Tag Archives: paddling

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.

RiverTrek Day 2: Waking Up

Rob Diaz de Villegas WFSU-TV

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Good morning from Rob on Georgia’s phone! It’s easier for me to post from here. Last night, I had dreams about uploading blog posts. When I woke up, a barred owl was calling near the camp. After a few calls, I heard a response from aways off, I think across the river. They called back and forth a while. Much better than dreaming about blogs. Everyone is up and getting ready to hike Alum Bluff.

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RiverTrek Day 1: Woodruff Dam to Alum Bluff

Rob Diaz de Villegas WFSU-TV

First day’s paddle is done!

It was an incredibly foggy day. It made for an interesting paddle when anyone that got ahead of you started to disappear.

We paddled twenty one miles, from the ramp, just near the Woodruff Dam (mile marker 105) to a sandbar across from Alum Bluff (mile marker 84), where we’ll be spending the night.  Yes, there are mile markers along the river, a remnant of the days when barges rode this watery highway to the Gulf.  The dam lies about 1000 feet downstream of the original confluence of the Flint and Chattahoochee Rivers, just north of the Florida/ Georgia border.  The confluence is now below the lake created by the dam, Lake Seminole.

I admit that I had only really seen this part of the river as I crossed over it on I-10 (that’s when I like to take my cell phone out and watch the time change). What did the motorists passing over us make of our brightly colored kayak flotilla?

The cage around this young torreya is meant to prevent deer from eating it. They grow slowly, leaving them vulnerable to plant consumers.

A couple of hours into our trip, we stopped at Means Creek in Torreya State Park.  The creek is named for biologist Bruce Means.  There, park biologist Mark Ludlow showed us a young torreya tree. He told us how less than 1000 of the trees exist, all along this river. One hundred million years ago, they were common in the southeast and across the adjacent landmasses that were part of Pangea. Torreya species exist in California and China.

So far the technology side of this seems to be working, if a little slowly.  Georgia’s been snapping away on her iPhone, while WFSU videographer Dan Peeri travels with the tablet in the Riverkeeper boat.  He also has a “real” camera and a wireless mic on Dan Tonsmeire.  I’ve been in a kayak with four little waterproof still/ video cameras positioned around me.  This is not at all what I thought TV would be like when I started over ten years ago.  It allows us to tell this story a little differently, and all the footage is HD so we can make a more traditional video when we get back.

Helen Light talked to us as we ate dinner. She works for the US Geological Survey, and she talked to us about the damage being done to the Apalachicola flood plain. Obviously, we’ve talked about the damage done to the bay by the drought. But between 1976 and 2004, They are 44% fewer Ogeechee Tupelo Trees. That affects tupelo honey production. The drought has choked off sloughs and kept the river from flooding to where fish can’t eat many of the invertebrates they had normally eaten. We’ll have more on her talk when we get back.

Join us tomorrow as we get up bright and early to hike up this bluff:

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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.