|BHPC Trip Information|
Sandy Cove /Fausse Pointe Outing by Terry Carmouche
Sandy Cove? If ever there was a clue that a trip would lead amiss, this should have been the first telltale sign. And if there was a grain of sand in the midst of all that "Atchafalaya black jack mud", it was washed away many floods ago. Not to get ahead of the story, this trip could not possibly be told by only one individual's perspective. There were somewhere in the neighborhood of 23 canoe/kayaks. For the most part, we traversed throughout the day in small clusters of boats, at different speeds and spaced out for a quarter mile. Not knowing everyone's name and to protect the sanctity of our trip, each paddler will be characterized by an appropriate actor. (ps. Tom Cruise was not an option for anyone on this particular trip)
This was to be a covert flotilla of immense proportion. The logistics of the trip you could tell were in the early stages but the trip forged ahead despite any complications. The Baton Rouge operatives met quietly, almost filling a Baton Rouge coffee shop. (Note of interest: Bikers drink coffee with their helmets on.) It became apparent that the trip leader ('El Presidente') being played by Wilford Brimley ( you know - the oatmeal guy) was semi-in charge. We traveled separately in our own vehicles on I-10 towards Breaux Bridge trying not to draw undue attention (right!). At least 3 paddling clubs converged into the semi dark (10:30 am) recesses of Sandy Cove. The rendezvous took place on the banks of an undisclosed stretch of dirt road levee bank next to the first dead cow on the left. We unloaded our gear and were introduced by Brimley to our 'Man in Charge'. A combination 007 and Rambo, "The Man in Black" was our trip leader. He spoke little, but we were advised by Brimley to, "Stick close, listen to him and we should all be alright and get out of this with our life and limbs." For national security reasons I shall from here on out refer to him only as, "Terminator". He wore black Special Forces boots, laced all the way up with black fatigue pants tucked neatly inside. A black windbreaker and black teva paddling hat only insinuated his "Dale Earnhart " wrap around glasses. (did I forget to mention that they were "black"...)
Brimley shuttled us to our final landing area, Ruiz Landing. All 20 vehicles unloaded and then Brimley and his closest advisers comfortably piled into an SUV and sped off back to the equipment. The remaining group (20) stuffed itself into one pickup truck (tail gate down for an additional 4 people), traveled at a low rate of speed and crossed the levee at the now familiar cow carcass. It was a beautiful morning and the sun and temperature were spectacular as we launched.
Traveling south thru the bayou the sites and sounds were surreal. The flotilla of kayaks as they were being passed routinely by canoes signaled that we were in for a very long day. (Curse them low profile sea anchors.) Suddenly we came to an abrupt stop in mid bayou! Not having the training or classified Intel to spot our portage, the majority of the paddlers went right by the patch of mud bank, which would be our first real obstacle of the day. The first wave blindly followed the Terminator into the tar pit. What a mud bath! Men, women, canoes, and kayaks were strewn all over the landing area. Medic! Medic! Bring up some water and towels!!! The second wave of paddlers saw a large log and traversed around the carnage. Han's (Solo) being somewhat a fast learner skirted the whole debacle and landed on the camp pier thus avoiding the whole mud scene.
The opposite side of the portage' was a cypress paradise. A large osprey guarded the entrance to the land that time forgot. Different color watercraft infiltrated the swamp resembling a parade of hot air balloons filling the sky. "Woody" Harrelson called for a lunch break and Brimley chose a secluded mud peninsula, which looked like, had never before been inhabited. (Go figure?) After lunch, we watched an exhibition of balancing the bow and stern of a canoe on opposite sides of a ditch bank. The scene was reminiscent of the Robin Hood / Friar Tuck log duel, with about the same results. Pushing off, soon we were treated to the most beautiful passage thru a cypress-lined watershed. Converged into an openplain area, our water chariots soon carried us around to a current laden stream and the first paddle free few minutes of the day. We exited out into a large canal and were faced immediately with wind and current. Turning to the North, it wasn't long before some trepidation set in as to the whereabouts of the Ruiz Landing. "Earnhart", sorry I mean, "Terminator", sensing the seriousness of paddling his rag tag personnel thru uncharted waters, stopped an aluminum boat with a Cajun speaking individual for directions. "Oh," the Cajun said , "My friend, you passed it up. Go back about...". Finally, some assurance on our exact whereabouts! No? Wait! Here comes another aluminum crawfisherman's boat with about 4 people. "Where's Ruiz?", Terminator speaking with an authoritative tone, not wanting anyone of the troops to know that we may be lost. "Oh cher, you go down to that camp just up the bayou." said Cajun #2. (about 2 miles up).
Now here is where the Man in Black's leadership and experience kicks in. Just being told that Ruiz was in totally opposite directions by two different Cajuns in similar aluminum boats. He makes his decision and we strike out for the landing still heading north. The kayaks and canoes spread out like paratroopers dropped out over France on "D" day. (We already made the Normandy landing) Looking behind me, I see this one lonesome soul, trailing far behind the rest. He was in a tandem canoe, sitting in the stern, performing the world's longest wheelie. I paddled back and gave him some company. He is pleasant and unassuming and you can't help but like him right away. . Obviously in no hurry, we talked and I realized that I had found Tom Hanks. He was in the service (Army) and we spoke of his experiences. Instead of sitting on that park bench, we just happened to be in canoe seats. Time seems to stand still when you paddle with "Leonard Gump" and today was no exception. Brimley was somewhat displeased and it showed in his face waiting for us at the entrance to the final approach to Ruiz. The experience of a simple trip is that it almost always is never simple. We may never know the names of most of the people on a coalitional trip such as this and I am sure that there are many more stories. The lesson here is that it doesn't matter. You just stick together and all paddle like hell in the same direction until you make it home.
The "Terminator" was long gone when Gump and me (Lt. Dan) hit the landing. Paddling is like a box of chocolates, you never know who's gonna be left at the landing. To his credit Brimley stood by us till the end. (Never leave your wingman-aka Top Gun) On second thought maybe Tom Cruise was with us.