Sunday, November 17, 2013


A mid-afternoon shower proceeded our arrival at the usual launch at Manchac. This storm was an outlier and the sky quickly cleared. The temperature, dropping slowly, began to reach the dew point just above the water. It's always cooler on the water and the variables in the equation were just right to  produce a rare solution as fog began to form in the midst of sunlight. Gently it lifted to the base of the cypress tress just below the cutgrass. The bayou became a scene that was built in both reality and the imagination.

The canoes were unloaded and put in their orderly rows, a total of twenty, in preparation of our moonlight paddle. The students were fitted with paddles and jackets, informed about the geography of the area and it's general history all before we launched. On the water I gave a short demonstration on paddling technique while standing in my boat just above the light fog and then a talk on night paddling etiquette.

Water levels in the swamp had been fairly high and allowed us to take the Shell Bank Bayou route. It is mid November and the cypress had turned their burnt orange and were highlighted in the breaks of sunlight. Sunset came quickly and we made our way to the highlight of the trip: Lake Maurepas. Shell Bank's mouth at the lake is on the south eastern end and a brilliant show of the pallet of nature was obscured slightly by the silhouettes of the cypress.

Dinner was prepared and the full moon began to rise above the trees and from beyond the clouds. A game of hide and seek on an astronomical level ensued. The tapestry of clouds began to over take her and the prospect of paddling back in the silvery light faded. 

Faint bits of light filtered through the celestial blanket and guided us through the narrow slew. The group, in the darkness, started to drift apart. It was necessary to count and regroup at set intervals. 

With the aid of Nyx, Zeus began to conspire on us. A slight mist accompanied us on our journey. Mist turned to rain and, at times, grew heavy and pressed upon us. Rain gear was dawned by all and we slowly paddled on. Visibility became very poor. Moisture added to the atmosphere from the storm caused more fog, thicker fog. Under the cover of night, the unrelenting conditions made keeping track of the group a challenge. As unfortunate as it was for the party regular stops through the downpour were necessitated. 

The whole group was invisible, only a single canoe could be seen at a time. Risks were growing and in the fog the lead canoe lost the main channel. We located it quickly but it came at the cost of leaving the group exposed in the storm. 

Over one hour of paddling back through this event left all of us in a changed state of mind. Some were elated by the unique experience, others had slowly faded. Myself? I was on an adrenaline rush. Through the elemental onslaught I started to excel. Moving between the group and providing support over the lightly submerged loggs became, more than just a job.

In time we made it back to the launch everyone accounted for, safe, and in good spirits. We were thanked for our service and skill but the moment of appreciation could only be enjoyed briefly. As the students left on the bus, the other guides and myself were left in the rain to load the boats and arrange the gear. The storm passed as the last canoe was placed upon the trailer and the light of Selene, goddess of the moon, shined upon us...

... A very wet us.


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