Dave's Yak Tales

Cedar Key Sunset

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hontoon Island Loop

It had been awhile, March 20, since I've been to Blue Spring State Park.  Even longer, September 12, 2010, since I've done the "Hontoon Island Loop"  Kayaking from Blue Springs State Park, down the St Johns River to Hontoon Island State Park, located on the north tip of Hontoon Island, around the tip, south on the Hontoon Dead River, east on the northernmost canal, back to the St Johns.

A line of cars at the entrance when I arrived.  From the bumper sticker on the car in front of me, and the way 2/3 of the cars pulled over after paying, most of the line was scuba divers.  Perfect.  By the time they registered and got their gear on, I'd be done with my snorkel.
 Walking on the boardwalk along Blue Springs Run, I saw the brown water of the St Johns reached beyond the second overlook.  The view above is looking down Run, from behind the Spring. I was in the water.  Floating above the Spring, I could not see the tree that's about 10-12 feet down until I dove lower.

I was the only person in the Run.  Two kayakers were on  it.

Also in the Run, bluegill and gar.

I was in the water about 25 minutes, swimming up the Run from the Dive/Tube entry to the Spring, then drifting back, past the entry, to the swim dock.  Grabbed my stuff, and walked to the car.

Great blue heron and great egret, from the boardwalk.  Wheeling the yak to the River, I stopped to ask the guy at the concession about the condition of Snake Creek.  He said another person "went by it yesterday" "By or through?" I asked.  The other guy was there.  He said Snake Creek was blocked, but the Smith Canal, the northern most of the 3 old logging canals linking the St Johns and Hontoon Dead Rivers, was passable. But, "Don't stop paddling"

I began paddling down the St Johns at 9:15.

As usual, I paddled behind the island across from the French Ave. boat ramp.  Saw a manatee.

Paddled closer for a better view. it went under.  I drifted, waiting for it to resurface.  Waited, waited, where did it go?   Pfffttt, it surfaced next to me, I felt its breath on my left forearm.
I waited for it to approach again, it did not.  No other manatees were in the area. I went on my way.

 Smooth paddling.  Just 3 power boats.  One, in the 25mph zone, slowed down when he approached me.  I appreciate that.
Approaching Lake Beresford and the north end of Hontoon Island, I saw a rosette spoonbill.
No, can't be.  Must be an egret and the sun hitting it in a way that it looks pink.  For a moment I convinced myself it was a great egret.
First spoonbill I've ever seen on the St. Johns River.  Closest spoonbill I've seen to my home.--30.6 miles from where I parked at Blue Spring State Park to my garage.

I've said it before and I'll say it again.  I love kayaking as I never know what to expect.  Except the unexpected.
One unexpected thing is this is the only alligator I saw all day.

 Paddled past the State Park sign at 10:35, 7 minutes later began the paddle on the Hontoon Dead River.

 Tongue action.

Blue heron
 Takes off.
 Snake Creek.  I stayed on the HDR.

 Into the canal.

 Areas like this, thick weeds, is where the "Don't stop paddling" advice came in handy.  I did pause, to eat a sandwich as I paddled.

 Back to the St Johns River.

 Snake Creek entrance.

 I paddled past the launch area, and Blue Spring Run, back to the island.  No manatees.  In the morning, there was a gap through the vegetation on the southwest side of the island.  At one in the afternoon, it was blocked.  Wind shifted the plants.  No problem paddling through.
Into Blue Spring Run.

 Tannic water meets spring water.

Can't go past the swim dock, 11:30-5.  It was 1:20.

Landed at 1:35.   After getting the yak on the car, I went for a hike on the Parks' hiking trail.

Viceroy.  The vertical vein distinguishes it from a monarch.  Also saw black and tiger swallowtails.  And two flocks of turkeys.

I walked about 2.5 miles. This was only the second time I've been on this trail, the first was pre-yak days.  Usually I just walk on the boardwalk along the Spring Run or bike the paved trail.  But I need some work done on the road bike, so that was out.   Speaking of being worked on, an off road biking trail is being developed at Blue Springs State Park.  Perhaps some day I'll ride, and write about it in a future Tale.