April 16, 2018

April 15 2018 Upper Mulberry, Calvert Prong

Yesterday was fun in an old-school boater kinda way. I initially tried to plan a trip to East Fork of Flint Creek. This run has no internet gauge so Ron Looney who lives nearby it checked the bridge gauge on his way home from work, about 7 am. It was about twice the flow we hoped for. We changed plans to meet at the takeout of Calvert Prong at 11am. The thinking was, we might get another read of East Fork Flint, and Calvert was (sorta) on the way. 
The Locust was running about 7 feet, which usually means Calvert is in at a good level. Calvert doesn't have an internet gauge OR a bridge gauge. But there are pylons in the stream next to where County Rd. 1 crosses Calvert, and we can use them to tell if the run has water. I loaded up my trusty Liquidlogic Kayaks Stomper 80 creekboat. It's my 'default' kayak choice when I don't know what kind of day we are going to have, creeky or river running.
On the way to Calvert, I stopped by Blackburn, yet another run with no internet gauge. It was in flood so any gauge on the bridge was hidden. I've wanted to paddle Blackburn for the first time and have yet to get to do that... yesterday was definitely not the day to try it. Heading on towards Calvert, I drove past the turn to check on the pylons on the hwy 1 crossing, to discover they were under water.
When I arrived at the take-out for Calvert, I was surprised by the number of vehicles. A lot of Alabama boaters wanted to paddle something different than the standard Locust and Mulberry runs. I walked out onto the metal bridge that crosses the river at the take-out and looked at the current. As I suspected from the hidden pylons I checked earlier, Calvert was in flood as well. We had a discussion of what else nearby we could run, that included Upper Locust, but I was unsure of what Cornelius Falls would be like at this level (any beta on that?). Some of us decided to run Upper Mulberry. The Mulberry was at 6 feet per Ming's stick gauge. (Yes, the Mulberry has no internet gauge either; the state defunded the USGS official gauge of one of the most popular beginner rivers in the state. Two people have made their own homemade gauges that upload data to the internet and both of these gauges are down right now. One is Ming's stick gauge and she was able to report it on Facebook.) Back to the story. Some folks decided to stay and run Calvert. I predicted, "Well it will be flat, and fast..." While the others prepared to run Calvert, Andy Lee and Lynn, William CraftonMing StephensChase Bryan and I drove 20 minutes to the Garden City parking area (takeout for the Upper Mulberry) and while we were consolidating boats for shuttle we got a phone call that the others were done on Calvert and headed our way! We put on about 12:30 with Matthew Walz and James Henderson from the Calvert crew, and the rest met up with us on the river.
The Upper Mulberry was wonderful. Just freaking wonderful wave trains, and I made a mental note to put this run in consideration any time the Mulberry was over 4 feet. I've ran it before but it had been awhile, and yesterday was a perfect level. There was one eddy line where some of the guys in playboats tried to stern squirt, with lots of rolling and laughing... I have some video to post later. There was a Jitsu, an RPM, and an Axiom rolling around...
We finished up and some of us headed back to the Calvert take-out. We got there around 4pm to find it had dropped a foot. We didn't check to see if the pylons were visible. I kinda pondered going home as it was still high, but decided to run it, hell we were there. Andy and Lynn, Ming, Matthew, James and I put on. The water had dropped enough that some of the rapids were in play, and the one bigger rapid, Cyclops, dealt out some carnage, including the wonderful view I had as I paddled behind James, as he got munched in a curler in the drop and executed a perfect roll. I wish I had a helmet camera video of that moment! 
I do think this was the highest level I've paddled on Calvert. A quick muddy run and some wave trains, but most of the surfing was washed out. I'd preferred it had dropped another foot; today it will likely be nice, as the Locust is holding at over 6 ft. I had a dry hair day again today, which isn't exactly a good habit, I need to roll more. It's hard to motivate myself to roll when I'm in my comfy Stomper, in a warm drysuit on chilly, brown water. I know, I know. On the way home I checked Blackburn again, it was still pretty high, which suggests the dam at Inland Lake might have been releasing overflow. It might be good today.
Pylons to check on County Rd. 1 bridge view of Calvert. They weren't visible yesterday.