Dave's Yak Tales

Cedar Key Sunset

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Haulover Canal

I went to Haulover Canal after work today, Wednesday, July 29, 2009. I figured I could be in the water at 6 and have two plus hours paddling time. The drive took a bit longer then expected. As I approached Blackpoint Wildlife Drive in the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, a sign informed me the road, 406, was closed. Okay, I'll just take Blackpoint and come out on the other side of the 7 mile drive. No wildlife watching for me as I disregarded the 15 mph speed limit. Please do not do as I did, zooming along at up to 30 mph. Take your time, enjoy the drive on the Drive. I exited the Drive, back on 406, only to discover the road was still closed ast the exit. It appeared it is being blacktopped, only the section to get on and off Wildlife Drive is open. Just did search. 406 Merritt Island http://www.fws.gov/merrittisland/Events.html. To bad I didn't sneak a peek at work. As the link states, assuming it is still there as you read this, I had to take 402 and 3, after backtracking on 406, to get to Haulover.

I had taken a peek at the marine weather forecast. Light chop. The NOAA site advises mariners to check the forecast frequently, as conditions can change quickly. They did. A strong southeast wind had the Indian River choppy as I came to the end of the dirt track on the north bank of the canal. Changing footwear, a sock disappeared. Blown under the car and several yards beyond. So I won't be headed out to Mullet Head Island, paddling past the two dolphins just off shore. At least for now. In the water at 6:15, I made a left into the protected waters of the Canal.

Wind at my back, I paddled into "Dolphin Cove" None there. There were manatees in Bairs Cove Five or six. I was unable to get any pictures. Back into the Canal, under the drawbridge, to the Manatee Overlook. A woman said 'There are a couple here!" "And here" I replied. Little fish jumped. "Dolphins can't be to far behind", I said. Two more manatees, swam towards me, must have gone under the yak. I continued the eastbound wind driven paddle.

It is difficult, for me, to get a sharp photo of a bird in flight, so I like the one below.
Or rather, two. Taken in the shallow, spoil island sheltered area on the north side of the Canal, just west of the main body of Mosquito Lagoon.

The wind abated a bit, so I reentered Haulover Canal and paddled westward, back to the Indian River. My dolphin prediction proved accurate. One was also making a westward course. As was an alligator.

The third consecutive manatee, dolphin, alligator Trifecta at Haulover Canal. This time, the only picture I got was the gator, above. The gator went under, The dolphin kept resurfacing, until Bairs Cove, after which I did not see it. It likely paused there, and at "Dolphin Cove" to peruse the menu.

Out of the Canal, the Indian River did not look as rough as it did earlier. So, I set course for Mullet Head Island. I recently purchased a spray skirt, thanks to this link http://www.clubkayak.com/greenwave/default.asp?message=4084 from the Green Wave Forum. You may want to check the site for future deals. This item is currently selling for 29.95. 7.95 was some bargain. I had only put the skirt on in my garage. This was the first water test. At first, it just attached it to the front of the cockpit, without me in the hole. It blew off. I put it back on, blew off. Enough of this, I need to keep an eye on the manatee surfacing to my left. For non-yakers, a spray skirt is a hatch covering, with an opening in the middle for the paddler. For some reason, I thought it could only be put on feet first. So, I thought, I'd wait until I got on the back side of Mullet Head, out of the wind, in shallow water to put it on for the return paddle. As experienced seakayakers snicker at my ignorance, take a look at some birds, including great egrets, coming to roost on Mullet Head Island for the evening.

Here are an avian variety at Mullet Head. Tri colored heron.

Cormorant and pelicans.

Reddish egret.

More tricolored.

Rosette spoonbills. Distance, cloud cover darkness, and your photographer result in so-so photos.

As the camera flashed, so did the light bulb in my head. Maybe I can pull the skirt over my head. Yes I can. But I have to remove my PFD. So I did. It worked. Experienced sea kayakers and all the women in the world think, duh. I had no problem attaching the skirt to the combing (a little ledge all around the cockpit), from front to back.

I kept dry on the way back to the launch site, surfing the roughest water I've paddled in the Mosquito Lagoon. I was trying to photo a pod of 5 or 6 dolphins here.

Did not get them, but it gives an idea of the conditions. This was taken at 8:00. I was thinking of paddling to Bairs Cove once more, but the wind picked up, the western sky grew more menacing, so I landed.

Some spectacular lightning on the way home. Bolts filling half the sky, more energy off the main charge like tendrils. Very cool. From a distance.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Econlockhatchee River

Alligators and bald eagles. Sunday, July 25, 2009.

Up and back from Snow Hill to the bank on the left where the River splits. Just over two hours, including a detour into "Lake Econ"

Finished just as a thunderstorm passed through. "Lake Econ" is a low lying area, on the right as you paddle upstream, downstream of the Flagler Trail bridge. Look for a gap in the bank. When the water is high, this grassy basin fills with water. Speaking of the Flagler bridge, unlike last time, I was able to go under it.

The flying eagle was seen shortly before I landed. Saw another, on the upstream paddle, at a nest deep in the forest. I have several photos of tree trunks and branches as I tried to time my drifting kayak to gaps in the palms and pines to photo the eagle. Without success. This is not where the eagle was, but gives an idea of the dense forest.

Just one bird photo in addition to the eagle, an immature blue heron. There were osprey and great blue herons along the River. Perhaps 8 other boats, all canoes and kayaks. An equal number of alligators. A nice paddle, well timed.

Thunder rumbled behind be as I made the downstream paddle, towards blue sky, Eventually, the entire sky grew dark, just as I landed. I was half way getting the yak on the car when the storm hit. Buckets of rain, numerous lightning bolts. In the car, 10 minutes, and 2 miles away, it was over.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Cedar Key and Manatee Springs/Suwannee River

I paddled a new location today, Saturday, July 25, 2009. Cedar Key. And an old one, Manatee Springs and the Suwannee River. This Tale may take a while to tell, as being the first one about Cedar Key, I want to provide details on directions, history, and so on. Not to mention a lot of cool stuff seen while paddling. The first time I've see sharks. Small, but have to start somewhere. The first photo is a shark.

This was my third visit to Cedar Key. My last visit was so long ago I can't recall when it was. To bad I can't remember the Kentucky Derby that year. I watched it in a little bar. Or was it the Preakness? Those were my pre-yaking days, and I enjoyed exploring interesting places throughout Florida. Cedar Key, located on the Gulf, in Levy County, south of the mouth of the Suwannee River, north of Crystal River. Back then, I thought Cedar Key was scaled down version of the Florida Keys. One road leads in, State Highway 24. Once off the mainland, the road continues over a series of bridges connecting keys. Just 4 of each for Cedar Key. Like Key West, Cedar Kay has a rich and colorful history as an early Florida port city. Both strive to maintain some of what made the town unique. Here is a Cedar Key street scene.

Back in the early 90's, I thought, Cedar Key is like Key West twenty years ago. Today, 10-15 later, it still is. Which isn't necessarily a good thing. From the water, I noticed a lot of new homes, condos, ect. The roads buzzed with golf carts. I don't recall those in the early 90's.

BLOGGER SUCKS. Or maybe I do. Just lost a a few hours of downloading pictures and creating a Tale. Here we go again.

I woke up at 4:30. I-4 , 408, Turnpike, 27, Alt. 27, 24 is the route to Cedar Key. My path was a bit different. I missed the US 27 exit off 75 in Ocala. Took the next exit, took Marion County Road 326 to 27. May have slowed me down a bit, two lane 55 mph instead of the divided, 4 lane 65 mph 27.

I put in at Cedar Key Beach. A small launch area is at the edge of the beach, next to a marina. The restrooms were open when I arrived. Welcome after the coffee fueled 149 mile drive. Two parking spaces nearest the beach are reserved for kayak loading/unloading. I got the yak ready, then parked. No fee. In the water at 8, I paddled across the half mile channel to Atsenea Otie (AO) Key. AO's occupation by whites dates to 1836 when the US Army, under Zachary Taylor, established a supply depot. After a hurricane in 1842, the Army left AO. Later in the 19th century, utilizing the then abundant cedar forests along the nearby Suwnnnee River, saw mills, one run by the Faber company, were established. Another hurricane, in 1896, destroyed the mills. Today, some ruins, and a cemetery can be viewed. As it was such a short paddle, I did not land.

I thought of circling the key, but once on the backside, I saw two keys in the distance. I set out for the closet, Snake Key. Closer, but a longer paddle than the City Beach to OA crossing.

More problems witth blogger, so I posted two reports on the Green Wave Forum.

http://www.clubkayak.com/greenwave/treports.asp?trip=391 for the Cedar Keys portion of my day.

http://www.clubkayak.com/greenwave/treports.asp?trip=392 for the Manatee Springs/Suwanne River. Read it for leaping sturgeon.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Rock Springs Run

Tuesday, July 21, 2009 I was able to get a two hour paddle in on the Wekiva River and Rock Springs Run after work. A very pleasant early evening for July in Central Florida. Blue sky, a few clouds, temperature and humidity both in the 80's, I'd guess at 6 pm.

Herons on the Wekiva. Green.

Great blue.

Blue. Teenager. Half way between childhood, all white, and adulthood, all blue.

Rock Springs Run. Ibis and great egret. The same group as the first photo. That was taken on the return paddle.

I considered paddling down the Wekiva today, but I have never seen deer on the Wekiva past the confluence with Rock Springs Run up to Katie's Landing. Not to mention bears. So up Rock Springs Run I went.

Almost out of the first open area, I heard a rustle on my right. A deer, which bounded away. But, a second remained. Almost hidden in the brush. It slowly moved away, I was unable to get a photo. But a least I had seen deer while paddling for the first time since July 3 on the Weeki Wachee.

This photo is just before I turned around, at 7. Just downstream of the spot with several tight turns on the Run.

I slowly drifted down the Run, camera ready. On my right, tall grass was moving in an unnatural fashion. Something had to be there.

This deer did not leap away.

Lots of little gators, I did not see any adults.

This obstacle, near the Wekiva, was not down on Saturday.
Easy to get over thanks to seasonal high water. If it had toppled in later winter, early spring, it would be a problem. Rock Springs Run is ever changing. There has long been a shallow section. Saturday, I saw a possible alternate route, to the right. It has been there, but did not have an upstream opening. It looked like it now did. Paddled up it today, and got through. Upstream of that is a new shallow area, but it is obvious, just go to the right for deeper water.

Back to the lagoon, more herons.

Landed just past 8. Wheeled the yak up the hill, got in on the car. Picked up soda cans that some jerk had left. Can't have have my yak parking area trashed. Drove out, stopped to walk down towards the Spring and a garbage can. Figured I had time for a quick stroll on the Wet to Dry Nature Trail. I have often seen deer where the boardwalk intersects with the main hiking trail at dusk. None today. A raccoon on the boardwalk.

It has been almost 4 years since I last ate at the local bar-b-que joint. I still haven't as I brought my ribs and pulled pork combo from Bubbalou's, home. I have enough left over to bring to work for lunch/dinner tomorrow.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Turkey Creek

After a strenuous Saturday paddling up Rock Springs Run, and back, plus a 4 mile hike, I needed something short and scenic Sunday, July 19, 2009. So, I traveled to Palm Bay to paddle Turkey Creek. Saw at least five manatees, including one barely visible in the opening photo. Click to expand, you may see the snout, and a bit of white, a scar, likely from an encounter from a boat.

Saw two small alligators.

Would I get the Trifecta? No. I did not see any dolphins in Palm Bay or a during brief foray into the Indian River.

I launched at 10:30 from the area just across the Port Malabar Rd Bridge. Paddle craft only, the Creek is maybe 150-20 yards from the road, so it takes a bit of effort. Which means no crowds. Today, two guys were leaving as I arrived. They had a very nice yak- a Wilderness Tsunami 145. I have the 140. Another paddler also was finished with his day, complaining about a log he could not get over. The other guys said they just powered over it. I did the same. Don't know why the other guy could not do it.

The launch site puts you in Turkey Creek Sanctuary, the best part of this short creek.

Turkey Creek is best know for three things. Manatees, high sandy bluffs as seen above, and turtles.

I have yet to see a turkey. But, I have never seen so many green herons.

A better photographer may have captured the third GH that was on this branch.

This turned out well. Eye framed by the branch.

I saw my first ever young green herons, still fuzzy.

I paddled as far up Creek as I could, which is not very far. The end of the line is the Melborne-Tillman Water Control District dam/spillway. I don't think its even three miles from the dam to the Indian River. Which is where I headed.
Osprey are very practical, using natural perches when available.
And should nature fail to provide, say in the middle of a bay, a mast will do just fine.

After paddling across Palm Bay and into the Indian River, I turned around, stopping for lunch at Sterns Point Park. Located on the northeast side of the US 1 Bridge. A small place to land and an unoccupied, covered. picnic table. I'm not sure where the "beach" is. http://www.palmbayflorida.org/parks/city_parks/stearns.html Unless it was the five foot wide area where I landed.

Back in the yak, I watched and listened for manatees near by old launch spot, the Goode Park ramp. None seen, nor heard.

I was thinking this may be the first time I have not seen manatees in Turkey Creek. Then I entered a spot I'll call "Sunken Boat Cove"

Two manatees, one a baby about the smallest I have ever seen. I gave them plenty of space, so no good photos.
Turtles and a green heron share a log.

Very few people were on the Creek, upstream of Goode Park. I don't think I saw a power boat. Half a dozen kayakers. Downed trees make it tough for anything bigger than a kayak. Leave em down! The entire Creek is Slow Speed, No Wake due to manatee. I saw another in the Creek. If not for its scar, I would not have noticed it in the dark water. The white injury stood out in the dark water. It was traveling downstream, as I was going up. To the dam, then back down. Another manatee, feeding. I came near, maybe too close, the current carrying me. It took off at a rapid pace. This could be the same one, feeding a bit further down the Creek.

From its behavior, I think it was not the same animal. Instead of leaving suddenly, it swam slowly out of the flotsam, rolled over, perhaps to dislodge some vegetation, the slowly headed down Creek. As did I, making another visit to Sunken Boat Cove. I missed the picture when the both surface, little snout and big snout, I'll close with these photos.

Landed a bit after 3:30, a five hour day, but much time was spent sitting still, watching the manatee mother and calf.