Sunday, August 30, 2009

St. Marks Trail

Aimee and I biked the St. Marks Trail (SMT) this morning from the "trail-head" on Woodville Hwy to the town of St. Marks and back, about 16 miles each way. The trail is part of FL's Rails to Trails program and actually begins in town very near the FSU campus and proceeds S to the point where we accessed it. It's a nice little lot with restroom facilities and a bike wash. The trail is very flat (3' elevation change on the section we did), reasonably smooth, and mostly straight. It runs alongside the highway, but there's often enough of a forest barrier to obscure the sight and sounds of the roadway. On the way we passed several cow and horse pastures and through lots of pine forest. We saw 5 red headed woodpeckers in one copse of trees and a pretty big deer. We stopped at San Marcos de Apalache Historic State Park at the end to snack and rest up for the return trip. The area, which is at the confluence of the St. Marks and Wakulla rivers, was utilized by Spaniards in 1528 as the first site of non-native shipbuilding in the New World. It has been the site of numerous wood and stone forts, belonged to Spain, then England, then the US, then Florida, was controlled briefly by Andrew Jackson, and was used by Confederate soldiers to keep the Union blockade from moving any further upriver (Tallahassee was the only state capitol east of the Mississippi River not to fall to the Union). Now it's a quiet grassy area with ruins, picnic tables, and a public water access (that I'll be using shortly, despite the pesky $5 launch fee). After wandering around a bit, we rode thru St. Marks (not much to it, and not all that charming really) and then biked back up the trail to the car. All said we went about 33 miles (Aimee's longest ride yet). We started at 8:30 and got back around noon. Now resting and reading. Cheers.

Locust menage a trois

Saturday, August 29, 2009


Figs are in right now at the local grocery store. Buy one get one free, in fact. So we've been sampling the biblical fruit. One of the last meals we had in Wilmington was served by our friends Colin and Barb, and was begun with a plate of figs wrapped in prosciutto, which was delicious. Right now we're snacking on fresh figs stacked with prosciutto and blue cheese, which really ties the flavors together and is very fricking good, while we sip peach lambic beer and make the main course, lemon pepper chicken with roasted potatoes, small onions roasted in balsamic, olive oil and sea salt, and a salad. It's a nice way to end the day. Tomorrow we're biking the St. Mark's Trail. I'll post on it. Cheers.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

St. Marks River, US 98 to Springs

OK, I can't seem to find the words to write this trip report with any poetry, so I'll just stick to facts. Paddled solo yesterday on the upper section of the St. Marks River, launching under and returning to the bridge on US 98. On the water around ten. 6.5 miles upriver/up-current through remote forest to some houses at the N end, where the otherwise narrow waterway opens and expands to several hundred yards wide. At this point the river goes underground and reemerges a little further N. There were loads of birds in this open marshy area, as well as bulls foraging and feeding on the water grass in the knee high water. Took a short break to eat a peach and some nabs, splash some water on my face, then float the current back to the launch. Almost 5 hours on the water, about 13 miles covered. Pretty trip, but kind of unremarkable aside from the completely unexpected siting of four huge bulls with 2' horns that I had to paddle within 30' of. I only saw one alligator, and it was small. Good birds in the open area, but little on the trip up.

After the trip I stopped at The Wilderness Way to inquire about a guide book to help trip planning. When I asked the proprietress, Georgia, how tidal the St. Marks River is, she replied, "very." I had launched on a mid falling tide, and thus fought the worst of the current as the force of the normal flow of the river coincided with the pull of all that water trying to get to the Gulf of Mexico just a few miles further downriver. My return was all with current, but it had slowed substantially as the incoming pushed against the normal outward flow, and was thus not the torrent I had expected to carry me home. Still, my return took half the time as my ascent. Next time I'll start the trip with the last hour or so of the incoming tide and return on the falling. The book was out of stock, but expected in later this week, so hopefully I'll have one soon. It's a good paddle shop and I'll be happy to get information and other paddling needs there.

Monday, August 24, 2009


I've got the day off tomorrow, so I'm trying to figure out where I want to paddle. Not that there's a shortage of options; there's a ton of possibilities. But I don't know anything about any of them. In NC I was familiar enough with local waters to choose a trip based on the local weather, wind strength and direction, tide, and my mood. Too many consecutive trips on the river sent me back to the marsh. Too much time in the marsh sent me looking for blackwater trips; and so on. Sometimes I wanted to do things I hadn't done much like paddle into the ocean, and other times I wanted something comfortable and familiar like looking for birds in the waterways behind WB. Furthermore, a fact I've long been very aware of and grateful for, I had paddling friends with loads of experience in regional waters. When I had a day off, I would look at the weather, consider what I wanted to do, and plan a trip. Or the Geezer would call me and say "Hey, the tide looks good for X, let's go." I was rarely disappointed. Right now I have neither the experience to choose a trip based on its character, nor a friend to advise me. Of course, these things will come with time, but in the meantime it makes my trip selection somewhat arbitrary. So I'm sitting here with my Florida Gazetteer and Google Earth trying to figure out the best trip. It's looking to be a launch in the gulf village of St. Marks, which will give me a choice of three directions: up the St. Marks River to the St. Marks Spring, up the Wakulla River towards its spring, or down the St. Marks River into the Gulf of Mexico, where'd I poke around in the marshes around the rivermouth. I'll shoot from the hip.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Wacissa River Headwaters

We FINALLY got to get out and paddle this wonderfully cool morning, after a little more than two weeks of the seemingly endless process of settling into a new house and town. For the first excursion I chose the Wacissa River (pronounced wah-SIS-uh), which is a pretty short spring fed river typical of this part of FL, roughly 30 mins from Tallahassee. The parking lot was nearly empty when we got there to unload the boats at the headwaters. We paddled S from the launch, pulled into a small creek or two looking for a place called Big Blue Spring, which we found, and then downriver about 3 miles to a small river island called Cedar Island, which we did a little loop around and paddled against the light current back to the launch. Big Blue is a huge azure hole in the earth that is about 45' deep, with precipitous walls that seem to go straight down. There are two swimming platforms, but we didn't use them this time. The water is about 70 degrees year round, so I'll be using it again to escape from the heat down here. The two most striking things about the trip were the water clarity (crystalline) and the wildlife, especially the birds. We saw great egret, tons of snowy egrets, great blue heron, little blue heron, tricolored heron, green heron, white ibis, swallow-tailed kite, common moorhen, American coot, kingfishers, cormorant, anhinga, osprey, ducks, a hawk, and probably, but not positively, a purple gallinule. We also saw plenty of Suwanee Cooters (turtle) and one little gator. Aside from Big Blue, opportunities to get out of the boat were non-existent, so we were both glad to get back to the lot at the end after over 3 hours in the cockpit. It got warm, but it's really not too bad today, even as I type this in mid-afternoon it's not that bad outside. Now we're going to work in the yard and do standard Sunday stuff like read and nap. Cheers.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

First Bike Ride in Tally

This morning I undertook my first commute by bike in my new city. I hadn't done it yet because I was trying to figure out a good route. Again, it seems that I was a little spoiled back in Wilmington. My ride there was slightly less than 4 miles, almost entirely on quiet residential roads that were designated bike routes, with negligible elevation change (due to the coastal plain). Here, it's almost 7 (which is fine, 4 wasn't really enough), on busier roads, with a lot of hills to climb (about 130' in elevation change). I'm definitely not used to hills. There were a couple on my route that were very long, at least by my standards. I finally figured a way to the shop that is almost all on roads with bike lanes or residential. Unfortunately, I only got to go one way, as there is an evening thunderstorm around 6 pm every fricking day right now which is really starting to piss me off. My boss says that this weather pattern will change soon and the riding will be great. I hope so. In any case, the more arduous ride is a good thing. It's better for me that way. And along the way I pass a meat market and an old man selling produce out of his garage. Cheers.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


If you know me, or you've paid attention to the little hints, you know that I've been planning a move to Tallahassee, Florida, for some time. I'm following my girlfriend, Aimee, who starts a Ph.D. program in a couple of weeks at FSU.

So now I'm in N FL. I'm very sad to leave my friends and paddling partners and waterways of SE NC. But in the trade I get a whole new set of creeks, rivers, and open water (the Gulf this time) to explore. I hope that those of you who were kind enough to leave nice comments or check regularly will continue to do so, even though you don't stand to learn anything new about paddling in the Cape Fear region. Maybe you'll learn some of the same things I'll learn about paddling and biking here in the panhandle of Florida. So far it's pretty good, though I've been too busy unpacking and getting settled and starting a new job to hit the water yet. I've got a couple of trips planned though, and I'm stoked to meet people and find new water down here.

I know it might seem like a bit much, but Aimee and I decided that the easiest way to keep friends and family abreast of us is to make a new blog about the house and what we do with it. You can see it at

Here's a photo of our new hanging herb garden:

Parsley, Chives, Spearmint, and Basil

Thursday, August 6, 2009

I AM a Monkey's Uncle!

A few months ago I posted about soon becoming an uncle. It's been my most popular post to date. Today I actually became Muncle Josh (see the previous post for that explanation). Here he is, little baby Max:

And here's a photo of a baby monkey:

See the family resemblance?