Sunday, July 17, 2011

Memories of Spring on Picketts Bayou

Heat waves dance across the parched ground. Covetous eyes follow every wisp of cloud. Is a downpour finally coming? Will downdrafts with a hint of ozone drive away the heat? Or will we be left once again with only the mocking laughter of dry thunder?

The calendar's insistence that we are less than a month into Houston summer seems a cruel joke on days like these. Surely summer sneaked in shortly after the ice of early February melted and the rains stopped?

But perhaps that's not quite true. Scattered throughout late winter and early spring there were some truly beautiful days: crisp mornings with crystal clear skies, afternoons just warm enough for comfort but too cool to break a sweat, and air so clean it was a joy just breathing it in.

Since I have no paddling adventures to share from this weekend, I'm reminiscing about the last such perfect Saturday of the spring. It was the morning of May 14th when we loaded the kayaks and headed east to the Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge. The original plan was to launch our kayaks and lose ourselves for a few hours in the cypress groves of Champion Lake. But even in early May the drought had diminished the lake and made it mostly too shallow to paddle. Fortunately, Picketts Bayou beckoned from just across the levee.

We had scarcely cleared the launch when we spotted an alligator swimming the channel. It was only the first of about seven that put in an appearance that day. In the upper stretch of the bayou we exchanged greetings with several sets of people fishing in small power boats. Once we passed the shallows caused by this sand bar, we saw no other boats until we reached our turnaround point about three and a half miles downstream. Large alligator gar rolled frequently as we paddled slowly past banks covered in mixed hardwoods, including a few cypress.

The upper stretches of the bayou are under the protection of the wildlife refuge, but even after we exited its southern boundary there were few signs of development. We were mostly left alone with our thoughts, in the company of the fish, turtles, birds, and alligators.

As we continued paddling into the afternoon, the channel narrowed dramatically and and a slight current could be detected slipping past an obstacle course of fallen trees. We finally turned back at the intersection with a slough that leads to the Trinity River.

Some combination of the beautiful weather and the unspoiled surroundings made this one of my favorite paddles of the year. I definitely want to return here, and hopefully make it all the way down to the junction with the Lost River. And maybe if the rains have returned by then, I'll get the chance to paddle Champion Lake at last.

No comments:

Post a Comment