As often happens, I changed my mind. Rain, I thought, would keep the crowds down on Juniper Creek. A stream I haven't paddled since last summer. So, off to the Ocala National Forest. As also often happens on Saturday, I woke up early. Arrived at the Juniper Springs Recreation Area at 7:35. It does not open until 8. A car and trailer with at least 5 kayaks was in front of me. I could wait here, or drive 20 miles west to the Silver River and probably be on the water earlier than if I waited here, paid for the haul back, wheeled the kayak to the launch site, and so on.
I don't think I've seen this pontoon boat before. I told the captain I wish I was in the sixth grade, so I could go on a field trip. She replied it is Marion County fifth graders who go out on the boat. Today, it was going to be used for a special event. I did not ask what the event was.
Until I passed the Silver River State Park landing, I had only seen one boat. A Florida Department of Law Enforcement boat. Nice to see, but I thought a better use of my tax dollars would be to have it on the water, later, to monitor the monkey feeders and wake makers.
Paddling up River, on the right side as I usually do. I check out the other side on the way down. Or if I sees something interesting. Anyway, I was in the Silver Springs attraction area, past the cove with the cracker homestead where tour boats go, when there was a bump, a wide open alligator's jaws just behind my right elbow, and me saying, "Holy Something!" as it bumped the kayak and slid back into the River.
Did I hit it? Did it attack me, unprovoked? Don't know. Happened in a flash. All I know I was looking down its throat. A five footer, maybe. First time it has happened. I was going to look at the kayak for teeth marks when I landed, but forgot. I'll let you know tomorrow. I think it just bumped me.
I have witnesses. They heard me, but as my kayak blocked the gator from there view, they did not see it.
The lead paddler in the group saw monkeys, on the other side of the River. I saw trees moving, and a glimpse of one. The only one I saw all day. Making 3 straight Silver River excursions with no monkey photos to share with my Talegators.
A crowd at the head spring when I arrived at 10:15
I should have known this event was going on. Facebook friends have posted links regarding a plan for a cattle operation to take as much water from the Florida Aquifer as the City of Ocala. And cows pooping back in. But hey, it will provide 150 jobs. What I find interesting is folks on both ends of the political spectrum, from tree hugging lefties, to tea party types, think this is a bad idea. Perhaps my right wing friends are more Roosevelt (Teddy) Republicans, than tea partiers.
I heard someone say "Dave?", but being such a common name, figured she was talking to some one else.
I began the down River drift/paddle.
I was the Dave who had been called from the Spring. Phyliss M-C paddled down stream to say hi.
She said Governor Graham was on his way up the River. That had to be the "special event" on the pontoon boat. For you non-Floridians, that would be former Florida Governor, Bob Graham.
Mr. Graham's group headed to the head Spring. Nice to have the former Governor and Senator on the correct side of the water issue. He can bring national attention, as shown by this nytimes article. Thanks to Diane L., for the link.
Back in April, cormorants were raising chicks on a little island just down stream of the main spring.
Today, blue herons.
I can't recall seeing blue heron chicks before. At least not so many. There were at least half a dozen active nests. Its neat how two species, cormorants and blue herons share the same rookery. I wonder if the herons were using the cormorant's nests.
There are several springs, seven? in the first quarter mile or so of the Silver River. That is why I have been saying "main" and "head" spring. Here is one of the other springs.
Governor Graham, white shirt, grey hair, hand on rail. He is a Democrat. A Republican, Lee Constantine, a former state senator, was also at the event. Mr. Constantine always struck me as being reasonable, but has been term limited. Too bad no current politicansGainesville Sun about the event
I told the Fish and Wildlife officers I wish politicians were on the River every day.
No humans were harmed during the alligator photography.
Eastern black swallowtail
Sorry to wake you up
It turned out to be a beautiful day. Sun came out, but not to hot.
Another tiger swallowtail
Coming down the River, I saw a photographer focused on something. Monkey? No, just a yellow crowned night heron.
Which does make a good subject. Before I began kayaking, I never knew these existed.
Back to the canal, 12:55. I kept going. If you are going to paddle the Silver River, may as well do the whole thing. Plus, I was looking for monkeys.
Turned around here, Ocklawaha River.
Not to far down stream from the confluence.
Ocklawaha River continues on the left, Silver River on the right.
I got to the canal and kept going up River, hoping for that elusive monkey. Or, maybe, a deer.
Nope, just my nemesis. Or is that nemesi? Alligators. The view when I turned back, 1:39 according to the time stamp.
Landed at 2:20. 50 minutes later, ready for a dip in Juniper Springs.
I took this pic inside the spring pool.
Saw a few minnows, no other fish. Juniper Springs is the only place where I have seen an eel. Of the four spring based recreation areas in the Ocala National Forest, Alexander, Salt Springs, Silver Glen, and Juniper, I think Juniper is the least impressive. The Springs, that is.
I like the historic mill house, which is reopened after being closed for a few years.
I like the stone bridge, which was functional when I first visited the area.
I like the Nature Trail. The big signs are new. At least to me.
The launch. Juniper Run looks low.
I've wondered what eggs are apple snail, the preferred diet of limpkins. Now I know. Pink eggs.
Fern Springs Run
I do not like illiterate rednecks. No entry is allowed in Fern Hammock Springs. Several signs admonish against swimming, fishing, and wading. Nothing about kayaking. As I've written before, there was a time or two I kayaked to the Spring. Much to the surprise of Park workers. On my next visit, there was a rope and orange buoy across the entrance to the Run. Still no sign. I could be the last person to enter the Springs without violating the rules.
If there is a more beautiful spot in Florida, I haven't found it.
Spring boil I lost a pair of sunglasses peering over the bridge at the boil. That's when the authorities learned I'd been in the Springs. It was suggested I kayak in, and use a trash picker to get the glasses. I said, "No problem, I've kayaked in before"
Back to Juniper Springs.
More ignorant people. Rojo necks.
I like the "Intentionally Wading" Many people, including me, tip over and have to wade to get back in the canoe or kayak on Juniper Creek.
I thought of launching, paddling for a hour and coming back. My arms were sore, but I had not seen any deer. I decided to walk to the car, see how far it was and how I felt.
I let a kid, noisily running in flip flops, pass me. Thanks kid.
I may not have seen the deer had I not stopped.
When the kid came back, I pointed the young buck out to him.
I did not put the kayak in, and so ends Saturday's Tale.
Postscript. Just viewed a video of Governor Graham's speech at Silver River State Park.