Canoe Journals

One has not truly experienced Caddo until you have seen it by canoe or kayak.  I purchased my canoe in 2008 for the sole purpose of taking photos and I am pleased to say it was well worth it.  In my quest to capture the unique beauty of the lake I have found a completely new world.  Before I begin to tell about my latest  journeys I would like to offer this brief introduction from the experience where I captured the photograph on my website called Biding Time.

The dark surface of the water was barely visible in the pre-dawn light.  Sitting amid a sparse group of cypress trees, the only sound to be heard was the slapping of the small waves against the tree trunks.  The cloud bank in the eastern sky slowly began to change from blue to pink as the sun began to rise.  Shortly after 6:30 the giant orb of the sun began to break free of the clouds and I started to snap away with my camera.  After shooting several shots I simply watched as the light continued to play out over the water.  In those moments after putting my camera down I was humbled by the power I saw before me.  It made me realize how too often my busy life has distracted me from taking the time to slow down and take in the beauty that is free to one willing to truly see.

04/02/2010

Up at 6:15. Packed up all my gear and headed down to the bank where the canoe is tied off. The sky is overcast as I settle into my L L Bean seat backer and push away from the bank. This morning I decide to travel through a place called Stumpy Slough. As I make my way past the tin boathouses the gray sky begins to lighten. My paddle makes a quiet gurgling sound as I push it into the water. Out ahead of the canoe the black surface of the water is coated with a thin film of yellow pollen. The canoe swiftly glides over the water. Turning to look back I see the bank slip away as the cypress trees obscure my view. The morning air barely stirs and all is quiet. It’s the kind of quiet that brings peace. The cypress trees have yet to show their green needles so I will be focusing on capturing more sepia and black and white shots for my collections this trip. I come upon a fallen cypress top sticking out of the water and take a few shots. The paddle gurgles again and I press on between the curvature of the tree lines to my right and left. As the canoe sweeps along I scan the treetops for birds. I don’t see any, but the day is still young. I travel on down through the slough and come to a spot where the end of log just barely juts out above the water’s surface. I’ve got some color in the background as well so I take two or three shots. After an hour and fifteen minutes I’ve come to the end of Stumpy Slough and now change course to head up Kitchen’s Creek. Overhead the sky is still ruled by gray clouds. Passing by one of the channel markers I spot a water moccasin to my left skimming the surface. It quickly makes its way into the tree line and disappears. As I round the next bend in the channel a dock comes into view. As I pass by it appears to be in reasonable condition. One of many fishing camps that lie on Caddo’s shores sits back in a clearing twenty five or thirty yards from where the dock reaches the bank. No one occupies the dwelling at the moment as it rests silently. Pushing forward between a gap in the trees I continue to scan for birds in the treetops. I would like to get a picture of a hawk, but those are fairly hard to come by I’ve found out. The wind begins to pick up now and I catch my first gust of it. I cut to the left side of the channel and head for the tree line to try and cut some of the air flow off of me. As I make my way just underneath the overhanging limbs I catch site of a brown pelt that belongs to a nutria. I try to move in to get a closer look, but unfortunately I have been spotted and he cleverly evades my prying eyes. I travel a short distance more and then I’m forced back out into the channel to go around a wall of cypress in my way. Passing them the trees begin to thin out and I cut back to the left again through a wide opening. I scan the scene ahead and see that the giant salvinia is already beginning to show in the shallow water along the banks in places. Staying on my line for the next few minutes the water opens up and the trees become sparser. In the distance to my left I’m clearly cut off so I meander back to the right and come across a hollowed out cypress trunk with another nutria silently tucked inside. I snap a couple of shots, but he moves too fast to get a clear one. Moving on I pass a couple of duck blinds that have seen better days. Coming around one of the trees I spot a sight I have never seen before. Secured to the trunk of a cypress is a blue 50 gallon drum with the top and a portion of the front cut away. I suspect it was used as a duck feeder, but I can’t be sure. I take a few shots of this anomaly. Over in the shallow water to my right I catch sight of birds feeding. Now is my chance to pick up some more bird pics. I quietly navigate over to the area and wedge my canoe in between the cypress using them as a shield as best I can. There are two of the birds and I take several photos. I get close enough this time to really see the birds clearly. After finishing, I back out as quietly as I can, but bump one of the trees with my paddle causing my subjects to take flight. I continue on as I make a loop heading back towards my home base. I shoot several more pics along the way, but the landscape is still a bit starved for the vibrant colors of May and June. Total photos for excursion: 82

04/15/2010

Decided to take a long weekend. Arrived at Caddo around 10:30 in the morning. The sun is out and its not too hot so looks like this will be another good day with the camera. With the help of my brother we quickly load my canoe into his truck and take it down to the water. Sitting on the edge of the canoe I run through an equipment check as the breeze blows the Spanish moss in the trees overhead. Satisfied all of my gear is intact and ready I slide into the LL Bean seat backer and push away from the bank. The adventure begins again.

Left or right? On this trip out I’ve got my mind set on a place I have never seen so I choose right and follow the boat run up Alligator Bayou. As the Pelican canoe cuts over the water the wind picks up and gives me a good push from behind so I simply steer with my paddle glad for my good fortune. The upper trunks of the cypress sway slightly in the morning air. A portion of a large limb sticking its almost boney frame from beneath the surface catches my eye and I snap a couple of shots. The channel ahead starts to narrow and cut back left as the trees close in. As I pass under some cypress I capture a shot of the treetops with the backdrop of a clear blue sky. The color is mesmerizing, but knowing I have a long journey ahead of me to reach my destination I press on. I continue up the bayou following the boat run for a couple of miles until I reach a small channel that branches off. The cypress and saw tooth oak tower on both sides of the little canal as I slip through into the shallower waters. Today the water in the channel is clear indicating that it has not seen boat traffic recently. Shortly after entering the narrow waterway I glance to my left and notice a rusting folding chair sitting back from the bank. The electronic whir of my camera captures the interesting moment in a fraction of a second. This narrow channel I always enjoy because of the closeness. As I continue to glide along the quiet ambiance is broken by the wind as it blows the cypress trunks causing them to creak and moan. The sound might seem eery to the uninitiated, but I’ve become accustomed to it and think of it as the trees talking to each other. Navigating ahead I take several shots as the channel cuts back and forth capturing the angles of each unique scene. As I round the last bend before the channel I become nervous because I don’t know what my eyes will behold. I breathe a sigh of relief when I see that the boat run is clear and Caddo’s black surface stretches out before me. My journey has not come an abrupt end.

I met with disappointment on a fall trek coming this same way in the form of giant salvinia. For those who do not know what giant salvinia is, it is basically a water plant that can take over a lake in a matter of a few weeks destroying fishing and any real use of a lake. The people on Caddo’s shore’s fight hard to keep it at bay, but there is just too much of it to eradicate. On this particular trip I am able to continue up the boat run. As I break out into open water the sky is still blue with a few wisps of cloud hanging overhead. The cypress treetops are kissed with a deep green as they show their spring radiance. Islands of water hyacinth can be seen floating throughout the vista before me. I meander back and forth happily snapping away enjoying the beauty of my surroundings. I’m still a little concerned that when I get to the other end of this open expanse I won’t be able to sneak through because of salvinia or possibly water hyacinth. Up in front and to my left I see a pair of fishing boats. Nearing the fishermen I find that the boat run is still open and I can finally get through. Passing by one of the boat run markers into new territory I cut to my left into the a stand of cypress. I have spotted an egret amid the water hyacinth and once more it is time to play the stealth game in order to get close enough to get good pictures. The egrets feathers are pure white against the backdrop of green hyacinth. I use the trees to shield me as best I can and I get a few shots off before being seen. The bird doesn’t move too far though and so I take a chance and very slowly inch my way into the open. I’m able to snap a few more before the bird finally takes off. I paddle out of the grove and stay to my left as I make my canoe dance back into another set of cypress looking for new sights. I paddle as far into the trees as I can go. Rounding the trunk of a rather large cypress I am met with a field of green. If one did not know they were on a lake one would say that they were looking at a field of clover. The intensity of the color was amazing. I took several shots from my shady spot and then navigated back through the trees towards the boat run. Putting the canoe back on an angle towards the channel I pushed hard with my paddle in order to cover as much ground since my turnaround point was fast approaching. Reaching the boat run I photograph a lone tree to my right with a duck blind sitting in background. As I continue past I look again and think I am seeing ducks, but on closer inspection through the camera lens I see that they are just decoys bobbing in the water. Looking forward I see the trees ahead tighten as the channel begins to narrow again. Paddling on I pass a boat run marker closely guarded by two large cypress and up on my right another duck blind. From where I sit I can see the rusted tin of the roof along with the dead cypress limbs resting on its slanted surface. As I glance up into the sky I notice the sun making its descent and know I need to head for home even though I would like to keep exploring this part of Caddo. I paddle down a little further and begin to turn back the way I came when I notice a large beaver lodge nestled in the trees not far from the shoreline. I paddle into the trees towards it and use my camera to check the outside to see if anyone is home. I don’t see anything at first glance, but I want to make a 360 degree sweep to be sure. I come in at an angle and pass behind the mound at a distance so as not to scare a beaver that might be laying around. Nothing on the backside either. As I finish making my pass on the far side i catch a glimpse of fur in a hole on the front and quietly maneuver the canoe behind some trees. After about 5 minutes I’m able to get into a position in front of the lodge. Using the trees I’m able to shield most of my body without scaring the beaver. The wind is picking up so I’m fighting to keep my canoe in position as well. I’m amazed at how big this fellow is and I shoot a large number of pics as this is the closest I’ve ever been. After about fifteen minutes I move in a little closer and end of scaring the beaver, but I get one last shot before he dives into the water. You can purchase “Boomer” on the web site. Extremely happy with this last turn of events I pack it up and head for home. The wind picks up as I make my way back, but just as the sun begins to dip behind the trees my canoe slides in to the bank. My arms are exhausted, but the pics I got were worth every ounce of energy. Photos for this excursion: 182

03/12/2011

WOW! It has been almost a year since I last saw Caddo and I’m itching to get back out on the water. I arrive about 11:00 in the morning and my father helps me load my canoe and in 5 minutes it is in the water. I grab a bite to eat and then head down to the water with my gear. I sling my Camelbak on my LL Bean seat backer and toss my ice chest in the front. I do a quick check of my Walkie Talkie and break out my new Bushnell binoculars I received for Christmas. With camera slung around my neck I slip away from the bank.

The cypress have not begun to show signs of green this early in the season so I will focus on capturing images for my black and white collection. I head back up Stumpy Slough this afternoon. As my canoe skims across the water’s surface I notice the thick carpet of moss under the water. I snap a couple of shots at a grove of cypress and glide on. Shortly after that I catch site of what looks like a hawk floating on the wind drafts. I grab my binoculars to take a closer look. I admire the bird for a few minutes and park the canoe hoping that it will set down close enough to get a few shots. Sadly, it continues to glide further away. Continuing on in a zig-zag pattern down the channel I arrive at a narrow entrance that will take me to another part of the lake. The water is extremely shallow as I pass through the cypress grove. As the trees close in I take a few pictures. Halfway through I spook a blue heron and watch it spread its large wings and sweep away out into the more open water ahead of me. In the distance I hear the call of a hoot owl. Emerging from the trees ahead I can see that the wind has picked up. In order to conserve energy I keep myself tucked in along the tree line. I spot another hawk shortly and attempt to use the trees ahead to conceal my presence while scanning with my binoculars. Unable to locate my elusive subject through the lenses, I finally catch sight of him once again as he swoops down and glides across the water to a small stand of cypress further away. The hawk’s feathers make for the perfect camoflauge even with the cypress trees barren of any foilage. Navigating ahead I catch site of lily pads just below the water’s surface. The vibrant tint of green really makes them pop against the dark colored moss that surrounds them. Always drawn by the color I take a few shots. I find a place to park the canoe for about 5 minutes and scan the horizon. The wind tosses the Spanish moss in the trees and I simply sit and enjoy the soothing sound. Continuing ahead I come across a flock of coots coming out of the cover of the tree line. I get in as close as I can and snap a few pics as they continue to cross. Looking to my left I see the remnants of an old duck blind protruding up from the shallow water. A small part of the deck still rests atop its posts, but it won’t be long until the lake reclaims this one. Amazing how nature takes care of itself. The 30mph wind continues to test my mettle on this day, but I press on determined to see more. Staying along the tree line I’m forced to veer left to go around a tall patch of water grass that extends from the banks. The stalks are a light tan color with a touch of green at their bases. Snapping a couple of pics I begin to cut back to the left headed for a small grove of cypress. The wind continues to buffet the canoe as I work an angled path. A couple of times I have to simply hold myself in place until the wind dies back down. Reaching the edge of the cypress I pass by a log with a large turtle sunning itself and snap a couple of shots.

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