Dave's Yak Tales

Cedar Key Sunset

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Juniper Creek

I paddled Juniper Creek today, Saturday, October 4, 2008. Launched from the Wayside on Florida Highway 19 at 7:50 am.

I paddled upstream against a strong current, very strong in a few places. I 've been going up Juniper since April, 2005 and do not recall it ever being this swift. The after affects of TS Fay. My arms are very tired as I type. An incident on the downstream paddle added to my muscle soreness. You'll have to keep reading, I'll get to the incident later

As usual, Juniper Creek did not have a lot of birds. A great blue heron, a snowy egret, a cardinal, a few red shouldered hawks, assorted little song birds. A large black bird, with a bright orangish, hawk beak, white splotches on a mostly dark tail. Darker than a juvenile bald eagle, it did not seem to be a vulture. I tried taking a picture, but it flew out of the frame. A few more paddle strokes, and I saw what definitely was a bald eagle.

Far away, but no mistaking the white dome. Juniper Creek is one of three places, along with the Chassawhowitzka, and Econlockatachee Rivers, where I have seen bald eagles on multiple occasions.

I did not see my first humans until I had been paddling 2 hours and twenty minutes. Forty minutes later, I landed at the Juniper Springs Recreation Area. Two of the humans I saw were walking in the Creek, despite the "No Swimming/No Wading Signs" "So much for the Florida education system" I muttered. When they got out, a park employee was at the landing. He let them off with a warning. One reason for the no intentional entry into the Creek rule is the upper reaches of the Creek is full of "boils", mini-springs percolating from the creek bed. Big feet steeping in the boils can cave them in.
The landing, or, I should say launch, as that is what it is for most paddlers, had folks lined up waiting to go down the Creek. I moved my kayak out of the way, grabbed the snorkel gear and headed to the Spring. No one was in the pool when I arrived.

I was glad I left my lunch in my zipped cooler in the yak when a racooon decided to investigate the stuff I left on a picnic table.

I'm sure my t-shirt was pretty stinky after the strenous upstream voyage. I missed the shot when the racoon reared in its hind legs and shook its entire body-like the "Caddyshack" gopher.

The second magnitude spring was very refreshing.

After my swim I ate my lunch, then took the usual walk to Fern Hammock Springs. Three views of my favorite scenic spot.

Back to the swim area, I went to the concession to ask when the last rental went out. I did not have to ask, a sign to that affect was on the door. I had seen a couple in their own canoe beginning their journey as I trode the boardwalk from Fern Hammock. I would have the Creek to myself heading downstream.

Juniper Creek dosen't have a the wildlife other places do, but it makes up for it in scenery.

On the wildlife side, I saw no alligators. I was well into my downstream trip before I even saw a turtle.

I usually see deer along the Juniper Creek, none today. I did not see any people as I languidly drifted downstream. Except in places where I had to paddle hard to avoid hitting the bank, or trees, or logs in the swift current. A couple times I heard voices, and the clang of paddle on canoe ahead. I stopped, waiting for them to get ahead.

Taking time leads to pictures like this.

I mentioned an "incident" at the beginning of this Tale. Here it is.

I was out of a heavily wooded area, as in the leadoff photo, into a marshy area on my left, a grassy bank on the right. The current carried towards a thin sapling. As all afternoon, I had to make a quick decision. I decided I could push it aside with my left hand, and be on my way. I did, but the sapling did not move. It was lower than I thought, I leaned right to duck under.... oh oh, time to take a deep breath, as I rolled over into the Creek. Upside down, I felt my glasses slide off my ears, then watched them spin downward. Hmm, the kayak is on top of me, I need to get out. I did, came up, grabbed the turned over yak with one hand, reaching out to the paddle with the other before it got away. Straightened my legs to see if I could stand. No. Swam downstream to the grassy bank. Got where I could stand, flipped the yak, tossed everything on shore, which was everything I had, other than my glasses, even my hat stayed on my head.

A kayak full of water is very heavy after a long day and pulling it up a two foot bank. This morning, Sunday, I was as sore as I ever remember being after one of my trips. I have not been keeping my camera in the water proof case since the LCD screen went on the fritz a few weeks ago. I paid the price. It has recovered in the past from water seeping in the improperly sealed case, but this prolonged dunking may mean the end. I discovered today that my old camera works in the water proof housing. That one also has a non-functioning LCD. I don't use the case because I can't see through the view finder when it is enclosed. May have to rethink that in certain situations.

After I got situated, I paddled up to the sapling, to look for my glasses. The water was too dark. I did see the sapling was snapped off. So that's how I got the five inch cut on my inner forearm. I did not go down without a fight.

Looking at the bright side through uncorrected vision, I knew I had an old pair of glasses in the glove compartment for just such an occasion, and now I surely would not see anyone on the entire downstream paddle, which would be a first.

The entire Run free of seeing anyone was not to be. I approached two teenagers in a canoe. I had seen them back at the launch, part of a group of five in two canoes. I took a picture of the group with the leader's camera, and said, "The last known photo". This was before I visited Fern Hammock. They had been out almost six hours when I saw them. "How long hour ?"- they were Chinese. Not knowing any Madrian myself, I replied "15 minutes". It probably took them 20-25. I landed, and told the leader they were on their way. He is a school teacher, two of the three exchange students are staying with him. He said, this is no place for beginers. Preaching to the choir. If you are reading this, and have inexperiended friends who want to paddle, take them to Alexander Springs instead.

Juniper is tough, even dumping yours truly, for the first time while paddling. "While paddling". I've tipped twice before, at Faver-Dykes State Park, entering the yak from a dock. I've avoided dock entry whenever posssible since. The other time was re-entering after pulling the yak across a log in Rock Springs Run.

As I drove home, I thought I did not even consider rolling the yak, Eskimo style. I really need to take some time to practice that. I have a vauge recollection of doing an Eskimo roll at Camp Villa Jerome in 1970 or 71, surely I can do one now.


Emory said...

Sorry to hear about your swim. It does happen to everyone sooner or later. At least you did it in nice weather. And Having paddled Juniper a few weeks ago I would say no excuses are in order. Especially after paddling upstream. I always enjoy reading your posts.

Dave said...

Thanks, Emory. Yet another advantage to kayaking spring fed creeks-if you tip, the water temperaturei is always a comfortable 72.

Dan said...

Enjoyed the story. I laughed out loud picturing your hat staying on. Good luck with the Eskimo roll. Teri and I were in Milw. last weekend, Gordie and Joyce were celebrating their 50th Anniv.
Had lunch with my neice, she is a freshman at Marquette.
Take care,
GO BEARS! and JETS! (hey I always liked Brett)

Dave said...

Always glad to entertain, Dan.