Dave's Yak Tales

Cedar Key Sunset

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Turkey Creek and Lake Norris

Paddled Turkey Creek Saturday, here's the Green Wave Forum report

Along with more pictures.

The shadow knows.
On recent trips to Turkey Creek I've noticed a lot of trash in the water. My guess it is comes through the dam, which acts as a stopper at the end of a canal system- and when the plug is opened, all matter of things get into the Creek. This trip, I saw very little trash. Someone must be picking up. I left the Creek cleaner, removing a pint liquor bottle.

Sunday was Lake Norris. Here is that link.


And a few pictures.

Neither of these locations was on the Green Wave site. Lake Norris wasn't even on this site, as I had not been there in over two years/
I wanted to paddle the Ichetucknee River this weekend, but have lingering cold. Going to the Ich means a 300 mile round trip drive. It also means snorkeling, and coughing every few minutes would make that unpleasant. I think next weekend, cold or not, I'm diving into some spring for the Fountain of Youth effect

Monday, March 24, 2008

Hillsborough River

The lion laid down with the lamb, or in this case, the turtle with the alligator, Easter Sunday
on the Hillsborough River. I posted a report on the Green Wave Forum
That site already had 3 Hillsborough stories, but none had my usual 16 mile trip. I spent 6.5 hours on the River. Here are some more pictures.

Rosette spoonbill, limpkin, anhinga, and blue heron.

The Hillsborough provides ample alligator photo opps.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Haulover Canal

The manatees are back at Haulover Canal. After seeing none on my last visit in January, I saw them throughout the Canal this visit, March 22, 2008. A herd of 15 or so was in the Bairs Cove boat ramp area, including the back floating one pictured above. I also saw dolphins.

This one at "Dolphin Cove". Early in the day, the manatees in Bairs Cove were frisky, groups of 3 or more rising out of the water, laying flippers on one another. Neat to watch.

I got in the water at 10:30, the same time a large tour group was putting in. It looked like they were going out into the Indian River towards Mullet Head Island. Seeing that, I went the other way, across the mouth of the Canal to the alternate entrance to the south. On the way I saw these horseshoe crabs. I don't think I've ever seen a live horseshoe crab before.

I paddled through the alternate channel, avoiding the Canal traffic, exiting at "Dolphin Cove" which lived up to the name I've given it. Bairs Cove is just a few paddle strokes away. I just floated in the cove, manatee watching. If it weren't for all the power boats launching and landing, it would be a perfect spot.

I left Bairs Cove, paddling east towards the Mosquito Lagoon. Paddling along side more manatees. Still more at the Manatee Overlook, about six. I made my way to the end of the Canal, taking the alternate channel on the north, then back to the Canal and in the Lagoon. I paddled north a short way, then made my way between two islands, into a long water way, sheltered by islands on the east, and the mainland on the west. Ruins line the mainland side.

I do not know for certain, but I'd guess these old wharves and foundations are the remnants of structures from the late 1950's, early 60's when the Feds took the land for NASA. I've seen an alligator near the concrete block structure a couple times, I did not today. The day was overcast, low 70's, not prime gator weather. I headed back the way I came, seeing more manatees and dolphins. Again I lingered at Bairs Cove, where a great egret had its mouth full.

I left the Cove, and Canal, making my way to Mullett Head Island. The water was very shallow around this bird sanctuary. I need to make a mental note to not paddle tidal waters on a full moon. I was looking for spoonbills, but did not see any. Back to Bairs Cove for for man-manatee interaction.

I spent six hours on the water, over half of which was spent manatee watching.

I can't believe my sister did not tell me abour her sailboat ;)

I had the bike with me, but last week's flu has turned to a cold and I did not have the energy.

Instead, I took a short walk on the Scrub Jay Trail.Last visit, I saw white pelicans and rosette spoonbills here. Not today. But I did see a rabbit-hopping down the bunny trail.

I finally saw some spoonbills on Black Point Wildlife Drive.

And, this Easter ham.
Update. When I returned home, I recalled hearing something on the radio about the State Fish and Wildlife Commission looking for public input on horseshoe crab sitings. I found the FWC link
and sent them the picture and where it took place. Now I know what I saw was mating activity. And so do you.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Wekiva. Katie's to Buffalo Tram

Eight hours on Sunday. I had hoped to swim with manatees at Crystal River Thursday, yak Sat afternoon as well. But I was as sick as I have been in 35 years Wed- Fri. No fun at all. So, to paraphrase Christopher Walken:
"I have a fever, and the only cure is more kayaking"
The story is over on Green Wave, here's the link

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Blue Spring, Snake Creek, Canal Loop

I was back at Blue Spring State Park, Sunday March 9, 2008. It has only been two weeks since my last visit. I came back so soon because the temperature dipped into the 40's last night. That meant manatees would likely be in Blue Spring Run. Only three were in the Run February 24.
Also, after March 1, the spring is open for swimming, another reason to visit.
A sign at the entrance station indicated that 26 manates were in the Run. I thought perhaps the Run would be closed to human activity, it is a sanctuary. I walked down the boardwalk along the Run, saw scuba divers gearing up. March 1 means March 1. I went back to the car for snorkel gear and camera.
There are two places to get in the water. The first, as you walk up the boardwalk from the St. Johns, is a large metal dock. This is at the end of the portion of the Run where swimming is allowed. The second is a wood deck about 2/3 of the way further up the Run. I entered at the second egress point.
Swimming against the current is a good workout. 85-100 million gallons of water creates a powerful flow. Some people walk up the Run. I prefer to swim. Walking stirs up the bottom.
Here's a tip. Use fallen logs to propel your self forward. Grab, pull forward, push off.
I made it to the Spring, where bubbles from scuba divers rose to the surface. The Spring, and Spring Run was cloudy. Last fall, I read about, and experienced the same cloudy conditions. At that time, it was unsure why the Spring was not as clear as normal. The curse of Florida, over development, is a prime suspect. I dove into the crevasse a few times, then floated downstream. I saw lots of gar, big schools of mullet, tilapia, some tarpon. Blue Spring tarpon are about a fifth of the size of Kings Bay Spring tarpon. No manatees. I had seen some in the Run, but all downstream of the swim/snorkel /scuba area. I reached the end of the swim area and headed back upstream to where I entered. It was much too cool to get out at the end and walk to where my towel and shirt were. Snorkeling against the current kept me warmer.
First Blue Spring swim since November done, I was ready to kayak. Several manatees were near the launch area. I did not linger as a Park worker had just chastised two other paddlers who were slow leaving the area. The Run is open to swimming, it is not yet open to paddlers.
Last time, I paddled north on the St Johns, south on the Hontoon Dead River (HDR) to Snake Creek, south on Snake back to the St Johns. Today's route was different, and shorter. South on the St Johns to Snake Creek, north on Snake to the HDR, south on the HDR to the northernmost of 3 old logging canals, east in the canal to the St Johns and north to Blue Spring. It took 2 1/2- 3 hours to complete the circuit with a sandwich stop.

Critter list includes alligators, turtles, blue, Great Blue, and green herons, black and yellow night crowned herons, wood storks, pileated wood peckers, wood ducks, red shoulder hawks, vultures, ibis, limpkins, snowy egrets, kingfishers, osprey, sandhill crane,and a harbinger of spring- a swallow tail kite

Back at Blue Spring Run, I watched as 10 or so manatees congregated just inside the buoy line marking the sanctuary. I paddled in, as if to land, and a huge one performed a barrel roll beneath my yak. I then went back outside the sanctuary. Half a dozen manatee also left the area. Four adults and two calfs. I shadowed them as the crossed the St. Johns, then made their way downstream along the west bank. I had to tell two illiterate power boaters to slow down.
The manatee herd split when they reached the island across from the French Ave, boat ramp. Two of the adults continued down river, the other four went on the backside of the island. I followed the larger group. They slowly swam in the this area away from traffic on the St Johns. Not as dumb as they look. They stopped at a huge mass of vegetation, and began to feed. I left them, and saw more manatees on the other side of the waterway. Coming from the other direction, perhaps they were the two that left the group, and having circled the island, were coming back. I saw another pair of manatees. One was not part of the group that left Blue Spring Run, none of those had five white scars like this guy.
I left my personal manatee sanctuary and returned to Blue Spring, paddling over at least 10 sea cows on the way to the landing. Got the yak on the car, then grabbed the snorkel gear, and fresh battery for a swim. To the first entrance, turned on camera, "Change Battery". Guess I had failed to charge it. Back to the car, put in the battery I had been using all day. To the swim entrance, where I left shirt, shoes, towel, then walked to the second entry point. In the water. "Change Battery". Noooo ! I walked backwards a few steps (flippers on) to the stairs, sat down, took the camera out of the water tight case, opened the battery cover, took it out, reinserted, now it was working. I snorkeled to the Spring, the only person in the water. I looked for manatees, but saw none as I swam. I had not seen any in the swim area as I walked the boardwalk back and forth to my car getting the battery. I dove into the Spring a few times, then did the Superman glide downstream- you know, legs and arms outstretched, flying. Lots of gar- three footers, but no manatees. Until....

I got to the first entry dock. The swim area has two buoy lines across the Run. Normally, I dive under the first set. This time I was distracted as a manatee headed my way. I realized I was at the buoy line when by snorkel hit the rope. I dove under. Then a second manatee headed my way, and a third and a fourth. I swam to the second buoy line, "No Swimming Beyond This Point". I turned around, and three of the manatees had also turned around. Two of the three had tethers with satelitte tracking devices and ID numbers. Had to be two of three rehabilitated manatees released at Blue Spring about three weeks ago. The trio came towards me. I tried to back away, then gave up and stood on the bottom, commenting to the crowd gathered on the dock, "It's hard to follow the no touching rule when they are pursuing you!" "They like to be touched" I did not ask what scientific evidence she had to back her statement. I had not touched them, something I have done at other locations, but a Blue Spring it is urged you do not touch so I complied. The manatees were not so rule abiding, as I felt the coarse hair of one on my leg as it rubbed against me. Manatees may like to be touched, that doesn't mean it is good for them. My biggest peeve is when power boaters lean over to stroke, feed or give manatees fresh water. Teach them to come near propellers, there's a good idea. Idiots.
I think the two tagged manatees could be too used to people. One followed me to the steps. Hopefully it and the other will get aclimated to the wild. As I was leaving three people went down to the dock. They came back up before I left, telling another group headed to the dock, "The manatees are so close you can touch them" I thought of commenting but let it go. Maybe they'll read this.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Wind Brake Rock Springs Run

I considered not kayaking today, Saturday, March 8, 2008. It was extremely windy. A cold front blowing out of the north. Rock Springs Run is my windy day kayak trip. Close to home, and the thick forest blocks the gale.

It did not seem so bad in the garage, but once I got on the road I considered turning around. The wind was pushing the kayak on the roof, and that was before I got on the Interstate. I stayed in the right lane, driving the speed limit. A big shift, (yak on roof,not gear) something came off the roof. The towel I had under the yak. But the yak stayed on the six miles to the exit. I tightened things up waiting for the light to change, then continued to Wekiwa Springs State Park.

I went up the Run just past half way, then drifted back. Trees swayed in the wind, but blocked it. I was unaffected. Here is some of what I saw.

The egret was able to veer of before hitting the tree. I also saw two otters, but no alligators. Must have been to cool. I saw another deer during a one hour hike-after which the wind had stopped, so no worries on the way home. It is very nice having the best paddle in Central Florida also being the best option for a windy day.

Flat Stanley at the Myakka River

I had a companion on the Myakka River, Friday March 7, 2008. Flat Stanley. Stanley appeared in my mailbox last week, arriving from Tuscon, AZ. Stanley has been on the go since November, when Anna F. put him in an envelope. Since then, he has been to Milwaukee, Key West, Tuscon, and perhaps other places I am not aware of. Being Flat enough to fit in an envelope makes travel easy. On the other hand, Stanley has a hard time turning around, so I had to tell him about the alligator in the background in the picture above.

We went to Myakka River State Park as Sarasota was the only place without 60% or more chance of rain. I had the day off, and my first choice was the Ichtucknee. 100% chance there. As I drove home, I heard a tornado had hit nearby, in Lake City. I made the right choice.

No tornadoes, but it was windy. Very windy. For the first hour of paddling, trees, and then the grass banks protected us from the worst of the wind. Here we are entering the Wilderness Preserve.

It was much to windy to paddle across Lower Myakka Lake, so we turned around.

The Myakka River has hundreds of alligators, seemingly around every bend.

Stanley was a little scared, but after I told him alligators don't like the taste of cardboard, he was showing me where the alligators, and turtles, were.

We stopped, for lunch, Stanley wasn't hungry, then walked around and took a few pictures.

We saw more than alligators. Birds, including hawks and wood storks.

Stanley liked the alligators best, especially the big ones.

Sometimes we saw birds and alligators. Here are a great egret, anhinga and two alligators.

You can see more pictures of our trip here:


Stan and I paddled until we reached Upper Myakka Lake. It is on the other, right side of the weir.

We got out of the kayak, and read on a kiosk that wild alligators do not reach fifteen feet long. A few we saw had to be at least 10 feet. Back in the kayak, paddling to where we began was tough. Into the wind, and the River is wide in some sections, with few trees to block it in an area called Big Flats Marsh. Flat Stanley thought it was funny he and the marsh have the same name. I told Stanley to stop laughing and start looking for where we parked.

He found it.

We had time after our kayak trip to have a short, 4.8 mile, bike ride, then visited the canopy walkway.

If Flat Stanley could talk, he would have said.

"Top of the World !"