Dave's Yak Tales

Cedar Key Sunset

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Seminole State Forest, Blackwater Creek, Wekiva River

There was some excitement today in the Seminole State Forest and Lower Wekiva State Preserve. Not just me seeing deer, alligators and manatees, but a multi jurisdiction search to find a lost biker. He was found.

I arrived at the Forest just as the sun was coming up. Or perhaps earlier, but as the Forest opens as sunrise for those with a permit, I won't admit it. On the bike about 6:40 am.

I saw three deer during my 9.88 mile, 1 hour seven minute ride, but the only photos I got were a rabbit and turkeys. The dark shapes in the photo immediately above are turkeys.

Launched the kayak around ten after eight

I made my way over, and under, the two downed trees that block Blackwater Creek an hour's slow paddle from the launch site. The Creek's water level has gone down since I last went through, two weeks ago. That made it harder to go over the low log, but easier to duck under the "high" one.

I arrived at the Wekiva River, above, at 10:40. Which was packed with boats. Ok, five. But after seeing no one on Blackwater Creek, two motor boats is a crowd.

I had not seen any manatees on the Wekiva River since last summer. Until today. A head briefly popped up. But then, 3 boats went by, slowly, and I did not see it again. Nice to see motorboats going slow, outside the Manatee Zone on the Wekiva. I paddled through the Manatee Zone, which had none, to the mouth of the Wekiva, at the St Johns River. To many fast boats on the big river, I turned back at 11:30.

I had a better view of a manatee on the way back up River, again, out of the Manatee Zone. But' just as it did, a boat an old, noisy motor went by. I waited several minutes but did not see the manatee again.

Back to Blackwater Creek. I took a lunch break at the highest point of the Creek bank, 45 minutes or so up Creek from the Wekiva.

The above pic has a huge gator sliding into the Creek. Right of the lighter hued bush. I came round a bend and its shoulders seemed to be several feet above the ground. Looked wider than my yak. Which isn't wide , I can't rest my elbows on the sides, but still, this is a monster alligator.

As I anticipated, it was harder getting under and over the blockage on the way up Creek. Down Creek, I got a running start, aided by the current to get the kayak up on the low log. Then it was a mater of rocking it over. Up stream, no running/paddling start as I had to get under the high log. A few hard strokes, up on the low log, than pulled on branches, moved forward as far as I could, so the kayak would teeter forward rather than totter back, and I got over.
Critters pictured on this tale are blue heron, great blue heron, anhinga, alligator, osprey and ibis. I also saw hawks, limpkins, great egrets, pileated wood peckers, and manatees. Ibis make a honking sound. One was honking, and I thought, that almost sounds human. It was. "Hello" came a voice. I hello'd back. "I'm lost" I could not see the wayward paddler, but said if I were him, I'd follow the current to the main channel. As he talked to me, he also was calling 911. The wayward soul asked me how far the bridge was, I told him twenty minutes. I again told him to paddle out. Turned out he was not paddling, but biking. Only he was not biking anymore. He said he got off the trail and was so lost he left the bike behind. I finally saw him. He said he was going to walk along the bank, and asked if I could wait at the bridge until help came. No room in the yak for a passenger. Now, the "bank" of Blackwater Creek is a cypress swamp. Fortunately, the Creek is low, but he still probably had to wade a bit. I paddled to the bridge. As I put the yak on the roof, I heard a helicopter overhead. A Lake County Sheriff squad pulled up. I walked over to it. "Did you see someone in red shirt" I told them I saw a white hat, not a red shirt, and told the deputies where I saw him. More squad cars, State Forestry vehicles, Lake-Sumter Fire Rescue fire truck, ambulance. 6-8 ground vehicles, plus the chopper. They found him, or he found them. On my way out, I saw the gentleman, white hat and shirt. Did not look to bad for his ordeal. I told him next time, stay on the Forest Roads. He told me he was going to come back tomorrow for his bike. Better leave a trail of breadcrumbs, or something.

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