Monthly Archives: November 2016

Suwannee Quest 11 – November 19, 2016

Stage 11 of the Suwannee Quest – the YakPak’s attempt to lead the Sandhill Chapter of the Florida Trail Association in paddling all 206 miles of the Suwannee River in Florida – one piece at a time.

There were 10 of us on this segment of the Suwannee Quest from Suwannee River State Park to Boundary Bend boat ramp – about 12 miles.  After the shuttle and putting in at the State Park boat ramp the first thing we  investigated was Suwanacoochee Spring, about 500 feet up the Withlacoochee (North) River.  Suwanacoochee is a 2nd magnitude spring with a single vent that was walled in during the 1800’s to make a swimming hole.  The walls are in ruins now but the spring was gushing, even at low water.  Our second spring was just south of US 90 bridge – Ellaville Spring – another 2nd magnitude spring.  It pours out from between high limestone rocks .  According to Florida Springs, divers report that the spring depth reaches 150 ft (45.7 m) within an extensive cave system. The cave system extends underneath the Suwannee River eventually connecting with the Suwanacoochee Spring cave system.  The water level by the White Springs gauge was 49.84 – low low.

Suwanacoochee Spring on the Withlacoochee (North)

Suwanacoochee Spring on the Withlacoochee (North)

Ellaville Spring

Ellaville Spring

 

 

 

 

 

 

The water level was very low which led to two sets of shoals we had to negotiate.  The first one was at about the 1.5 mile mark, just north of the discharge canal.  The second one was around the 2 mile mark.  The first set of shoals looked formidable from upstream.  The middle and left side were clearly no-go’s, but there was a clean chute on river right.  Everyone made it through easily although the Sit-on-Tops shipped quite a bit of water.  I watched the faces of the kayakers as they entered the chute, many with eyes narrowed in concentration.  But it was all smiles when the Wheeee! factor kicked in and they realized they were not going to slam onto the rocks.

 

Shoals at 1.5 miles, looking up the center

Shoals at 1.5 miles, looking up the center.  Half the group is huddled up on river left waiting for us to find an open channel.

First shoals

First shoals

 

 

 

 

 

 

First shoals

First shoals

First Shoals

First shoals

 

 

 

 

 

 

The second set of shoals about 1/2 mile further downstream was shorter and easier with a clear chute on river left.

Second shoals

Second shoals

Second shoals

Second shoals

 

 

 

 

 

 

After our adventures with the shoals we passed under I-10 and just past Anderson Landing (not recommended for launching due to height above water) we stopped for lunch on a huge sand bar.  As we ate lunch the clouds rolled in and our blue-sky day became overcast and threatening, but it never did rain on us.  Below this point there were many interesting limestone rock formations and we were treated to some rich fall color.

Lunch on a sandbank

Lunch on a sandbank

Eroded limestone banks

Eroded limestone banks

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interesting rock layers

Interesting exposed rock layers

bluffs

Fall colors with limestone bluffs

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fall color on the Suwannee

Fall color on the Suwannee

Fall cypress on the Suwannee

Fall cypress on the Suwannee

 

 

 

 

 

 

And just at the end, with the Boundary Bend boat ramp almost in sight, we were able to watch a kettle of vultures coming in to roost for the night.

Paddling under a kettle of vultures

Paddling under a kettle of vultures

Black and Turkey vultures circling before roosting for the night

Black and Turkey vultures circling before roosting for the night

 

 

 

 

 

 

A black vulture circling

A black vulture circling

Ghosting down the river at the end of a special day

Ghosting down the river at the end of a special day

Ichetucknee River – November 16, 2016

Another great day paddling at Ichetucknee Springs State Park.  It was chilly when we headed out for Ft. White but we were stashing our fleece in the cars by the time we arrived at the park.  Since we went in two vehicles with 2 kayaks in each we took advantage of the outfitter’s $5 shuttle offer.  After unloading the boats at the north entrance launch the drivers drove both cars down to the south take out and the outfitter shuttled the two of us back up.  We were thus able to paddle back to our vehicles and head directly from the take out to a local diner for  late lunch.

It was a beautiful, crisp blue sky day.   A perfect day for manatees if the water level had not been so low.  Due to some shoals on the Santa Fe River, the water has to be a bit higher for the manatee to get into the Ichetucknee.  We’ve taken so many pictures of the Ichetucknee that today we thought we would concentrate on some of the little things, like the flowers and insects we see.

The Bur Marigold (Bidens spp) was blooming bright gold and and the Late Purple Aster ((Symphyotrichum patens patens) bushes were humming with bees.

Bur Marigold (Bidens spp)

Bur Marigold (Bidens spp)

Late Purple Aster bush

Late Purple Aster bush with a few Bur Marigold

Late Purple Aster buds

Late Purple Aster buds

Honey bee on Late Purple Aster

Honey bee on Late Purple Aster

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Further downstream we ran across a large patch of Water Hemlock (Cicuta maculata) that the Great Golden Digger Wasps were enjoying.  Water Hemlock occurs throughout Florida and is one of the most poisonous plants on the plant.  The roots, stems, leaves and blooms are all deadly to humans and other mammals.  There is even one report of people dying after eating birds who had ingested the berries.  If you see a patch of white flowers that looks like Queen Anne’s lace growing in the water it’s probably Water Hemlock. The Great Golden Digger Wasps  (Sphex ichneumoneus) is named for the gold hairs on their heads and have orange legs with an orange and black body.  Digger wasps are solitary wasps meaning they don’t build a nest of wood fiber or mud in a colony like social wasps and hornets.  Each female works hard all by herself to build a nest and provide a home and food for her eggs.  She digs a small hole in the ground and deposits her eggs on dead crickets and grasshoppers, then leaves the eggs alone to hatch and grow into adults the next year.   Digger wasps are very important pollinators for gardens and agriculture and in spite of their large size (over an inch long) are not aggressive.  Stings are very rare unless you try to grab one.  So, for both the Water Hemlock and the Great Golden Digger Wasp, look but don’t touch.

Several Great Golden Digger Wasp on Water Hemlock

Several Great Golden Digger Wasp on Water Hemlock

Great Golden Digger Wasp on a Water Hemlock head

Great Golden Digger Wasp on a Water Hemlock head

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great Golden Digger Wasp on a Water Hemlock

Great Golden Digger Wasp on a Water Hemlock

Closeup of Water Hemlock blossoms

Closeup of Water Hemlock blossoms

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course we also saw the usual turtles, mostly Suwannee Cooters on logs and we always see a couple of Great Egrets (Ardea alba) along the way.

Great Egret hunting

Great Egret hunting

Blue sky and blue water on the middle Ichetucknee

Blue sky and blue water on the middle Ichetucknee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And we got to see a bit of fall color.  The cypress are looking rusty, the oaks going yellow to brown, the sweet gums and maples in various shades of orange.  It’s so dry this year it is not a great fall for color, but there’s a bit of it around.

Fall colors at Devils Eye Spring

Fall colors at Devils Eye Spring

Fall colors at the south take out

Fall colors at the south take out

Are you sore after paddling? – November 14, 2016

We’ve had a lot of people tell us that their hands/arms/shoulders/back are sore for a day or so after a paddle.  Now these are not people who race or normally battle cross-winds/waves, but our typical participants on rather leisurely trips where we spend as much time looking at wildlife as actually paddling.  So if you are an occasional and/or leisurely paddler, here are a few thoughts on that topic, based on what we have observed on the trips we lead.  Note that these suggestions are for fairly relaxed, low angle paddling and aimed at instilling an understanding of proper paddling techniques.  After a high mileage day battling head-winds we ALL may be a little sore, no matter how good our technique is.

HYDRATION
An extremely common source of temporary joint pain and muscle soreness is dehydration.  Remember, by the time you feel thirsty, dehydration has already started.  So it is wise, especially here in Florida, to drink small amounts of water frequently during your paddle, even when the weather is cool and you don’t feel like you need it.  Also remember that coffee, tea, alcohol and soft drinks are diuretics. So even if you are drinking a lot you can still become dehydrated if you are drinking the wrong thing.  It’s fine to haul along a soda or ice tea for lunch and for kayak touring there’s nothing like a nice glass of wine or a margarita around the campfire, just make sure you have plenty of good old water and are sipping it throughout the day.

POSTURE
One of the biggest problems we see for paddling efficiently is poor posture.  If you don’t sit up straight can’t keep the paddle in the water close to your boat and you simply cannot paddle efficiently.  This puts greater stress on your body, particularly your arms, shoulders, and back.

Now part of this is a function of the boat.  For example, a wide boat means you have to reach out wider with every stroke so it takes more of a toll on your shoulders and back.  And another part is the way some seats are built, especially in recreational kayaks where we tend to use them as lounge chairs.  But most of it is how you sit in your boat.  If you lounge back you simply cannot bring your core muscles into play.  Now that is not to say you can’t relax on leisurely trips, but don’t try to put a lot of power into your strokes unless you sit up into proper position or you will end up straining muscles.

So what is  the proper position?  You should be sitting up straight or even with a slight lean forward.  Your foot pegs should be adjusted so that your legs are just slightly bent at the knees, with your knees turned slightly to the outside – slightly frog-legged, as one participant described it. The forward edge of your seat should be just slightly higher than the back edge.  The back of your buns should be settled all the way into the back of the seat and the seat back or back strap should cradle your hips, not your back.  Now you can easily reach forward to insert your paddle in the water and even in a wide SOT you can keep the paddle close to the boat and parallel with your direction of travel as you bring it back instead of sweeping out to the side.  This means you will be translating the power into going straight ahead instead of to the side and using your core muscles instead of the muscles in your shoulders and back.

PADDLE LENGTH
Another factor involved is the length of the paddle.  We see a lot of people using paddles that are just too long for their stroke.  240 cm is a length we see a lot of people using which is usually too long unless you have a really wide SOT or are very tall from the waist up.  Generally speaking, you should use the shortest paddle you possible can.  If when taking a relaxed stroke your blades are way out to the side of the boat or way under the water, you run into the same problem as when you are lounging back in your seat.  That is, more of your effort is going into paddling in a sweeping motion than into a straight ahead motion.  And your shoulder and back muscles are being used more.  What you want is a length where the blade is just fully immersed when it is in the water between your knees and hips.  And for most people and boats that will be around 220 cm in length.

PUSH OR PULL
Here’s another good piece of advice we picked up from an instructor.  Your push muscles are stronger than your pull muscles.  Try to remember that as you make each stroke.  Keeping your hands below your shoulders, PUSH out from the shoulder with your upper hand and guide, DON’T PULL, with your lower hand.  As you push out keep your knuckles up and your elbow slightly bent and your hand will automatically cross to the middle of your body – towards the center line of the boat.  If you do this correctly (and your boat is not really wide) this automatically brings about body rotation involving your core muscles and takes most of the strain off your shoulders and arms.

HANDS
If your hands hurt after a day on the water you are probably holding the paddle too tightly. Your lower hand does need to grip the paddle firmly, but without any strain, to help keep it parallel to your boat.  But your upper hand is pushing against the paddle, with the shaft cradled between your palm and thumb.  You can even open all your fingers without losing control.  So try that next time you are out.  Push with your upper hand with fingers open and guide with your lower hand using a loose grip.  Concentrate on doing this for a while on each trip and we guarantee it will help with the hand strain.

PADDLE DIAMETER
We have a lot of woman on our trips and women’s hands tend to be smaller than men’s, but there are no women specific paddles.  Usually if you keep a loose grip on the paddle you won’t have any problem using a regular diameter paddle shaft.  However, Werner does make paddles with a shaft in a slightly smaller diameter.  So if you have small hands and are still having problems after watching to assure that you are using a loose grip, you might give a small diameter paddle a try.

We also had one case of a person with very large hands who was able to get a more comfortable grip by adding YakGrips to the paddle shaft.  These padded sleeves can be slipped over the two ends of the paddle shaft to make the paddle “fatter”.  So if you have have large hands and have to grip the paddle hard to keep it from slipping, try padding the shaft.

Try using some of these techniques on you next paddle.  We hope they help!