Whalechaser's Musings

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Saturday, February 16, 2008

Florida Rivers and Biking Trails

We spent the week Biking and Canoeing in Central Florida at Brooksville.

Canoeing three rivers: Withlacoochee, Hillsborough and Weeki Wachee

Each of these rivers has their own personality. The first, Withlacoochee which gets its start from the Green Swamp in central Florida is a river that can quickly bring a canoeist back in time, say 100 to 200 years. The surrounding areas are woods, swamps and totally devoid of current civilization, for the most part. This was our starter paddle and we were getting used to the winding river and current. When we had it all down pretty good, we were surprised with a cloudburst. So we got to finish the run in the rain. It was colder than I thought and I was looking for the end so we could get off the river and dry again.
The water was tea colored from the acids in the Cyprus trees and the decaying foliage, but obviously very clean. We saw a few alligators and some birds, enough to enjoy the wonders nature has to offer.

The second outing was on the Hillsborough. We put in at Sergeant Park and were going to get out at Trout Creek for an 8 mile run. But as luck would have it, the take out area was getting new pavement and we had to press on to the University of Florida take out another three miles down river. This river was abundant with wildlife, too many to count. Suffice to say that I came face to face with so many alligators that I no longer fear them! We saw several gatherings of birds that Florida is famous for: Egrets, Blue Herons and even Rosette Spoonbills! The last are just too gorgeous! What was surprising, is that most of the birds just looked at us as we paddled by, totally unafraid and more into their hunt for food; the alligators occasionally slid into the water, as if we spoiled their days. Turtles galore and they continued to sun themselves. Oblivious of us.

Here is a boardwalk loop that we found at our lunch spot...the views were high and dry and quite nice
Chuck and Ken Kramer our guide...

The third paddling trip was on the Weeki Wachee River. We put in at the spring, which is the source of the river and paddled almost to the Gulf of Mexico. The water was a tempting 72 degrees and perfectly clear at the beginning of the trip. If the air were not so cool (about 55 degrees) I would have considered a quick dip. But that will have to wait for warmer days! This river was also winding but it had very little in the way of logs and obstacles, so the paddle was very leisurely and fun. Towards the end we came upon about 10 manatees. They are such gentle creatures, you get mesmerized by them. They were feeding in the river and did not seem to mind our being there at all.

I suppose you will take this as an excuse, but I was on the bow and Chuck was taking the pictures. Since I did not want to run the risk of dousing my camera, I relied on him for the photos on the rivers. The pictures that I am posting were taken from our ‘side’ bicycle trail trips or from the Elderhostel presentations that we had each evening.

Some of the presentations that we attended included the Ecology of West Central Florida which was quite an eye-opener. We really are stewards of the environment and the sooner we recognize it and plan our communities accordingly, the longer the natural environment will be here for us all to enjoy.
We also had the pleasure of hearing Judi Carter who is a licensed raptor rehabilitation-ist. She brought in two of her ‘flock’ and was a joy to listen to.

On Friday morning before we left for Orlando we heard Margaret Longhill provide many historical stories and folk music about the folklore and Indian history of Florida. She is a gem and I would recommend ‘sitting a spell’ with her and just be wowed!

Below are some pictures of stuff we’ve done this week;

In-between the canoeing and the presentations, we found some time for biking and managed to find some very nice agreeable trails that offered more mileage that we were able to do on any given day...and we managed over 20 miles on each ride! They were all flat, which really works for me and some had lots of wildlife to enjoy. Particularly the Van Fleet Trail which we did on Friday...I saw at least 9 Gopher Tortoise and one Turkey Vulture!

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