Dave's Yak Tales

Cedar Key Sunset

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Camping, Seminole State Forest

And, of course, kayaking. And biking. Cooler weather has arrived. That means no longer in the 90's during the day. Down to 60's at night. Actually set a record low the other morning. 57. So, with I decided to go camping. Contacted the Seminole State Forest and was informed the Moccasin Springs site was available. I grabbed it.

I arrived at the Forest, paid the $5.oo camping fee. Honor system, put an envelope in a metal box, hang the receipt from the mirror. Then to the gate, unlocking it, closing and locking it behind me. Then, a 3.5 mile drive through the Forest to the campsite. Campsite, not campground. There are 3 campsites in the Forest. Moccasin Springs is the smallest, accommodation up to five people according to a Forest brochure. Here is the namesake Spring, photo taken Sunday morning. The Spring is about 50 yards down a mowed path from the parking area, the campsite about 20 yards beyond, on the bank of Blackwater Creek. Again taken Sunday, here is the path and campsite.

I set up the tent upon arrival. Worked up a sweat even in the cool morning. If I put the poles in right the first time I may not have sweated so much. I think I made three trips back and forth from the car to the campsite, 50-75 yards. I was in the kayak paddling down Blackwater Creek at 9:30. The creek is lower than it was in July, much lower than in April. I had the site Easter Saturday, but it was underwater. This was my second time actually staying, the first being last Christmas Eve. I was thinking this stay was different, not a holiday. Then I remembered, Monday is Columbus Day. My role model. Chris may not have known how to get to his destination, and never got there, but saw some interesting sights on the way.
The above photo was an interesting sight to me. Fresh saw marks. Someone had cleared the Creek, at least this portion, downstream from Moccasin Springs to the bridge and day use launch site. Would the high/low blockage further down stream be cleared? Stay tuned.

There were a lot of big alligators out. All cautious, I was unable to get a picture of the big ones. This one may not get big. His buddies made for the water.
I not only saw the big alligators, I felt them. With the Creek low, at times there is not room enough for a gator on the bottom and an kayak on top. I think I ran over one. I mean hitting it, not floating over with space between us. I know I hit a second. A big one eight feet, easy, slid off the bank. Next think I know I’m on top of something hard that splashed to get away. Took on a little water. Hardest I’ve ever hit a gator, or vice versa. Funny, as the other day at work the guy I sit next to asked if I ever hit an alligator.

Although I saw ibis, great blue herons, limpkins, pileated wood peckers, and belted king fishers, I was unable to get any good photos. So, you'll have to settle for these scenics.

. On the other hand, there was just one other person on the Creek. A pickup truck was at the canoe/kayak launch, an hour downstream a kayak was beached, a guy was fishing from the bank. At the spot where a board is over a couple stumps to make a bench. A beautiful day. Clear, blue sky. Humidity bearable, I’m guessing temps 84-87. I took a break at the next high spot, after about two hours, to grab a bite and stretch. From there, on to the Wekiva River.

I arrived at the Wekiva, above, without incident, at ten after twelve. The high-low barrier has been cleared.

On the Wekiva, I was able to get photos of alligators. And more.

There were boaters on the Wekiva, but not to many. As usual I hoped to spot a manatee, but no such luck. Voyaged all the way to the St. Johns, Entered it, just to say I paddled three water ways , but the St Johns is no placed for a paddler on the weekend. At least this section. The Speed Limit is 25 MPH. That looks awfully fast to me. Back to the Wekiva, I saw the only other paddles of the day. A kayaking couple. St. Johns River. Blending in.
Most of this paddle is in the LWRSP, not the Seminole State Forest. This sign is on the Wekiva. There are no signs on Blackwater Creek informing you where the Forest ends and Preserve begins.

I was on the Wekiva for 48 minutes, according to the time stamps on the photos from when I entered the Wekiva, and returned to Blackwater Creek.

Mouth of Blackwater Creek.

One big Blackwater gator let me take a few pictures.

I took another break at the same spot. Break location, below.

I returned "home" at 4:38. A 7 hour paddle.

Started the grill, downloaded the day's photos, began composing this tale, and had a brat.
Next, a bike ride.
This brochure has a Forest Map, on the last page.http://www.myfwc.com/docs/Brochures/10-11_Seminole_Forest.pdf It also lets you know when the various hunting seasons are. With archery season ending on October 3, I figured the deer would be back. They weren't, at least not for me. I saw none all weekend. On the other hand, I saw four bears. The first, just a glimpse. I was on Pine Road, just north of Grade Road, not quite to the Observation Blind. A black shape ahead, just on the edge of the woods. I'm thinking stump, until it moved, into the woods. A bear! Long gone by the time I got to where it was. Then, when I was almost back to Moccasin Springs, with in sight of the sign pointing to the site on Loop Road, a shaking tree. You can see some black in the center of this picture.
A mother and two cubs. First one cub, than the other, scampered down the tree and ran deeper into the woods. Mom stayed, breathing heavily in my direction. Letting the young ones get away. I've never hear a bear growl, but this is the second time a bear has done the heavy breath thing towards me. I'm glad that when she climbed down, she ran away, not towards me. My ride was seven miles. Back at the campsite, I fired up the grill again. Once the coals got hot, took a brief walk. Final photo of the day.
Dinner was steak on the grill. I was going to have foil wrapped potatoes, but they never cooked all the way. I spent the evening watching the fire, wondering who was the first human to eat cooked meat. Did a wildfire burn a wooly mammmoth, and a caveman thought, "man, that smells great"? Took a few walks in the dark, looking at the stars on a moonless night. As with my other two times camping, I had a very hard time sleeping. I now have a self inflating matress, had that on top of the thin foam pad I already had. Also had a real pillow. When I lay down for a nap this afternoon, I think I figured out my problem. At home, my 19 year old mattress is worn so my head is higher than my body. On the ground, its the opposite. Of course at home, I'm not thinking about bears at the front door and alligators at the back. At 7:00 am sqwaking limpkins told me it was time to get up. I went for a short bike ride. 2.5 miles on the Loop Road loop. No wildlife, just wildflowers.
Fired up the grill. Next time I car camp, I'm bringing the Smokey Joe. Fire never got hot enough to get the coffee perking. Or finish the potaotes. The leftover steak heated up fine. Any suggestions on a small backbacking type camp stove are appreciated. I few things in the car, got on the water just after 9:30.

Paddled up Creek for thirty minutes, until I came to the blockage above. It's been there since last Christmas and probably long before.

I floated down Creek, getting back to Moccasin Springs in 30 minutes. I kept going.

Saw an otter, aimed the camera too high and missed the photo. I continued my languid pace past the day use area, where a father and son fished. "See any baby alligators?" Asked the kid. "Not yet. Just saw one a little bigger than a baby" A three footer had slid off the bank.

"Not yet" indeed.

Thirty minutes past the bridge, I turned back.

I landed at 12:15.

I struck camp,wondering how to get the leaves and what not out of the tent. Solution, lift and shake. I left the site cleaner than when I arrived. It wasn't bad, but I did not leave styrofoam plates in the fire pit. I'm not sure what is going on here, my guess, taking out exotic plants.

This gopher tortise was at the gate as I left the Forest.
Check Spelling

Given the choice between camping, and a hotel, I'll take a hotel. Electricity, plumbing and a bed are nice things to have. On the other hand, I've roughed it twice at Moccassin Springs and seen bears, and got pictures both times. I have not seen bears on many day trips to the Forest. So, despite the lack of sleep, digging a hole to poop in, bringing the used TP home, I'll be back.


Dark Knight said...

Looks like you had a great time. This is one thing I will never be able to convince my wife to do. Go figure; she is not afraid of gators but the only idea of crossing paths with a bear terrifies her. I have been thinking about buying pepper spray and have it available just in case. I mean, it worked for Jack Hannah and a grizzlie. I guess it would work with a black bear.That would make her feel more confident. After reading your comment about Mommy Bear I am going to do it.

Anonymous said...

Another great post Dave.Dark Knight, save the pepper spray for burglers, I lived in North Idaho 23 years and shooed many a mother and cubs away from berry bushes while picking, if she is mad and close enough for pepper spray to work, and the wind doesn't blow it back in your face, it is too late anyway. Very docile animals, just like gators, more scared of you than them.Smokey Joe is the best fire I have used, Dave, the camp stoves just burn to hot to cook with, mainly good for boiling things dehydrated.
Look forward to next tale.

Chad said...

I use a penny stove for my camping adventures. It does burn hot and, will definitely perculate coffee. You can build one your self. Check out...


I have cooked many delicious meals in the bush using this stove. You may have to tend to it because of the high heat, but, it does the job with minimal weight/ space.

Dave said...

Thanks all, for the advice. And interest.

Danny said...

Glad to read that you had a good time. great post.

Shane said...

Looks so cool... I live here on the north side of the Seminole State Forest and I have never really explored back there. I live so close I can just walk right in with out a car ride. Lately I have been reading your blogs and you have got me motivated to go explore. Thank you.

Have you been able to tell where there use to be a train track? I have heard that there use to be one that went through there years ago.

Once again, Thanks

Dave said...

Shane, I'm not sure if there was a passenger train, but there were "tram railways". Used to get lumber out of the forest. Take a look at the picture of the Spring. See the line of posts in the upper left? That's part of the tram line. Similar posts can be found crossing the Wekiva River and Rock Springs Run.

Shane said...

Thanks for the info Dave. I see the post. Very cool. Please keep us posted when you go on your next trip.

Dave said...

Shane, I'm on the water 3 times a week, so there is always a "next trip".

The Florida Blogger said...

You know you've been camping when you bring used TP home with you. Nice one!

yak cat said...

Awesome review, thx! Great info. I want to try this but I'm new at doing solo camping/kayaking, esp primitive, it seems a bit intimidating to me (not sure if being female is a factor in that lol). I was considering backpacking in, I didn't realize you could drive to and launch from the camp.

Dave said...

Glad you enjoyed it, yak cat. I'm a life long loner, so the solo activity is second nature. Or, first Nature, seeing it uninterrupted.