Mile 55 and day 2 on the Atchaf’: The air is still. The water is calm. The sound is quiet except for Kyle’s oars dipping in the water. White egrets and great blue herons stand stoic on the muddy shoreline, fishing patiently. The shoreline is steep- trees fallen or just barely hanging on. Many tree roots are fully exposed giving us a glimpse of the intricacy below their trunks. Every once in a while we row past a small wooden dock with a flats boat tied to its side. Just behind the dock hidden in the trees is a small house or cabin that is not accessible by road. We have seen 2 tow boats total today, they both slowed down for us, waved, and one even blew their horn as a hello. It was a pleasant interaction rather than an arduous one. All things on this river seem much slower, calmer, more forgiving than the mighty Mississippi. It is a welcome change and definitely revitalizing me for the next half of our journey. Kyle just stopped rowing abruptly and pointed to the mud bank to our right. There, standing on the edge was a mom bobcat and three babies. They were startled by us but only moved back a couple feet as we slowly drifted past in awe of their beauty. This river sure is something else. I have never seen a bobcat in the wild, what a rare and delightful treat. Thank you Atchaf’ for providing a change of pace as we journey south.
Our first full day on the Atchaf’ (right after we got the wallet back) was spent fully under sail. A following wind allowed us to travel 30 miles without a single stroke of the oar. We saw only one other boat, a small fishing boat. The day was calm and peaceful. That evening we found a sandy spot to pull up Solvi, camp, and have a small fire. We were feeling lucky to have found sand as this river is rather muddy and marshy. Yesterday, our second day, proved to be just as calm and peaceful, but we rowed the entire day in shifts due to a lack of wind. Around 4pm we hit our 30 miles and began to look for a place to camp. Being that the shore on both sides was mud and it was starting to get cold, we found a flat muddy spot, put on our rubber boots, and pulled Solvi up on her roller. Kyle cooked quesadillas with refried beans and tomatoes while I set the boat up to sleep in. I enjoy sleeping in the boat, I find it cozy and comfortable and I feel lucky we have a boat that allows us to do so. It was a chilly night but with our sleeping bag liners and warm clothes we did just fine. The next few days and nights are supposed to be warmer which will be nice.
This morning after the chilliness of pre-dawn we opened our eyes and were greeted by a river covered in a dense fog. The sun was rising in the distance bringing some pale color to the surrounding sky. We chatted quietly while the fog began to slowly dissipate. Kyle made breakfast while I changed the boat from a house to a sailboat again. It is currently 9am and Kyle is on shift rowing us down river. I definitely feel a breeze so maybe we’ll be sailing soon. Either way the feeling in the air is a good one and I’m excited for the day!
It is about 12pm and we have been having an awesome day. We spotted an adolescent Eagle perched in a tall tree and spent some time drifting past, taking photos, and observing the large bird. About 30 minutes later I spotted what I’ve been searching for since we arrived on this river- an alligator! He was basking on a mud bank and must have been 8ft long. What a cool site to see, a prehistoric creature just lounging on the river’s edge. When Kyle and I first started dating we took a canoe trip on the Hillsborough River in Florida and saw at least 10 alligators of all sizes. I haven’t seen one since so we were both fascinated with our find. After taking some photos and observing him we continued on. Since then I’ve been on the look out for wildlife and have seen a plethora of birds including some sea birds, reminding us the Gulf is close!
Well 5 days on the Atchafalaya and our marvelous journey on a new river is coming to an end. The last couple of days have been spent rowing, and I must say that without the current to help us along, Kyle and I are a bit slower than we expected! So instead of doing 30 miles a day we have been doing 20, which takes about just as long. That’s okay though, we were expecting that when we reached the Gulf our mileage per day would slow down a bit anyway. As we traveling farther south down the river the sand slowly dwindled away and the mud, marsh, cypress trees, and Spanish moss started to become more prevalent. It was really quite spectacular watching the change of environment as we journeyed south into the bayous of Louisiana. One of my favorite things has been looking at all the houses, cabins, and camps along the river- most of which can not be driven to and have to be accessed by boat. I had always heard stories of Cajuns living in the bayous, but this is the first time I’ve ever experienced it first hand! Some of the set ups are really awesome and Kyle and I daydream about one day spending some time living out here on the bayous while we row by.
The last couple nights spent on the river we slept on the boat. One night we pulled up into some thick mud and secured the bow, but still slept on the boat. Last night we anchored near shore outside of the channel and enjoyed a night of sleep while bobbing on the calm surface. I am not sure how we would have ever slept without being able to sleep in the boat. The shores are so steep and muddy that a tent would have been impossible. Again, so thankful Solvi is built in a way we can comfortably sleep aboard!
Some of our favorites part of the Atchafalaya included:
-The smaller size
-How little traffic we saw
-The change in environment- marsh, moss, cypress, alligators, etc.
-The wildlife has been spectacular
-How calm the river is and our ability to float down the middle without worrying about traffic
-Sleeping aboard the boat and anchoring near shore
-All the fishing boats
-The houses along the banks and the bayous
-The mud.. While frustrating it also adds to the adventure!
-Being so close to the Gulf of Mexico
So as our last night before reaching Morgan City comes to an end, I listen to the stillness and quiet around. We are laying in our sleeping bag bobbing gently in the water. We hear birds, crickets, and a few loud toads croaking on the shoreline. Every once in a while a fish will jump out of the water causing a splashing sound that makes us giggle. As I jot some thoughts in my journey Kyle plays his harmonica. Quietly as to not disturb any creatures around us. The notes are deep, singular, and sound wonderful as they pierce the quiet air around us. I close my eyes and imagine the sound waves traveling out of the harmonica and filling our little boom tent covered boat. I sit up and grab the tiny bouquet of flowers I picked earlier that have now dried out. I poke my head out of the boat and look at the full moon shining so brightly on the water it almost looks like daylight. I drop the mini bouquet in the water and watch as the current brings them downstream- sending positive thoughts down river. What a joyous life it is 🙂