By Carolyn Rand
Photos by Carolyn Rand, Debra Baty and Dian Lawhon
Every year, when I am totally worn out from the Christmas crunch, I have to immediately think about packing for the overnighter to Florida week. I always wonder why I’m doing this again because I’ve done these rivers before, and it is an eight hour drive, plus two more if you go through Atlanta. And, OF COURSE, you have to go through Atlanta!!!! And, it always seems to rain when I drive down.
But then you get down there… and I am sooo glad I went. I don’t know why, but all the weather in the states above seems to just fly by up there and never affect us in Florida. It was 80 degrees and sunny when we got there, put on our shorts and headed for the water. Your body just seems to relax when you put on shorts and a bathing suit top. You are in a different state of mind.
The first river we paddled was Silver Springs. It is known for all of the wildlife it supports. Yes, it has gators, but also birds of every kind, turtles, monkeys with babies hanging on to their moms, and flowers, both in and out of the water. It is beautiful. The river moves along at about 3 miles per hour on its own, so if anything, you are trying to slow down to take the tons of pictures. For this reason, any boat is good from the shortest white water to the longest sea kayak.
The 2nd day, we paddled Juniper Springs, which is my most favorite river in Florida. Crystal clear water and shallow enough that you can hop in and out of your boat anytime you want. It’s like a big play lagoon at Disney. It is very windy, so the shorter the boat, the easier it is. The winding and fast current keeps it interesting and fun. It was a picture perfect day and warm temps made it great.
The 3rd day we paddled Alexander Springs. It reminds me a lot of the Okeefenokee Swamp, paddling through tall reeds and lily pads with buds ready to burst. Indescribably beautiful scenes to photograph along the whole river. This was the first day we had to put on a coat in the morning, but by afternoon, the coat was off.
The 4th day was Salt Springs, where some of our group were so fascinated with the plentiful manatees that they spent more time in the water than kayaking.
This is a wonderful trip to meet people you usually don’t get to paddle with on a regular basis. Most of the group camped at Juniper Springs Campground, although quite a few did stay at hotels this year. After the first paddle, we all got together for a shrimp boil at Ben and Beth’s trailer. This big effort was much appreciated. After driving the day before, and a full day of paddling on a sunny day, it felt so good to unwind and visit with everyone. We gorged ourselves with shrimp, potatoes and corn on the cob until it was time to roll into bed. If we didn’t know someone when we got there, that was not the case when we went to bed that night.
The Florida trip, with warm sunny weather, good exercise, spending time with good old while making new ones, is a beautiful way to see out the old year and bring in the new.
Everyone is excited about the overnighter schedule for 2017. I recommend checking it out on the website and planning to join us on a few trips. Our first trip is a Class II-III trip on the Toccoa. Basic white water paddling skills and a boat are needed for this trip. Then the flat-water Jekyll Island Easter weekend in April where you can test your ocean skills. I already have my campsite reserved for my new (used) camper I just bought from Don Fletcher. Thanks, Don! I can’t wait.
PS, please contact the individual trip leaders way in advance if you are even remotely interested in a trip this year. It takes a lot of planning and logistics to pull off these trips successfully. Just click on the trip on the website, and then click “more info” to find the leader’s contact info.