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HomeNL-2016-02 Cypress Wonderland

Cypress Wonderland!
Dec 5, 2015
by
Tom Douglas


After only a few paddle strokes on the calm waters of Lake Charlotte, any initial concerns that we might have had about being uncomfortably cold quickly vanished. The day was simply glorious – the stuff of dreams. Knowing that the forecast was for calm winds all day long, we took the unusual measure of heading straight across Lake Charlotte, from Cedar Hill Park on the northeast to Lake Pass on the southwest.

 

 
Anticipation,
by Linda Shead
   
Setting Out,
by Linda Shead
 

Soon after entering Lake Pass, we confronted that troublesome invasive plant species, water hyacinth (www.texasinvasives.org). Working as a team, we pushed through several rafts of these floating plants before turning into a short channel that leads to Lake Miller. Now, all that stood between us and our lunch spot on the south shore of Lake Miller was one patch of water hyacinth at the lake’s north shore, and a much smaller one just offshore from our landing site. The high water level in the swamp meant that we were greeted by a gently-sloping beach and only a moderate number of submerged cypress knees, ready to bump or strand any approaching boat. After our lunch break in a grassy clearing (with not a mosquito in sight) we made a short hike up the bank to visit a live oak tree and a pecan tree that are both very old and large specimens of their species. In addition to paying our respects at the memorial marker for Corporal Miller, who served in the War of 1812, we came upon a large “city” of mounds built by leafcutter ants, some of which were out on parade, carrying bits of cut, green foliage to their subterranean fungus gardens. 

 


 
Midday Stopover,
by Richard Cunningham
   
Lunchtime,
by Richard Cunningham
   
City of Ants,
by Linda Shead
 

While we were relaxing up on the bank, our advance scout, Dave Kitson, was out paddling a loop of more than a mile in a half, under what turned out to be arduous conditions, to check out an alternative exit from Lake Miller. Many thanks to Dave, whose scouting intelligence spared the rest of us what could have been a tedious and tiring experience. Retracing our path up Lake Pass, we headed north to Bird Island. (It was underwater for now, and birds won’t return to nest there until spring, so the name seemed a little incongruous.) Then, on north to Buzzard Roost. (One nest of sticks was visible high up in a tree, but no birds were home for now.)

 

Dave Scouts
New Route,
by Linda Shead
   
Toward Bird Island,
by Linda Shead
   
On Lake Charlotte, 
by Linda Shead

 

Next, we headed through the forest, along the western edge of Lake Charlotte for about three-quarters of a mile. Because of the varied and moving reflections of light that are projected up onto the trunks and canopies of the cypresses in this area during the late fall and winter, we often call this part of the trip “going to the movies.”  When we reached the large, broken-off cypress tree that resembles the Statue of Liberty to some, we headed through open water up into the mouth of Mac Bayou. Now, for the first time, we encountered a significant current, flowing down Mac Bayou into Lake Charlotte. After checking out a nesting box that had been installed along the bayou for use by wood ducks, we took a “magic carpet ride” on the current flowing down into Lake Charlotte. A short paddle to the east, back to Cedar Hill Park, completed our trip. 

 

 
Movies,
by Linda Shead
   
Statue of Liberty,
by Linda Shead
   
Over Too Soon,
by Richard Cunningham
    Paddling Route

 

True to prediction, the temperature had been very mild, the skies blue, and winds extremely light, all day long. It just doesn’t get much better than this!


The author,Tom Douglas