The day broke under a heavy overcast and so I abandoned plans to go paddling. I had finished a big job yesterday and no new work came in this morning, so I decided to have my breakfast while watching a CSI episode that I had Tivo'd. When I got up to get a second cup of coffee I noticed that--yikes--sunshine had appeared and lots of blue sky was visible. Abrupt change of plans (oh, the joys of autonomy), and 20 minutes later I was loading the Mystic in the car to head to the Wakulla. The last time I was there was August 10th, almost 2 months ago. At that time it was very, very muddy. Hurricane Dennis had swept through earlier in the summer and taken out all the underwater vegetation and the bottom remained stirred up as the tide came and went. I wondered how this river, my favorite, was doing.
It's doing pretty well! The first part was a little bizarre in that the river bottom was always covered with thick underwater grasses and reeds. Today it was clearly visible, but utterly barren except for a few logs. Very strange to see. The bottom is visible in all the parts where it's naturally shallow. In the other parts, the water is now green instead of brown, and while it's a bit murky, it's a real improvement over the mudhole effect. The current behaves differently because of the lack of vegetation, running much faster with nothing to slow it down. I got there around low tide time, which used to be fine. This time I faced strong current. Based on my my observations over the four and a half hours I was paddling today, the best time to get there now is about three and a half hours after low tide. The current was minimal and the shoreline looked a lot better at that point in time.
Nonetheless, this is a pretty river.
I saw several birds on it, including this one, which I believe is a type of night heron. It showed no alarm at all at my presence, completely ignored me.
The paddle upstream was pleasant, despite the somewhat strong current. I am more interested in scenery than speed so I went at a comfortable pace (did I mention the joys of--oh, yes, that's right, I did). I noticed that the folks at the River Plantation housing division have a brand new sign aimed at keeping people off their boat ramp and dock, this one includes the info that violators will be prosecuted. It's interesting that in all my trips to this river I have only seen a River Plantation resident using the boat dock once. They all have their own little docks. But they really don't want anyone using their neighborhood dock to get out and have a stretch or just take a break.
I came to a couple of people drifting downstream in a canoe. They told me there was a large gator on the shoreline up ahead of me. And sure enough, there was. There's no perspective here so you can't really tell the size (I looked around for someone to ask to go stand next to it to give it that perspective, but alas, no one was around), but this one is about 6' or a little bit longer, which is fairly big for this river. This gator did not even open its eyes the entire time I was maneuvering myself around to get the picture and clicking the shutter several times, nor when I paddled away. I actually wondered if it had choked on a bird and expired, but on the way back downstream this section of shoreline was underwater and the gator was nowhere to be seen so I guess it was just sleeping soundly...
Near the upper bridge, I elected to go the direct route instead of veering off to the right to take the alternate way. The water went down to about 6" along that stretch; I was able to just reach in and push myself along with my hands when it got too shallow for paddling to be effective. When I got to the upper bridge I found a couple of kids--17-ish or so--with a power boat. I asked if they were coming or going, wondering how on earth they managed to get an outboard motor through such shallow water. They said they had put in at that ramp and gone downstream a little way, realized they couldn't use the motor, and took a very long time getting back to the ramp, since they had no paddles. The bottom is way too soft to walk back. They loaded up their boat and left and I headed downstream shortly after.
Saw another of those herons.
It was a great day on this river and I look forward to getting back there. Meanwhile, the next paddling trip is planned to include an overnight early next week, which I am also looking forward to (a solo stay this time). Stand by for how that worked out.