Monthly Archives: June 2017

Silver River – June 28, 2017

A wonderful paddle yesterday on the Silver River with two friends. For one them it was the maiden voyage of her new touring kayak, for the other an opportunity to try out her new paddle. Nothing new for me, but I enjoyed the scenery.

We met up at Silver Springs State Park, unloaded the yaks at the launch then drove 2 cars down to Ray Wayside and came back in one of them.  $6 per person for admission and launch fee plus a $5 parking fee for the car we left at Ray Wayside.  We were on the water and headed downstream by about 9:30.

My friend Melanie had purchased a lightly used Eddyline Denali this morning (the one she demoed last week – see the post from 06-23-17) so this was her maiden voyage.  While owning several kayaks in her personal fleet, there was a hole in the touring department that the Denali will fill nicely for our 2- and 3-day trips.  The Denali is made of thermoformed ABS plastic, 15 feet 3 inches long, 24.5 inches wide, has a moderate V-hull, and has a lot of storage space for camping gear.  Melanie’s only worry was being able to get in and out easily, since she is used to a larger cockpit opening.  But she managed without going over at the launch and on the water she seemed to really like the new boat.  And I’m glad since I had recommended the boat to her!  Also as part of the deal Melanie acquired a new all-carbon Werner Kalliste paddle.  Going from fiberglass to carbon taking some getting used to since there is a slightly different feel, but by the end of the paddle she was really enjoying the lower swing weight.

Melanie's new Denali

Melanie’s new Denali and Kalliste at the state park launch

Melanie's new Denali

Melanie’s new Denali, already pimped out with a pinwheel

And as another part of the same deal Melanie purchased a sparkly green Wind Swift paddle for our friend Erin who had been looking for a good paddle.

Erin's new Wind Swift paddle

Erin’s new Wind Swift paddle

While the two of them were playing with their new toys I was looking for wildlife.  Nothing unusual on this paddle, just the normal things seen on the Silver River minus the monkeys who did not put in an appearance on this trip.  But I was able to get a couple of good shots of a Great Blue Heron (Ardea alba) stalking along the river bank.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

And I was able to find several sets of Mamma Wood Ducks (Aix Sponsa) with their little ones.

Mamma Wood Ducks and babies

Mamma Wood Ducks and babies

Mamma Wood Duck and babies

Mamma Wood Duck and babies

Mamma Wood Duck and babies

Mamma Wood Duck and babies

As well as a little gator peeking at me from the weeds.

A little gator peeking at me from the weeds

A little gator – about 4 feet

and a beautiful immature Little Blue Heron, almost into her adult slate-blue plumage.

Immature Little Blue Heron

Immature Little Blue Heron

A colorful display of Pickerelweed (Pontederia cordata) and Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis)

Pickerelweed and Cardinal Flower display

Pickerelweed and Cardinal Flower display

 

 

A still life with spring and cypress

Spring vent and cypress

Lovely spring vent and cypress about half way down the river

And a couple of pics of us cruising down the beautiful Silver River

Cruising down the Silver

Another shot of the Denali in her native habitat

Enjoying the quiet beauty of the Silver River

Enjoying the quiet beauty of the Silver River

 

 

Santa Fe – June 24, 2017

Before I got heavily into kayaking my main outdoor activity was backpacking.  Yes, there are some fantastic backpacking opportunities in Florida!  Even if we don’t have mountains we have forests, streams and even some swamps to tromp through.  As a former long-distance hiker I still have many friends in the hiking community and one group, started by one of these friends, is Trail Dames – a hiking group for “curvy” women.  I.e., women who don’t look like the models that appear in the equipment catalogs and online gear retailers.  Too short, too tall, too skinny, too weak, too fat, too old, …  In other words, ordinary women rather than the lovely young things that grace the media and make people believe that that is how you must look in order to try backpacking.

Trail Dames

Trail Dames

In April the local chapter of Trail Dames asked me to lead a beginner kayak day trip for them in June.  So I was faced with finding a place in north-central Florida that could 1) accommodate up to 16 beginning paddlers, 2) offered nearby camping and motels for those who were coming from a distance, 3) offered opportunities for swimming, or a least cooling off, 4) was serviced by a rental company that shuttled, 5) was suitable for people who had never kayaked before, and 6) was short enough but also fun enough that we could meet up around 10 am and be done by around 3 pm.

After a lot of thought the area I chose was what I call the “Springs Section” of the Santa Fe River – from the River Rise boat ramp on US 27 near High Springs, FL to Rum Island County Park.  I contacted RUM138 and arranged for a discount for the group and they agreed to handle both the rentals and the shuttle at both ends.  I also talked a friend who was a good paddler and whom I could count on from a safety aspect to paddle sweep for the group.

The "Springs Section" of the Santa Fe River

The “Springs Section” of the Santa Fe River

I met my friend Cassie at the River Rise boat ramp at 9 am, we unloaded our boats off to the side.   (We did this because there are very few outfitters I trust to haul my personal boat.) While she stayed to watch the boats I drove to RUM 138 to meet the participants.  By 10:15 am most of them had dribbled in.  Their leader gave a 1/2 hour talk about Trail Dames and hot weather safety then RUM138 was ready to load them on the shuttle bus.  But first, and this is one thing I really like about RUM138, everyone was helped in picking out a kayak.  Some had preferences (SOT or sit-inside), some wanted to trip out a specific model, some didn’t know what kind of boat they wanted, and RUM138 helped each of them make the decision then loaded their boats on the trailer.

Due to all this it was after 11:00 before we arrived at the boat ramp, so I was really glad I had picked a very short paddle!  We unloaded all the boats, got everyone’s gear loaded up, then I gave a short overview of what they would see on the river, how to hold a paddle, how to get in and out of a kayak, and some safety precautions – just enough to get them started safely.  As it turned out, about 1/2 of them had not only paddled before but had paddled the Santa Fe many times, so there were only 4 real newbies in the group.  The newbies clustered around me in the front and Cassie in the back and we kept a sharp eye on them for the first 2 miles down to Poe Springs County Park.

Setting off at the US 27 bridge

Setting off at the US 27 bridge

Swallow-tailed Kite (Elanoides forficatus) circling overhead

Swallow-tailed Kite (Elanoides forficatus) circling overhead

At Poe Springs County Park we got out on the limestone shelf at the entrance and walked up the run into the park for lunch.  After lunch and a bathroom break, some swimming and playing in the run we took off again for Lily Springs, only another mile down stream.  We had some fun going through the shoals just below Poe, but the water was high enough it only caused some bumps going through, so long as they followed my line to avoid the shallow water.

Kush seems to be enjoying the bumpy shoals as much as we are.

Kush seems to be enjoying the bumpy shoals as much as we are.

Common Water Hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) - an exotic invasive we hate to see on our rivers

Common Water Hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) – an exotic invasive we hate to see on our rivers

Immature Little Blue Heron (Egretta caerulea) with fish

Immature Little Blue Heron (Egretta caerulea) with fish

Since my last trip earlier in the month at extreme low water we had had over 7 inches of rain, so we were able to paddle up the run to the springs area and the springs had been flushed of all the algae that had clogged it.  We had a wonderful break there playing in the springs.

Enjoying Lily Springs

Having fun at Lily Springs

Florida Cooters (Pseudemys floridana) basking in the sun to get rid of the algae

Florida Cooters (Pseudemys floridana) basking in the sun to get rid of the algae

American White Ibis (Eudocimus albus) in bright red breeding integument

American White Ibis (Eudocimus albus) in bright red breeding integument

Setting off again we paddled to Jonathan Spring which was about waist deep and gorgeously clear  – one of my absolutely favorite springs.  By this time it was almost 3:00 pm, but we were only a few minutes from our take out at Rum Island.  I offered the group to continue on down to Gilchrist Blue Spring, but the consensus was to stop at Rum.

Crystal clear Jonathan Spring

Crystal clear Jonathan Spring

Enjoying Jonathan Spring

Enjoying Jonathan Spring

RUM 138 was at Rum with a trailer so we were able to load up quickly. Rum 138 offered to come back later to pick up the people if we wanted to see the spring there and take a last swim, but again everyone decided they were done for the day and we returned to our cars at RUM138.  After picking up our personal boats at Rum Island and hauling Cassie back to US 27 boat ramp, Cassie and I met up with most of the rest of the group at The Springs Diner in High Springs for an early supper together.

Sharing supper at the Springs Diner in High Springs

Sharing supper at the Springs Diner in High Springs

So – it was a rather logistically complicated trip which led to almost more time spent getting going as actually on the river, but the newbies learned that kayaking is not all that complicated and everyone had a good time.  If I ever do this again with the group I will make sure we go someplace where the outfitter is right on the river so we can get on the water faster as well as insist that we start much earlier in the morning.  Lesson learned.

Silver River – June 23, 2017

If there is anything I like more than getting a new piece of kayaking gear it is helping a friend get new stuff.  A couple of months ago a padding buddy told me he wanted to sell his Eddyline Denali because he had ordered himself a new boat that was due to be delivered in July.  I knew the Denali would be a little high volume for me (and besides I can’t justify having two 15-foot touring kayaks in my personal fleet) but I immediately thought that it would be a great boat for my friend Melanie who enjoys doing kayaking camping as much as I do.  After a couple of other folks had demoed the boat but had not made the owner an offer I finally got Melanie to set up a demo for this morning at Ray Wayside.  We took our boats along to do a little paddle up the Silver after the demo.

We met up with Al at Ray Wayside and got Melanie in the boat.  The cockpit is smaller than she is used to so she had some trepidation about getting in and out, but after paddling it around the lagoon and up and back on the canal I could tell she liked the boat / the fit, how well it tracked and turned, the day hatch and storage space, using the skeg, etc.

Melanie trying out the Denali at Ray Wayside

Melanie trying out the Denali at Ray Wayside

All smiles as she returns to the landing.  I think she likes it!

All smiles as she returns to the landing. I think she likes it!

She came back from the paddle and they started wheeling and dealing on the price.  Al also had two paddles he wanted to get rid of, a Werner Kalliste and a Wind Swift.  While they dickered I unloaded our boats and got them ready for our paddle.  By the time I returned it was settled – the boat and 2 paddles, the Kalliste for Melanie and the Wind Swift for another member of the 5-Star Yak Pak who was looking for a good paddle.  Melanie gave Al a deposit and we’ll pick all of them up next week and take the Denali on her maiden voyage.

We loaded up our kayaks and started upstream on the Silver.  We only paddled a couple of miles, took a dip in the cool water in the cove while talking to a couple of guys in a pontoon boat anchored there, and then we coasted back down.  Not much bird life in the middle of the day but I got some flower pics in red, white and (almost) blue for the upcoming holiday.   And Melanie took a picture of me with my Dulcinea pimped out with a new pinwheel, also in red, white and blue.

RED - Swamp Scarlet Hibiscus (Hibiscus coccineus)

RED – Swamp Scarlet Hibiscus (Hibiscus coccineus)

String Lily - also called Swamp Lily (Crinum americanum)

WHITE – String Lily – also called Swamp Lily (Crinum americanum)

Closeup of Pickerelweed (Pontederia cordata)

BLUE (ALMOST) – Closeup of Pickerelweed (Pontederia cordata)

My Dulcinea pimped out for the upcoming holiday

My “Dulcinea” pimped out for the upcoming holiday

Little gator in the weeds

Little gator in the weeds

Wood Duck pair (Aix sponsa)

Wood Duck pair (Aix sponsa)