van has YEARS of life left.

Though something a little easier to get the yaks on might be nice...the van is very tall, lifting 44 pounds over my head after paddling is not getting easier.  :/

Speaking of 44, I will be that myself later this month!  :o


About Me

Unschooling mama from the start with 2014, 2016 and 2018 graduation dates. I enjoy camping, reading, swimming, hiking and photography.