We have built up several New Years traditions over the years. If we’re at home, we have a fondue dinner on the Eve while watching the year roll in. The morning rings in with a breakfast casserole and mimosas. We watch the Rose Parade (per instructions from the Californian in the household) while taking down the Christmas tree, and have nachos while watching the Rose Bowl Game.
That’s a normal year. However, the past couple of years have been anything but normal. Last year I started the year by myself as Laura had to be with her mom. I took the opportunity to watch the sun rise from the highest point in South Carolina, Sassafras Mountain. This year I was in Florida for New Year for the first time ever. Since I had missed my usual Winter Solstice Sunrise paddle, I decided to do a First Light paddle.
I got up early, but not early enough to for comfort’s sake. I still had to rush a bit. I fixed a couple of cups of coffee to take with me, then headed out. I was armed with my waterproof camera and my cheap Nikon Coolpix. The adhesive mount had popped off, so I didn’t have my GoPro this time. I was traveling light…for me.
When I hit the water the sky was already spectacular. The wind was still, it was warm, and perfect for paddling. I couldn’t believe it was January 1.
I paddled on out and headed south along the Indian River. My goal was to get a clear shot of the sunrise between the trees on the spoil islands. Turns out I wasn’t alone. There were several fishing boats also getting underway. I paddled past the Torpey Channel so that I could float without interference. I started shooting.
The skies were stunning, and these poor imitations don’t do them justice. I was torn between wanting to take a photo every few seconds, and just wanting to sit and watch. I did a bit of both.
Soon enough the sun broke over the horizon. I was able to observe “Condohenge” as the sun rose between the tall buildings lining the beach on North Hutchinson Island.
Even though the sun had come up, and I had met my objective of watching the sun rise on the first day of the year while kayaking, I still wasn’t done. Boat traffic was already picking up, but I managed to cross the Indian River Channel at the narrow point and head over to the spoil islands. Someone was camping on my favorite island, so I paddled on over to one of the smaller islands. The tide was VERY low, so I found a small tidal cut that I could back into to watch birds and the ever rising sun.
Amy had given me a Hydro Flask for Christmas, and I was eager to put it through its paces. I had filled it with two cups of coffee, and it was still nice and hot when I pulled over for a bit.
The tide was low, but I was still wanting to explore. Yesterday Laura and I had walked around Jack Island looking at birds, and I had wondered if I could paddle there from Amy’s. The tide was low, and the area was shallow, but I continued south, seeing if I could catch site of the island. I paddled past the old inlet, and I’m sure I saw Jack Island, but I didn’t paddle back to the walking trails.
As I continued southward, hoping to catch site of the bird tower on Jack Island, I found myself getting closer and closer to the A1A bridge. I realized I was further south on the IRC than I had ever been. I figured, “What the heck?” I decided to go for it and see if I could make it to the bridge. I found myself on the boat channel connecting the main IRC with the Little Jim Bridge channel.
I was tempted to head down to Little Jim and explore the mangroves through that channel. However, I just had the bottle of coffee, and it was just about gone. I had thought about refilling it at a water fountain somewhere. I decided to head west toward the drawbridge. I brave the boat traffic in the channel and rounded the popular boat ramp at the east end of the bridge. There was so much traffic I couldn’t find a good place to pull up and look for a fountain, so I decided to keep going. I headed toward the bridge. It was nice of them to open it for me.
I paddled on toward the bridge and under. Even more fishermen were at the end of the bridge, even wading out into the water.
I toyed with the idea of circling down the Fort Pierce Inlet back to Little Jim Bridge, but I had no money nor water. Not a good idea for such a long trip. I paddled on across the channel to the west side.
Now I was north of the A1A drawbridge on the west side of the channel. Just past the bridge there was a dock with fishing boats.
Continuing on there’s a marina. It had been a long time since I’d seen this from the water. Most of the time I see it from Old Dixie Highway. I was surprised to see a long low spoil island just to the south of the marina channel. I hadn’t seen that before.
Now I was at the north end of Saint Lucie Village. This old riverside settlement has some cool historic houses. There were lots of docks as well as large boats. I even spotted an ultralight floatplane.
From this point I paddled pretty much straight on home along the west bank without incident. Somehow I had managed to paddle out with the outgoing tide, and in with the incoming tide. Clean living. I had paddled about 7.57 miles and made it back by 10:30, in plenty of time for another cup of coffee and the start of the Rose Parade. Not back for the first paddling trip of the year.