Thursday, June 29, 2006

Hot Day On The Wacissa

I decided to head to the Wacissa today--I wanted to get back to the Wakulla but the tide would have been all the way out when I got there, which makes for very mucky, muddy launching, so I changed plans.

When I launched a little before noon, there were a few cars in the lot, and one family had set up by the springs, the parents on lawn chairs and the child playing in the water. I encountered very few boats during the three hours I was out.

This great blue heron just stood on the shoreline and watched me pass by.

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There was very little current near the top of the river today. I decided to go into the Blue Spring channel. I came to this ibis eating alongside the bank:

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I heard voices coming from the actual spring area so I didn’t go quite that far before turning around and going back to the main part of the river.

It was extremely hot today; the kind of day where just sitting still in the kayak and drifting downstream can make you sweat profusely. There was no wind. I was trying to decide whether to go all the way to Cedar Island or not when I came to this group—a little blue heron with turtles. Notice the turtle head sticking up out of the water on the right!

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There is this type of bird that I have been encountering on several different rivers lately. I have been assuming that they are immature little blue herons, getting their adult color and switching from white to the blue-ish color of adults. But now I’m not so sure. For one thing, the new color is more gray and black. Also, it is in a very distinct pattern on the wings, rather than the sort of random bits that seem to accompany a maturation change in color. Still, can’t find this bird in any book so I have no idea what it is. It’s got to be in the heron or egret family…I think. Here’s one I saw today near Blue Spring:

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And here is one that I spotted later:

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That coloring seems mottled on their back, but the color on the wings—which is really vivid when viewed while they are flying—looks permanent to me. At any rate, these are really attractive birds.

So how cute is this? I was paddling back upstream (having not gone as far as the island—I was concerned about fighting the increasing current (it gets stronger as you go downstream) in the increasing heat of the day to get myself back to the boat ramp) and I spotted this mother moorhen (ok, I’m guessing at the gender, but let’s go with it) with a baby:

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When I first took the pictures out of the camera to look at them, I couldn’t figure out why the baby looked so fuzzy. Oh—because it is fuzzy! And something is very odd about its eyes. Here’s another picture of them--

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And then while I was sitting there watching them, here comes Dad moorhen!

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And off they went.

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And off I went as well, back to the boat ramp. I passed these female wood ducks (no males in sight, alas), who watched me go by somewhat warily.

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Well, the boat ramp area was jumping when I got back—lots of people and two dogs running around having a great time (the dogs were running around, not the people). Several kids (and a few adults) were lined up at the little diving board over a spring area that is separate from the boat ramp area, so I had to take the camera over there. I didn’t expect this girl to jump up quite so much when she left the board…she practically jumped out of the picture frame...

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This one thought it would be fun to enter the water in a crossed-leg sitting pose. His face seems to convey possible concern that this might not have been such a great idea after all...

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And this boy nailed his landing in a very straightforward way, nose firmly held.

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It was a good, if really hot, day on the river. My husband is on vacation next week and we have several activities planned, which may not include paddling. In any event, stand by for when I do get back out.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

The Birds Are Shy On Lake Munson!

I had forgotten about this lake until I read a post by my friend and fellow blogger, pineyflatwoodsgirl, about a paddling trip she made recently to Lake Munson. I have only been here once before, last fall, and it’s a perfect spot to paddle the new Stealth, so I headed out there.

I launched from the boat ramp at the park this time. I was the only car in the lot, and in fact I did not see any other boats on the lake from the time I launched at 12:30 until I loaded up and left at 3:00. This is such a nice lake to paddle; sure, it’s hot out, but it’s going to be hot out for another three months or so, might as well get used to it. If you are in the area, try this lake.

I was so pleased yesterday to see the one water lily on Lake Blackshear. Lake Munson has many large patches of the same lilies.

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I couldn’t resist taking another picture of one, even though it’s very similar to the picture in the previous post. These are very large flowers.

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There are so many birds flying around this lake! But it’s another sign of how few boaters frequent it that the birds are so afraid and keep their distance. Even the normally complacent and somewhat oblivious cormorants were leaping from their perches at the first sight of me.
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There are several wood duck houses set up around the lake, and I did see some wood ducks, but again, only as they were flying away in sheer terror at my approach.

This osprey, however, was apparently too busy yelling at his/her mate to worry about me. This bird was making a lot of noise, directed at the one in the nest.
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This lake has an interesting and varying shoreline. It starts out (I went left from the boat ramp) and continues for some distance with several layers of cypress trees. However, I pulled into an inlet roughly halfway around the lake from the boat ramp, and the shoreline changed dramatically. In this area there were no cypress at all, just a woodsy shoreline, with a small sandy beach on one side. I got out to walk around, and decided it was a good spot for a panoramic picture.
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And no, the color chip in the camera hasn’t gone wonky—the water really is that odd green color. It’s also lukewarm. So I gather that must be caused by algae that is perhaps suspended in the water; there was none floating on the surface. I don’t recall it being this color last fall when it was cooler.

I saw this laughing gull (that's what it's called; it wasn't actually laughing, at least not audibly) (thanks, Kim, for the ID) sitting on a stump that was sticking up out of the water. I took several pictures of it and then left it in peace.
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So I was paddling in this little inlet and I noticed an alligator was swimming parallel with me, one layer of cypress trees closer to the shoreline. It was keeping pace with me, but at a more or less comfortable distance. I decided to take a picture of my little companion. I turned the camera on and zoomed in, but I couldn’t locate the horizontal figure of the gator in the viewfinder.

Oh. I see why. Because it has stopped and turned to face me and is staring at me. Heh heh.
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Time to be moving on. I did not linger in that inlet very long.

This was a great paddling day—I need to get back here more. The Stealth did a good job again, it tracks extremely well even in wind, and I continue to be amazed at how comfy the seat is. This is the third day in a row that I have paddled this boat. I guess it’s an official member of the fleet, such as it is.

I hope to get back to the Wakulla again this week; I think I do prefer the more laid-back attitude of the birds there. Stand by.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Peggy Gets A New Rec Boat!

Well, I decided it was time to change out the Santee for a very slightly longer, very slightly narrower plastic rec boat. There are times I don't want to take either of the Impex fiberglass kayaks, and I wanted an appropriate alternative.

I did a lot of research online to find just the one I wanted. Interestingly, the shop (Paddlers Paradise) near Atlanta, where I got the Mystic and therefore of course one place I looked at kayaks via their website, had one that fit the bill measurement-wise. 12'5" long, 24" wide. I talked to Mike, one of the owners of the shop, several times about their Riot Stealth. I had not paid any attention to Riot boats in any of my research forays since I associate them with white-water kayaks. Wrong.... They have a very respectable line of rec and touring boats as well. I found some favorable reviews about the Stealth. The price was right. I was ready for a short road trip with an overnight, so I headed out there yesterday morning.

They had a blue/white mix, a red/yellow mix, and a plain yellow. While my very first yak was yellow, I have tended to prefer other colors. The red/yellow mix had a sort-of skeg, and from what I had read, these boats track very well, so I didn't want the skeg. Looks like it's the blue and white! Fine with me!

I got there around 2 pm. Of course I immediately sat in the boat on the showroom floor--and WOW, this is one comfortable boat. Clearly the Riot people have listened to kayakers' complaints about seat comfort. Yikes. It's luxuriously padded with a high back that is adjustable from inside the boat. I was surprised to find that it had padded thigh braces, as well as adjustable hip braces on either side of the seat. It was easily twice as nice as I had expected it to be at that price (you can find one for $600 on sale). It has the most bizarre bottom. It's like it has a shallow trough in the center, which actually creates a hump in the floor of the boat (which I discovered makes for a nice foot brace if you're changing position and shift your feet off the foot pegs) (which reminds me, I need to order another set of "Peg Pads"--a must for barefoot paddlers!). This trough creates sort of rails on either side, which contribute greatly to the tracking ability. And yet it turns very easily via a sweep stroke or ruddering. I'll get a picture of it upside down when I get it out of the car to show you what I mean.

Mike asked if I wanted to try it out on a nearby lake. Are you kidding? I hadn't expected to get a paddle in on this trip so I jumped at the chance. He loaded up our PFDs and paddles (of course I had taken mine) and put the Stealth on his truck next to his canoe and we headed out for a private cove on Allatoona Lake.

We paddled the cove for awhile and I got to know the boat. He took me down a narrow creek, very like the backwater areas on the Wakulla. The boat felt great. The sides seem extremely high to me compared to the Mystic and Montauk, but this contributed to the "rec" part of this boat--I was getting it for its stability for use in the lakes around here, which have an abundance of just-beneath-the-surface timber. Too bad I didn't take the camera--lots of ducks (but not woodies) that I wanted to photograph. I was particularly impressed again with the seat. I'd been driving for about 5 and a half hours and then went right to sitting in a kayak--the fact that I didn't get kayak butt says a lot about the comfort! We were out about 45 minutes (long demo!).

I stayed overnight in a motel very near the shop. I paid for the boat yesterday and arranged to pick it up early this morning. I got it after breakfast and headed back south.

When I got to Cordele, GA, it was only about noon, and that is perhaps 2 hours from home. Hmmm...and there is also a state park there on a lake. Might as well do a recon of that to see if I might want to camp there this fall and winter.

Well, to get it out of the way, I can say that the camping at this park (Georgia Veterans SP) is completely geared toward RVs. While the sites are nicely spaced and right down at the water, they are 100% gravel. Not dirt with some stones, real gravel. Not too tent-friendly.

At any rate, I put in at the boat ramp and headed for the least populated area. But of course I first took a picture of the Stealth.

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There are remarkably few birds on this lake. I saw one great blue heron fly overhead, a little blue heron flying across the water, and some turtles that leapt into the water in terror as I approached. On the other hand, the shoreline looks like it was landscaped! It's very pretty and a joy to paddle past. I even saw one lone water lily among some oversized lily pads.

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This turned out to be a great first official paddle with this boat, since it was the kind of water that it will mostly be used in--a lake with power boats and underwater stumps, etc. This lake seems particularly popular with wave runner-type jet skis, but there were also some really large power boats zooming around. You know how when you get a lot of those sort of craft on the water and the wakes from all of them seem to get together to create conglomerate swells that are larger than any of the individual wake waves? I got to see how this boat does in riding those, and I let them come in from the side instead of putting the bow into them (might as well find out now how it does...). It was great. They refer to this boat as both a "light touring" boat and a "river touring" boat. Personally, I'm not sure about applying the term "touring" to any kayak under 14'... I still think it's a rec boat. But it did well. It's not super-speedy (as you may have picked up if you have read other entries, neither am I), but it tracks wonderfully and turns easily.

I paddled as far as some railroad tracks that cross the lake. There were a lot of wildflowers growing along the shoreline there.

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I left the boat loaded in the car; weather permitting, I'll take it out again tomorrow. The Mystic's replacement skeg is still not here--I may have see how well it does without it after all. I miss my #1 boat.
Stand by for the next report.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

New Bird on the Wakulla!

Headed out to the Wakulla today. Even though the Impex folks told me I could paddle the Mystic without the skeg (removed for replacement), I decided to dust off the Montauk and take it out for a spin. I haven't been in this kayak for several months now.

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This is a fine boat. I had forgotten one of its best features, which is the fact that it glides forever. Nonetheless, at 16', I find that this is really too much kayak for this little part of this river. There was no way to go into the narrow backriver areas to explore, just not enough maneuverability. Still, what a nice boat!

I discovered about 5 minutes after leaving the boat ramp that I had once again feathered the paddle in the wrong direction. So I headed over toward the shore to correct that. This paddle is still new and so the two sections do not part easily and I wanted the stability of being parked to struggle to get them apart. As I progressed toward the edge, I was mostly thinking about why this keeps happening--it's not rocket science, why do I keep twisting it the wrong way when I connect the two parts? As a result of this pondering, I did not see the otter swimming along the shoreline till it popped up about 5 feet away and a little ahead of me. It just stuck its head out of the water and looked at me for a moment. No sound, just looked, and then ducked under to swim some more (clearly visible in the crystal clear water). The camera, of course, was not only not turned on, but the lens cap was still on it--I had just left the boat ramp and was still settling myself in to the somewhat unfamiliar kayak. So when it popped up right next to me, all I could do was look at it and say hi. It ducked again and swam away. I guess next time I shove off from the ramp I will ready the camera. Meanwhile, no pictures of it.

Ah, but shortly after that, I came to this osprey who was very busy rubbing its head against the branch in front of it and scratching it (its head) with a foot. I had to wait awhile till it finally picked its head up. You can see the roughed-up feathers on it from all the fluffing it had been doing (for whatever reason).

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I paddled on upstream. Major, major current, even though the tide had hit low about an hour previously and should have been coming in.

It seems that at some point on almost every paddling trip, I take a picture that compels me think ok, now you can't capsize and lose the camera because you have to get this picture home. Here comes that picture for this trip. I was just going along, not expecting anything--I really was just out for a peaceful paddle today, no big photo plans--and I saw what I thought was an egret in a tree to my right. Well, egrets in trees can sometimes make for good pictures if the foliage pops out just right against the white feathers. So I slowly meandered over there; no hurry, egrets in trees are not that uncommon, so get it/don't get it, no big deal. Ok, jump back...that's not an egret. Something funky about the body color.

Oh. A wood stork. Pretty rare, and I have never seen one on this river, in fact I have only seen them once, last fall on a lake in Tallahassee. It suddenly became more important that this bird not fly away (and my experience was that they were shy). I got two pictures before it left, one terribly blurry because of bad focus, and this one.

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These birds have beautiful bodies and (o'sorry) ugly heads and necks. Worse than turkeys. Despite the head and neck problem, they are extremely impressive, better yet when they fly, which that one did as I got closer. I never saw it again on this trip. And capsizing was not an option after getting that picture.

In the last post, a trip to the Wacissa, I was rambling on about how we never see yellow crowned night herons around here. Well, shows what I know. This one was just standing there watching the world (or at least me) go by.

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Did I mention the current? It was fierce. I found out why from a somewhat unlikely source. I got to the upper ramp. I have kind of a policy about arrival at the upper ramp. If there are only a couple or a few guys hanging out there, then, since I am alone, I will not stop to get out and stretch. It's a tad isolated and not visible from the road.

I got there and there was one guy, 50-ish maybe, in the water, drinking something from a can. There was another guy in the ramp area; he was about as redneckish-looking as they come, in a scuzzy t-shirt and jeans and drinking Busch from a can. I would normally turn around. But there was a boat on a trailer on the ramp, clearly not theirs. So I decided to pull up.

As soon as I got out, Scuzzy T-shirt looked at the Montauk and said "Boy, that's a high-end one!" Hmm, not good. I looked at the boat on the trailer and asked if they were coming or going. Scuzzy T-shirt said they were going. I was about to get back in the boat when a large family arrived to swim in the river, so I felt it was safe to stick around. Scuzzy T asked me about the skeg control and what it did, and asked if the hatches were waterproof to carry stuff in. The guy in the water mentioned the current, and I said that it seemed remarkably strong, given that the tide was coming in. So then here's Scuzzy T, and I have to stress that this did not appear to be a person knowledgeable about basically anything, explaining it and making perfect sense. Tropical rainstorm Alberto blew through here recently, dropping rain for 24 hours. Evidently after a heavy rain, the aquifers under the river fill up. When they fill up, the springs start spewing the water back out, and this causes the current to increase. This makes perfect sense. In fact, I had noticed all the way upstream that I was encountering lots and lots of spring evidence in patterns on the water surface. So there you go. Sometimes from the mouths of (apparent) rabid rednecks drinking Busch beer comes true wisdom (and, yeah yeah, don't judge a book...I get it). So I guess if I go to this river after a major rain that occurs after a major dry spell, particularly 'round about low tide, I'm going to encounter fierce current.

On the drift downstream (made less rapid by a new upstream breeze), I saw an ibis--and this one pure white, as I am used to seeing them.

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It was a wonderfully peaceful drift/paddle downstream. The sun went behind a thick white overcast and it became almost cool. Smelled good.

When I got to where the river widens around the boat ramp area, I started looking for that otter again. No luck seeing that, but this gator was stretched out on a tree that Dennis (the hurricane, not a landscaper) took down last year.

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A great day on the river, and I enjoyed getting reacquainted with the Montauk. It's not the Mystic, but it's a really great kayak.

Weekend coming up and no paddling planned for it, but stand by for the next report.

Friday, June 09, 2006

The Birds Were Out On The Wacissa!

I decided it was time to return to the Wacissa. It was a warm, clear day. Change that--a hot, clear day. Nice time to be on a cold spring-fed river.

There were a lot of cars in the lot, several people hanging out at the spring. Not that many boats in the water, though.

The first bird was a tri-colored heron. I know I take a lot of pictures of these, but I just can't resist when they so willingly stand there and pose.

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After all the great blue herons at Crystal River, I knew they would seem to be in short supply by comparison--and in fact I saw all of one during the 3 hours I was on the water.

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I love the crested look he has going on.

The wind was blowing upstream (and this is a downstream-first river), so it kind of balanced out the downstream current and made it necessary to paddle in order to move forward. It also helped balance out the day's heat, though, so no real complaints here. I assumed that, as usual, it would change directions as soon as I turned around...

About two miles downstream I spotted an ibis in a tree. Much to my delight, another flew in to join it. These are the first I've seen on this river for a long time--possibly this year.

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I seem to recall them being all white, so I don't know if these were juveniles outgrowing their youngster coloring.

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They just sat up there quietly and watched me drift closer to them, and they remained there after I left.

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Well, you know the bird I'm always on the lookout for, and sure enough, I lucked out yet again!

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I spotted several single males in different areas of the river.

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This one had just hopped onto this log after spending a long time splashing and bathing (I wanted to take that but didn't get there soon enough).

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I was approaching Cedar Island and intended to circle it. Somewhere between my normal boat ramp stretching spot and the island itself, I passed a couple of guys paddling kayaks. One of them seemed decidedly fatigued and was making general complaining sounds as he (somewhat flailingly) paddled the boat. It's easy to be fooled going downstream on this river and lose sight of the fact that you have to back upstream later. We said hello and the less-fatigued paddler commented on how many turtles they had seen. When I got to the island, I started around it on the left side. I don't know if the water level was down or the shoreline greenery is moving in, but it was very narrow, much more so than last time I was there. And gator grunts could be heard on both sides (it's still mating season). Hmmmm.....maybe I won't circle it this time....

So I headed upstream. Imagine my wonder and amazement when the wind direction held and it helped push me back home! However, the combination of upstream wind and downstream current made this shallow, normally flat river somewhat textured on this day.

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Apple snail shells were everywhere, scattered across all the vegetation islands in the river. This explains the increase in limpkins! They were mostly in the trees--

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--but a few were hunting snails at water level.

The upstream paddle/drift was pleasant. About a mile from the ramp I started coming to a lot of egrets. This is another picture I often take, but I can't resist, particularly when the wind is ruffling the crests on their heads.

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About a half-mile later I began to wonder to myself (there being nobody else there to wonder to) about how curious it was that there were so many yellow crowned night herons at Crystal River, and, three hours north, so few on this similar spring-fed waterway. And then I stopped wondering about it. Some ten minutes later I saw a movement to my right against a tree trunk. I thought it might be another great blue heron, so I headed over that way to see if I could get a picture. What coincidental timing that it turned out to be a yellow crowned night heron, very well camouflaged against the tree trunk.

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I looked these birds up in a few of my bird books when I got home and they all say, essentially, "these birds feed at night, though they also feed during the day." I'm now wondering if they aren't here all the time but we have the ones that prefer night feeding.

Back to the boat ramp. My skeg developed a problem on this trip and is now on its way to NC to be replaced with a new one. The people at Impex were very helpful in instructing me as to how to remove the old one, and did not hesitate to offer a (free) replacement. (I can use the boat in the interim before it gets here.) This supports the strong suggestion that if you are buying a new kayak, look into the customer support attitude of the manufacturer. I hear a lot of stories of people not being able to reach their manufacturer on the phone, and not getting responses to emails about some problem with their boat. Not to sound like an ad, but Impex delivers. Good thing, because I expect to be paddling this boat for a LONG time.

And meanwhile stand by for the next report.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Homosassa River, Crystal River

I got to the Seagrass Resort (a somewhat overstated name) around 1:00 and they were kind enough to let me check into Villa (again somewhat overstated) #7, which was right next to the river. It was very nice, once it was aired out to remove the overwhelming fragrance of Lysol that lingered, since it had just been cleaned. Here's the outside of #7:

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and the view from the dining room:

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I unloaded the cooler and stocked the refrigerator and decided to leave the rest of the unpacking for later. There is a boat ramp on the property, which was a large part of why I decided to stay here.

I got the boat down to the ramp and as I was unloading it, a waitress at the Seagrass Pub, which is adjacent to the boat ramp, warned me that the ramp was slippery. I lifted one of my feet up to show her the rubber-bottomed shoes I had on, and she said "Oh, that doesn't matter! You could be wearing cleats and still slip. Most people fall." Ok, that's interesting. I finished unloading the boat and parked the car. When I got back to the ramp, an older gentleman somehow associated with the property warned me about how slippery it was. He also said that, however, many people launch kayaks and canoes from there.

I got the Mystic turned sideways and in very shallow water, to minimize the space between dry land and the boat. This ramp was, indeed, like ice. Very thick covering of algae, there was no way to get any traction at all on it. Well, except that I noticed that if I scuffed my shoe back and forth several times, I could get through it to the pavement below and my shoe easily got a grip on that. So getting in was really not a problem. I did, though, worry a bit during the entire paddle about getting out. It's one thing to carefully position your boat while on dry land, another to try to sidle up sideways to a ramp that's only a few feet wider than the boat is long. And could I do the scuffing trick from inside the kayak? I looked for nearby boat ramps that I might be able to use when I was done, but there were none.

Homosassa River is a spring-fed river. However, there had evidently been a lot of boat traffic over the holiday weekend. I went down a long channel that was very pretty and natural and unpopulated after the first quarter-mile or so, but the water was a murky, muddy brown color. While I was there I saw this green heron:

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This particular channel started off going by a neighborhood of large RVs that may have been winter homes for people--they looked fairly permanent, with picket fences and so on. This great blue heron was perched on someone's dock, next to their bicycle.

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I encountered a guy fishing a little farther along this channel. I asked him where the channel went, and got some other general directions from him. He said that the water in that channel was normally crystal clear; he had gone there to get some crabs--he said he knew they were there but he couldn't see them through all the churned-up mud. Between the water being so densely brown, and my concern about the boat ramp situation, I decided to just go back to Seagrass and unpack and do some reading by the river--and go to Crystal River, about 6 miles north, the next day.

As often happens, my worries about the boat ramp were unfounded. The tide was out. I had no problem approaching from the far right and then coming up on the ramp on the far left, which let me maneuver the boat sideways. As it turned out, there was a crack in the pavement right where I needed to put my foot when getting out, and so there was a small step-like area, higher on the river side, which gave me something to brace my foot against to get out.

I do not understand how these people can be aware of this problem and not do something about it. If I could scuff the stuff away with a few passes of the bottom of my shoe, it seems that they could use an ordinary shop broom to clean the ramp every other day or so, making it far, far more paddler-friendly. And right there is why I think they don't bother. But right there is also why I won't be returning to Seagrass. They are missing out on a good thing by not appealing to paddlers--they are in an excellent location for paddling--go a few miles to the left and you get to Homosassa Springs; to the right leads to the Gulf. Too bad you could really hurt yourself getting in or out of your boat...

I had a pleasant night and enjoyed coffee outside the next morning. I was there two nights, and each morning the river was shrouded in heavy fog, which dissipated to mist as the morning progressed. This great blue heron landed on a docked boat's sun shade while I sat out there sipping and reading.

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I had originally planned to rent a house in Crystal River for this trip, but I bagged that plan because the nightly rental on the house was very high and check-in time was very late in the day, which would cut seriously into my time. The guy renting the house had informed me that he had no boat ramp but I could put in at Plantation Inn, a mile away. I had passed the turn-off to the inn on my way south, so after breakfast I loaded the Mystic in the car and headed up there.

Plantation Inn is a huge, rambling, very posh-looking place. It has a dive shop next to the boat ramp. The boat ramp had a sign that it was for registered guests only. I went into the dive shop and found out that there was a $5 ramp fee for the public to use the ramp.

Their ramp was pristine--completely algae-free. It was well worth the $5 to launch from there.

Crystal River lived up to its name--the water was as clear as the Wakulla and Wacissa, though much deeper in parts. I was out about 4 hours. The area I paddled around was very lake-like--extremely broad, with many islands scattered throughout. While the shoreline was largely populated, the islands are all designated wildlife refuge areas. It was low tide and many of them had sandy beaches that were ideal for stretching or going for a dip in the water.

I saw many yellow-crowned night herons. I have only seen one on one occasion on the Wakulla, so this was fun. Here's what these birds looked like--

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and elsewhere I came across this one:

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Great blue herons are also plentiful in this area. This one perched in a tree and watched me approach.

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This tri-colored heron was fishing along the shoreline of one of the islands.

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This river is home to manatees year 'round, and, like the Wakulla, has Idle Speed/No Wake signs posted in several places. Like the Wakulla, this is evidently not enforced. There were college-age kids water-skiing, and four young women in a Sea-Doo seemed determined to swamp every paddler in the area as they zoomed around. At one point they came around a bend near an island and passed within perhaps 20 feet of me, throwing off a huge wake. "Sorry!" one of them yelled over her shoulder, as they zoomed off and I bobbed around for awhile. They were on the water the entire time I was, and so locating the kids in the Sea-Doo became a priority before crossing any wide areas to get from one island to another, etc. I met a guy at one of the islands, another kayaker, who lives on the river 6 months of the year (he was going back to Connecticut the next day) and he confirmed my suspicion that paddling is much, much better in November and later, when the kids are gone. "Oh, you'll have it to yourself!" he said. Sounds good to me.

There is a huge marina called Pete's Pier in this area of the river--a great landmark if you get lost since it's visible from almost everywhere. I thought I would get out there and seek a restroom. Well, the slippery ramp business is apparently typical on rivers in this area. I had the same problem at Pete's. Actually, the real problem came with getting back in the boat, but there was a guy there who helped with that, which I appreciated (another paddler, of course!). Later I discovered that had I just overshot Pete's by a short distance, I would have come to a small park with a sandy beach area that I could have pulled up on. Good to know for next time.

On my way back to the boat ramp I got out at Parker Island to walk around. When I was back in the kayak heading out, a guy showed up with his dogs and played with them in the shallow water for awhile. This is Savannah bringing her ball back:

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Here she is waiting for the next toss. How perfect is this dog?

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Her friend Seven was also there, also looking perfect.

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They were both happy-looking dogs.

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Seven came over to say hi. As much as I love dogs, I'm pretty funny about not tipping over when I have the camera in the boat, so my apologies to Seven for not being more receptive to the greeting!

I wasn't quite ready to get out yet and so I explored a little inlet near the channel that led to the boat ramp. Must have been near a spring as the water was a little more aquamarine colored than elsewhere. I didn't realize I was paddling right over a manatee till I was directly above it. Whoops! Cleared it by at least a foot, but I will never be comfortable passing over something twice as wide as my kayak! Turned out there were two of them just hanging out there.

I went back to Seagrass and flopped down on the chair outside the unit. A flock of ibis flew overhead. I haven't seen an ibis for a long time! Later one of them showed up on the dock in front of me and proceeded to wander the grassy yard in front of the unit next to mine.

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This ibis continued wandering around and ended up on the paved driveway leading into Seagrass, just walking around, looking back and forth, between the other units. Very odd looking.

I decided not to go out the next morning. Had the boat ramp been tended to, I'm sure I would have taken one last paddle on the river, but I didn't feel like risking a fall when everything had been going so well, so I passed on it. The plan is to stay someplace similar (cottages) in Crystal River near Plantation Inn next time, which, despite the summertime boat traffic, may be at the end of this month.

Meanwhile, I'll be heading out to one of my usual places next week.

My thanks to Darron at http://www.outersports.blogspot.com/ for the link!

Stand by for the next report.