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HomeNL-2016-02 CharMacSanTrin

Charlotte - Mac - Sand Hills - Trinity
Jan. 8, 2016
Joe Coker

Spring-like weather in the middle of winter is hard to resist!  So, off we went— Natalie, Dave K., Tom D. (Leader) and I, on another epic exploratory paddle!  Conditions were great, and multiple options presented themselves. It was a little foggy and overcast, but temps reached a pleasant 70ish, and winds were light out of the SE. The Trinity at Liberty was running at about 49,000 cfs and 28.8 ft.  Charlotte was at 13.2 ft., and the water was like glass.

After a powwow at Crawdad’s, we decided on a put-in at Cedar Hill with the intent of heading up to Mac Lake and come what may. It was about 10:30 when we finally set off. At the bottom of Mac Bayou, we decided to divert momentarily for a quick transit through Gator Alley (the narrow slot next to Sand Island), something you can do only during the winter months when the gators are elsewhere!


Cedar Hill             Gator Alley

Emerging on the other side, we circled to the right though woods and attempted to bushwhack northeastward hoping to intersect the bayou. But no such luck as an impenetrable wall of hyacinth blocked any passage. So, we backtracked through the alley and into the bayou the normal way.  Initially, there was negligible current, but by about half way up, we began battling against upwards of 3.5 mph. Strong boils and eddies near the top, around the big pipe made passage a little tricky. Definitely not for beginners!  The culprit was a very strong flow from the Sulfur Cut emerging from the woods on the right (east) via what used to be the original path of the bayou.  A word of caution, paddling Mac Bayou should probably be avoided when the Trinity is above 50,000 cfs at Liberty.
Conditions in the Sulphur Cut were benign, and we had no problem continuing across and upward toward Mac Lake. On the way, we diverted into the “Secret Cut” on the left and given the high water, were able to paddle deep into the woods.  Beautiful!  From there, we successfully bushwhacked our way over to Mac Lake… a first for all of us!
On the Secret Cut

We paused for a good while to enjoy the peaceful solitude. Conditions were excellent to do more exploring up there, but we decided instead to head back to Charlotte and down to the Sand Hills between Wes Cove and the Trinity. We were interested to determine the minimum water level necessary to make the transit cleanly across to the Trinity. Needless-to-say, the return down Mac Bayou was much speedier and easier! However, we still had to exercise due caution getting past the boils.

Once back on Charlotte, we beat a fast course through Buzzard Roost and down Wes Cove.  A Y-shaped, dead tree standing out from the rest, marks the entrance to the thinnest cut to the Trinity.  With the much less dense winter cover, bushwhacking over to the Sand Hills was much easier than usual, and we reached the main mound in just a few minutes. Badly in need of a rest stop at that point, we got out and hiked around for quite a while before checking the final passageway over to the Trinity.  None of us had ever explored the dunes immediately to north, so that’s where we headed.  Found them to be not as defined as the others but still worth the visit. Broad expanses of big, leaf-cutter ant hills and trails plus numerous thorny Hardy Oranges (Poncirus Trifoliata) were an interesting find.

Lots more to explore out there, but the afternoon was waning, and we were intent on establishing whether or not we had enough water to paddle the remaining approx 75 yards through the narrow pass between the two main mounds over to the river. As it turned out, we were right on the button and were able to establish that 13.2 ft. on the Charlotte gauge is the “official” necessary minimum.
Trifoliata             Ant Hills
Just scraping bottom a couple places, we successfully once again made the transit to the Trinity and were happy to induct Natalie as the latest member of the venerable Trinity Transit Club!
High, fast-moving water on the Trinity reminded us of our desire to eventually make an unimpeded transit across the entire basin! But now it was time to head for home. A light breeze from the south and glassy water made for a nice ending to our 8.5 mile expedition!
Sunset on Lake Charlotte 

GPS track courtesy of Tom Douglas

Note: All trip pics may be viewed on the HCC website, here: Charlotte-Mac-Sand Hills-Trinity 1/8/16

The author,Joe Coker