Francis makes her maiden voyage.

Patrick and I put Francis in the spaceship and drove to Hurricane Creek yesterday to take Francis on her maiden voyage. Now, Patrick and I have been known to disagree on important matters like trails and canoe routes, and we certainly kicked up some dirt yesterday.

Patrick preferred to put in at Hurricane Creek Park off Highway 216 and paddle downstream to Watson’s Bend Campground. I had a different plan- hatched out of curiosity to explore the parts of the creek downstream from Watson’s Bend ,since most paddlers don’t describe taking that route since the 2011 tornado.

A swimming hole at Watson’s Bend.

Eventually, the less-wise-but-more-interesting plan (mine) was agreed upon (mostly) and we put Francis in the creek at Watson’s Bend Campground with an eye towards the Black Warrior.

John Wathen explained that we would encounter tornado debris and other impediments along the way as Patrick’s gaze turned to a glare- “What are we doing, Alina? Why can’t we just go the way everyone agrees is beautiful and a pleasant paddle?”

There was no one, single answer to this question- only an assortment of longings and possibilities. Honestly, I feared that a droughty summer might dry out the lower portions of the creek, and I wanted to get a sense of how it had been affected by the tornado. I was also insatiably curious.

After much sighing and professed confusion, Patrick agreed to our adventure, which would require us to paddle back upstream since we had not left a car at a ramp on the Black Warrior.

We knew that we would need to get out and pull Francis over certain areas, so we attached a few lines and set off towards the first impediment- a pile of branches and stumps which could be viewed from Watson’s Bend. Patrick walked into the middle of the rooty ruckus and began to fight with the branches emerging from the water.

Meanwhile, I quietly led Francis to the left of Patrick and laid down in her lap while using my arms to pull us under the thick branch curled over the water. (You can see the branch in the left part of the photo.) Patrick grumbled as he watched me glide under, but I felt certain that he was secretly admiring my ingenious solution to impediment number 1- and possibly even beginning to embrace our chosen route.

Patrick admires the curves of Hurricane Creek, where one line always leads around a corner to a new vista.

As it turned out, our first impediment was really our only impediment. The rest was smooth, albeit lazy and slow, paddling, since I felt the urge to talk to every minnow or water bug which crossed our path.

The place we dubbed, “The Roman Nose”, a perfect spot for camping and swimming and admiring a rock which resembles a Roman nose.

We were surprised to hear the roar of a small waterfall ahead.

Unsure of the water source, we chose to glide up and examine the scene.

Great rock cliffs to our right upon approaching the waterfall.

We decided to pull off to the bank across the stream from the waterfall and seek the source. The water had a bluish cast, which reminded me of Eugene Allen Smith’s explanation for how Blue Springs from that the local lime kilns gave the stream its color.

We failed to spot the source of the waterfall- all we could see was what appeared to be a wetland or small lake filled with vegetation. A take-home mystery I can’t wait to try and solve.

Since we had to return by 6 pm, we checked our map and realized we had made it about a third of the way to Black Warrior. Estimating that the upstream paddle would take more time, we decided to head back.

Patrick walks Francis through a shallow area.

The sunlight on our return illuminated the waters.

The Roman Nose on our return revealed the Shoe Horn stone we had overlooked. The smoothness of these rocks suggest that the Creek has been smoothing them and shaping them for a long time.

Our upstream paddle passed by in the blink of an eye. Soon, we were back at Watson’s Bend, regretting the end of a maiden voyage that carried with it the weight of a future addiction. Sadly, my otherwise-very-responsible husband neglected to pack champagne or beer which with to christen poor Francis, so she remains “Francis” in the abstract alone. It looks like her second voyage will have to be the one in which she is officially christened. I wonder what we’ll discover…