Friday, July 3, 2015
High – 93
Low – 75
Skies – SSW 10-15
Winds – Cloudy to mostly cloudy
If you count the extra up and down stream five-mile round trip, we paddled a record 41 miles today. I’ll explain later.
We launched our boats near river mile mark 142 at 6:30 am today. We were 42 miles from New Orleans and we wanted to spend tonight just above the city so we could get through early in our day tomorrow. Through some notes of previous paddlers it appeared we might be able to find a spot still above the rising flood waters at about the 109 river mile mark. That would make for a 33 mile paddle and put us 9 miles above the city. It would be perfect.
Once on the river, we were soon immersed in the extensive traffic that we have experienced since Baton Rouge. Today’s traffic was the heaviest yet. We encountered as many ocean-going vessels today as we did tow boats on a typical day one week ago. And tow boats – we paddled past literally hundreds.
We had been on the river about twenty miles when we decided to take a break at a spot accessible on our right bank just below the Bayou Fleet tow boat slips. We pulled up on a stone bank that melded into a grassy marsh. The marsh was a small but refreshing piece of greenery amongst all the steel and rust. The waves from passing boats would push temporary streams up through the marsh grass, flooding it, and making it an ideal spot for the inhabiting egrets to feed.
We ate our snack on some concrete walls and noticed that the fleeting and slips just above us had an accessible driveway and office. Hmmm, our water stores were plenty full, but having a potential refill this close and convenient was not always common. We decided to paddle up in the slips and check it out. As we approached, the tow Dale Artegue pulled in and tied off and, who appeared to be the captain, walked ashore to a waiting pick up truck. I had our trash with me and the truck was sitting next to some dumpsters – a good opportunity to test the waters.
I inquired about dumping our trash and then asked if the office would have water available – while also explaining who we were and what we were doing. The woman in the waiting truck immediately insisted I take the one liter disposable water bottle she had, while the captain instructed his deck hands to help us out. Shortly thereafter, Matt and Blake came down the plank with three gallons of bottled water and a steaming wad of paper towel. I poured the water into an empty dromedary until it was full, when Matt handed me the hot paper towel explaining that it was some tilapia, compliments of the cook. I immediately popped one of the lightly breaded scorching hot pieces into my mouth. It was fabulous! (See Instagram @ separateboats for photos)
I thanked the crew and walked back towards LaNae, wondering if I should share the fish with her. I decided that would be best, so we quickly wolfed down the balance of the fish. What a treat.
Now back to that whole “41 mile”, situation. Well, we arrived at the previously planned stopping point near mark 109 and quickly realized any potential camp spot had long since been swallowed by the rising flood waters. Well, we couldn’t very well sleep in the streets of the French Quarter, so we turned around and paddled back up-stream two and a half miles to a very dirty, but accessible, shoreline at a barge fleeting area, which we had spotted and considered earlier. (Since Baton Rouge the shoreline has more areas of fleeting than it does areas without fleeting.) Wow, because of all the traffic, drift, and massive waves we faced today, we were already pretty spent. Now we had to paddle upstream against this might river to a crappy campsite. Oh well, it had to be done.
After paddling for what seemed hours against a current that frequently held us from gaining ground, we finally arrived at the shoreline, exited our boats, and started to pull them ashore. “Hey kayaks, this is a secure area per homeland security. You can’t go ashore here”. It was the loud-speaker system on the nearby tow Pixie Rose. I raised the captain on the radio and he politely explained that no unauthorized persons could come ashore and we should try the east bank (regardless of the actual direction on this river, your always a “northbound” or a “southbound” and the banks are always “east” and “west”). Well, we already knew the whole east bank was flooded and were wondering what to do when the captain of the Spartan called me on the radio (he had been overhearing the conversation) and said we could likely find a place near the base of the Huey, P. Long bridge that crossed the river just above the city. Wow, we were exhausted, but it was encouraging to know we might find a place five miles back down the river. So déjà u, we headed back down stream past all the smelly refineries and towards the looming New Orleans skyline. The spot didn’t look promising but we were indeed able to find a little piece of flat grassy land between the levee and the river, batture. We were glad to have it.
Once ashore we went about the business of setting up camp, when a brindled friendly pit bull ran up as her owner, local resident Glenn Potter, called her back. Glenn was taking an evening stroll along the levee and stopped to chat. He drives truck for a living, severed in the military, and was an Eagle Scout. Once he realized what we were doing he insisted he would go and get us a watermelon. Man, after a tiring day like we had a fresh watermelon sounded fabulous. (See Instagram @ separateboats for photos)
Glenn returned shortly with a huge watermelon and a couple of snack size pistachios. LaNae and I were finishing our dinner so we shared our desert, rice pudding, with Glenn. Then it was time to tap that watermelon. It was sweet, delicious, and refreshing.
Dinner complete, dishes washed, new friend made, it was time to get some sleep. Tomorrow, weather permitting, we’ll blow through the Big Easy.
Sent from my iPad
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