Kayaking the Black River

I had big plans for Thursday and was pretty exited when I awoke to beautiful, sunny skies. This was the day I would take the 14.5 mile solo kayak trip from Black River Falls back to Lost Falls Campground. 

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Lost Falls Campground rents canoes, kayaks, SUP (Stand Up Paddleboards) and tubes (doubles, singles and cooler). We shuttle guests to one of 3 different landings and everyone arrives back at the campground, hopefully, having enjoyed their day on the Black River.

Steve outfitted my kayak with a phone mount, now I can take pictures and videos, hands free…

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We’ve had A LOT of rain this spring and the river was moving pretty briskly as I set off. It didn’t take long before all I could hear was the sounds of nature, the river churning and a chorus of birds. The evidence of high water was all around me. Some of the smaller trees were barely above the waterline…

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You can see the wet line on the trees, overnight, the river had gone down at least 18″. Usually there are lots of sandbars to stop at…

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But most were still underwater. It was a lazy paddle for me. I let the river current do most of the work while I steered occasionally and just enjoyed being on the river. I hadn’t seen another sole in hours and was surprised as I came around the bend to see these 2 “people” watching from the bank…

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I chuckled to myself as I floated by, a good reminder, someone is always watching.

The Black River State Forest borders a large stretch of river and offers campsites for paddlers…

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After passing Mason’s landing I came across a tall limestone bluff…

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I could hear the sounds of rushing water so I set off to investigate. I had heard there was a gorge with a waterfall near here so I was hoping I had found it. I was a bit disappointed with the “waterfall”…

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But decided to get out and stretch. As I walked along the banks of the creek, I found lots of white trillium thriving in the shadows…

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The cool water felt good on my feet as I walked along as sun dappled tree stood sentinel over me…

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Back on the river, I saw a slough and decided to check it out. There were lots of turtles sunning themselves on the fallen logs…

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When I reached Hansen’s Landing, I knew I only had 2.5 miles to go…

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I had spent the first 12 miles being lazy, but wanted to make a time lapse video of the trip from Hansen’s Landing, so now it was time to paddle! It took me 28 minutes to reach the shore of Lost Falls Campgound, so the video is only 28 seconds, whew, what a workout…

It was a peaceful, relaxing way to spend the day. I can’t wait to do it again!

Where is your favorite place to kayak?

Kayaking with Aligators

We only had 2 days to explore the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, not nearly enough time considering it covers 630 sq miles. The swamp is only part of the Okefenokee experience, there are also vast wet prairies, pine uplands and cypress forests. This mosaic of habitats makes the Okefenokee a “Wetland of International Importance.” The swamp itself is 38 miles long and 25 miles wide and remains one of the most well preserved and intact freshwater ecosystems in the world.

Day One

We stopped at the visitors center and asked about the 120 miles of water trails. Like hiking trails, they range from easy to difficult. We wanted to plan an easy paddle, maybe 4 or 5 hours in total. A trip to the Cedar Hammock canoe shelter sounded just right.

With the next day’s kayaking plan in place, we had the rest of the afternoon to explore. We took the 7.5 mile Swamp Island Drive. The ranger told us to be on the lookout for several species of carnivorous plants and orchids blooming along the borrow ditch. She explained the ditch was created when workers “borrowed” the material to build the road.

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Rose Pogonia
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Butterwort
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Pitcher plant

 

We crossed onto Chesser Island, which was named after the family who settled there in 1858. A short path led us to the homestead…

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It’s hard to imagine what life was like in 1927 when Tom and Iva Chesser built the homestead. The yard was kept free of vegetation to reduce the fire hazard and  to increase the chance of seeing any snakes that might wander by. There are many remnants of family’s life on the island…

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Cane syrup hearth

Our final stop on the Swamp Island Drive was the Chesser Island Boardwalk…

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We kept our eyes open for wildlife. The ranger told us a bobcat had been hanging around the boardwalk, but alas, I had to settle for lizards…

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We climbed the 40-foot Owl’s Roost Tower for a view of Seagrove Lake…

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Day Two

Our first plan was to be at the refuge early, but when I woke up, it was a chilly 63 degrees. I decided I wasn’t in a hurry! It was almost 10am when we arrived warming up quickly. We signed the paddlers’ log, we began our adventure.

We followed the Suwanee Canal for about a mile and a half before finding the entrance to the Cedar Hammock trail. Along the way, I marveled at the reflections in the tannin rich waters…

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We saw a few alligators in the canal. Despite being in a kayak, I did not feel threatened by their presence.  Okefenokee NWR-1990

Although, one surfaced so close to the front of my kayak, I could see it’s eyes but not it’s snoot. A little too close.

We left the motorboats behind when we entered the trail. They had all been courteous, slowing down to no wake speed when they passed, but I was happy to head deeper into the swamp…

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The trail was peaceful, with scores of water lilies blooming along the way…

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At the end of the trail there is an overnight shelter and outhouse.

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I got out to stretch and watch the alligator swimming by…

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As we were leaving, I noticed a baby alligator among the lily pads…

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Steve took the lead on the way back to the canal. I wonder if he saw this guy…

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I loved every minute of our paddle! From the anhinga…

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To the turtle…

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It was amazing!

Would you kayak with the alligators? Do  you think we’re nuts?

Settling In

We left my dad’s around noon on Monday, July 3rd. According to the GPS, it would take us about 15 hours to reach our destination in Lone Oak, Texas. We were hoping for an uneventful trip, after all, Waldo had a nice new roof and Steve had replaced the surge tank and both thermostats. We thought our overheating problems were behind us. We didn’t even make it out of Florida before Waldo’s engine temp began to climb…ugh! My aunt and granny live about 40 minutes north of the route we were taking, so we spent our first night “on the road” at their house. It should have only taken us about 5 1/2 hours to get there, but, thanks to Waldo’s overheating, it took us nearly 7 hours. My aunt had a wonderful dinner waiting for us, fall off the bone ribs, fried corn bread cakes, peas & beans, roasted potatoes and fresh tomatoes. After stuffing ourselves and catching up a bit, we called it a night. The next morning, breakfast was waiting for us! Bacon, sausage, fresh eggs (she has her own chickens), straight out of the oven biscuits and homemade preserves. Thank you Aunt Frances! My cousin came over to see us before we continued on our way. And he came bearing gifts…probably one of the biggest watermelons I had ever seen. We gathered on the back porch, while he cut it into mouth watering chunks. Between the 5 of us, we managed to eat almost 1/2 of it. Then he cut a huge chunk to take with us. Bonus!

With hugs and a promise to visit longer next time, we headed west. Waldo only overheated a little, so we made pretty good time. Aound 4 pm, Steve asked me to start looking for a place to spend the night. Armed with my Allstays phone app, I chose a park in Monroe, LA called Ouachita RV Park. I was worried we wouldn’t be able to find a spot because of the holiday. Even though the office was closed, they answered the phone. Yes, they had sites available. We were told which ones to pick from and to just come into the office in the morning to pay. Despite being so close to I-20, the park was quiet and peaceful. I took Diesel for a nice long walk after his day riding and came across a strange sight. Dozens of what I’m going to call mud chimneys. They ranged in size from 2-3 inches tall to over 10 inches tall. Thanks to Google, I learned they were crawfish mounds. Who knew…

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I awoke Wednesday morning happy in the knowledge, we would reach our destination by early afternoon. I was excited and ready to be there! It was a little after 1 pm when we pulled into Wind Point Park, our new “home for now”. We were warmly welcomed and shown to site B2, a beautiful shady spot to call home.

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As we were setting up, one of the park’s herd of deer came through as though welcoming us…

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The park manager and her husband stopped by later that evening and offered us a tour of the park. We climbed onto the back of their golf cart and off we went. What a slice of heaven!! Beautiful scenery, friendly faces and lots of wildlife.

We’re gonna love it here~

 

 

 

 

Doing It Florida Style

So here we are in Florida. After the “adventure” of our trip down here, I was definitely ready for some down time. I knew we had to get Waldo over to the repair shop for an estimate on the roof, but first we had to unload the belongings staying in Florida. I’m sure Waldo was quite happy to shed a few pounds!

On Thursday, we brought Waldo to Nature Coast RV, handed over the keys and hoped for the best. It would be a few days before we got the estimate so we set our sights on some relaxation time.

It had been quite a long time since Steve had enough spare time to get out in the kayak. While water sports aren’t his favorite activity, he does enjoy kayaking on calm waters. My first thought was to head down to the Gulf of Mexico (only about 10 minutes from my dad’s house). We made a quick stop at the store to pick up some sunscreen. Steve has two colors of summer – Casper white or lobster red. Not wanting him to spend his first week in sunburned pain, we opted for spf50! I thought better of the gulf because the waters can be choppy and there is no shade. I decide a trip on the Rainbow River would be better. The Rainbow River is a busy river with boaters, tubers, kayakers and paddle boarders. Since it was father’s day weekend, the river was crowded, but not so much to make it unenjoyable. Steve seemed to have a good time…

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We promised my dad a trip to his favorite restaurant for father’s day. I dislike eating out on holidays due to the crowds, so we waited until later in the week. Peck’s Old Port Cove serves steamed blue crabs. Daddy and I split 1 1/2 dozen crabs while Steve had their fried fisherman’s platter…

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A great meal – as always!

Before we left New Hampshire, I had been looking for a place to workamp. Work Camping is when you work at a campground in exchange for your RV site. Sometimes there is an opportunity for extra hours for pay, but not always. We had committed to a park in Texas, but didn’t leave NH in time to make it when they needed us. I was very happy when the manager of  Wind Point Park in Lone Oak, Texas emailed me and said we were still welcome to come work for the summer! Their website shows a beautiful park and conjures visions of lovely sunsets and quiet evenings by the campfire. I can’t wait to get there and settle into our new life as workampers!

We had received the estimate for Waldo’s roof…gasp! Between $7000 and $9000! Double what it cost to put a roof on the stick and brick house in NH! But, it has to be done! Steve checked in on their progress this week and it’s getting there…

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They are hoping to have it done by the 30th so we can be on our way.

While Steve was checking on the roof, I decided to take my kayak out to the gulf. I drove to the end of Ozella Trail. There is a great park there with a  boat launch. A few other kayakers were out. I parked next to them, unloaded and hit the waters. As I suspected, the water was choppy, but it was a gorgeous summer day and I made my way around the mangrove islands and headed back. I hadn’t checked the tide report before I went out and I won’t do that again! When I got back to Trouble, the tide had come in enough I could paddle right up to it…

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It was still over an hour before high tide, so I’m glad I headed in when I did.

Hoping my next post is about an uneventful 14 hour trip to Texas and our arrival at Wind Point Park!!!!