Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Back on the Water

It's been over two months since I was last on the water, mostly due to poor weather whenever I wasn't working and traveling for holidays. Beyond the bad weather though, I've felt a sort of general malaise and lethargy. Perhaps I've been suffering from that seasonal disorder thing. The good side of it is that I've gotten lots of little projects done around the house and several books read and we've been taking the time to cook elaborately. The bad is that I haven't had the will to get outside. I tried last week; even loaded the boat up and drove to the closest launch, but found the river way too high for comfort. I then checked a second spot, Lake Jackson, and despite the decent day and pleasant launch, I wasn't motivated.

Today I got motivated. I left mid-morning and drove an hour S to Wakulla Beach, from which I've paddled once before several months ago. I noted at the time there being plenty of marsh to explore from the launch, and despite the preponderance of marsh time in NC, I'd had very little down here of late, and wished to reconnect, as it were, to the roots of my paddling experience. I launched a couple hours before high tide and in a bit more wind than was really fun. There wasn't much chop to speak of, but it took awhile to get out of the open and into a creek small enough to hide from the wind. From the launch you can either go right or left, with several creeks for exploring each way. Today I went to the right, around the point and back up as far as I could get up the nearest of the major creeks that way. It was pretty tough to find a channel, as there are loads of oyster bars and it was very shallow even at higher tides. Eventually though I managed to find the mouth of a creek and make my way up. After a while I noticed the predictable change from cordgrass to needle rush as I got nearer to the forest, but I also noted that the water was getting much clearer and that there was still plenty of outward flow despite the incoming tide. There is a spring in that area somewhere, which for a bit I thought I was on the track to find, but now I think there was enough water trying to get to the sea from all the rain in the region (all the rivers are up and low areas along roads are flooded) that it was overpowering the tide. Spring or not, the path narrowed to 6' or so and the mud turned to rocks, which was highly unexpected. The water was slightly dark from tannin, but very clear, and there seemed to be hundreds of fish trying to get away from me. As I really got into the woods (palm and cypress) there were signs posted which closed the area ahead from late fall to late spring for nesting eagles. I was curious as hell to keep going, but figured the eagles must need the space, and I don't need a ticket from a wildlife officer, though I doubt anyone would have been any wiser had I continued.

Along the way I saw several alligators (they must not like this cold) and a raccoon foraging for shellfish. I got to sneak right up on the coon cause I was downwind of him and he was walking away from me. He could neither hear nor smell me and didn't turn around and see me until I was almost on top of him. Then he scurried into the tall grass. There were tons of birds that you'd expect in that setting, and a few good surprises: brown pelican, great blue heron, great egret, tri-colored heron, miscellaneous gulls and terns, willet, yellow-legs, grackle, lots of peeps, hooded mergansers, cormorant, osprey, a juvenile bald eagle.

After I turned back I poked my nose into a few little side creeks, but none too far. I really wanted to find a good lunch spot and thought I had when I saw a little beach on a island under some palm trees, but there were signs closing that area til spring as well. Bird habitat. That's fine. So I ate the nabs in my PFD pocket and saved the sandwich for the drive home. The access (this is mostly for my memory) is at the end of Wakulla Beach Rd, which sounds pretty obvious. Thing is, there's no sign from the coastal highway, US 98, that says "Wakulla Beach Rd." At least not that I could find. So, from Woodville highway turn right onto 98, cross the Wakulla River and then turn left down the sand road that's opposite Tripplet Rd (on the right). It's a long sand road that could use some maintenance, but was passable in my truck in 2nd gear. After it dries out some there's beautiful walking/biking paths (unpaved) through the forest there. Worth a look.

Looks like I'll be paddling with the Geezer again here shortly...


Post Script: Upon further research I've found that the area I launched into is known locally as Goose Creek Bay. I was not on the Shepherd (referencing Shepherd Spring) Creek fork, but rather on Gander Creek. Maybe next time I'll wander up and try to find the spring.