Wednesday, February 07, 2007

A Short Paddle and a Long Walk at St. Marks NWR

It was a great plan, but a poor day to execute it. I have often been to St. Marks NWR on days when the water was flat and still and the air was still as well. It occurred to me last time I was there that this might be a potential new paddling spot. I haven’t been out paddling for so long (by Florida standards, of course) that I jumped the gun by heading out there to paddle today. The weather forecast called for sunshine, comfortable temperatures…and so I chose to ignore the wind speed prediction.

I put in at the boat ramp instead of the handy-dandy little access spot that I had selected last time I was there—it was low tide when I got there and my access spot was pretty mucky. The channel leading to the open water was calm and fun. The air had that saltwater scent that I always associate with vacations.

Unfortunately, once out of that protected channel, I encountered a strong wind and choppy waves. Still, though I knew it would be short-lived, I decided to continue on this paddle trip. Here’s a view of the lighthouse from the water, something I have never seen before.

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Those pilings are where pelicans tend to roost (see later photo…much later). I knew this trip would end soon—it was one of those days where you paddle and paddle and don’t get anywhere because of the wind, and choppy water wants to throw you against the rocks just below the surface. Not my choice of conditions. So before I reached those pilings, I turned around.

This is what the shoreline looked like on the way back. The white along the edge is foam from the water.

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As I neared the channel back to the boat ramp, I spotted this woman, who was at Cedar Point and had set up to sketch the scenery.

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Once back in the channel, I was able to enjoy the journey again. I saw a killdeer along the shoreline.

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This is a super place to paddle and I will be back here on a day with no wind. There’s so much to see—this is where the St. Marks River empties into the Gulf; going to the right would lead to the river mouth, while going left follows the Gulf shoreline and leads to assorted islands and other interesting places. Stand by for those trips!

Meanwhile, today I loaded the boat in the car (since the tide had come in a bit, I used the handy-dandy access spot this time) and decided to continue on foot—for once, in the sunshine.

These birds are everywhere around the lighthouse. Since they are not shy, I got this picture of one. I don’t know what they are. This one looks a little grumpy, though.

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I walked down the road to see what I might spot.

Here’s how one wants to spend a warm Wednesday in Florida.

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I came to some people who had parked alongside the road and were out of their car watching birds through their binoculars. So of course I joined them. This bird below was identified as an avocet, enjoying the dinner servings during a low-water period.

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On that same stop, I saw this egret, who seemed to enjoy facing into the wind that had given me so much trouble.

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I walked about two miles down the road and then headed back. When I got to the turnout to the boat ramp, I decided to take that route instead of the main road back to the lighthouse (which is the end of the road). This egret was on the shoreline separating me from the boat ramp channel—

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It was a long day, and while not an ideal paddling day because of the wind and waves, still it was nice to be out in warm sunshine again. On my way back to my car in the lighthouse parking lot, I got this photo of the pelicans on their favorite pilings, as the sun was sinking in the sky.

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I packed up the camera, secured the kayak, and headed out of the park.

And then, near to the entrance booth, what should appear on the side of the road but two deer. It’s been quite a while since I’ve seen deer; they are usually a camping trip thing. This was a female with a smaller one--not a fawn, but I suspect it was her offspring.

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She got a little wary when I stopped the car. She moved to behind a tree and just watched me.

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What a super day! While the paddling part of it could have been better, I have this to look forward to on a better day, and I had an opportunity to explore the park in sunshine.

I hope/expect to get out tomorrow to paddle again. Stand by.

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