Murder in the Cold
Thirteen paddlers from opposite directions of the compass meeting at a place called Murder Creek on a chilly Saturday with temperatures starting in the 30s – what could go wrong? I had just parked my truck after running the shuttle, and my wife ran up to me declaring, “We’ve had an incident!” My thought was “Really, already?”
We were paddling the twelve-mile section of Murder Creek from CR 6 in Castleberry down to the next bridge at the aptly named Murder Creek Road. The launch site was right under the CR 6 bridge, and the dirt track down to it was a little bit iffy, but doable. We were able to unload seven vehicles under the bridge without much difficulty, despite some rather large puddles under the bridge. I’ve often thought that Alabama must have a state law requiring that dead animal carcasses be dumped under bridges. I had no reason to believe otherwise after this visit to Murder Creek.
I drove the shuttle crowd back to the put-in, and our gang was starting to launch before I made it back down to the river. The first one into the water, well, she went into the water. She was launching off of a steep bank into deep water and rolled. I won’t say her name to save any embarrassment, but I will say that it rhymes with “Miss Tack.” Miss Tack has accused her husband of paying Jim and me to arrange an accident for her for insurance purposes. She survived a previous incident on this very creek. Fortunately, I had an alibi in this case, but I’m not sure where Jim was at the time. I’d heard that he was seen with a candlestick in the Conservatory, but I can’t say for sure. Miss Tack did an outfit change before we left the put-in, and all was well.
We picked an alternate launch spot, and we all made it off without further incident. Despite the morning chill, there was little wind, and I was comfortable in my three light layers – and my life jacket. I did have one cancellation because of the cold, but the weather was never a factor. Shortly after lunch, I was down to just one layer.
We had a nice current, and the water level was pretty good. A few years back on this section of the creek, the water was a bit lower, and we drug at the large shoal near the end of the trip. This is where Miss Tack ended up in the water with her foot stuck in one of the limestone holes. That could have been very serious, but we were lucky that day. Today, however, we had smooth sailing over all of the shoals, including the 2-foot or so finale drop.
It had been a while since we’d been here, and I remembered nice, open channels. Well, we did have that in places. Among other things, we had three tight squeeze limbo trees that caused some significant slowdowns. With a swift current, it can be difficult to line up just right to duck down and scrape under a tree. If you get your angle wrong, you have to paddle back upstream and try again. If any of these limbo trees had been a little lower, or the water a little higher, we would have faced a pretty tough pullover.
There were a good number of logs and such to dodge in the water. There were also some spots where a swift current wanted our boats to go in directions we didn’t want to go, but we went on mostly without a hitch. I did say “mostly without a hitch.” One of our group was jealous about Miss Tack’s outfit change, and she wanted to try a different look for the afternoon, as well. Terri hit a log sticking up in the water and went right in. She was wearing a life jacket that inflates when it hits the water. (See below. Terri did approve the use of this picture.) While the life jacket did keep her afloat, it wasn’t much good for the rest of the trip. Oh, and Terri apparently didn’t like her second outfit either. She decided to try on yet another outfit less than an hour later.
I do have one additional note on groups and islands. What the heck am I talking about? Well, there are a couple of islands in Murder Creek, one of them fairly large. Our group of thirteen was a little spread out, but we did have a designated sweep (person bringing up the rear) – my darling wife. Several of us had gone downstream on the left side of the big island and through a fun little shoal with some trees and obstacles to dodge. I pulled off to wait, expecting the rest of group to be right behind me. Well, they weren’t. After a bit, I wanted to go back upstream (not an easy prospect at this spot) and see what was up, but I was left with the island conundrum. If I went up one side of the island, my fellow paddlers could come down the other. I have, unfortunately, faced the island conundrum on more than one occasion. I do have walkie talkies (one for the scout and one for the sweep), but I’d forgotten to bring them. If I’d had those, I could have talked to Susan in the back. The rest of the group finally did catch up, (there was a holdup at a limbo tree), but by then Jim and I had decided to head up opposite sides of the island. Then everyone was accounted for but Jim. Swell, great planning on my part. Jim did made it back, and we headed on. Note to self: next time wait at the top of the island or remember the walkie talkies.
All in all, a really great day on the river! Everyone, including Miss Tack, survived.
Trip Date: February 6, 2017 Gauge Height: 4.77, steady, upstream at Evergreen. 10.87, steady, downstream at Brewton.