Sunday, October 25, 2009
Second, after paddling today we went to the local paddle shop, The Wilderness Way, which was quite conveniently located just a couple miles from the launch, where I purchased The National Audubon Society's Field Guide to Florida, which should help me ID the random plants and animals I come across in my wanderings. It's an overall sort of deal ("birds, animals, trees, wildflowers, insects, weather, nature preserves, and more"), so not too specific, but enough to get me pointed in the right direction in our new environment. N FL is different enough from NC to necessitate some ecological education.
Finally, I got us both USCG approved whistles, which makes us legal, and safer. I read recently of a Wisconsin man who went missing while kayaking on Lake Superior. He was apparently both skilled and experienced, which should serve as a reminder for the rest of us (http://www.northlandsnewscenter.com/news/local/65917347.html).
The wildlife was great. There were a couple of broad winged hawks in our backyard this morning when I was loading, which I took for a (very non-superstitious) good omen. Just before we got to the launch we saw a (live) deer on the side of the road. This is a great birding river; we saw double-crested cormorant, anhinga, pied-billed grebe, osprey, eastern kingbird, great egret, great blue heron, little blue heron, yellow crowned night heron, piliated woodpecker, american crow, turkey vulture, misc. gulls, and even a bald eagle circling high overhead (unmistakable white head, black wings, white tail, and HUGE). There was an alligator or two, and raccoon on the banks. The highlight, and real reason for choosing this trip for today, were the manatee. The first ones we encountered a mile or so down from the launch, feeding on grass beds under water (there were two). They seemed completely unconcerned about us floating just a few feet overhead. Every once in a while they came up to breathe, and then went right back down to keep feeding. Another guy was a little further down. He had a tracking buoy attached to his tail and was easy to spot because it floated a few feet behind him when he was close to the surface. He swam along with us for quite a while, practically serving as our guide for the better part of a mile. A few others popped up to breathe once in a while. It was so cool. They were only a few feet away.
My paddle blade in the frame, which indicates how close this big guy is.
We finally reached the takeout, where my bike was still safely locked up and untampered with. Aimee hung out and read while I pedaled 8 miles up the bike trail to pick up the truck. It was a nice ride. I'll definitely be doing more bike shuttles in the future. It was a great day on and off the water, and now I'm about to eat dinner (chicken stir-fry) and relax. Cheers.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
First was Graham Creek, which can be accessed right under CR 65 in the forest. It's a small blackwater (quite literally, the darkest water I've ever seen) creek on the edge of Tate's Hell State Forest that snakes through fascinating cypress/tupelo swamp on its way to the East River and then the Apalachicola River further downstream. The banks aren't really visible (though water was pretty high); there's just a tree-line that forms the edge of the creek. Michael said that when the flowers on the tupelo trees are in bloom you can hear the bees from a half mile away. The only wildlife we saw was a gator. He was big enough and moving fast enough that he made a wake. This one will be worth seeing again in the winter when all the leaves are off the trees and again in the spring when the trees bloom and the bees are in. We didn't go far because we wanted to spend the bulk of the day at the next spot, so we were on and off the water again in about an hour.
The second trip was on Kennedy Creek, another blackwater creek a little further up CR 65 and deeper in the forest. The launch is from a place called Cotton's Landing (there's signage) a few miles down dirt forest roads. Somewhere along the way to the Apalachicola River the flora shifts from the cypress/tupelo swamp seen previously on Graham to cypress/tupelo/pine/willow mixed forest more typical of other regional rivers I've seen so far. Near the mouth of the creek there are a few houseboats. We went into the river looking for sandbars to lunch on, but the water was so high (from all the recent rain in GA) that they were all submerged. We managed to find a spot on the opposing bank where we ate and rested for the trip back. Out and back was 12 miles (on Michael's GPS). A few birds: little blue heron, green heron, great egret, hairy woodpecker, red-bellied woodpecker, piliated woodpecker; I'm sure I'm forgetting some. A good trip and worth another look.
Despite being over twice my age and having children older than me, Michael's pace is fairly grueling. He called our pace today, "a little slow." I thought we were moving along pretty well. He's got a crew of like-minded paddlers that I'm hoping to join for a few trips, if I can keep up. We'll see.