A fine day on the Wakulla River - Friday, 5/11/07

On a smoky Tallahassee morning with another hot day forecast, we thought paddling on the beautiful spring-fed Wakulla River would be a good anecdote. Today we changed it up and put in at the upper bridge (Hwy 365) south of Wakulla Springs St Pk and cruised downriver to the boat ramp at St Marks near San Marcos de Apalache Historic St Pk - an approximate 7 mile leisurely paddle, with no straining upriver paddle back to our put-in place. It took a bit of jockeying around with both vehicles, but it was worth it.

The water was clear and cool, but decidedly low, with too much dead vegetation due to the herbicide used to kill invasive plants. It's still our favorite place to paddle, tho, because of the diversity of birds, exquisite flowers and scenery, reptiles, and water so clear we can see through it to watch fish (gar, mullet, bass, etc.), porpoises, river otters, and manatees darting and swimming about. This is Florida at its best!

We pulled up under a huge bald cypress to enjoy our lunch in welcome shade, and listened to songbirds, with an occasional hoot from a barred owl or the agitated drumming of a pileated woodpecker. Otherwise we were alone on this peaceful river.  Blissful.

We made a quick side trip on "Big Boggy Branch," but turned around at a felled tree across the water. The Wakulla broadened and became brackish as it neared its the St Marks River confluence, with the Gulf of Mexico not far off.  The scenery changed as well; more salt marsh, less hardwoods. We hadn't seen any manatees yet, but as the St Marks boat ramp came into view, I spied two rounded "boulders" quite close to the shore ... but these boulders moved! I had literally run into a mossy-backed mom with a baby (big baby!). Our day was complete. And after 4+ terrific hours gliding downriver with the current, it was time to get out. GREAT PADDLE!! (Yikes!  Prius recorded 93 degrees when we got in -- again!  Is it stuck?)


More Friday Fun (5/11)

Pelicans are fun to watch. It isn't too often a person can sneak up on them - while in plain sight - in a stealth mode. These guys let me get right up underneath them on a pier before the alarm sounded. I hoped none of them would "let go" when they flew off. None did! They circled one or two times before settling back on their perches!


goodbye spring, hello summer -- 05/06/07

Sunday had originally been forecast as cooler, but it wasn't. It was really too hot to hike in Florida in the afternoon. But, we were already there at the 3.75 mile Garden of Eden trail on the eastern bluff overlooking the Apalachicola River, so we hiked. Tho we'd done this before, we missed the trail head, thus adding another mile to our overall hike. (www.dep.state.fl.us/gwt/guide/regions/panhandleeast/trails/Nature_Conservancy.htm)

This is a great place to get an aerobic workout, with it's ups and downs! 3,400 feet of trail is greater than an 8% slope, and the maximum grade is 63%! We climbed over tree roots, high steps, dodged low limbs, and angled cross slopes and drop offs. We sweat like stevedores lifting cotton bales on the Mississippi in the dead of summer. Luckily we'd brought plenty to eat and drink. You can see by my face in the photo of me at the river (roughly the halfway point), how hot I was.

We appreciated the ravines with their cool streams and lush slope forests, after clambering up and down the steepheads. The Nature Conservancy is reclaiming a damned lake (another botched Corps experiment) and we hiked over to see the now-dry bottom with it's narrow, clear creek.

Spied a new flower: Indian Pink, which surprised us by showing up in one tiny upland area and nowhere else. Prickly pear cactus was blooming. Good news: We saw no snakes this day! We did see a broad-winged hawk. But, now that the days boast 93 degree temps, we'll probably leave our hiking days for the cooler temps of autumn....


Not bad for a workday (Friday, 5/4/07)

We needed an earlier start (for us) before the heat of the day built up, so we were on the water by 8:30ish - to finish paddling the Piney Z/Lake Lafayette canoe trail. This time we began at the Chaires Cross (eastern) side. Due to a lamentable lack of rainfall in Tallahassee, our butts were scraping the muddy bottom of the water in places. In really low spots, our paddles dripped what I can only imagine primordial ooze looked like.

A haze blanketed the undisturbed water surface, as smog covered Tallahassee - smoke from the huge Okefenokee Swamp (GA) wildfire STILL drifting our way (see http://www.okefenokee.com/). The morning was ours to enjoy, regardless....

We had the swampy lake to ourselves; it was so quiet, we might have been hundreds of miles from civilization. Birds - and lots of them - kept us company with their varied calls, from Carolina Chickadees' whistled song to the squealing of a red-shouldered hawk, Great Crested Flycatchers' goofy police-whistle calls, to the loud hammering of a pileated woodpecker. Hidden ducks flew as we glided by. As they took to the air, herons squawked in protest if we came too near.
The sunny day grew hotter. We pushed to finish our 4+ mile paddle and once the kayaks were strapped on the truck, we drove to the Wacissa River to explore and eat lunch!

It's been a couple of years since we visited the beautiful spring-fed Wacissa River, 20 miles east of Tallahassee. We were aghast at how the invasive hydrilla had taken over. Made us grateful to have seen the river five years ago before hydrilla gained control!! Still, the water's crystal clear, though mostly all you can see is hydrilla, not the pristine sandy bottom. Water level is down because of the drought. So far the herbicide hasn't been effective.

We were happy to see the limpkin cruising the water weeds. It's favorite meal is apple snails, which the herbicide kills, but apparently enough snails survived to keep it at the Wacissa. We had never heard it before, and - WOW! - what a noise! It gives out repeated loud anguished screams and is as loud as a howler monkey.

Even Big Blue Spring had grown massive towers of hydrilla. The channels to each spring were narrowed and some were all but impassible. Still, it's hard to beat being on the clear, cool 68 degree water on a hot afternoon. A stiff south wind counteracted the south-flowing current, enabling us to return to our put-in place easier. We spied lots of little blue herons, white egrets, and even a few wood ducks. One mama had ten little ones out in the open for a paddle thru the hydrilla. They were too far away to take their picture. Nor do I have a photo of the daddy wood duck hiding at the edge of the spring - he scrammed away before I could even grab the camera. He does not like his picture taken!
So we finished up 2:30ish and drove the ol' red truck home. Hot. But happy. Great to be in our kayaks again. Terrific that my shoulders let me paddle again. Next week we'll see what's happening on the Wakulla River!


Ain't retirement grand...!

I'd like to keep a journal of our retirement travels, and it's always good to knock out the knots before hitting the highway. So this Bloggie is a trial effort on our part. This morning we decided to ride our bikes before taking them in for service (like a car). And we wanted to bike an area in Tallahassee that we only recently discovered, along the perimeter of Piney Z Lake. We didn't know where the trail would end, but we like to explore new areas, so who cared?

When the ride was finished, we'd only put a little over nine miles on our bikes, but we found a whole new off-road territory, called J.R. Alford Greenway. (www.leoncountyfl.gov/parks). This is a 874-acre multiuse area, with miles of trails - up and down, in and out of trees and pastures. A great place to ride, tho it'd be easy to get "turned around." We didn't bring lunches with us as we hadn't planned on being out so long, so we quit around Noon. Besides, the cool morning had graduated into a hot afternoon. The temp when we cranked up the Prius was 91. HOT.

I was mistaken for a deer twice and next time you can bet I'll be covered in insect spray. The bites are huge and uncomfortable. I am obviously allergic.

We'll be back, even earlier next time, with lunches, helmets, and bug spray. Wonderful ride.