Banks makes his way to Holy GroundPublished 1:56pm Tuesday, August 14, 2012
By Harold Banks, Special to The Outlook
Editor’s note: This is the third installment in a fascinating diary chronicling Harold Banks’ 400-mile paddle down the entire length of the Alabama River.
April 3, 2012 – Day 3
High 84, Low 60,
I set my watch alarm for 5:30 a.m., but if it went off I didn’t hear it.
That’s OK because birdsong woke me at 6 a.m. and there wouldn’t have been enough light to do anything earlier. I had a much better night than the first. Nothing disturbed the sweet sleeping music played by crickets and frogs except the occasional bold call of a great horned owl, which is always a thrill to hear.
I cook a breakfast of freeze-dried scrambled eggs with ham and green peppers and mix in a pack of instant grits for extra carbs and calories, all washed down with two big cups of strong instant coffee.
I promise it was better than it sounds, or maybe I was just hungry as a bear.
This was a nice campground, but it takes three long roundtrips to get canoe and gear to the boat ramp so I’m tired and sweaty before I even begin to paddle.
I have been generally impressed with how clean and clear the Alabama River has been thus far, but the mile of Catoma Creek I float down toward the main river is anything but with lots of flotsam including cans, bottles, tennis balls, and an ugly scum, all washed down from Montgomery neighborhoods I presume.
I get to the river and immediately encounter a headwind of course, but it is not too strong. I knew at the outset that prevailing winds this time of year come from the Southwest.
I see my first alligator. Only his nostrils and eyes are out of the water, and as I approach he sinks without a ripple. It is the only gator I see all day, but I’m sure more saw me.
The day is pleasant, and I’m surprised how quickly I cover 22 miles to arrive at Holy Ground.
It was here that the Redstick Creeks established a defensive position in 1813 on a river bluff that was supposedly protected by a spiritual barrier that no white man could enter.
But in December 1813, General Claiborne and a force of 1,000 soldiers broke through that barrier. However, most of the Redsticks escaped including William Weatherford, or Red Eagle, who jumped on his horse Arrow and rode through a hail of gunfire to make a spectacular leap over the bluff, or so the story goes.
I camp at the Corps of Engineers Holy Ground Park. It is not entirely legal because this park is for day use only, but when I arrive mid-afternoon, there is no one in the park.
I pitch my tent in a remote wooded corner knowing that when I leave by 7 a.m., there will be no trace of my having been there.
I take a long, leisurely swim in the designated swimming area and enjoy having this pretty place to myself.
There are picnic tables and covered pavilions shaded by mature hardwoods, a nice sandy beach, running water, a bath house, and not a soul around. I have plenty of time to cook supper, prepare for the next day, and retreat to my tent before nightfall.
I catch up on my journal entries and look forward to another peaceful night with no sounds but owls, frogs, and mosquitoes. Lots and lots of mosquitoes.