Dave's Yak Tales

Cedar Key Sunset

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Mosquito Lagoon

Lots, 10 or more dolphins, at least 15 manatees, Sunday, September 28, 2008. The day began well. I had my three dollars ready at the entrance station, only to have the ranger say "No fee today" Later, I asked why-National Public Lands Day.

I put in at the usual spot, the parking lot near the Eldora State House. Two anglers were blocking the narrow gap in the bushes with tackle, and a chaise lounge. They moved it a bit, as I muttered about why set up camp at the launch- there's a lot of shore to fish from, and docks.

Usually I paddle south, towards Turtle Mound, today, I went the other direction. The water level in the Lagoon is high, I was able to go in areas I haven't explored thanks to the water level.

Here I am paddling out one of the flooded areas.

I passed a couple fishing from their boat who told me they saw 6 manatees. Before or after that boat, I asked, pointing to a vessel near shore. Before. I said thank you, and paddled on.

Scanning the water, paying attention to the shoreline, I ddi not see any manatees. Perhaps they were beyond the other craft ? I continued, until I heard the distinctive exhale of a surfacing manatee. On my right, towards the middle of the Lagoon. I paddled out, and sure enough there were about six manatees. I watched them, and we were soon joined by the dolphin in the first photo. No good manatee photos.

Nice great blue heron.

I saw another 3 manatee. and 4 or five dolphins as I paddled past Castle Windy. Since I did not begin by paddling north, I paddled further south in Mosquito Lagoon than ever before.

Castle Windy and Turtle Mound are the two largest shell mounds in the Lagoon, at least in the National Seashore area.

I think I found another.

In addition to the aquatic mammals, I saw egrets, herons, great blue and tri colored, belted kingfishers, gulls, vultures, osprey, pelicans and lots of leaping fish. Here's a great egret.

And one of the many manatees.

I continued to see manatees and dolphins as I returned. A smaller group, 4, was where I saw the six earlier, this time joined by two dolphins.

As I neared Eldora, I said to my self I wanted to see 5 more mammals before landing. I was near the landing, so it would be tough. I "only" saw three. All manatees. I went beyond the landing, hoping to get to five, but saw no more. I landed at 3, a 4.5 hour day.

Time to catch the last 8 minutes of the Packer game at JB's Fish Camp. Can't win them all. But then, the last two innings of the Brewers wild card clincher. Along with oyster stew and a crab sandwich.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Anastasia State Park/Saint Augustine

I've had this site up for almost a year, and can still add new kayaking locations. Today, Saturday, September 27, 2008, my "new" paddle took me to the oldest permanent European settlement in the continental United States, St. Augustine, established 1565. Construction on Castillo San Marcos, pictured above, began in 1672, completed in 1695. It replaced a series of wood forts, nine in all, that fell to storms, decay and fire. One fire started by the notorious pirate, El Draque, in 1586. El Draque's own government had a different view of the buccaneer, especially two years later when Francis Drake helped defeat the Spanish Armada.

Back to the 21st century. I began the day at Anastasia State Park, south of St Augustine. A fantastic Park. 4 miles of Atlantic beach, maritime hammock, dunes, a sheltered, tidal lagoon.

I put in on the lagoon, Salt Run, at 9:35. In Florida "Run" usually refers to a short, spring fed stream. Salt Run is not spring fed. As I paddled, I thought, is there a spring near Manassas, VA ?

This is the view across from where I launched.

Looking east, the Atlantic across the dunes.

Here is the westward view.

Paddling north, I soon came to the St. Augustine Lighthouse.

There is a public boat ramp in the shadow of the Lighthouse, as well as the St Augustine Yacht Club, established 1874. Many sail boats moored in the Run, making fine osprey perches.

This one chose a channel marker.

I came to the tip of Anastasia Island, rounded it, and saw the Castillo. And fast boats, coming up the Mantanzas River, heading in and out of the St Augustine Inlet to the Atlantic. I was on the east side of the Mantanzas, the Castillo is on the west. A strategic spot, guarding the approach by sea. I saw a break in traffic, and paddled across the River.

With its fort, steeples, and domes, St Augustine is like a medieval European capital. Not "like". Is/was the capital of La Florida for 236 years. 1565 to 1821, with a 20 year "British Period" from 1763 to 1783.

I find it interesting that English speakers need to control the city for another 29 years to match the years Spanish was the linga franca. Speaking of the French, their settlement, Fort Caroline near present day Jacksonville, was the impetus for the founding of St Augustine.

Conflict between the European powers also gave the Matanzas River its name. "Mantanzas" means massacre, or slaughter. Which is what the Spanish did to the survivors of a French invasion fleet that was blown off course by a hurricane on its way to attack St Augustine in 1565.

The French, not the hurricane. You'll have to excuse the history lesson, but I think this stuff is fascinating, and its my site.

I left the Castillo, paddling south towards the Bridge of Lions. Another historic edifice, built in 1927. Its towers and lions are as much a part of the fabric of St Augustine at the Castillo San Marcos. So much so, to bring the aged bridge to 21st century standards, a temporary bridge has been built while work progresses on the Bridge of Lions. Once the Bridge is finished, the temporary bridge will be removed. Here's how it looks.

This picture was taken on my way back. The first time through was an adventure. I think I hit the outgoing tide. Water flowing furiously around new, old, and temporary pilings. Just before I went through, two dolphins surfaced beside me. No place to get photo.

Usually, I don't like to see homes and traffic, and people while paddling. But St Augustine is different. Homes are part of the charm.

No cookie cutter subdivisions here. The seawall was built in 1835.

A closer view of the seawall, built with the same coquina stone that was used in the Castillo, and most old homes in the City.

The horse and carriage was not the only one I saw. An alternative to the trolleys tours of the Ancient City.

I had the best alternative, seeing the city from the water.

Here is the Lighthouse, this time from the Matanzas.

I turned around shortly after this shot, having been out two hours.

A view of the City.

Back to the Castillo. Photos like this, I need to look at copyright law.

I see postcard potential.

The soldiers just fired the cannon.

I crossed the Matanzas, and entered the Inlet. Its only a mile to the open Atlantic. I headed that way. But the current, boats coming from four directions at high speed, created a nasty, unpredictable chop. I miscalculated and took on what seemed to be several gallons. So, this is as close as I got to the ocean.

Back to Salt Run, where at the mouth in the froth of a boat's wake. two dolphins appeared. The two I saw earlier ? Up the run, things got smooth. Some typical Dave photos- birds, not buildings.

The two bird shot was taken from land the east shore of Salt Run. I had an easier time finding my lunch then the reddish egret, but we both were successful.

Sand dunes and cactus go together.

After lunch, I crossed the Run, landing at Lighthouse Park. I walked to the Lighthouse to discover it costs 9 bucks to climb. I had no money, so I just walked around the grounds.

Gotta love the kid waving. I waved goodbye, getting back in the yak. Salt Spring Run had dropped several inches, Danger Rock was not visible in the morning.

Egret and dunes.

Egret and fish.

I landed at 3 PM, but my day was not done.

Had to get some beach photos.

Boardwalks protect the dunes and give fine vistas. This is Salt Run from a boardwalk.

Next, I did walk dunes. Ancient dunes, now covered by palms, oaks, magnolias, red bay and other trees.

The most undulating trail I have trekked in Florida. Staircases assist in steeper parts.These purple berries were everywhere. I told a gentleman I heard they could keep a person alive for 6 or 7 weeks. He appeared a bit older than me, but young enough to get the reference- which he did not, even after I said "Crosby, Stills and Nash ".

I have faith that Daves Yak Tales readers between the ages of 40 and 65 don't need the additional hint of a nautical reference to name the song- and recite the lyric about purple berries.

Next, and final stop in the Park was the Old Spanish Quarry. This is where coquina rock- basically fossilized shellfish, was mined to build the Castillo and old city. One quarry pit has been overgrown by plants over the last 500 years. A trail leads to a second pit- which now contains the St. Augustine Amphitheatre.

I left Anastasia, and instead of heading to the Interstate, took the scenic route south on A1A.

To Fort Mantanzas, 14 miles south of St Augustine. Built from 1740 to 1742 to prevent the British from attacking from the rear-up the Matanzas. The site is a National Monument, a free ferry runs from the visitor center to the fort. Years ago, that ferry was the only way I got on water. I arrived after 5:30, it was closed.

This view is from an adjacent St. Johns County Park, just north of the Fort entrance.

I continued southbound, across the Matanzas Inlet bridge- very scenic, ocean, river, house in stilts on the barrier island. Next stop, Washington Oaks Gardens State Park. I saw both.

Washington Oaks is on both sides of AIA. If I had ever visited the Atlantic side, it must have been at high tide.

Surf crashing over the coquina is not the typical Florida beach scene.

But, I'll take it.

All in all, a very fine day.

I also have a report on the Green Wave Forum http://www.clubkayak.com/greenwave/treports.asp?trip=267

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Rock Springs Run

Paddled further up Rock Springs Run today, Sunday, September 21, 2008 then I have since July 5. Three hours forty minute upstream, past Kings Landing. until I was stymied by this.

Reminds me of how it used to be paddling past Kings Landing, the beautiful upper Run full of downed trees. Post- Fay, the folks from Kings Landing and the State Park have done a great job clearing the Run downstream from Kings. Paddling almost the entire Run today, I saw lots of evidence of the work it took to remove trees toppled by Fay.

I was two hours into the day before I saw my first downstream paddlers. Here is some wildlife from today.

More Rock Springs Run scenics.

Three hours forty minutes up, just under four back. I stopped for a sandwich, and paddled/drifted to let people get well ahead of me. Saw about a dozen alligators.

After a near eight hour paddle, and getting the yak up the hill to the car, Wekiwa Springs was very refreshing.