Back on the Flint, An Exercise in Tree Avoidance

Loaded Up and Ready To Rumble

Loaded Up and Ready To Rumble

Living in Huntsville, Alabama is a great treat.  Everyone says so.  One of the things that makes Huntsville a great place to live is the easy access to so many recreational activities.  Including my favorite, going out in a canoe.

About ten minutes east of Huntsville is the Flint River.  It runs from just north of the state line to the Tennessee River, making it almost exclusively a Madison County treasure.  And at one point or another I’ve floated just about all of it.

Raccoon and Deer Tracks

Raccoon and Deer Tracks

Today I had the chance to redo what was once my favorite section of river.  I don’t think it will be my favorite section anymore.  The recent rains monsoons have brought down far to many trees and I spent the better part of the trip avoiding them.  From zig-zaging down the river to get around them to actively going under, over and through them.

I talked my normal canoe partner, Jim, into going with me on this odessy.  The wife and kids had other plans so they dropped me off at the Little Cove Road canoe landing.  Jim parked at Hays Nature Preserve and while I readied the boat, the wife ran and got him.  Then we headed out around 5pm.

The Little Cove Road landing is an interesting one, and not in a good way.  Usually there is about a 6 foot steep drop from the parking lot to the river.  Right now it’s about 3 foot as the river is still up pretty high from all the flooding and rain.  And right at the landing is a huge fallen tree that blocks the exit.  To get around it, you paddle upstream under the road before turning quickly and going downstream.

The early part of this 7 mile or so paddle is a fairly deep hole, and even with the higher water the going was pretty slow.  Jim and I felt little urgency, we’d done this section of the river in under 2 hours before, so we didn’t feel much pressure despite the late start.  We figured we’d be at the take out by 7pm and at dinner up the road by 7:30.  And the wide clear start of the trip only re-enforced this feeling.

Oh how wrong we were.

Ultimately the trip took 2 hours and 40 minutes.  The reason was trees.  Lots and lots of trees.

NewCanoe - 2

A wide hole on the flint river

Now you may think that avoiding trees in a canoe isn’t much of a problem.  Trees typically don’t grow in the middle of a river, so what’s the big deal, right?  Wrong.  They do grow in the middle, on lots of little islands, that get saturated in all the recent rain and then they fall over.

Lots of them fall over.

Many completely crossing the river.

This tree completely blocked our passage.  We had to lift the canoe over the tree.

This tree completely blocked our passage. We had to lift the canoe over the tree.

About an hour and a half into the float we hit our first magor obstical.  A tree completely blocking the way, and large enough we had to get out of the boat and lift it over.  While not overly hard, it wasn’t a peice of cake either.  Some fancy footwork between Jim and I, along with some interesting rope work, got us up and over.  Luckily it was the only one that we had to portage over.

From that tree, things continued to be interesting.  We limbo’d under several, once passing the boat under while going over the tree ourselves.  Once I had to lay down in the bottom of the boat and PUSH the canoe down to get it clear.

The author, With Canoe

The author, With Canoe

In the end the trip to Hays Peserve was wonderful, if a little full of trees.  We stopped only once to stretch (not counting all the limbo stops) and found both Raccoon and Deer tracks.  We saw one heron, a woodpecker, an otter (we think) lots of signs of turtles, a few larger fish, and ducks (I’d never seen mallards on the Flint prior to today’s trip).  Blessedly we didn’t see any snakes.  We didn’t beat sunset, but still had plenty of twighlight to load up by.  And then we hooked up (late) with friends and family at a mexican place up the road.

Chips, salsa and a good canoe trip.  No wonder Huntsville is #1.