Sunday, December 30, 2007, I wanted to paddle the Mosquito Lagoon, putting in at the Canaveral National Seashore. Tuesday, the entry fee goes from $3 to $7 dollars. That hike will cause me to launch from alternate sites to paddle the Lagoon. But, NOAA reported a moderate chop, so I changed plans and went west to the Hillsborough River. I think one reason I had not paddled the Gulf of Mexico at Caladesi Island for over a year until Saturday is that the Hillsborogh is on the way to the Gulf, a 30-45 minute shorter drive, and is a spectacular paddle.
I put in at Trout Creek Park, one of three Hillsborough County facilities along an 8 mile stretch of the River. See my November 17, 2007 post for details on the Hillsborough.
This trip, I launched at 10:30. Two ladies arrived as I was getting ready, and launched before me. I passed them, paddling upstream. I think they were getting ready to fish, as I never saw them again, and I stopped for a long time soon after I passed them. I came to an cypress stump off the left bank. It must have been a big tree. I've seen alligators on it on prior paddles. Today, it was an aviary.
Great Egret, rosette spoonbill, tricolored heron, blue heron, snowy egret. Nice start to the day.
I paddled on, seeing ibis, limpkins and hundreds of vultures in the Natures Classroom section of the River. They occupied nearly every branch of every tree on both banks. Others stood on the bank. They are always here, in great numbers, for reasons unknown to this reporter
The Hillsborough is a good place to see alligators. I had not seen any since my December 9 trip to Alexander Creek. I saw some.
The alligator in the second picture, dark one on the bank, was in the same position 5 hours later on the return trip. I think it, and the others were taking advantage of the unseasonably warm weather to soak up heat. A cold front is forecast to arrive New Year's night.
After the fisherwomen at the start, I saw one other canoe the first quarter of the trip, to Morris Bridge Park. I went past the Park, past the gator in front of the ibis and egret, and stopped 15 minutes upstream at the ruins of an old logging road bridge. The road is now a bike trail, and a deck with benches overlooks the River. I paused here, for a bite to eat and to let some folks get ahead of me. The stretch from Morris Bridge to John Sergeant Park is the most popular on the River. The majority of paddlers head downstream, opposite of what I was doing. I saw plenty of red canoes from Canoe Escape. I recommend this outfitter. Last February, I paddled the Hillsborough with my friends Mike and Phyllis, who rented from Canoe Escape. Here is their website.
Canoe Escape's, not Mike and Phyl. The outfitter did a booming business this Sunday. But, utilizing the upstream paddle philosophy, my encounters with other people was brief, leaving more time for wildlife observation.
Another chance to note the difference between reddish egret and tri colored heron.
And still more wildlife.
I arrived at John Sergeant Park, 8 miles from the start, about 2 pm. Which was perfect as that is the time the last group from Canoe Escape goes out. The mini bus came in as I was walking around the park. 3 boats on the trailer.
I reentered the water, passing the 3 new arrivals in the canal that leads to the River and made my way downstream. I finished at 5:15. More alligators, birds, including this hawk.
On the way up, I had seen the one spoonbill pictured earlier in the story. One spoonbill won't keep the population going. Not to worry. Saw a pair on the way back.