Finishing at Old Cahaba

Friday dawned early and as I packed, I had a couple of small concerns. One was snakes – we had spotted a rattlesnake near my kayak the night before. I was also concerned about getting out of the creek and back on the river – the water level was pretty low when I came in the afternoon before.

Remembering both personal experiences and what I’ve been told over the years, I made my presence known as I prepared to move my kayak off of the bank and back into the water. In fact, I took my paddle and tapped along the length of the hull and then flipped her over.

From there, I opened both hatches so I could see inside completely and make sure there were no sharped-fanged surprises with ill-intentions.

Seeing none, I loaded the kayak and escaped down the creek towards the Alabama River towards Old Cahaba, six miles distant.

This was another day to be savored on the river. I had only the odd bass boat for company but for the most part, I was alone with my thoughts and the voices in my head for company.

At one point, I had coasted over towards a bank for a brief rest when I heard a rather large splash behind me. I knew it was an alligator – the splash was way too large for a garr or a turtle.

I backed away from the bank and spotted the ‘gator in the water. Must have been around 7 ft long so I made sure I had my camera ready in case he wanted his picture taken. No such luck.

I eased down the river and came to the confluence of the Cahaba River and the Alabama River. This is the site of Alabama’s first capital city and quite a historical site that is largely un-noticed by the citizens.

From the Old Cahaba website:

“The grand Saltmarsh Hall rose as a site for balls and parties, a female academy was established, as were many grand homes that stagger the imagination such as the Perine, Kirkpatrick, and Crocheron residences. Records show that by income, Dallas County was the wealthiest in the state and ranked among the top five counties nationwide. Cahawba again seemed headed for greatness and was one of the state’s most cosmopolitan cities with an estimated population of 3,000 to 6,000. Then came the Civil War, effectively crushing any hope of it becoming the great inland town of Alabama, much less the New York of the South as many had hoped.”

The street grid still remains and you can clearly see the outline of the old prison that was built during the Civil War. Castle Morgan was not a very welcoming location for prisoners.

The landing at Old Cahaba wasn’t accessible – no water to paddle around to it, only a 5 inch stream. I tried to walk back into the area and promptly sunk down into the mud.

I paddled back up the river and came to rest in an area that appeared to be conducive to getting the kayak out of the river. After climbing up a 8 ft. bank, I knew I could do it – I just had to take my time.

First order of business was to unload the kayak completely. Between the stuff to be removed, the banks of the river and the distance to the picnic tables, I knew it would take some patience. You really can’t get in a hurry with it’s 95F and 95% humidity.

The next task was to get the kayak up the bank – which really wasn’t difficult. I simply took it apart and make three trips. One for each half and one for the hull. Simple.

It took my father about two hours to meet me so I used that time to wander around the site taking in the beauty of it all. I found a turtle who was laying her eggs so I did my best not to “worry” her.

The sites all contain little message boards that talks about that site’s previous occupants. This one is from the church – which is in the process of being relocated to just outside the park.

Near the river:

The old prison site:

Once my father located me, we loaded up and had an enjoyable drive back to his house. It was enjoyable since he provided a running commentary about his growing up in the area and the people that he knew in Selma including a few relatives!    That I enjoyed as much as the trip itself.

Final thoughts….

Final thoughts – I truly enjoyed meeting Chris, Chris and Richard. Great guys, great kayakers.

My wife highly recommends the SPOT device – it enabled her to “see” that I was fine and locate me on the map. I also had four others who received the emails – just in case the wife decided not to send help. 🙂

I also provided the team with daily maps of where I would be (google earth shots) and a spreadsheet of the proposed distances and phone numbers for the local sheriff’s dept in case of an emergency.

Cellphone coverage was decent but weak. Don’t count on it in this part of the US.

You can filter water out of the river but be prepared to clean the filter with every gallon filtered.

Food and other services are far and few between but depending on the section, you can always get help from a local homeowner.  Trust me, the locals are friendly!

No great thoughts as I wrap this up. I grew as a kayaker and proved that I can do the miles of a multiday trip. The worst parts were the heat and humidity and the best parts were the people. I can’t wait for the next trip – even if I have to do part or all of it alone. No worries.



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