Outdoor adventure author hits the Alabama Scenic River Trail with dogs in tow
by Brooke Carbo
Mar 03, 2013 | 8059 views |  0 comments | 90 90 recommendations | email to a friend | print
David Haynes and his two Golden Retrievers glide across Lake Mitchell on their canoe trip down the Alabama Scenic River Trail in May 2012. Photo: Special to The Star
David Haynes and his two Golden Retrievers glide across Lake Mitchell on their canoe trip down the Alabama Scenic River Trail in May 2012. Photo: Special to The Star
David Haynes had already seen Alabama from the open road, spending two years traveling the state by bike for his book “Motorcycling Alabama: Fifty Loops Through the Heart of Dixie.”

Last spring he saw another side of his home state, this time out on the open water. In May 2012, the Blount Springs author and photographer loaded up a 14-foot cedar strip canoe with provisions, his hammock, a carbon-fiber guitar of his brother’s and two Golden Retrievers by the names of Roscoe and Bailey, and headed for the Alabama Scenic River Trail.

Beginning their high-seas adventure on the Coosa River just on the other side of the Georgia line, the trio spent the next six weeks braving summer rainstorms, overgrown ’gators and Bailey’s diva antics — “I had to play her a lullaby every night or she wouldn’t go to sleep,” Haynes said.

They also made a few friends and snapped tons of photos as they made their way to Fort Morgan, where the journey ended in the Gulf waters off Dauphin Island.

The University of Alabama Press plans to publish Haynes’ second book, “Paddling Alabama: From the Mountains to the Sea,” a canoeing guidebook and personal narrative of his Alabama Scenic River adventure.

Tomorrow night Haynes — along with Roscoe and Bailey — will be at JSU to talk about their trip and sign copies of “Motorcycling Alabama.” The event is free and open to the public. Copies of Haynes’ book will be available for purchase.

Day 1 - Cedar Bluff, Ga.

Haynes’ friend Joe snapped a picture of him and his canine traveling companions (4-year-old Bailey, right, and 3 1/2-year-old Roscoe, left) just before they launched their canoe into the Coosa River.

“I wanted to make sure we traveled the whole trail in Alabama,” Haynes said. “So we actually drove over the state line and took off from a boat launch about 200 yards inside Georgia.”

Throughout the trip, Haynes said he averaged around 15 miles a day. But he hit the ground running on Day 1, paddling around 20 miles and hitting Weiss Dam the next day.

Day 13 - Lay Lake

Haynes spent most of Day 13 paddling through heavy wind and rain.

“This was one of many, many rainstorms,” he said, not a surprise for the Alabama native. Unless there was a threat of lightning, Haynes said he and Roscoe typically toughed them out without too much trouble.

Bailey however, “was a little more particular,” he said. “She wouldn’t sit in the boat when there was water sitting in the bottom.

I had to bail the water out of the canoe before she would sit down.”

Day 16 - Lake Jordan

“This was our longest day,” Haynes said, beginning at Mitchell Dam around 6 a.m. and ending in Wetumpka, 35 miles away, by 7:30 p.m.

As the canoe crossed Lake Jordan’s west bank late in the morning, Haynes heard crashing water and followed the sound through a slough to a 25-foot waterfall.

“If we’d been in a motorboat we would have never found it,” he said.

The water was crisp and cool, so Haynes let Roscoe and Bailey out to splash around for a while. When it was time to pack up, “Bailey did not want to leave at all,” he said. “I ended up having to get out of the boat and go get her.”

Day 18 - Montgomery Marina

As the trio pulled into the marina in Montgomery, the sights and sounds of the big city were an odd change of pace after 18 days on the river — as was their campsite for the night, down the hill from the Marina Bar and Grill.

“It was a little bit more loud than we’d been used to on the river,” Haynes said. The site’s scenery was also a far cry from the peaceful waters and tree-lined banks they’d been inhabiting — a riverboat excursion with bright red smokestacks and cheerful blue trim half sunk in the marina’s waters.

Day 27 - Roland Cooper State Park

As Day 27 on the river was winding down, Haynes steered into an inlet just north of Camden on the Alabama River and found himself in a sea of water hyacinth, what he thought was a dramatic photo op.

“But Roscoe, with his pea-sized brain, sees the flowers and thinks it’s dry land, it must be safe.” The dog dove in headfirst, disappearing beneath the foliage, Haynes said, and “before I could stop her, Bailey jumped in after him.”

After managing to get both dogs back into the boat without capsizing it, he saw what was underneath all those pretty lavender flowers — thick, black silt.

“Of course both dogs were covered in it for the rest of the day.”

Day 30 - Miller’s Ferry

Out on the water there are countless sights, smells and sounds to capture the attention of two curious dogs. Especially Bailey.

“She notices everything,” Haynes said. “Roscoe is a little more oblivious.”

But Haynes had to be cautious that they didn’t become to excitable while onboard, throwing the canoe off balance. “Their weight is not insignificant,” he pointed out.

As the canoe turned south on Day 30 for the final third of the trip, it found no shortage of distractions.

“There are lots of jumping fish down there,” he said, what he called paddlefish or spoonbill catfish. “There was a time I couldn’t look down the river and see one jumping or a splash where one had just jumped.”

Day 36 - South of Choctaw Bluff

As the trio approached the Gulf Coast in the final leg of their journey, long white sandbars seemed to be around every bend, much to the dogs’ delight.

“When we’d stop at these remote areas, they’d play all afternoon,” Haynes said. “I’d just let them run and play till they’d wear themselves out.”

This particular sandbar campsite, he said, was about a mile from of the spot where the Cuba sternwheeler sank in 1865 near the Alabama and Tombigbee rivers confluence, and about 100 miles from Fort Morgan, where the Alabama Scenic River Trail comes to its end.

An Evening with David Haynes

Talk and book signing with author and outdoor adverturer David Haynes and his traveling companions, Roscoe and Bailey

When: Monday at 7 p.m.

Where: Houston Cole Library on JSU campus

Admission: Event is free and open to the public
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