Saturday, April 05, 2008

Whitecaps on the Wacissa

It's a warm wind, the west wind, full of birds' cries...
~John Masefield

I made plans to meet Mike, a somewhat new paddler, at the Wacissa in mid-morning. As I was getting ready to leave home, I was under blue skies and some very fast-moving clouds. Mike called to say it was raining in Tallahassee. We decided to keep to the plan and make the choice of whether to go out once we got to the river. On my way there I lost the blue sky and came under very rainy-looking clouds. Well, I thought, at least the river won't be crowded!

When I got to the parking area, it was filled with cars, trucks, canoes, and kayaks--and people. It seems that this was the day that canoeists from all over the state were meeting to paddle the Wacissa, and Georgia was also there with a group from Wilderness Way. I unloaded the boat and waited for Mike to arrive. The canoeists headed out before he got there; we launched at about the same time as the kayakers.

The first bird of the day was this egret, perched in a tree along the shoreline.

We paddled into Blue Spring and found the canoe group. And it turns out the gator is still there.

After lingering there a short time, we went out through the back passageway to the river, with some of the canoes following us.

I should mention that it was windy. Very windy. Mike said the forecast had predicted gusts up to 17 mph. This was by far the most wind I have paddled into--but at least it was blowing upstream! Sometimes it was blowing so hard we couldn't hear each other speak even when we just a short distance apart. We continued downstream into the gale.

I have been looking for eagles on this river every time I paddle here and have not seen any yet this year. There we were, paddling downstream, and Mike says "Look, an eagle!" and sure enough, wa-a-a-a-ay up in a cypress tree perched not one but two eagles!


We had quite a time trying to photograph them since relinquishing the paddle resulted in moving rapidly upstream (ah, the wonder of image stabilization in a camera!). And of course they were behind some greenery in the tree, which tended to block the view. It's amazing neither of us fell in the water while trying to photograph them.

We continued downstream toward Cedar Island, where the canoeists had stopped, presumably for lunch. Mike decided to put a line in the water and see what he could catch. Imagine our surprise when he landed a rare Red Brickfish (Florida variety)!

Of course it was a catch-and-release. But he was thrilled.

It was THAT big!

We passed the island, spotting this turtle on the opposite bank.

We decided that was enough battling the wind for one day and circled the island and headed back upstream, which was of course significantly easier. The wind blew us rapidly.

On the way back upstream the eagle was still there, so we stopped again to see if we could get in a better position for a photograph. Not really. I imagine the eagle was amused by all this.

The trip upstream was a nice break from hard paddling. This limpkin was hunting snails as we went by.

We managed to get back to the boat ramp at the same time as all the other paddlers, but the sandy launch area was clear so we got out and loaded up the boats. Despite the weather, it was a great paddling day, lots of laughs and fun. (And a great workout for the arms...)

I'll be back when I return from Cedar Key. Stand by.


Kimberlee said...

I was glad to see that you let the Red Brickfish go. I've heard their meat is pretty tough. :) It looks like it was a fun day.

Do you think the big gator is just used to seeing people on the river and not easily spooked?

OldHorsetailSnake said...

You going to look like Popeye.

Joe said...

Nice shots of the Bald eagle. I have not seen one in the wild for several years.

Crayons said...

Wow, what a great outing. I hate paddling in wind though. You are such an outstanding guide. I learn to interpret sights when I read your blog. Thanks.