August 11, 2007

Terra Ceia Bay and Mangrove Tunnels

Clear skies and warm temperatures greeted us on the morning of the 11th. The mangrove tunnels provide a wonderful relief from the summer heat in their shaded canopy. We weren’t the only ones taking refuge in their shady depths. Wading birds and countless fish convene around the shaded fringes. Crabs dart about on the prop roots, occasionally becoming castaways on the bow of our boats.

We found a sandy beach inlet and went for a swim in the bay. The water temperatures were wonderful. I am always amazed at what a beautiful place we live in.

The highlight of the trip was hanging out with some manatees as the grazed the seagrass beds below us. We spent over 30 minutes just watching them surface around us. From what we could tell, there were at least two adults and one calf. They were very curious and on a couple of occasions sidled up and even gently bumped our boats. I never thought about it before, but some of our kayaks look like pretty sexy female manatees. (It’s all in the body shape) It is nice to know, when you are in the water next to something that big, that it is vegetarian. It is said that sailors used to mistake manatees for mermaids. All I have to say to that, is that they must have been at sea a very, very long time.

July 4, 2007

Santa Fe River Camping Trip

One of the advantages of running an ecotourism business, is that you get to take a bunch of "exploratory" trips. (We always like to check out an area several times before taking a group out.) This makes for some very fun adventures. One such trip was a camping expedition along the Santa Fe River in Central Florida. The Santa Fe is one of my favorite paddles. The water is clear and cool. The best thing about clear and cool water in Florida is that you can swim without having to be concerned about who might be sharing the water with you.

We camped overnight just feet from the river. The night insect sounds were amazing. I never fully appreciated the sound of cicadas until I moved to Florida. The night is alive with a pulse of sound. It is invigorating. I wanted to stay up all night just to listen to their chorus.

We had our morning coffee down by the river. (Chris looks cute before he's had his coffee.) This proved to be a wonderful idea as their was an otter having its breakfast at the same time. Usually shy, this otter stayed and fished just yards from us for over an hour. Every so often, he would peak his head up very near to where we were sitting, just to make sure we hadn't moved. Spartacus didn't know what to think about the otter.

We have one of the only cats I know of that loves to go camping. He started coming with us when he was a kitten and I must say, he is better at it than most people I know. We all went for a nice hike in a cypress swamp later in the day. Cypress are some of the most amazingly beautiful trees.

After the warmth of the day, we cooled off with a dip in the river as the sun was going down.

June 30, 2007

Little Manatee River

We had a great group for the Little Manatee River paddle on June 30th! We couldn’t have picked a better day for a paddle. The temperature on the shaded river was perfect. So was the water temperature! Several people couldn’t resist the clear coolness of the spring-fed stream.

A little side hike on one of the park’s trails provided an opportune photo op. When the weather is this nice, it feels good to hike the sandy bottom of the stream to meet the trail. We have often seen otters along this stream, and Chris and I had our eyes peeled for tracks.

The lilies and orchids were in bloom and several deer started from the banks as we approached. I have said it before and I will say it again, I love this stretch of river!

April 17, 2007

Rock Springs Run

A beautiful little spring run not to be missed is Rock Springs Run located in Apopka, Florida (about 40 minutes from Orlando). Given that we were in Orlando last weekend to see the Flaming Lips, we decided totake it for a spin. The effort was well worth it. Spring runs are among some of the most beautiful paddles in Florida. They offer excellent, crystal-clear water visibility and attract a wide array of wildlife. The Rock Springs Run actually passes through several distinct habitat types and the constitution of the river changes as well. You pass through shallow, clear water areas with an abundance of spatterdock and flowing grasses, to shaded dark water riparian areas fringed with maples and cypress. The variety of bird life is wonderful and at several points in the paddle we caught brief glimpses of otters. One important note to future paddlers concerning the shuttle service provided by one of the local providers: They only have one pick up at 5pm and they are not inclined to hang around long after that time. We ended up rushing the last portion of the trip which was unfortunate because it was also one of the most scenic sections of the river.

March 17, 2007

St. Patrick's Day Paddle- Little Manatee River

The St. Patrick's Day Paddle on the Little Manatee River turned out to be a lot of fun. The morning was a tad chilly, but that wasn't about to stop us from getting on the water. We were rewarded. We had the entire river to ourselves and didn't see another paddler the whole day. The temps rose as the day went on and we ended uptaking off our sweatshirts. The swallowtail kites were enjoying the breezes overhead. At one point, they swooped low over the river, through the tree canopy and over our heads. Every time we paddle a river, it is a different experience. It seems you always see something new. It doesn't matter if you paddle the same river a hundred times it is always fresh and new. The spiderlilies may be in bloom. The otters may decide to bark at you from the sidelines, or slide down the grassy slopes into the water.