Dave's Yak Tales

Cedar Key Sunset

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Strickland Bay and Spruce Creek

Sunday, March 29, 2009 I paddled for about two hours on Strickland Bay and Spruce Creek. Located in Port Orange, Florida. Daytona Beach area. In a new (used) Wilderness Systems Tsunami 140. The Sun Velocity served me well since March 19, 2005. Here are a two excerpts from an email I sent to family and friends that day.

Got my kayak safely on the car and drove a short wayto Dunnellon. There is a public boat ramp next to City Hall at the US 41 bridge across the WithlacoocheRiver. I thought of driving to the dock and unloading like I had a power boat, then driving to the parking lot. However, I need to get used to carrying my kayak, so I parked and carried it down. Time for a shakedown cruise. Paddled the Withlacooche. Homes on the left bank, woods on the right. Upstream a ways, a choice, the Rainbow River or continue on the Withlacooche. I went with the Withlacochee. A section of river with no development.

Turned back, came to the confluence of the Withlacooche and Rainbow and decided to checkout the Rainbow River. Glad I did. The tannin watersof the Withlacooche (that's a term used for just about all of Florida's non-spring fed rivers, a dark color(Chamber of Commerce and State Parks types call it"coffee" or "tea" colored, caused by runoff from the surrounding woods and swamps, gave way to the clearspring fed waters of the Rainbow River. The source of the crystal water is Rainbow Springs, the 4th largest spring in the State.

I wonder if my story telling ability has improved at all in the past half decade. As mentioned, the old yak served me well, but has been leaking for the last few years. Glue and duct tape helped some, but I always have water in the yak. When a recent patch job at a local outdoors shop didn't solve the problem, I decided it was time for a new yak. But when to shop ? Work weekdays, kayak weekends. Well, yesterday was very windy from Winter Park to the Atlantic and back to the Gulf. I decided to drive to Crystal River, without the Sun Velocity, and see what I might find at this shop. http://www.kayaksandbeyond.com/

I've been visiting the web site for months, and the proprietors have been prompt in answering email queries. For a long time, Kayaks and Beyond had a couple used Riot Voyagers for sale. The Voyager is the new version of my yak, Riot having taken over Sun Kayaks. Those yaks are no longer on the website, must have been sold, but other used Riot models were. So off to Crystal River to check them out. Should have called or emailed first, as all the used Riots had been sold. I looked at different used yak, an Impex Irie. Fiberglass, 13.5 feet, $749. Looked well used. I sat inside, decided it was not for me. Looked at a couple new yaks, can't recall what brands, did not pull the trigger on a purchase. There are other kayak shops in Crystal River, but I only knew the location for Kayaks and Beyond. I drove up and down US 19, seeing if I might see another shop, then on some other streets, but to no avail. So home I drove, as the south wind tried to have the Versa shift lanes without turning the wheel. Would have been interesting with a yak on the roof.

Back home, browsing the Internet, which I've been doing for years, looking for the perfect kayak.

In all my searching, I never came across this site. http://www.progressivesports.com/index.php

Until last night. A wide selection of new, and a smaller selection of used kayaks. So, this morning I drove to South Daytona Beach. I like this place. A lot of kayaks in my price range, 600-1000. And desired length, 12-14 feet. The Sun is a 13 footer. A salesman asked if I needed help, I told him what I was looking for, and asked where the used yaks were. Outside. Advertising to passersby on US 1.

We went outside, Jaron took a Necky Manitou off the trailer for me. 13 feet, $540.00. I sat inside, then asked him to take down the Tsnumai. 14 feet long, $750.00. Long, red and sleek. Front and rear bulkheads. Three hatches. Stretchy cords front and back. The cords on the bow of the Necky required a lean and reach for a water bottle secured under the cords. The Tsunami, water bottle in easy, bent elbow, reach. I told Jaron he had a sale. Here is the Wilderness website. http://www.wildernesssystems.com/product/index/products/touring/touring_tsunami/tsunami_140_touring
I think I got a good deal. A few minor scratches on the bottom, other than that, it looks almost new.

I got it on the car, then drove a few miles south on US 1, putting in south of the US 1 bridge over Spruce Creek.

It was the second time I've paddled this area. Unsure when the other was. 2005 or 06, I think. A search of my email archive did not pull up a report. One of the few trips I have no record of.

East of the launch site are a maze of oyster shell and mangrove islands. I paddled north, then west under US 1, into Strickland Bay, which is a widening of Spruce Creek where it meets Turnbull Bay. All of these waterways are part of the Indian River to the south, Halifax River to the north. The confluence of the Bays was choppy, the wind of Saturday continued to blow. Perfect conditions to test the new yak. So far, I love it ! Handled the chop like a champ. Tracks like an arrow. In the Sun, if I stopped paddling, the yak would soon turn sideways. The Tsunami continues on a straight course.

Perfect for watching a bald eagle soar overhead. Later another, or perhaps the same one. No photos, but here are the first bird pics from the new yak.

Tri colored heron, blue heron, osprey and hawk. I paddled for an hour or so. Having nothing to eat but a bagel in the morning, and just one water bottle, I couldn't stay out long. So, I turned back, past the massive Indian Mound on the west bank of Spruce Creek.

During my 2 hours plus on the water I saw one other kayak and two motor boats. Like I wrote above, it was windy. Also rained earlier, as I drove from Winter Park. But the drive was well worth it, as I brought a new (used) kayak home.

Want more ? Check out my report http://www.clubkayak.com/greenwave/treports.asp?trip=341 for a map, and a few more photos.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Wekiva River and Rock Springs Run

I did a midweek paddle today, Wednesday, March 25, 2009 for the first time since February 18. I had been spending the time I normally would be kayaking car shopping. That distraction is over, so hopefully I'll be doing the weekday am paddles again. Today was an afternoon trip. I worked to 1:00, than headed to Wekiwa Spring State Park. I'll work Saturday morning to get my 40. Arriving at the Park, I was surprised at the near full parking lot. I parked at the top of the hill leading to the launch area, and found another thing to like about the new Versa. Four doors provides a nice privacy screen when changing.

Swim trunks on, I dragged and carried the yak to the launch area. In the water just past 2. It was busy, especially for a weekday. Maybe the recession has hit. Or, more likely, its spring break. There were a lot of college age kids.

I saw at least a dozen canoes and kayaks between the launch and Weikva Marina. To me, that was a lot. Saw the only gator of the day in the lagoon just off the launch

Herons were the bird of the day. Unlike Saturday, today I remembered the camera.

Green, tri colored, great blue, blue. I paddled down the Wekiva, past the Rock Springs Run confluence, past the marina, a trip I last made February 3. My last weekday afternoon paddle. Didn't have the camera that day. On the third, I went a little bit beyond the large Indian/party mound, before turning back. Today's plan was to go to the Buffalo Tram campsite, or until 3:30, whichever came first, than turn back. That would give me time to go up Rock Springs Run on the way back. A good size group of 20 somethings were at the big Indian mound. Once past that, I saw only two other paddlers, an angler and a nut on a paddle board. Using his hands to get upstream. "A bit over zealous on the way downstream ?" "Yeah'. For his sake, I hope he was friends with the gang at the mound.

3:30 arrived, and I had not seen Buffalo Tram. I turned around. Paddled up stream, this time on the west side of an island. An island which kept me from seeing the campsite, which I paddled past on the way downstream. Added another heron to the day's bird list, black crowned night heron. Unable to get a picture. Also saw ibis, wood ducks, belted kingfishers, pileated woodpeckers, swallow tail kites, osprey and red shouldered hawks.

I see where the name comes from. The hawk was just downstream of Wekiva Marina, where I began to encounter paddlers once again. I arrived at Rock Springs Run about 4:5o, and headed up the Run. As did this great egret.

Just two kayakers on the Run. Encountered them at the shallowest part of the Run. The lead paddler was putting her paddle back together. "Best thing since sliced bread" I said. Meanwhile, her companion, a tall guy, was walking, bending down to guide his kayak. "Number one accessory ", I said, pointing to the rope I always have tied to the bow. A lot easier use a rope to pull a kayak across shallows then bending down and grabbing the craft. Knowing the Run, I did not have to get out, but did use the old cross country ski method briefly with my two piece paddle. I turned around at 6:00, past the Indian Mound Camp Site, not reaching the wood posts marking an old logging road. The view upstream at the turn. Blue heron.

No need to adjust your set. Juvenile blue herons are white.

As you know, unless you are a new visitor to Dave's Yak Tales, if so, welcome, Rock Springs Run is a great place to see deer. I spotted five on the way downstream. Only one photo.

Three otters, all in this shot.

Click on the photo to enlarge, that will make it easier to see the otters.

I took a brief break to change water bottles, get an apple and granola bar, then continued. Birds of RSR.

Limpkin, ibis, great egret.

I landed at 7:30. The rye grass is coming up through the new pavers on the hill.

Close up, its a lot less green, so I carried the yak instead of dragging it over the pavers.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Econlockhatchee River

Sunday, March 22, 2009 I kayaked the 8 mile portion of the Econ from 419 to Snow Hill Road. Did the car-bike shuttle. With the back seat folded down, my bike fits in the new Versa. No need to remove the front wheel. To put it in the car. I did remove the wheel at Snow Hill Road to change the tube. The one on the Trek had a slow leak. Somewhere in that process my trip odometer fell off. I walked back and forth along the side of Snow Hill, where I had twice pumped up the tire before changing it. To no avail.

Not having the odometer, which also is my watch, I made sure I took a picture as soon as I was on the River to record the time. 10:59.

On reason I chose to paddle the Econ today was another windy day was in store. 15 mph from the north. I figured the high banks of the Econ would block some of the breeze. Other then sections where the River flows due north on its north east track, the plan worked. I also had the wind at my back for the first third of the 5 mile plus bike ride from Snow Hill to 419.

The banks are higher than usual, or rather the water lower. Another week without rain and the this section of the Econ may be impassable. I scrapped the sandy bottom several times. Thank goodness for two piece paddles. Good for pushing. At one point I had to get out and walk.

Look at the top photo. See the turtle ? Now you have perspective on the height of the banks. This section is the highest on the Econ.

Here is a more typical section.

Lots of downed trees, but other than the portage previously mentioned, I always found a path through areas like this.

I paddled 30 minutes before I saw my first bird, this great blue heron.

I know. I failed to get all of the head. I did get all of the head in my next picture.

I missed capturing the first eagle I saw. Just after the great blue blue heron. Looking in a tree, thinking "that's a big bird." Then the not yet mature bald eagle took off, white feathers starting to come in on the head and tail. A few minute later, this one flew overhead, before perching. Note the blue sky. This shot, like the first was taken at 11:50. Clouds. I told you it was windy.

I saw bald eagles, likely the same ones, several more times during the afternoon. No more pictures. Bald eagle pictures, that is.

Turtles and other, larger, reptiles.

I had good views of 3 alligators, all big. Two more splashing into the water as I approached. All in the same type of environment. Bends in the Econ with deep water and banks or logs to sun.

In addition to the great blue heron and bald eagle already shown, birds seen were vultures, great egret, red shouldered hawks, blur herons and limpkins. Final two seen here.

Just three other paddlers during the first two hours. Further downstream, a few more, including two groups, one with three kayaks, the other with three and a canoe, at the Flagler Trail Bridge.

I took a break, then was on my way, landing at 2:29.

A pleasant 3 and a half hours on the Econlockhatchee River. To top off the day, I found the bike odometer.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Rock Springs Run


As I drove through the gate at Wekiwa Springs State Park this morning, Saturday, March 21, 2009. I realized I left the camera at home. I briefly thought of going home to retrieve it, but that would defeat the purpose of getting out of bed and to the Park early. Which is, get out before anyone but wildlife is out and about.

I was on the Wekiva River at 7:30. No clouds, no wind. Looking out my window now, 3 pm, the palm fronds are swaying, but I don't think the forecast 20mph wind has arrived.

Down the Wekiva to Rocks Springs Run. Paddled up the Run until 10 am, than turned around. A short trip, figured without the camera may as well get home and watch some hoops. Too bad the Warriors and Badgers aren't playing today.

Campers were at Otter and Indian Mound. I did not see my first downstream canoers until I was upstream of the Big Buck Campsite. To the first party I said, "You must have been waiting for them to open" "We were". The second canoe I saw just before 10, my planned turn around time. I took it easy on the way back so not to overtake them. Saw a deer on the left bank between Indian Mound and Big Buck. I would not have been able to get a picture, it was too far way, disappearing into the woods.

Bird list: Blue heron, great blue heron, tri colored heron, yellow crowned night heron, ibis, great egret, belted kingfisher, red shouldered hawk, osprey, barred owl, swallowtail kite. limpkins, anhingas, mallards, wood ducks, unseen woodpeckers tapping, and, as always, vultures.

Turtles under the clear water and later, sunning on logs. One alligator, in the algae on the right side of the lagoon.

Two deer, mother and yearling. Possibly the same two picture in this Tale
In the same general area, today upstream of Buffalo Tram. Could have had several good shots, as I sat in the yak, the deer 10 yards away, raised my hands in an imaginary camera saying, "click, click , click, click" until the deer slowly moved on.
I now began to encounter folks coming up stream from the Park and Wekiva Marina. Back to the Wekiva, the Saturday crowds were building. I landed, at 12:45. Dragged, then carried the yak over the new pavers, the planted rye grass is coming through, not to much, we need rain, than dragged it across the lose dirt up the remainder of the hill to the car.
No snorkel, the Spring looked crowded. In a few weeks, crowded or not, I'll be taking advantage of the Spring to cool off.
I just put the camera in the car, so tomorrow, from a yet to be determined location, I'll have photos.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Haulover Canal Discovery Launch

I watched Space Shuttle Discovery blast off this evening, Sunday, March 15, 2009. Last November's launch of Endeavor was the final scheduled night time launch. Emphasis on scheduled. Discovery was delayed several times. Lucky for me, it finally went of on a weekend, so I got to see it from the kayak.

As usual on launch day, I took the longer but less congested route to the Canal. East on Interstate 4, east on State Highway 44, south on I-95, east on County Highway 442, South on US 1, south on State Highway 3 to the Canal. I was in the Indian River just before 3:00 and headed out to Mullet Head Island.

Birds packed the refuge island. Pictured are rosette spoonbills, pelicans and cormorants. Also roosting and or passing overhead were ibis, great blue herons, great egrets, reddish egrets and more. The birds were flying more then they should. Some illiterate yahoos were wading, well inside the "Nesting Area No Entry Beyond this Point Sign" I am continually amazed that people who can't read can afford boats.

I paddled from the west side of Mullet Head to a second, unnamed island in the River. Saw a dolphin in the distance, then a few seconds later, surfacing just a few paddle lengths in front of me. It swam under me, I turned to watch it, then continued. I circled the island. One crow. I wonder what makes Mullet Head so attractive to so many birds, while this one stands almost empty.

I made my way back east, exploring a series of small canals south of Haulover Canal. I've seen alligators and manatees here, none today. But, I had time to kill before the 7:43 lift off. Paddling beats what landlubbers have to deal with, as reported in Florida Today.

While drivers waited in traffic to get to a crowded park to wait in more lines, I paddled into "Dolphin Cove" and waited for one to surface.

Next stop, Bairs Cove, where manatees are always seen. Well, almost always. I wonder if the large, loud Coast Guard generator was keeping them away. Manatees go below when they hear engine noise, and perhaps the constant drone of the generator powering two campers- a mobile HQ, kept them out of the Cove.

More birds, great blue heron, pelicans, great egret.

I paddled east in the Canal, pausing at the Manatee Overlook. Finally saw a manatee, east of the of the Overlook. We both continued east. I lost it, distracted by a dolphin in the shallow bay on the north east end of the Canal.

I briefly entered the choppy Mosquito Lagoon, peering at the launch tower to the south. Back to the shelter of the canal, I paddled back west. Many kaykers in the water, heading east. I knew I had a lot of time before lift off. Saw the second manatee of the day, west of the Observation Deck, near the drawbridge.

Blue heron.

More kayaks in the water, individuals, groups 2 or 3, large tour groups. A van pulling a trailer loaded with yaks drove on the dirt road to the landing area. Seemed every outfitter in the area had a tour. I planned to stop at the launch, kayak, not space shuttle, eat, get bug spray, a flashlight and radio out of the car. But, the beach was jammed with kayaks. No room to land. So, I ventured into the Indian River, paddled south into a small canal. Here I ate in privacy. And saw this.

Mating horseshoe crabs. This was the second time I've seen this, the other was also near Haulover Canal. I reported that sighting to the Fish and Wildlife Commission.

http://research.myfwc.com/features/view_article.asp?id=18561 They are conducting a survey. I need to contact them again. I got back in the kayak, paddled up the side canal, and a horseshoe crab orgy was in process.

More like orgies. Several groups like the one above gyrating in the water near the bank. Quite a thing to see. I'm glad the crowd at the kayak launch area kept me away, or I would not have see this.

It was 7:00 PM, time to paddle the mile of Haulover Canal to Mosquito Lagoon.

Late light makes for good pictures.

Saw the third, and last manatee of the day. Near the Observation Deck. I turned to the west to catch the sunset

7:20, time to get to the end of the Canal for the launch. The Canal ends at the Mosquito Lagoon. Two small jettys, nothing more than piles of rocks, extend a short way into the Lagoon. I wedged the kayak next to a couple from Toronto. I've watched at least 3 launches from this position, for another I joined a crowd standing in the water just south of this spot, near the west bank of the Lagoon. No one was there. I asked the guy to my left if it was the wind, blowing from the south, that kept people from that spot, or the Coast Guard. "The Coast Guard". Haulover Canal is the line. No boats allowed past on launch day. Got to see the Coasties in action as a pontoon boat crossed the imaginary line. Whoooooo, the Coast Guard was on him in moments. Order restored, people with radios kept others posted of the countdown, until

Lift off !!!

I have no idea what the green thing is in some of the photos. Either some sort of reflection, or a UFO. I watched the booster rockets fall off, than using the Bill C. get away plan from the last launch, made my exit as everyone else watched the dot in the sky shrink. A last look at the contrail,colored by the final rays of the sun.

I took a video as the shuttle rumbled overhead. I thought the sound would come through. It did not. There is sound, me, and people in the background. The roar of Discovery did not come through.
My get away worked to perfection. As I paddled below the drawbridge, cars slowly moved across. A unique view of traffic is looking up through the metal grates. I was the first one back to the launch. Only two others arrived before I left. My that time, traffic had cleared. The only delay was where State Road 3 meets US 1. That was only a few minutes. I was home at 10:00.