Sunday, May 30, 2010

Canoeing the Cahaba

"I'd love to get you
On a slow boat to China
All to myself alone"~Jimmy Buffett

(Worth mentioning: All Photos were taken with my daughters camera, one of those ab the size of a credit card. Not the quality of my personal camera, but I took no chances of getting mine wet!)
Over Memorial day weekend we were happy to have company in from Indiana, Big Daddy's Uncle Jim and Aunt Carol as well as Big Daddy's twin brother (the artist) and his family in town from T-town. We wanted to do something adventurous and exciting while they were here, so we decided to try out something we hadn't done before....canoe the Cahaba.

We called up David Butler of Alabama Small Boats and made arrangements to meet him at their warehouse for rentals in my hometown of Helena, Alabama (their sales office is in Cahaba Heights). When we arrived at ASB, David was prepared, he had our canoes and kayaks already loaded up on the transport van.

All we needed to do was to grab a life vest and load into the ASB van, where we headed down the road a couple miles to Buck Creek. Buck Creek is a stream that eventually flows in to the Cahaba River. There, David unloaded our canoes and set us afloat, but not before giving us some great tips and suggestions for our trip downstream. My biggest concern was being able to see the rare Cahaba Lily Flower.

The Cahaba lily is an aquatic flowering plant native to the major river systems of Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina. The best and largest populations in the Cahaba River are located in the Cahaba River National Wildlife Refuge. A type of spiderlily belonging to the amaryllis family, the Cahaba lily is noted for the striking beauty of its three-inch-wide white flowers. The lily requires a very specialized habitat—swift-flowing water over rocks and lots of sun. David didn't give me much hope of being able to see it. He said that recent storms had destroyed most of the flowering bulbs along the Cahaba. "If you see any, it will be along Buck Creek. Hope you do!"
It was early into our cruise, just two small bends from where David put us in to where we came upon this incredible sight....

The Cahaba Lily! There were clumps scattered throughout the river. The Cahaba lilies bloom from mid-May to mid-June (or Mother's Day to Father's Day).

Given their small window of blooming: date on the calendar, proper time of day when blooms are open, recent rains and the sheer rare sighting, I could almost hear the Heaven's sing as we canoed right between mounds of glorious blooms.

And almost as quickly as the show began, it ended as far as the lilies were concerned. We didn't see any more lilies through out our cruise that day. But I was happy, for I had gotten to see the infamous lily and we had the entire day still ahead of us. So we paddled on, to see what other adventures awaited us on this day. Little did we know how big our adventures would become!

The trip consisted of very easy going waters. There were some class one rapids along the way, which only made it extra fun for the kids who drew off of the adrenalin that builded along the way. One of those times came when Buck Creek converged with the Cahaba River.

I take delight in the little things, such as seeing a cahaba lily or say... two bodies of water become one.
This was no different.

But mostly it was easy paddling allowing the rivers current to do most of the work, which allowed us to take in the incredible views around us.

I got a kick out of having my fearless son Bama, home from college for the summer (and on a rare day off of work), joining us on our canoeing trip.
When he wasn't whisking by us in his kayak....

Or trying to knock his sister into the water......

He was seen climbing trees along the way. It didn't matter if they stood upright, or were strewn across the water, he climbed.

That's him in the background...yet climbing more trees.

And when he wasn't climbing, he was jumping off of the things he climbed.
But the glorious moment came for the kids (like mine with the lilies) when they discovered a rope swing along the river bank...

There was something for everyone on this trip.
Peace for Big Daddy.

There were "Big" Fish for J Smooth to catch.

There were Dragonflies to marvel at as they hitched a ride aboard our "slow boats".

But the biggest adventure happened just shortly after this final shot of the day was taken...

A sudden and  tremendous thunderstorm arrived. Thunder clapped and rain poured from the Heaven's so loudly that we couldn't hear one another trying to yell over it to communicate our options.
But the biggest fear...the lightening that danced all around us. I can only remember a scarce few other occasions when I have been so scared. Though I prayed loudly making certain that God could hear me over the tremendous symphony.
 One always hears when it is lightening to
1. Do not be under trees. We were. Lots of trees.
2. Do not be in water. We were. Lots of water.
We had no clue how far away we were from the river exit, where Alabama Small Boats Guide, David was waiting to pull us out of the water. We paddled on in what is known around the south as a "frog strangler" force of  rain for about twenty minutes before we saw our end in sight in the form of  David, who was also soaked to the bone and sitting in lightening was waiting to help us out. After a quick laugh at the waters edge about our surprise thunderstorm we quickly got the canoes out of the water and ran for dryer territory.  I cannot say enough about Alabama Small Boats. The staff is incredible, gracious and knowledgeable and the canoe trip was memorable and one we will certainly do again...and again....and again. In fact....we just may go again tomorrow! I hear the river calling....

"I'd love to get you
On a slow boat down the Cahaba
All to myself alone"~Leigh Bratina

Alabama Small Boats
(205) 977-7010
ADDRESS: 2800 Cahaba Village Plaza suite 250, Birmingham, Al 35243

See more of our canoeing adventures at Leigh's Picture a Day.
Linking to Outdoor Wednesday.
  to China


Jan K said...

Looks like lots of great fun. I have always wanted to do it but always seem to be too busy in May. Loved the pics!

Mari said...

What a great family time! I love your pictures of this day too!

Glenda/MidSouth said...

Wow!! Sounds like your family has had a fun weekend. Sorry you had to deal with the storm.

Swampgirl said...

That looks great, except the storm! I got caught in a bad thunder storm at Kroger yesterday and it scared me! I can't imagine how scared I would have been in a canoe!!! I have read about the lilies and would love to see them!

Kat said...

Oh, what a wonderful trip...filled with so many wonderful memories. And a few scary ones too. Yikes!

Loved the photos.

Happy Memorial Day.


Rebecca said...

No apologies/explanations necessary re. the picture quality! They "told" the story! What a great family adventure! Better than Disney World in SO many ways!


Loved the trip dialogue...and the pictures were always. It does not matter the size of the camera...what matters is the eye of the photographer.


Loved the trip dialogue...and the pictures were always. It does not matter the size of the camera...what matters is the eye of the photographer.

marty (A Stroll Thru Life) said...

What a great fun time. Wow, the storm would have probably given me a little scare. Great pics. Hugs, Marty

Lisa@Pickles and Cheese said...

What a fun trip! I met my husband on a canoe trip and haven't done it since!! And it was fun...we really should look into it! You got some great a true photographer you can make any kind of equipment behave!

Maya @ Completely Coastal said...

Oh..., I would have been so scared of that lightening!!

Love your new header!!!

Anonymous said...

oh so fun to read...laughed out loud and picking the weekend for the joint family venture!!! "LOVE"! -HM

jennifer said...

You are just SO much braver than me. I'm glad y'all had fun and were safe.

Elizabeth said...

Looks like a fun day was had by all!

Kirby3131 said...

I think your son is more leap frog than human LOL Those lilies! WOW - I'd never seen or heard of such a thing. Thank you for having a camera with you!

Kristin - The Goat

Nancy said...

How brave you all are! As I was reading along, I was thinking, I hope one of those Birmingham (the only ones I know there) thunderstorms doesn't hit! Great story. Glad you are all safe.

Sara's Sweet Surprise said...

Hello Leigh~what an adventure! We've been inundated with rain storms for a few weeks now. So, I'm anxious for the sunshine to make a comeback.
It's a good thing you were able to get a glimpse of the rare Cahaba lilies and enjoy some fun in the sun before the rains hit.

It was such a pleasure to have you stroll by for a visit and especially for leaving me with such a sweet comment. I always enjoy getting to know new friends. Feel free to drop by anytime, the kettle is always on.

Sweet wishes,

Anonymous said...

The pictures were fabulous.
It is great than a college age son can have fun wih the family.
So happy you got to see your Lillies, and NOT in the rain and lightening.
That David sounds like the best kind of friend to have. Tip him well.

Dawn said...

Wow, what a great adventure!The storm was a bit scary though! Glad it all turned out good.

Anonymous said...

Leigh, Leigh, Leigh,

Thanks so much for the great recap of your trip! As canoe season started to roll around, I kept getting calls about someone seeing the business in a blog. I finally asked someone to send it to me, and low and behold, it was one of my favorite stories of last summer! The only other close is the ppl who missed the stop sign, but you guys were troopers! I really appreciate the kind words, as it gives the impression that I care, which I most certainly do. And, new for 2011, I even got a haircut. I got tired of apologizing for not having time to get it all fixed up!
In any event, I was hoping to link your blog to the canoe site,, if you don't mind. I really do appreciate not only the story, but the fact that you went out of your way to mention us!

Hope you and your family are well,

David Butler
(205) 874-5623