25 February 2010

Wekiva River Adventure

View Wekiva Float 24 Feb 10 in a larger map

Wow. This trip was a combination of the Adirondack paddle and Kremenec -- both days notable for being excellently beautiful, grueling, and ending with obscene amounts of rain.  I posted the bird list earlier, and the birds and wildlife we saw were amazing, though the alligators were always a bit too close for comfort...

Great Blue Heron
One alligator out of five (six) that we saw.


So midway through the Wekiva River, it started to pour.  This is not a big deal, because really, nature looks nicer in the rain than it does when it's dry -- something about light, refractions and reflections, methinks.  And we were expecting rain and were reasonably well-prepared for rain -- but raingear is almost never adequate.  It can be, but not really.

For proof that God has a sense of humor and she's really funny, this all happened on the first day of my period.  Because this is what happens in life (this was another one of those days).  Except this time, I was sitting in a puddle (especially because I was in a sea kayak, which drains easily but is wetter on a dry day in this type of water than a regular kayak is) in the middle of a downpour with highly absorbent material between my legs.  It's good to know that things work the way they're supposed to, I guess. 

The big issue for all of us was when we took a wrong turn at the confluence of the Wekiva and Saint John rivers.  We paddled about a mile in the wrong direction before we got out around some uninhabited vacation homes and had a pit stop/fact finding mission.  Then we headed back in the other (correct) direction and our fearless leader talked to some Great Samaritans who gave us a ride/tow to the car, which was at Blue Springs.  Things would have gotten quite unsafe because we were already wet and cold, we were tired, and it was going to be getting dark quite soon.

Thanks, Rick and Fred!

Our fearless leader bringing up the rear

We finally got to Blue Springs, and half of our group went to go pick up the other car while three of us waited in Blue Springs being wet and cold.  It's a state park, and it closed at 6:15pm, so they had locked the bathrooms and I couldn't go in there to sit under the automatic hand dryer -- which is fine because doing so would have required acrobatics I was incapable of since I'd just been paddling the last 5 hours.  Blue Springs is Florida's best manatee refuge, so we went to look at them while we were waiting!  So cool -- here's some video I took:

Blue Spring is 72°F year round because it's a natural hot spring, and so the manatees go there in the winter because they can't live in water that's less than 60°F.  There are some other varieties of fish in there, including some invasive species like these tilapia:
The cool thing is that so many fish were making their nests, and so you can clearly see it in this photo.  The fish use their tails to clear off a spot in the sand and then they go into hyper-defensive mode, fertilize their eggs via some sort of mating swim, and then protect the nests.

Our day was so awesome, and such an adventure.  Having to be bailed out is a bit of a sticky wicket, because it meant that we didn't plan well enough to know exactly where we were going -- if you're reading this and want to do the Wekiva, consider taking out at the Swamp House Grill in Highbanks.  We were as prepared as we were able to be, and that would have been the only place to take out...  You can't bail out of the trip in the middle of a swamp -- or you could but have fun in the swamp!  It was a great day, the birding and the float were excellent -- and we are able to say that because our heroes of the day, Fred and Rick, were so kind and responsive to our needs and our situation. 

Awesome float though, and truly a great adventure I'm not doing justice to in this post.  One of those things you've got to see in order to believe -- the map should help.

No comments: