February 14, 2009

FLORIDA - Wakulla Springs Tourboat

Well today is rainey & wet, not too nice for a paddle, so we opt for a visit to Edwin Ball State Park at Waculla Springs. After having the famous Navy Bean Soup for lunch at the Lodge, we decide to take the 30 minute boat tour which travels the upper three miles of the River, including a loop through the Spring.

The lunch was delicious, and it wasn't long before we on board with Captain Luke, a hilarious character that made the trip worth it just to hear his southern accented tales & description of the creatures we'd see. For a video sample take a look at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n53BVkTHGps&feature=channel_page

AS we pulled out of the dock and gazed down this beautiful stream, we truly appreciate the crystal waters and abundant wildlife of Florida!

the shores were moving with birds of all kinds....

and, of course, critters looking for a quick meal!

as we appraoch the turnaround point, I glance down and see hundreds of fish swimming by, mostly mullet & bass, wish I had my fishin' pole!

The trip around the backside of a long island rewarded us with more views of waterfowl, including a beautiful pair of Wood Ducks, and several Great Blue Herons.

John took advantage of the meandering journey back to enjoy a few personal stories from Luke...what a great day on the River!

February 13, 2009

FLORIDA - Wacissa Springs Paddle

After days of dreary skies and constant rain, we arrive at the put-in to be greeted by clearing skies and bright sunshine, what a great day for a paddle! Our welcoming party of Ibis waited patiently in the big cypress next to the launch as we readied the gear and slipped the boats into the clear waters of the Upper Wacissa.

Our new friends Paul & Melanie were first to zoom ahead, sporting two "motors" in their long & fast tandem. They stop slightly ahead as takes time to snap this nice pix of a Limpkin, working the grassmats a few feet from our channel.

Although we've been here several times before, I always marvel at the crystal clear stream. Visions of hula dancers pop to mind as we slip over the glently waving grass below. Their action is somewhat intoxicating, it's like staring into a fire, you just continue to be mesmerized.

A second welcoming party, this time Willets, awaits our arrival at the turnoff to the "Blue Hole", the largest and most prevalent of several springs that pour millions of gallons of fresh water into the River.

This time, I'm the fast one, leading the group into the spring in Kim & I's new Clipper, which I paddle solo today!
John & Dave circle above the deep cavern while Paul and I do a litle exploring along the swamp edges. Melanie got this nice shot of a Barred Owl, I opted for a closer view of the immature Night Heron.

I thought John was going to take over the diving platform there in the center of the spring, but for some reason he decided that the only thing he'd get close with was the camera lens!
The group really wanted to have lunch on the platform , but as we look closer at all those sharp teeth, we decide not to challenge it's present occupant....

Weaving in & out of the small creek trailing southward from the Blue Hole back to the main river channel, I find that the big new Clipper tandem does a nice job paddled solo.

Paul was surprised to find his cousin waiting for us back on the River!
Back on the main River, a couple of Bald eagles soar above, and Paul somehow gets the idea that he can climb right up there with them! It's always a pleasure meeting & making new friends as we travel around the country.......

February 12, 2009

FLORIDA - Sopchoppy & St Marks

Well we're finally off for our travels in 2009, and we're starting in one of our favorite areas, the "Big Bend" of Florida, yes, that's the isolated, undiscovered stretch of coast between Apalachicola and Apalachee Bay. In tow we have Dave Holmes, an old friend from Baton Rouge, and a few days aheadof us is John Steib, a super solo paddlist!

We arrived only to learn that John had gotten the last available campsite at Ochlocknee State Park, but we were delighted to find plenty of room at the little Sopchoppy City Park, nestled on the banks of the River of the same name.
In addition to this beautiful setting, the Park has a nice hiling trail that starts with this long boardwalk across the edge of the water.
All-in-all, a great little hideaway for a pleasant weekend!

While in the area, we took a short ride in Dave's Jeep down to St Mark's Refuge, our favorite birding spot in the area. While the birding left a lot to be desired (only 53 species for the day, compared to double that on previous trips), the hiking was great, and the Refuge was almost deserted.

We wonder along the back areas paths & roads, for several hours, getting a nice workout and a few interesting surprises.......

As Kim approached the tall grass along the water's edge, she discovers that we're not quite so all alone as we suspected!