Monday, July 06, 2009

Daycation @ Crystal River Ramble

Check out Junior's new haircut!
Nothing against long hair, had it myself when I was a teen and had more hair coverage, but the lad has had a semi-bowl cut going for a few (dozen) years ... so I was really glad to see this new style.

(Even if it does make my baby look a little too grown up ... sigh)

Sunday, we went to Crystal River to hang with my brother in law Paul and his family. Paul's boss had let him use his empty canal front home for the weekend.

Everybody went down ahead of me as I needed to round up the water equipment they would need and play with Bear a little before locking him in the house for part of the day. I rounded up masks, snorkels, dive flags, fins, life jackets, etc in between taking his BEARNESS out for walkies.

Along the way, I decided to hook up the trailer and tote the kayak down, since I knew we couldn't all fit in Paul's boat at the same time. I figured it would provide a diversion ... at least for me if the boat was full.

And it did.

Katie asked to try it in between her trips on her Uncle Paul's boat, so I gave her a quick lesson and she launched in the quiet canal waters. To my surprise, she took off like a natural kayaker. I guess I really should not have doubted her as she has been canoeing since she was a wee thing, and canoe skills translate over nicely to kayaking.
She cruised over to a canal loafing manatee and promptly scared it off, before heading back to the dock ...

... apparently we had forgotten the braking lesson in our prevoyage rundown as she pretty much charged the dock, but her beau Conner and I saw that coming and cushioned her landing.
No harm done.

Crystal River, the actual river, is a very busy place on a weekend, and on a holiday weekend, it's one big boat speedway in the main channel as folks head out to the Gulf of Florida or in to the springs that are the river's source.

When it was my turn to kayak, I paddled out of the quiet canal waters and into the maelstrom of speeding powerboat induced wakes ... and a stiff breeze.
It was a good shakedown cruise for the kayak and me, since I had not taken it into rough waters before.
It did great, handling large wakes in any direction I went.
I crossed one large stretch of open water and entered a creek that twisted back and forth through bullrush and cattails.
This was in the heat of the day ... 2:00 pmish, and the SPF 70 suncreen I had rubbed in so carefully was oozing back out of my pores as I pushed on.
The creek was pretty, but there was no shade as it did not creep up into the forested upland shore, but rather ran along it.

At one point, I thought to reapply some sunscreen since I had just been to my cute perky dermatologist last week and she had zapped me with a few squirts of liquid nitrogen.
Here's a tip ... sunscreen does not go on well when your skin is slick with sweat.

Big mistake that ... anyway, I kept paddling deeper into the creek, desperately seeking ... no, not Susan, ... shade.

At last, I found a little patch, just about the width of the kayak and I grabbed a bay tree branch and snugged into it.
I sat there a little while, just chilling and listening to some LGB above me in the cedars. The ride back was going to be alot of work as the boat wakes would still be turning the river into chop suey, plus the following wind that had assisted me across the open water would now be working against me.

It was as I suspected, a good upper body workout to get home, but again, I'm impressed by the ability of this little kayak to track a straight line in rough water.
Back at the house ... and, by our standards, this was a mansion, not a house, I chilled for a little while while BIL Paul took multiple boat trips of kids to Three Sisters Springs.

I had not been to the sisters since my girlfriend in the 1980's was taking a SCUBA class so she could dive with me. Her checkout dive was there and I went along, so I was hoping to return again, but it was a little far to kayak on such a breezy, boat busy day.

So I waited my turn and when all the kiddies had been to the sisters, Paul loaded up the grownups and made one more trip.

By this time, it was pretty late in the day and some clouds had obscured what sunlight there was.

I really don't recommend swimming at dusk in either fresh or saltwater here in FL, and that's a rule I rarely ... almost never ... break out of respect for our shark and gator populations.

HOWEVER ... as we all know, PF is full of "You really shouldn't try this ... " or "I wouldn't recommend this ..." activities, but this time it was really pretty safe to stretch the rules.

All day long on that holiday Sunday, the spring had been busy with swimmers. Not a likely spot for a big gator to hang out around, and so we went.

To enter Three Sisters, you moor your boat out in the river canal, slip into the semi clear canal water, and swim up a tiny stream, what we call a spring run, that carries the spring flow out into the river.

After a short swim, you enter the open spring area with a white sandy bottom and very clear water. Even at dusk, with very dim light, the spring area had great visibility. What was really cool was that all the spring visitors had gone home for the day, so we had the entire Three Sisters Springs to ourselves.

Pretty cool.

We hung out for a while diving and sight seeing, until the sun was below the trees that ring the springs. Then a leisurely swim down the run, this time with the current assisting, took us back to the boat.

On the very slow boat ride out, (manatee area) , a dolphin broke the surface right next to us, ... as if to add a little icing to the cake.


Sandcastle Momma said...

What a perfect day! I dove the sisters several years ago and that white sandy bottom is really cool.
We've spent a little time on the Crystal River but when we're down that way we usually end up spending the most time along the Homosassa. To this day the manatee and dolphin fascinate me.

Thunder Dave said...

Sounds like a great time!
We set a record for coldest high temps in July by remaining below 71F for 3 days in a row! With the rain it was actually a bit chilly!

Sayre said...

A perfect Florida day!

lisa said...

Sounds like it was a perfect weekend for you. We finally had a few days of no rain to speak of. So, it was a very good end to a great weekend. Your kayak trip sounds like fun. I don't know if I would like it (not a strong swimmer). My kids have tried and loved it.

Ol' Lurker said...

He is a good lookin' kid. Takes after his momma, does he?

Anonymous said...

Looks like a fun weekend that you you had! Beautiful spring.

The weather was pretty perfect this weekend! We were able to enjoy fireworks from the deck of my cousins lake house. Not very hot and no skeeters!


Freste said...

Now THAT is one amazing weekend. Nicely done, FC.

Miz S said...

Glad you had such a great day with your family, FC.

Three Sisters Springs sounds amazing. (I visited the link.) I hope the efforts to save it are successful.

Dani said...

Jr. is such a handsome lad! :)

Glad y'all had such a good day out and about on the water.

Floridacracker said...

Neat place isn't it. So much of the Crystal River is not crystal anymore, it's nice to see a glimpse of what the main springs once looked like.

Rainy here too, but no chill, only steam.

Yes, but getting that dolphin shot in focus would have made it truly perfect!

It is a lot of fun and it floats in really skinny water. Definitely not a boat for a nonswimmer though ... just in case.

Ol Lurker,

That sounds pretty excellent too!

It was a pretty decent day in paradise.

Miz S,
Thanks! I hope so too, because it really is a special place.

Floridacracker said...

Hey Dani,
You snuck in there while I was commenting back to the earlier ones!
Yes, he's pretty sparkly, but we try not to let him know.