Well, I didn't get to Emeralda Marsh yesterday.
We flipflopped and at the last minute decided to canoe part of the Santa Fe River Canoe Trail. The really important thing here was not where we were going, but that we were all together for a change, Kate, Emma, Junior, Mrs. FC, and me.
Only a year ago, we would have been together as a routine, but now with 2 girls in college and living on their own, it's tougher to gather.
But on this day, we were all on the same page and in the same book.
We (I) loaded the 2 canoes, our battered 16 ' long wedding present canoe and a newer 13 foot Rogue River canoe, on to the bubba trailer and headed for High Springs. Outside of High Springs, we unloaded the canoes at the US-27 boat ramp on the Santa Fe and then Katie and I shuttled the JEEP and trailer down to the "get out" boat ramp next to the SR-47 bridge over the Santa Fe.
Katie (aka Captain Bligh) kept order in her canoe and encouraged smooth paddling by brandishing her stick.
The scenery on the Santa Fe is exquisite ... mostly. Much of the river bank is protected conservation lands and numerous springs gush into the river along the way. These aren't little trickle springs like up north, these are big clear flows of water that pump millions of gallons into the Santa Fe each day.
They get a post of their own this week.
So do the millions of turtles that sunned on every rock,log, and bump in the river.
The one truly negative eyesore along the river was the commercial campground known as Ginnie Springs. It used to be a nice family place, but when we cruised by it on this trip it looked and sounded like a cross between a refugee camp and a rock concert gone bad. The river in front was loaded with drunks in tubes, loud music was blasting from competing boom boxes, and campsite after campsite had open liquor bottles on display on camp tables.
We cruised by one raft of drunk tubers just in front of the campground and I heard this blankeyed girl lying in a tube say, " Wowww, look how fast they're going!"
I told Mrs. FC that I suppose if you're 3 sheets to the wind lying on your back in a stationary floating tube, it probably did appear that we were blasting past.
I was glad to get past them and back to the peaceful river.
As the trip progressed, Katie was forced occasionally to take out her stick and maintain order in her vessel.
It's not easy being in charge.
The entire designated Santa Fe River canoe trail is 26 miles long, but we were launching at 1:00 pm, so our goal was just the portion between the two bridges mentioned above. I think it worked out to about 8 river miles.
Junior thought it was more like 50 miles, but I assured him it just felt that way because of his erratic zigzagging across the river. The fact that he had skipped supper (Valentines dance) and had a tiny breakfast may have affected his view also. He was hungry the minute we put the canoes in the water.
At Poe Springs, (a YMCA facility) we stopped and let the knuckleheads walk up the spring run to swim a bit. Katie commandeered transportation back to the canoes after their chilly swim.
Near Poe a tiny spring was gushing a boil of water up on to the surface of the river. It was so cool!
I have pics of it and another spring to post later this week.
Gotta love Karst Topography.
The scenery was beautiful, especially with red maples seeding out and farkleberry blooming in the floodplain swamps.
We never had to portage over any of the gravelly, rocky bars in the river even though water levels are fairly low right now.
We even had one set of decent, but very safe rapids to ride over. They are up ahead of Junior's canoe in the picture above.
The big sisters with their baby brother.
The end result after 4 hours of canoeing: tired, hungry, happy, silly, wonderful kids. When we got out at the SR-47 boat ramp, they could not get changed into dry, restaurant appropriate clothes quickly enough. One minute they were wet and bedraggled ... the next they were in dry clothes and rarin' to go.
Personally, I could have kept going down to the Gulf of Florida, but I was outvoted.
We stopped in Alachua at the Conestoga Restaurant (GO THERE!) and chowed down.
All in all, a pretty decent day with my babies.