Tag Archives: Apalachicola River

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RiverTrek Day 4: Dead Lakes to Owl Creek

Rob Diaz de Villegas WFSU-TV

The sounds I hear in my tent every morning sort of define where we slept that night. Alum Bluff had the barred owls, Estiffinulga had the rooster and boats launching. Dead Lakes had a low grinding noise that Doug Alderson identified by the campfire after our Wewa chinese dinner. Pine beetles were eating one of the pine trees we were sleeping under. He told Bob, the campsite caretaker, as the tree had to be removed before the beetles spread to other trees.

Before we started the day’s paddling, we stopped to look at the Dead Lakes.  A sand bar from the Apalachicola River trapped the Chipola River, killing thousands of trees.  These trees are still there.  There was a discussion yesterday about some or all of us paddling through the dead lakes into the Chipola, which meets up with the Apalachicola a few miles downstream.  In the end, we decided to stay on the Apalach.  As beautiful as the Dead Lakes are, we don’t want to miss any part of the River.

This is where the bluffs start getting much shorter and the sand bars get fewer and further between. In fact, for our first break we forewent a restfull sit in the sand for a scramble up Sand Mountain. Sand Mountain was created by the Army Corps of Engineer as they dredged the river. All that sand that was sitting at the bottom of the river was piled up into a 50-60 feet high mound. It takes patience to climb, using hands and feet as the mountain sucked them in. It was a great view if the river.

Doug Alderson, halfway up sand mountain.

Today, Alex Reed and Bryan Desloge rocket off ahead of the pack.  Me, I’m still slowing down to shoot things.  I envy Jennifer Portman of the Tallahassee Democrat.  She’s in a tandem with Chris Robertson, who paddles on without complaint while she stops to take notes, tweet, or take photos.  It reduces the risk that you bump someone or get your kayak turned around while changing a battery.  Of course, Doug Alderson is taking notes and photos for his Visit Tallahassee blog and possibly for the next book he does on paddling (he’s currently working on a book about the Seminole Wars).  He doesn’t seem to have as many problems as I do.  He, along with the majority of the paddlers, have guided kayak tours at the Wilderness Way.  They know what they’re doing.  Me, I’m happy to be here with them and pick up the occasional tip.

Our camp site is down Owl Creek.  The bluffs are lower in this part of the river and there are fewer sandbars.  I’m not sure what the correlation is.  But it does mean we have to paddle a mile-and-a-half off of the river to sleep tonight.  It’s a great creek, with a lot of cypress trees including a small island where you can paddle between them.  When we get to the camp site, Alex and Bryan say they’ve been there an hour-and-a-half.

Our support team was lights out, with Fred Borg procuring campsites and bringing homemade salsa.  Eddie Lueken and her husband Mitch Ross brought us quite a spread.  In addition to the delicious machaca (a beef dish), Eddie had made chicken and bean enchiladas, guacamole, and pico de gallo.  All home made.  This support team has really gone above and beyond for us.  Thank you!

Tonight we did ghost stories.  Doug Alderson has written a book of ghost stories, as it happens.  He performs his stories quite well, he sets everything up and even incorporated Fred’s lantern, which hung by the picnic tables (we went primitive camping the first two nights, Dead Lakes was a country club by comparison, but Hickory Landing is somewhere in between with a rudimentary restroom- a pit toilet with no sink- and no potable water or outlets).    He had a hard time getting started with everyone interrupting to ask questions, notably Jennifer- the reporter- asking what kind of shoes he was wearing in his story.  These are things I’ll remember about these guys.  The little phrases and inside jokes.  I’ll never look at a chicken box the same way again.

When everyone went to sleep, I was a little restless and wandered around the campsite.  I walked onto the boat ramp and turned my head lamp off and looked straight up.  This was the last night of the trip, the last time for a while that I would see all those extra stars that we don’t have in Tallahassee, framed by the silhouettes of the trees at the water’s edge.  It was a good last image before going to sleep.

For more information on Rivertrek, visit the official page.  This page is on the Riverkeeper web site, and you can further explore what they do for the river.  (They’re also on Facebook).

The Franklin County Promise Coalition is coordinating aide efforts for families that are being affected in Franklin County through their Bay Aid program.   As Dan told us in his original interview, over half of the residents of Franklin County depend on the river for their livelihoods.  Learn more about volunteering and other Bay Aid opportunities here.

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RiverTrek Day 4: From the Crew

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Josh: The highlight for me today was to see the terrain and flora/fauna change as we move down the river. Covering the distance we’ve traveled really demonstrates the range of diversity the river supports.

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Rick: Sitting beside the campfire tonight after wrapping up our fourth day on the river. I’ve had the opportunity to get a close up view of the Apalach and grow in my appreciation of a real community treasure.

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Doug:
Sun glinting off kayaks in morning. Eagles calling–parents teaching young. Flying with a monarch. Humming songs. Achy bones lower back–looking for sandbar cool swim. Powerful river speaking gently to me. Always flowing. Honored to paddle her waters even if for short while.

 

Bryan: Made the summit at little sand mountain! Bald eagles – mullet – gar – beautiful sunset tonight – stepped on a copperhead while changing – the jokes keep coming – great fun for a great cause!

Bryan, before switching boats, going to paddle power, and leaving us behind every day

Jennifer: The best company, the most wonderful food, only 22 miles to go. Wish the trek was not ending tomorrow. Can’t stop writing in 140 characters or less!

Chris:
Hard winds uplifting
Dip, drip, gliding toward camp
Friends on the river.

Alex: Yesterday, I pulled away from the group for about awhile. There I was an hour away from Tallahassee immersed in the sound of birds, the wind and the crickets…. the only human sound was the rhythmic sound of my paddle hitting the water… what a magical place to be.

Mike: Wonderful day on the river. Skied down Sand Mountain. Watched a fish tail so close I could touch it. Talked with hunters getting ready for deer season expressing their concern for the Apalachicola. Enjoying the diversity of our group that shares common ground of reverence of this river.

Micheal: Day four and everyone seems to have found their rhythm. We’ve worked hard to get to this point but now we’re all sad to think this is almost over. I joined this trip to enjoy friends and support the river, but I didn’t expect the education on such a complex issue. Thank you Riverkeeper!

Rob: We’re here at the last campfire of the trip. We’ve developed both a strange communal sense of humor and deep reverence for the river and the land and waterways it supports. Even as I’m distracted by their fireside jokes as I try to type, I know I’m going to miss camping and paddling with these guys.

Georgia: Amazing four days. Incredible journey. Energizing group! 24 miles to go. Thank you Apalachicola River, support team, and Trekkers!

 

RiverTrek Day 3: Estiffanulga to Dead Lakes

Rob Diaz de Villegas WFSU-TV

Yesterday I talked about how I heard barred owls as I lay in my sleeping bag in the morning.  I heard some owls, barred and horned (they say barred owls sound like they say “who cooks for you,” where horned owls say “who”), as well as some less “natural” noises.  The sand bar we’re camping on is across from Estiffanulga Landing, and boats were launching pretty early this morning.  You could hear hunting dogs barking.  A rooster was crowing for at least an hour before sunrise.

As far as wild animals go, we aren’t getting too close to many.  Mike Mendez remarked that on rivers with more human traffic, like the Wacissa and Wakulla, the animals barely take notice of a kayaker or airboat.  Here, blue herons fly off, turtles jump of their logs.  There are plenty of bald eagles flying overhead.  Here’s one Georgia got with her phone:

Bryan Desloge was the first one in the water.  He took off ahead of us and we didn’t see him all day.  Georgia was concerned that he might paddle past the ramp at Wewahitchka. And what about river pirates, some of us wondered?  Of course, we haven’t seen ten boats this whole trip.  I of course paddle near the back, as my best video comes when the kayak is gliding slowly.  Georgia, Rick, and Micheal Taber hang back with me for much of the day.  They are the “journey” paddlers, where Bryan might be more of a “destination” paddler.  It’s interesting to see people split into groups and charge ahead, or go it solo along the shoreline.  All day, people join up in different combinations or spend some solitary time.  Sometimes, you’re the only one in sight in a remote part of the river and you may as well be the only person on earth.

When we get to Wewa, Bryan is there and is okay.  He says he’s been there for half an hour.  He’s been taking a lot of ribbing (largely about the copperhead he stepped on yesterday and the soundbyte he gave me when I asked him about it), but it’s all been good natured.  The group sense of humor is coalescing, and I wonder what we seem like to outside people.  Dan Tonsmeire is handing over support boat duties to Captain Gill Autrey.  Captain Gill runs a tour boat business in Apalachicola.  Dan has lived through two of our campfires, so he kind of knows us as a group.  Tonight, when we ate our Wewa chinese dinner, we were boisterous.  I wondered what the other diners at the restaurant thought of us, or if Captain Gill would decide to make his way back to Apalach.  If he stays with us, I commend him.

While making a pit stop at the Dollar General, the cashier asks where we’re from and what we’re doing.  When we tell her, she lights up and says she had done a bit of paddling back in Missouri, in the Ozarks.  She hadn’t really paddled the Apalachicola.  In fact, we’re the only kayaks I’ve seen on the water.  That surprises me.  We’ve done more than half of this river and it’s been great so far.

For more information on Rivertrek, visit the official page.  This page is on the Riverkeeper web site, and you can further explore what they do for the river.  (They’re also on Facebook).

The Franklin County Promise Coalition is coordinating aide efforts for families that are being affected in Franklin County through their Bay Aid program.   As Dan told us in his original interview, over half of the residents of Franklin County depend on the river for their livelihoods.  Learn more about volunteering and other Bay Aid opportunities here.

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RiverTrek Day 2: Alum Bluff to Estiffanulga

Rob Diaz de Villegas WFSU-TV

After breakfast and tearing down camp, Riverkeeper Dan ferried us across the river from the sandbar where we camped to Alum Bluff.  The day before we looked at the 150 foot tall bluff and tried to figure out how we would be approaching it from lower ground. When we got across, we were surprised that the plan was to go more or less right up the front, zigging and zagging on some steep and sometimes slippery terrain. Once we were up there, Annie Schmidt of The Nature Conservancy started us on our tour. Where we went up on the bluff is not part of the nearby Garden of Eden trail, so we bush whacked our way through. It was a great morning workout.

This is the curviest part of the river, the is the most east and west paddling we’ll do on the trip, and the least progress southward.  Still, we paddled 21 miles (Mile marker 84- 63).  Alum Bluff was the first of much taller bluffs we passed today, made of a combination of limestone, sand, and red clay.

We took a detour up Sutton Creek, near Blountstown.  That’s where some of the oldest Cypress trees on the river can be found, with ten foot knees.  This river keeps so many unique places like this tucked away like pennies under a couch cushion.  Like those pennies, of course, some of the places are kind of hard to reach.  If we had had more time, we would have hiked into the cypress.

Josh got out of his kayak and gave us a little perspective:

Tonight we camp at Estiffanulga.  Estiffanulga Bluff once served as a base for William Augustus Bowles’ pirate flotilla.  Some of the paddlers affectionately call it “stiff and ugly.”  I’m not as stiff as I thought I would be, and I would definitely not call this place ugly.  Here is where I part ways with videographer Dan Peeri.  Dawn and Rick Peffer, who brought us dinner, are shuttling him back to Tallahassee. Dawn made us some fantastic pies (apple and cherry), muffins, and foil wrapped apple fritters for us to eat for breakfast tomorrow. They also brought food from Uptown Cafe. Thanks to the Peffers and Uptown Cafe! And thanks Dan for your hard work.

We ended the night with campfire stories and levity, which I’ve been told not to share on the blog.  So I’m being nice…

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Dan Peeri was on the boat for several hours of Dan Tonsmeire’s conference calls with legislative members.  Here he is hard at work.

For more information on Rivertrek, visit the official page.  This page is on the Riverkeeper web site, and you can further explore what they do for the river.  (They’re also on Facebook).

The Franklin County Promise Coalition is coordinating aide efforts for families that are being affected in Franklin County through their Bay Aid program.   As Dan told us in his original interview, over half of the residents of Franklin County depend on the river for their livelihoods.  Learn more about volunteering and other Bay Aid opportunities here.

RiverTrek Day 2: Sutton Lake

Georgia Ackerman RiverTrek 2012 co-Coordinator

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We had no signal in Estiffinulga, so we’re catching up today. Hopefully Rob can post his day 2 summary later. This is our trip to Sutton Lake, which has the oldest cypress trees along the river. Some of the knees were ten feet tall.

We’ve re-edited the post date so that events show up in order.  We have also added additional photos and posts to flesh out the experience.