Dave's Yak Tales

Cedar Key Sunset

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Blue Spring State Park

I had an unplanned visit to Blue Springs State Park today, Tuesday, October 28, 2008. My boss was asking for volunteers to work Saturday. I volunteered, getting a 2fer. The boss's good graces and a weekday afternoon on the water. I should have taken the half day tommorrow or Friday, but I'm a spur of the moment guy. By doing it today, I was not prepared- the yak was in the garage, not on the roof, so I had to go home.

The cool weather mentioned in the prior Tale has arrived. I wore long pants in Florida for the first time since, I'd guess, last March. I shed the jeans for swim trunks, got the yak on the Chevy and headed to Blue Spring.

The State Park has two parking areas. One convenient for launching, the other for swimming. I parked in the swim lot for the first time ever, wanting to minimize time in the cool air. I headed to the scuba entrance, up Run from the swim dock. A few folks were on the boardwalk, 2 swimmers in the Run. A gentlemen said four manatees were in the Run in the morning. I got ready to get in, and did not have the camera. It was either in the car or on the kitchen counter. Back to the car, it was there. Finally in the water, I swam up to the Spring. Dove down a few times, touched the log, then drifted down Run. Would I see a manatee ? No. All I saw was a single gar. At the swim dock, a woman said about this time yesterday, four manatees were in the swim area. Ah, the old "You shuuda been here yesterday" story. I swam back upstream to where I began, toweled off, got in the car, and drove to the other lot.

In another cool weather concession, I put on a light long sleeve shirt under a t-shirt. And a final weather change, I launched barefoot, toweled off my tootsies, putting shoes on in the yak- that way they weren't wet and cool.

Out on the St Johns, high blue skies, a brisk north wind. I let the wind push me south, then east towards Snake Creek. I looked for manatees across from the Creek, an area where I often see them, no luck.

This hawk was at the mouth of the Creek.

Snake Creek was semi-blocked, but not thick enough to prevent me from blasting through.

In the Creek, I heard the splash, saw the wake of an alligator bursting into the water. Had to be off a log, as the bank was nowhere to be seen, the Creek flowing over it. I was not in up the Creek very long, coming about and returning to Blue Spring.

Blue heron, great egret.

I entered the Run, crossing over the floating barrier that serves notice to motor boats to keep out. The movement startled something very big in a mess/mass of vegetation clinging to the barrier on my left. I had gator on my mind, but then, a manatee came out into view. Two actually, one big one small, had to be mother and calf. I kept my distance. There may have been a third manatee, but here, off the old launch area, the water was too dark to see the manatees from a distance unless they surfaced. So I can't say for sure if one big manatee was not the mom I saw earlier, or a second adult.

Up the Run I paddled. Just missed a close up pic of a red shouldered hawk. It was concentrating on something other than an approaching yaker. A small snake. Here is an anhinga, aka "snakebird" for its narrow neck.

This photo, and the opener, were taken atop Blue Spring.

Down the Run, one, two, three, turkeys flew from one bank to the other. A so-so pic.

This is the floating barrier described above, with cormorants.

My paddle was short, about 75 minutes. Got the yak on the car, drove back to the swim area lot. Another snorkel. I hoped the manatees decided to come up the Run. They did not. But I saw a lot more fish this swim, from the swim dock, to the scuba entrance and back. Gar, mullet and tarpon. Here are a couple poor fish pics. I hope to get an underwater case for the new camera soon.

It is turkey season at Blue Spring State Park, another flock roamed the grounds as I got the kayak atop the car.

A nice, unexpected afternoon on the water.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Blue Springs State Park

Sunday, October 26, 2008 I visited Blue Springs State Park. I had to slow down as I drove in on the Park road, to let three turkeys cross. Closer to the parking lot, an even larger flock. Temperatures are getting lower, the overnight low was 58 in Orlando. Perhaps I'd spot a manatee in Blue Spring Run. I snorkeled the Run, a bit farther than on my last visit as the water level has receded enough to re-open the swim dock. No manatees. Just gar, tilapia and mullet. I took photos, none Yak Tales worthy. Viewed from the boardwalk, the clear water from the Spring has pushed the tannic waters of the St Johns further out of the Run as the later slowly recedes. To the car to remove the yak, where a red shouldered hawk wrestled with something in its beak a few yards away.

Into the kayak, I paddled down the St Johns to Hontoon Island State Park. Into a strong north wind. I had a wind break early in the trip, touring the island across from the French Ave. launch. The tell tale circles of a manatee wake passed on my left. I paused, waiting for it to surface. It did not. An alligator did.

Blue heron and snowy egret.

As I approached the north end of Hontoon Island and the State Park docks and day use area, the wind wiped the waves across Lake Beresford, making a splashy paddle. Fortunately, I was soon in the east-west section of the River, out of the wind. Hontoon Island State Park has just reopened after Fay's floods. The campgrounds and hiking trails remain closed. I paddled around the tip, paddling over a manatee. I did not see it, but the concentric circles of its wake are unmistakable. As earlier, it did not surface while I watched. Into the Hontoon Dead River I paddled.

This used to be my lunch stop, until the signs and fence went up. Stopping at the docks is too early in the trip. This was perfect, about half way in the Hontoon Loop, the only place to land in normal water level, and access to the Park's trails to stretch your legs. I miss it. I did stop, paddling behind the fence, getting out- in the water, not beaching, to stretch, take food out of the cooler, and attend to personal business. Here is a picture of the same area, in mid August, prior to TS Fay. http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_If3lvXROVV0/SKdwplyEZNI/AAAAAAAAC7s/u7g7EOqBTBI/s1600-h/IMG_5897.JPG

Back in the HDR, I munched on chicken as the wind blew me southward.

Tri colored heron and anhinga perching.

Into the northernmost canal. Before I left, I asked one of the tour boat captains if it was open. He thought it was, but as his boat can't fit even in normal conditions, he could not give a definitive answer. My last visit it was clogged on the east end. There's a picture of the clog from that 10-5-08 paddle. http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_If3lvXROVV0/SOl2o_vxHPI/AAAAAAAAEgw/pna1F9Nxvlw/s1600-h/IMG_6753.JPG

I made it through. A few more down limbs than usual, and I had to force my way through several yards of matted vegetation at the end.

A canal view.

Back to the St Johns, I looked for manatees in several places where I've seen them before. Didn't see any, but I was rewarded by a bald eagle soaring overhead as I came out of the lagoon south of Blue Spring Run. I paddled into the Run, where canoers said they saw a manatee. "Until I splashed and scared it away" Ay yi yi, some people. At this time of day, boats can't go beyond the swim dock. At the dock a ranger was telling a small group about proper human- manatee interaction. Boiled down to, keep your distance. I did not see the manatee.

I landed, not at the usual spot, that is still underwater. It won't surprise me if the park makes the new launch site permanent when the River falls. It is farther away from the manatee refuge area. On the other hand, the temporary area will cause more erosion. It will be interesting to see what happens.

I had my bike with me. In June, a short trail opened. 3.3 miles from just outside the Park to Lake Beresford Park. I have not biked for far to long, and the new trail was a wonderful incentive.

I took it easy, only going 3 miles, (6 total)one the Park Road, then the trail. The trail is wonderful. Curvy and undulating for Central Florida. Shaded, which in summer will be welcome.

On the topic of weather, the 40's are forecast for Tuesday night. I don't work until 12:30 Wednesday. I think a morning snorkel and bike ride are in order. Launching and reattaching the yak to the car would take too much time. So, check in Thursday, there may be manatee photos.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Ichetucknee River

Sub title: Spring Into Fall

Today, Saturday, October 25, 2008, I made the 150 mile trip to Ichnetucknee Springs State Park, for my Fall Ich paddle. Fall and Spring are the times to yak this beautiful River. Summer is overwhelmed with tubers, Winter, the days are too short. But, if I get out of bed at 4:50 am like this morning, a Winter visit is feasible. This morning, looking at the clock, I said to myself, if I'm up, I may as well get going. I was on the water at 8:00 am. I could have got out sooner, but I drove the last 15 miles at, or below the speed limit, as State Parks do not open until 8. But, the gate at the "Last Takeout" was open when I arrived. Perhaps more important, so were the restrooms.

So, I took off bright and early, as did this great blue heron.

A few minutes later, three, maybe four deer in the forest on my left. To far away to get a photo.

This flock of turkeys, at Coffee Springs, were within range. I had to poke the lens through the fence that protects the Spring. A snail, found no where else, resides here.

The weather was relatively cool, overcast. A light drizzle fell off and on. I paddled against a good current. Other than a pair of snorkelers, I saw no one until I was almost at the end of my paddle, the start of the River just outside Ichnetucknee Spring. And that was just three people. A short paddle, maybe three miles, it took about 2 hours with side trips to explore on the way up.

Devil's Eye Springs.

Great Egret

A short paddle, with a grand view at the end.

I walked down the stone staircase, entered the Spring, getting the underwater view.

Ichetucknee Springs is one of two swimable springs in the land portion of the State Park. The other, Blue Hole, is accessed via a 1/2 mile boardwalk and dirt trail. Getting there is half the fun.

Aquatic life at Blue Hole Spring.

I was at the Park 90 minutes and saw 4 people, on a Park employee.

I took less than two hours to go downstream, and I was barely paddling. Here are some of the birds seen.

And deer, three at Midpoint Landing.

Porous limestone, shown here, underlies Central and North. Underground water seeps through, and Dave has a place to paddle.

I went past my launch point, paddling just out of the Park, but seeing the water rushing between the bridges, turned back.

See the white area in front of the acrched bridge ? That's fast moving water. Would have been fun going down, coming back not so much.

Last time I did paddle down the rest of the Ich, into the Santa Fe River for a while and back. The previous trip, I put in the Santa Fe at Highway 27, and explored several Springs, Poe, Lily and Rum. That is by far the better thing to do. But this time, I decided to do something different. Travel a bit out of the way and visit Springs on the Suwannee River, that I've read about but never visited.

Before I left, I had to take a picture of this car.

A lot to like, from the Share The Road plate, to the Save Three Sisters Springs sticker (in the center). What clinched it was the Motion W on the window. Two Badgers, paddling the Ichnetucknee.

Speaking of Madison, the Spring I wanted to visit, Troy Spring, has the remains of a Confederate steamboat, the "Madison" at the bottom of the Run. As I had not planned this visit, I was not sure exactly where Troy Springs State Park was, other than near the Town of Branford. So west I drove on US 27. A bike path parallels 27 from Ich State Park to Branford. At Branford, the bike path goes north on State Road 129. I knew a spring was near the terminus of the bike trail.

Sure enough, I saw a sign for Little River Spring. About a mile west off 129.

Little River Spring from above. A wooden staircase takes visitors from a top the bluff to the Spring.

View from shore, Suwannee River in background.

Looking back from the River. I snorkeled, but the camera-which is two generations old, in a case not built for it, no view screen, was giving me trouble. I was the only one in the water at this Suwannee County Park. Other folks were there, and I got directions to Troy Springs. Back to Branford, west about 4 miles, follow the signs.

A zig zag concrete ramp traverses the bluff to the Spring.

Which is spectacular. A deep, wide hole, lots of limestone formations.

Good thing I got the camera to work.

Remains of the Madison, scuttled by her skipper in the Spring Run in 1863 so not to fall into Union hands.

I shared the Spring with two scuba divers. If you are in the area, this is a must visit. My next visit was to Ruth Spring. I had seen a sign on the way to Troy Spring, so I asked a family leaving Troy how to get there. "Out of here, turn, then maybe the fifth dirt road ?" I found it, eventually. After a tour of the Troy Springs Conservation Area, driving a maze of dirt trails in property managed by the Suwannee River Water Management District. A couple on a motor cycle pointed me in the right direction. Quite the secluded spring. The only people there, the family I met at Troy Spring.

No amenities here. Nice rock structure, than a very shallow run. So much so turtles kick up sediment.

One spring to go, Branford Spring. I got back on 27, drove into Branford. A city park, Ivey Memorial, is on the southeast side of the Suwannee. I saw picnic tables, boat ramps, no spring. I asked at the gas station across the street. "It's at the entrance, down the steps." A ha. Just off a parking lot that had a chain across the entrance. I parked nearby and walked down the steps.

Too murky for photography. Other than this shot from above.

Reflecting on the day, a paddle on the Ichnetucknee, multiple deer sightings, snorkel six springs, including four new ones. Troy Springs is well worth a detour after the Ich. Little River is also worth a visit.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Washington Monuments

No kayaking this weekend, as I went to Washington DC for the marriage of Steve R. to Irene T. the top picture is their remodeled condo, combinng two units, 7th and 8th floor. The Katinas-Bruckwick design will soon be on all the tour bus routes. (M. Bruckwick is my cousin, a fact not known to Steve when he was looking for an architect. Small world).

A view from the condo, aka "The Rozga Hilton" to quote Steve's sister.

Another view.

Here are some other Washington designs.

Waiting for the upcoming White House moving sale.

Lincoln Memorial, from the WW II Memorial.

WW II Memorial

Washington Monument.

Making sure the dollar is sound.

Carnegie Institution

U.S. Capitol .

Smithsonian Castle.

American Indian Museum, from the National Botanical Gardens.

National Archives

The Washington merry-go-round.



Even the bubblers are monumental.

If you know what a bubbler is, you will recognize this shrine photoed as I waited for my flight.

Not the Washington Monument, lower left, but the not yet frozen tundra of Lambeau Field, upper right.

Steve has left a bit of his roots in the condo.

Not, the plants, the Union Terrace chairs.

A final Landmark.

A bottle of Lakefront Brewery's, Wolski's 100th anniversary beer arrived at my home Friday, courtesy of W. Head. aka J. Dyke. Tasty.