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Monday, March 26, 2012

Swamp Tour - Tuesday 3-20-2012 - Indian Mounds and Dead Lake

We were on the way toward Mound Island by 8:20 this morning, after spending some time washing sand off of Daisy’s paws and belly. All of my crew members seemed to be moving slowly this morning. The weather was great again – sunny and 66 degrees!

There are some 3-demensional bears in the Delta, but these 2-demensional ones were the only ones we saw.

The Tensaw Hunting Club, established 1949.

Abby and Glenda enjoyed the view from the bow.

Bottle Creek, just looking downstream from the Indian mound trailhead.

At 10:45 we turned onto Bottle Creek for the ½ mile trip to the trail which leads from the creek to the Indian mound. The map, gps, and the directions I got from the 5 Rivers tour boat captain all made it easy to find the worn sand bank that marked the beginning of the trail. There are no signs or other markings to indicate the trail. I nosed the bow of the Knot-So-Fast up against the bank, and Glenda jumped off into the sandy …..err…..I mean muddy…… bank. She tied a line to a tree to hold the boat in the fairly strong current, and Abby, Daisy and I made the leap from boat to bank, mostly avoiding the mud. 

Abby, Daisy and Glenda on top of the Indian mound.

The walk to the mound gave us a picture of the environment of the Indians and other early swamp dwellers.  The terrain was thick with palmetto plants and bugs. For much of the hike the trail was well worn, but marked only by two signs over the roughly ½ mile to the mound. We were at the very foot of the mound before we saw it, due to the thick forest growth. My guess is that it is 50’ tall or more, and the top is flat – about 100’ long and 50’ wide. On top there were two depressions, each about 8’ by 12’, and maybe 3 or 4’ deep. I assume that these were archaeological digs, but I don’t know for sure.  Past the mound, we saw another smaller mound, that was only about 5, or 6’ high, and we learned later that there are, in fact, more than a dozen mounds on the island!

I was glad to see the Knot-So-Fast still holding tightly when we returned. I am always nervous about leaving it tied up and getting out of sight from it. The boarding ladder made getting back onboard easier, although by then we all had to leave our shoes on the bow to avoid getting mud all over the rest of the boat. We made a mental note to bring rubber boots next time we visit the mound.
The "PMS Motel" on the Tensaw River.

My original plan was to continue South on Bottle Creek from the mound to Middle River, but the Guide at 5 Rivers had warned that it was very narrow and often blocked with downed trees.  So we backtracked up Bottle Creek to the Tensaw and tuned again upstream for about a mile, and entered Middle River at its Northern end. Five or six miles downstream, we turned to starboard onto Little Lizard Creek, within sight of the I-65 bridge over Middle River.

Little Lizard creek is a narrow but deep waterway that runs between the Mobile River and Middle River. It was one of the most picturesque of all the Delta sections we saw. About a half mile after entering the creek, we saw an alligator enter the water from the bank. This was not a large alligator, but it was a genuine, real-life, Mobile/Tensaw Delta gator!  The ride down the creek to the Mobile River went by way too fast, and we soon found ourselves back on the very wide (relatively) Mobile River. Downstream from there about 3 or 4 miles, a small pass leads Westward to Dead Lake and to Big Bayou Canot. (I have no idea how to pronounce “Canot”. If you do, leave me a comment and let me know.)

Dead Lake’s name fits its appearance perfectly, not in a negative way, but in the sense that the lake has a quiet, peaceful appearance. The old growth, half dead/ half alive cypress trees and spanish moss give it a sort of “Lost in Time” feeling.  A large cypress tree on the starboard side held seven gorgeous white birds that finally took flight as we approached too close for their comfort. Since we didn’t have our “bird book”, we don’t know what kind they were, but we did get a couple of good pictures of them in flight. Their bright white feathers were a stark contrast to other colors on the lake, and they stood out like elegant ladies in snow white dresses in a bad neighborhood! (Yes, I made that up.)

There were seven of these together in a tree on Dead Lake. They were quite a sight as they flew away.

Arriving at the Marina around 4:00 pm was not the perfect ending to our day. Without going into a lot of detail, the situation there was not as described on the county’s website, and not what I was promised over the phone. There has apparently been a decision made at some time not to allow transient boaters to stay overnight. The employee’s there did allow us access to the showers and laundry though, and those were the two most important needs we had.

After we showered, washed clothes, and watched a 6’ alligator in the campground pond, we left the marina and headed across the narrow lake to anchor out for the night. After three attempts to get the fortress anchor to hold, I tied the bow to a small cypress tree that was growing about 10 feet into the water from the bank, and put out a heavy river anchor from the stern.

The weather was comfortable, and surprisingly, there were no bugs or mosquitoes!  

We travelled 32 miles today, for a total so far this trip of 106. I topped off the fuel tank with the five gallons of fuel I’d brought in a gas can, just to be sure we could make it back across the Bay at the end of the week.

Glenda Says:

We had a couple more visitors this morning before we left.  The people here are very nice.  I just wish there was a bath house.  But this is really just a neighborhood of nice people.  They do have a boat launch and camper sites but they are not really set up for travelers.  But they were very hospitable.   We watched for alligators all morning.  I’ve got to do a better job of food planning.  I’m beginning to get tired of sandwichesL  I love the solitude of this trip but I miss having places to get a variety of meals.   We arrived at Bottle Creek Indian mound and began our excursion.  Tom nosed up to the bank.  I looked for solid ground and hopped out.  I was wrong, I slid right down ankle deep in mud.  Unfortunately Tom’s idea of encouragement always sounds like he’s irritated with me.  I’m sure he was just fearful for his lovely bride`s life.  I managed to scramble up the bank and tie off the boat.  We all got ashore and I was the only one covered in mud.  Go figure!  The trail to the mound was rather rough.  Several times we had to detour through the bush to go around what appeared to be a small pond right in the middle of the trail.  It was a great adventure.  We could hear small creatures scurrying through the bushes as we walked along.  Daisy was ecstatic!  We climbed to the top of the mound in success.  Getting back down was another matter.  This time Tom slipped.  I had to laugh but I’m always aware of what a mess we would be in if he was injured and I had to be in charge.   We rode on the bow of the boat until we got back onto a larger river.   Little Lizard creek was beautiful.  It was there that I saw the alligator slide off the bank and into the water.  Tom and I both saw it but it was too quick for Abby she missed it.  We headed on to Mobile River Delta Marina.  It was nice to get a shower and be able to wash clothes.  Apparently, though county politics has messed up a good thing.  They have built a beautiful facility with tax payers money and made it difficult to use.  They will not let anyone sleep on their boats.  They have a marina there that you can’t even stay overnight on your boat.  The employees were nice enough to let us park long enough to shower and wash clothes but then we had to go anchor out.  See what happens when you have too much government!  They no longer rent canoes “cause somebody might get hurt”.  We were disappointed but the trip has been way too fun to worry about all that.  More sandwiches for supper made me a little grouchy but we managed J  We watched a couple of episodes of Andy Griffin and went to bed for the night.

Abby Says:

Today I will just tell you about my favorite part of the day. My favorite part was when we went to Mound Island. When we pulled up there, Papa ran the boat up into the mud. Then GG walked out and stepped into what she thought was solid ground, but she was wrong. What she stepped in was a shore full of mud J The mud was up to her ankles! The whole time GG was stuck, I was laughing!  GG got out of the mud and tied the boat to a tree.  Then I got out on the bow of the boat and Papa handed me Daisy through the window.  Then I handed Daisy to GG. Daisy didn`t have a problem getting out. She didn`t have to take a single step. Next it was my turn to get off the boat. I stepped, out and grabbed the rope I almost slipped, but I hurried and stepped on to solid ground. Then it was Papa`s turn to get off the boat. He put the ladder out for himself and climbed out. GG still had mud covered shoes. Then we started our adventure. We started walking and soon we ran into a pond.  On the left side of the pond there were sticks covering it like a bridge.  Papa tried to walk on it but it was unstable, so I said, “There is another one over there Papa”.  On the other side of the pond there was another stick and log crossing along the pond with small trees beside it.  So Papa said, “Hand me Daisy,” then he walked out across the logs.  Next I went across, I held onto the trees and jumped onto the first pile of sticks and then I walked carefully across the logs.  G.G. was next (she had the camera) She stepped into the pile of sticks and then across the logs.  We all got across DRY! 
The trail to the Indian mound was tricky in a few places. Next time we'll bring rubber boots!

We kept walking, Daisy with her nose glued to the ground the whole time.  Soon we ran into two logs across the trail.   One was short, we went around it, the other was long and covered the whole trail.  We all hopped over it, but Daisy had a harder time.  We kept walking and another pond popped out of nowhere.  This pond had no way to cross it, except for getting wet L so we had go around it.  There was a lot of trees and bushes that got in our way.  But we had to keep the trail in sight.   Next we came to a forked path, it split off to the left and to the right.  We went left.  No one was left behind or went the opposite way.  The trails ended up leading to the same place anyway.  Then there it was, THE MOUND!  G.G. started up it right away, Daisy and I followed.  It was really steep!  But we got through it.  Papa was taking pictures of us going up.  When we got to the top, Papa hurried up.  At the top it was kind of flat except for one little ditch.  We couldn’t figure out what the ditch was from, but it was still fun being up there.  There was a large log sitting up there with lizards hiding under it.  Daisy started sniffing around the log then she jumped for some reason.  The lizard had scared her!  We walked around the mound deciding which path to take down.  One of the other sides was even steeper.  G.G. said if she went down that side she would fall.  So we went down the side we came up on.  We went down and I made it down first.  Papa was behind me and slipped and fell.  At least there were trees there for him to pull himself back up! GG and I wanted to walk further but Papa was tired.  On our way back to the boat I saw a ribbon snake about 12 inches long, it was black with two yellow stripes down his back.  He went away before G.G. and Papa saw him.  It was time to cross the forked path again but we weren’t sure which way to go, so I said “ Oh I remember this part, we go right”.   We went around one of the ponds again, then it was time to cross the other pond .  G.G. hopped across so she could take pictures of me, Papa and Daisy crossing.  This time I took Daisy across. I made it without falling even though I only had one hand to grab trees with.  Then Papa crossed after me.  We made it back to the boat.  Papa climbed on the boat first. I noticed Daisy kept sneezing over and over again so I looked at her nose. It had sand all over it and I’m sure in it too.  Then G.G. lifted Daisy up on to the boat next she lifted me up.  G.G. eventually got on J  That was my favorite of the day. 

Daisy Says:   Wow today at Mound Island was an adventure for me.  The sounds and the smells drove me crazy.  Lizards, smells, sounds, oh my!  I had blast! Woof.

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