RiverTrek Day 3: Estiffanulga to Dead Lakes

by Rob Diaz de Villegas
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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