Cold Weather Doesn’t Stop Annual Florida Paddle

by BG Smith


Despite cooler temperatures and a smaller than usual crowd, the annual Florida “blue holes” adventure was still a huge success.  Ten TVCC’ers made their way down to Homosassa, Florida for the December 27th through January 1st trip.  


Everyone arrived at the Homosassa River RV Resort with horrible Atlanta traffic stories.  For most, getting through ATL was a 5-hour ordeal and BG Smith and Dian Lawhon even had someone sideswipe their trailer in errant attempt at passing while they were stuck in traffic near Kennesaw, GA.  They were joined by Ben, Beth, Amy, and David Johnson, Mark and Carolyn Rand, Sharon Privett-Stolberg, and Ken Hudson.


Ben Johnson arranged a great plan for the week allowing everyone to get a great flavor for the area.  There are some incredibly beautiful rivers along this part of Florida’s gulf coast and they did not disappoint.   




Day 1 was a bit on the chilly side and the steady breeze did not help.  Only four of us paddled up the Homosassa River to the Wildlife Park area where numerous manatees lounged around probably wishing they were further South.  The conditions convinced us to call it a day, so we retreated back to the campground where we gathered at Ben’s site for a traditional low country boil and shrimp fest.  Awesome as always!  Ben was showing off his new camp grill set up that made us all a little envious and wondering how he will pack that into a canoe for other overnight trips later this year!


Day 2 was the definite highlight paddle of the week as everyone joined in for a trip down the Weeki Wachi.  The weather was perfect and warm and looking a lot more Florida-like finally.  The river was pristine aqua blue with clear white sand bottom the whole way down.  Spectacular.  Found one small pod of manatees that entertained us for awhile before we headed off and found us a small neighborhood bar with drink specials and peel and eat shrimp!  Perfect ending to a perfect day!


The Rainbow River on Day 3 was just as spectacular as Weeki Wachi.  More great weather and a beautiful leisurely paddle down a quintessential Florida blueway.  Couple of us got out and walked around the Rainbow Springs Park area that used to be a major Florida tourist attraction before the Mouse came to town.  Lots of birds, Spanish moss draped trees, groves of cypress trees, and beautiful homes along the river make this a truly scenic trip.  Back at the campground everyone decided to hit the local seafood house that is simply called The Cooler where beers sell for $2 and shrimp or crab legs come on huge platters.  Could easily be convinced to stay all night without any argument!


To finish the week, on Day 4 we all headed down to the Chassahowitzka River.  We paddled upstream a bit to check out some of the deep blue holes there, but the tide was out and at dead low so its was very bony.  Did find a few holes though and after checking them out we turned and paddled back down stream.  Found a couple of small coves where numerous manatees were chilling out.  Sharon was able to get a juvenile to play with a line hanging from her boat.  Pretty cool.  


After paddling Chaz, we again headed back to the campground and prepared for our big New Year’s Eve celebration.  Ben cooked up another surprise for everyone on his super-cool ultra-grill master 5000 … deluxe cheeseburgers (in paradise) with bacon!  Everyone contributed something to the potluck dinner with enough salads and desserts to feed another 20 people!  We finished the evening by popping the corks on some fine champagne and Asti celebrating New Year’s a couple hours early as everyone was leaving the next morning for either Chattanooga or other parts of Florida.  It was an awesome celebration of great paddling and friendship!