Archived Story

Brother Ralph brings new supplies

Published 10:55am Wednesday, August 29, 2012

By Harold Banks, Special to the Outlook

Editor’s note: This is the 11th installment in a fascinating diary chronicling a 400-mile paddle down the entire length of the Alabama River. 

April 11, 2012 – Day 11

High 77, Low 52 – Partly cloudy, brief light rain

Wednesday night – Mile 234 – Isaac Creek Campground

I heard fewer birds this morning than any day on this trip.

There is something ominous about this spot on Tallatchee Creek, and I hurry to leave it to the “swamp hain’t” or whatever it is that haunts this cheerless place.

When I emerge from narrow Tallatchee creek into the Alabama River channel I see something I haven’t seen in a while—clouds.  They are low hanging stratus clouds and don’t look too thick, so at first I figure they’ll burn off with full daylight.

Instead, they thicken and a light rain starts to fall, but not enough to make me don rain gear.

After about thirty minutes, the sky clears amazingly fast, and a brisk wind picks up from the north, but that’s OK with me because I’m headed south.

The day is uneventful, and I’m burning up the miles with a cool wind to my back.

I look up at some point and a small, moving dot catches my eye.

I have to watch a while before I realize it is a bald eagle.

It is almost straight overhead and so high it fades from view now and then, but when it turns just right to the sun, the white head and tail provide positive identification.

Even with normal snack and lunch breaks, I make the 19 miles to Isaac Creek by 1:30 p.m.

I was able to make such good time because of ideal weather and eagerness to get to this full-facility campground.

Brother Ralph meets me here with a resupply box, quarters for the washing machine, and makings for a supper different from my normal freeze-dried fare.

I discard gear I don’t need, refill my food pack, and swap my favorite canoeing tent for a standalone tent that won’t require staking and is thus better suited for the sandbars and beaches where I will be camping below here.

Then it is time to get the showering and clothes washing out of the way so I can kick back and enjoy a little civilized camping:  sitting at a table, talking to human beings, hearing a little news, being lazy, drinking a cold beer.

Ralph cooks lamb chops with taters, onions, and gravy and afterwards surprises me with Butterfinger pie for dessert.

What a brother!

He even brings some spirit lifting spirits which I savor sparingly.

We sit around a campfire that feels good on an unusually chilly night and discuss shared adventures past and yet to come.

Our conversation is interrupted at one point when three nearby owls get into a heated argument and a donkey across the river starts braying in protest at the ruckus.

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