It had been the end of last summer since my last trip to the Atchafalaya Spillway and with the Spring rise commencing, I knew deep water was abundant. And, like the rest of the South, Louisiana got a “real winter” in early 2013; surface vegetation would not be a problem either. Over the levee I had to go. Joining me for today’s ride was an old high school buddy of mine, Mike Gautreau. Mike and I still live in the same community and usually share a cup of coffee each morning before starting our day. I knew it would be a special treat to share a day riding together.
Our plan was to mark some trails in the spillway, then pick up and re-drop on the Belle-side of the levee. We made it to the launch just after 10am finding very little traffic, save the crawfishermen, and a stiff 25-to-30 knot breeze coming straight out of the south. I chatted with one of the fishermen hauling out his morning catch who had just returned from Grand Lake and reported, “three to five footers.” Hmmm… We hadn’t left the dock and we were already on Plan B.
It mattered not – there was too much water in other places. We put the wind at our back and bounced north in the Intercoastal through the two-foot chop until we found Old River. With the majority of the wind blocked off, we traveled the length of the river taking Bayou Mallet where the two waterways met. A mile into Bayou Mallet we came across a large O&G operation putting large assets in place. After a brief discussion with a tug captain, we learned that an extraction unit was being installed to capture a large pocket of natural gas sitting 30,000 feet below us.
We idled past the work zone (and I later note it was the only time we stopped for traffic) and took back to the trail. We crossed over via Middle Fork, and took the turn into West Fork.
Although this was the same track to Grand Lake, I’d thought we’d investigate the Skeeter Canal which I have not been down in over 25 years.
With this part of the trail not marked, we went “off the grid” where I only made two wrong turns before finding the correct route. It was a good feeling knowing I found the way from some long ago remembered route shown to me by my father so very many years ago.
We carved our way through the Zig-Zag canals (aptly named) and was once again back at the O&G work zone in Bayou Mallet. Again, we zipped over through Middle Fork and then made the turn left (as opposed to the earlier right) and worked our way back to the ramp while completing an ugly “Figure 8” through the swamp. It was noon when we arrived back at the ramp, where back to the other side of the levee we went.
Our second drop of the day was at Doiron’s ramp in Stephensville. With the bikes back in the water, we went straight to Gros’ Marina where the burgers were hot and the band pumping out some tunes. Refreshed, we took to the water, heading south in Four Mile Bayou and then east into Bayou Felix. We took Felix nearly all the way to Grassy Lake, but decided to skip the open water and circumnavigated our way through the canals and bayous.
We finally found Belle River, near Persimmon Pass that connects Lake Palourde to the smaller Grassy Lake. The wind was howling in the pass and we opted to idle through the rough water. Heading back up north, we each took on five extra gallons of fuel at the Mosquito Bar where we ran into some friends from back home.
After a quick break, we were back on the trail and on a camp-hopping tour of Belle River. We made a few stops as we found friends and relatives on our northward track. It was at our last stop, just across the river from the Spunky Monkey where we found some friends and one television celebrity – Glenn Guist of the History Channel’s “Swamp People.”
With the wind still gusting and the clouds threatening, we mounted the skis for the last time and headed back for the ramp. It was a fifteen mile sprint and twice we were hit by a few stinging rain drops. It was a great day of riding, seeing the sights, and visiting with friends. And wouldn’t you know it – one mile shy of the ramp I found one more friend, Jerry Gaddis. We had a very brief visit, but I’ll see him next week at the annual Mudbug PWC Rally. I know he’ll be there; it’s his party.
“Grand Lake & Lake Verret Loops, Sunday Double-Dip: A Prelude to Mudbug” was originally published by Billy Crews Jr. on April 28, 2014 and can be read in its original form at PWC Trailfinder.