Do you want to know what is one of my favorite things about doing this trail? It’s the unknowing. The surprises. The whole day and night spreading out in front of us like a blank slate, with just a map for general directions. And today was an exceptional day for ending in a way I would not have predicted.
We woke up to a beautiful, albeit humid and buggy, day and an easy launch atop a broken slab of limestone rock ( our second only sighting of rock on this trip – our first being on Fog Island, near St. Mark’s). Our objective was to successfully cross the jetty, which was formed as part of the power plant’s barge canal, in a little gap (see red pin) before the winds came up.
So we headed off south, past the boat ramp at the end of 40, and across the string of spoil islands which we’d been heading towards the night before, with a quick break stop at one of the islands with a beach. The spoil islands are the dredged remains of part of the Cross Florida Canal project that was ended by Nixon for some reason.
After weeks of just marshes and swamp land and oyster beds, and no place to get out of our boats for a break, it’s great to be back in the land of beaches. Plus, they’re just darn pretty!
From there we cut across to the jetty, about 2.5 nm offshore, easily finding the gap which required a sliding, lifting sort of portage at our relatively low tide. Here’s the view as I approached the gap behind John, and then the view looking back.
The water was choppy and big on the south side, with wind and surf at our back. Dolphins splashed like kids having water fights. Turtle heads surfaced and dove. And we paddled towards the mainland, tucking back into calmer water behind the oyster bar reefs, and headed toward Shell Island at the mouth of Crystal River. We’d paddled 10 nm or so already, so it wasn’t unreasonable to call it a day, but it was only 1:30 and we still had energy. So, where to go, where to go? Let’s just stop at Shell Island and see.
And see, we did.
For there, on the island were the first closed-cockpit sea kayaks we’ve seen on the water this whole darn trip! And with them, two spunky ladies, Maureen and Buffy, now living around Crystal River, but each transplanted from Maine.
Well, one thing ledto another, and the next thing we knew, John and I were paddling to Buffy’s house for the night.
Up the Crystal River (home to 20% of Florida’s manatees in the winter), with a turn up a creek just before the prehistoric Indian temple mound which was built with the equivalent of 256,372 bushel baskets full of shells. So of course we had to stop.
How often though, do you get to go visit a friend for the first time via water? No getting in a car and driving. Or walking. Or taking public transport. But paddling! AND in a manatee zone at that! I just love all these firsts!
After 15.2 nm of total paddling for the day, we pulled up by Buffy’s dock, pulled our boats up the bank and left them parked there on the grass for the night.
First, we went for a swim in her heated community pool, which felt as good as a massage – oh, such bliss to move and stretch those aching muscles! Then hot showers, a change of clothes, a cold beer on her patio and then out to dinner, of course. Buffy also gave us a tour of this “manatee-haven” town. Now I’m lying on her futon while John’s asleep on the bed. No bugs. My phone’s plugged into a wall outlet and charging as I write. And there’s a bathroom. Which reminds me. I must be dehydrated because I haven’t had to use it. I’d better go get some water to drink!
(From left: Maureen, Vickie and Buffy.)
We are alive.
We are healthy.
We are adventurers.