Each year, TVCC’s Overnighter and Flatwater groups trek to Florida after Christmas to paddle some warm water (without dry gear) and kick off the New Year on the rivers and at the campground!
As Recalled by John Hubbard
I am a whitewater paddler. Kayaking is my game. So how come I am hauling this monster canoe to Florida on a tiny car with a dog in tow? Because I am going to have fun, see if my new dog likes a ride on the river, bring in the New Year with friends, and find some Florida sunshine.
I only did three of the four rivers because I arrived a day late on Monday evening. Well, it was actually Tuesday morning early. And it was Florida sunshine plus clouds and rain. Lots of rain. Luckily for the most part the rain was not while on the rivers or while awake and moving around, mostly at night. I drove through monumental rain for the last four hours of the drive down. Such hard rain that it slowed me to under 50 mph. I ended up sleeping in the car on the side of the road only 5 miles from my destination while I waited for the rain to stop so I could figure out where the campground was there.
Tuesday nice and early I roll in and find Pat, Mike, Lisa, Roy, Judy, and Artie. Plus Domino, Pat’s dog. I get camp set up and I am ready for a fine day of paddling the Upper Econfina. A flat and pretty warm day enjoying a leisurely paddle. The highlight was toward the end when we stopped at a small park and swimming hole. I finally said yes to myself and dove in. Water was cool but fine as long as you kept swimming. Well, that motivated Lisa and Judy to dive in too. Just nice fun. Then I looked at the signs with pictures describing the swimming hole. One showed the hole as it was before and then after. Before was with stone and everything man made and nice but not landscaped like nature would do. Then the after is back to nature with all the stone walls gone. Bet the designers goofed and found out it was way too much to maintain going against nature.
The next day was the biggie river, about nine miles of really fast moving water with lots of trees blocking the 20 to 30 foot wide river with a million bends. Carolyn and Joel joined us as they had ocean kayaked the day before. Boy was it a workout for all of us. I bet we had to portage some dozen times. A couple of the group took off a half mile early and walked to get cars. Maybe they were smart as half the portages came after they took off. I was doing fine in the XL13 canoe with my dog peering over the front most of the time. There were even a few miniature wavetrains to ride. And I found a mini wave to surf in that big ‘ole boat. But finally I did not see a submerged rock that caught me unaware. The boat kicked sideways and tossed me out. But praise the Lord the boat stayed upright and the dog (with PFD) stayed in the boat. So I self rescued. Again I learn the river is always stronger.
New Year’s Eve we all took a day off the river. I went into town and ate pizza and caught up on newspapers. Roy and Pat bought shrimp and all the fixings for a shrimp boil. The rest headed to Doug’s parent’s house to watch football. With the pies and cheese and other goodies and plenty of wood for a campfire we got ready to eat good food and bring in the New Year right. Mike and Roy cooked the shrimp boil with help from Pat and Lisa. Sharon joined us and camped for the festivities. The boil was so good. We even got to sit around the nice campfire for quite a while before the rains returned and we all went to bed well before midnight.
The last day Doug, Sharon, Carolyn, and I went to Lynn and Fay’s house where Lynn led us on a tour of his backyard river. Maybe four miles up river and then back. With current. Sharon was a trooper paddling that far up river in a Fun kayak. I could sure tell how much effort she was doing. Up river she was plowing a nice wave in front of the Fun and almost no wave showed on the down river return trip.
It was my first time camping and taking my new dog (JiJi, a small pug chihuahua mix) on the river, or even on a long drive. She did great. I bet my dog will return to paddle again in Florida with all those nice people, and Pat’s dog Domino. I might even come back if Mike promises to return with the killer hot shower setup for a primitive campground. ‘Nuf said.