Sunday, August 12, 2012
Seeking a Little Refuge on a Scorching Summer Day
I have been plotting a return to the Trinity National Wildlife Refuge since my first visit last year. At that time the drought of 2011 had already taken its toll on Champion Lake but we had a wonderful paddle on Pickett's Bayou on the last cool Saturday in May.
While I knew an August weekend was unlikely to be even remotely cool, I wanted to see Pickett's Bayou again and paddle Champion Lake for the first time.
The day started out warm and progressed rapidly to hot, relieved slightly by an occasional breeze and patches of shade along the bayou's banks. The water level in the bayou was a bit higher than on my last visit but otherwise the paddle south through the hardwood forest of the refuge had the same lovely character.
As we continued south past the sand bar and approached the Cut Off, the bayou narrowed and the trees provided a welcome canopy overhead. And we weren't the only ones who seemed to like the area. A whole colony of banana spiders had spun webs across the channel above our heads. A bit surprisingly, we also found that we were paddling against a current as we proceeded south.
Once we reached the Cut Off, we turned east toward the Trinity River. We found the gate closed at the the Corp of Engineers' "Structure A", but a fair amount of water was still pouring through, thus providing the current we paddled against coming down. We took the closed gate as a sign and turned around. We started back toward the launch with a respectable current helping us along until the bayou widened again.
It was approaching noon before everyone was back on dry land. By then, the heat had taken its toll on the group's enthusiasm for more paddling. Some packed up and headed out, while a few of us gathered in the shade for a picnic lunch.
By the time lunch was over, only two of us remained to take a look at Champion Lake. I had hopeful visions of gliding through the shady groves of submerged cypress trees but it wasn't meant to be. While the lake has plenty of water, it has been taken over by various types of vegetation. The only open water we could find was in the largely unshaded area of Big Caney Creek on the northeast side of the launch. We paddled until we ran out of water and then had to concede defeat. I fear that a full exploration of Champion Lake is going to have to wait until next spring!
More Pictures From the Trinity National Wildlife Refuge