So far it had been a great week in Florida. I had gotten out on the kayak for at least one paddling trip each day. In some cases, twice. Doesn’t hurt when you’re staying at a place with a boat ramp right into the Indian River.
This was our last full day in Fort Pierce, and we were going to jam it full of activities. The morning started with a trek out to the Saturday morning Farmers Market in downtown Fort Pierce. We got some vegetables, did some people watching, and Laura was even able to find a cool hat to wear in the Mini Convertible out on the artists section of the market.
When we got back from the market, Laura and Amy headed out for some shopping, and I headed out on the kayak. Most of my treks had been averaging about four miles, and I was determined to get at least one long trip in. (more…)
We’ve been spending a few days down in Fort Pierce, Florida, at Laura’s sister’s place. Amy had to go away on business, so we cam down to keep her mom company. I brought toys. The Subaru was loaded with more camera and kayak gear than luggage.
Every morning I’ve been getting up and down a short paddling trip before the heat and afternoon thunderstorms hit. I’ve also managed to get in an evening paddle.
I brought the Tsunami because it handles rougher water with ease and is quick enough that I can go some distance. First trip out I headed out to the spoil islands. The morning was clear with a light breeze. The water was relatively flat.
Been a busy week. We headed down to Florida to Laura’s sister’s house for the Fourth holiday. The days at Amy’s have been spent on day trips, but mostly paddling out on the Indian River. I have fallen woefully behind on blogging. I’ve got a couple of ghost town reports and other write-ups to finish. Until then, here’s a slide show of what we’ve been doing over the past week or so…
Another Christmas has come and gone, and again this year we’ve spent it in Florida with Laura’s sister, Amy. It’s been a busy week, with boat trips, paddling trips, and explorations of the area. Normally I would have done several posts, but I just hadn’t gotten around to it. So I’ve combined a few items in one long post. Here are a few highlights and photos…
We took a couple of trips to the beach. First was a trip up to Avalon Beach on North Hutchinson Island after a shopping trip to Vero Beach. The wind was whipping, and the waves were higher than usual. We didn’t stay long at the little park, but just parked so that Laura’s mom could look out over the ocean and we could walk on the beach.
Last night was the longest night of the year. The Winter Solstice occurred at about 12:30 am. That meant sunrise would also be the latest of the year, and I could paddle out to enjoy it without having to get up too early. It also helped that both my kayak and body of water on which I’d be paddling were only about 100 ft away from my bed.
…but backing up a bit…
We arrived at Amy’s house in Fort Pierce earlier this week. In addition to luggage, my electronic gizmos, and Christmas presents, we had strapped the tandem kayak to the top of the car. While the weather down here is spectacular – hovering in the 80s during the day – paddling conditions have not been ideal. It’s been breezy and very choppy out on the Indian River.
I tried a couple of solo trips. On one a large sea turtle came up next to me and kept me company for awhile.
Monday Laura and I celebrated our 22nd anniversary. We usually like to get out and travel a bit on our anniversary. It was cold and windy, even in Florida, so a paddling trip or boat ride was out of the question. Instead, we decided to head inland to the Kissimmee Prairie, a 54,000 acre nature preserve north of Okeechobee.
Our directions from Amy were to drive down to Orange Avenue in Fort Pierce, then head west until it ended at Highway 441. It was 25 miles of the straightest road I think I’ve ever seen on this side of the Mississippi. It was another 20 miles on 441 through some of the most desolate countryside in the state. There were large ranches and orange groves dotted with small single-wide trailers. I couldn’t imagine living out here, especially in summer.
When we got to the Prairie we found a large flat area that alternated between palmetto scrub, grasslands, and wetlands interspersed with palm tree and live oak hammocks. A couple of dirt roads traversed the area, but for the most part the only way to see the place was on foot. (more…)
There were rumors and reports of snow back in Greenville. It wasn’t exactly my definition of a “white Christmas.” To me, a white Christmas is when you wake up and everything is covered in snow. However, I wasn’t going to be picky – snow is snow, and I would have enjoyed it all the same. The simple fact was that I was going to miss it all together. It was a warm 70 degrees down here.
The day began with the Wright family tradition of wrapping everything under the sun and putting it under the tree. They love to wrap/unwrap packages. It’s fun. This year Santa brought me life vests so I could take friends kayaking and a cool remote helicopter with built in camera. (more…)
It’s Christmas. That means a trip to Florida to visit Laura’s sister, Amy. Using the new kayak racks Laura gave me for my birthday, I brought down the tandem that we got last summer so that we could paddle it out on the Indian River. After an 11 hour drive, I had to hit the water as soon as I got there.
The water was quite calm, and sun was just setting as I paddled out into the channel. Since it was dusk I decided I didn’t want to get out into the main channel, but paddled out far enough so that I could watch the sun set. It was a short paddle, but enough to improve my mood immeasurably.
In Douglas Adam’s original radio play “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”, Arthur Dent eventually lands on the planet Brontitall. There he discovers a super-evolved race of bird creatures with a painful past.
On Brontitall the main industry was the production of shoes. Eventually the economy reached the “Shoe Event Horizon” where it became economically unfeasible to have any other type of store except for shoe shops. Unfortunately, the quality of the shoes declined so much and became so painful that the Brontitallians evolved wings so they wouldn’t need to walk.
I believe that Florida has reached a similar event horizon. No, they haven’t evolved into bird-like creatures (unless you count snowbirds.) Rather, an analogous process has taken place in regards to Florida’s bars and restaurants. It’s now no longer economically feasible to perform music in a Florida bar unless you sing Jimmy Buffett and sing just like him. Period.
Perhaps Floridians, tired of painful Buffett wannabees will eventually lose their ears and evolve some sort of skin-vibration sensing system.
Today the plan was to head up toward the Sebastian area, have lunch, and visit the Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge. We headed north on US 1, stopped at Hale’s Groves for some citrus, then stopped at Rock City Gardens to look at the plants.
Lunch was at the Sand Bar at Captain Hiram’s. It was quite the laid back place, and we were tempted to get fruity rum drinks and just hang out all day, but we resisted.
From Sebastian we retraced our steps to Wabasso and crossed the Indian River onto North Hutchinson Island. Immediately across the river we turned north onto the historic Jungle Road. This was the first road to run along the island. It’s still preserved as a dirt road, and part of it runs through overhanging oaks and really gives one a “jungle” feel. The only bad part is that it also runs between developments with multi-million dollar homes. You can see the monstrosities poke their heads above the trees.
Finally we reached Pelican Island. Apparently this was the very first national wildlife refuge in the US, established by Teddy Roosevelt in 1903. There are several walking trails, and the refuge includes part of the Indian River. We selected a one-mile loop that led to an observation tower.
The site is so named because of the abundance of white pelicans that live in the area. We spotted a large group about a half-mile out into the river, as well as seeing large groups if ibis and other wading birds. My telephoto lens wasn’t quite long enough to get a good shot, so I tried holding my little Nikon up to the eyepiece of the spotting scope on the observation deck.
From Pelican Island we drove up to the Sebastian Inlet, saw that it was incredibly crowded on this warm day, and decided to head homeward. We drove along the island until we got to Vero Beach. Since we were fairly close to home and it was toward the end of our drive, we decided to stop at Riverside Grill and have one of the rum drinks we passed up at the Sand Bar.
Back at home I decided to go for one last late-afternoon paddle. The plan was to paddle out to the spoil island, circle it, then return while watching the sun set. I battled breezes and swells to get out to the island but I made it. The place was crowded with campers, so I did my circle and headed back. Once I got safely back to the homeward side of the channel I paused to watch the sunset.
It was at this time that I had my most dramatic wildlife encounter of the day. As I was taking the above photo a manatee popped up right near the boat and snorted. He/she/it showed lots of interest in the kayak and kept checking me out. Fortunately, I had the little Flip video running and was able to catch its head rising out of the water. This happens about 32 seconds into the video clip below:
It’s been a great trip for wildlife encounters, especially while paddling.