Tag Archive: santa fe river

Lesson: Canoe Camping

Back in October, my husband and I (and our beagle) went on a canoe camping adventure down the beautiful Santa Fe River. Because we were turtlescelebrating both my birthday and our anniversary, we wanted to do something epic. And epic it was! We paddled 15 miles over the course of two days, taking our time to fish, swim, and enjoy the passing scenery… cypress-lined banks, turtles sunning themselves, wading birds feeding, crystal clear springs… what more could you want out of a weekend?

We began our adventure at the Canoe Outpost in High Springs, Florida (http://santaferiver.com/). Here we were able to rent a canoe, arrange a down-river pick up time and spot for the following day (since we were camping overnight), and park our car. The Outpost was awesome. Not only was the staff really friendly and knowledgeable, they even had wheelbarrows available so you could haul your stuff down to the river! And since we were camping, we had a lot of stuff! It’s amazing how much you can fit into a single canoe. Once we were loaded, off we went to begin our adventure.

naked ed2As I mentioned before, we took our time paddling down the river and even stopped to swim a few times. Wait, swimming in October?! That’s right! The Santa Fe River has tons of springs along its course that pump crystal clear groundwater out at a constant temperature of 72 degrees. Now that’s still cold, but it’s certainly do-able (especially if you’re a Chick with Ticks)! One of the springs we took a dip in was Lily Springs. This spring is quite unique because there is a 60-year old man named Naked Ed who lives in a hut and spends his days watching over the spring. And guess what, he lives up to his name! As we turned off the main river to paddle up to the spring run, there was Naked Ed in all his glory! He was very friendly and knowledgeable, and you can learn more about him here: http://www.sptimes.com/News/081300/Floridian/The_wild_man_of_Lilly.shtml or here: http://stateofwater.org/people/naked-ed/

At the end of the Day 1, after paddling just over 7 miles, we pulled off the river and set up camp in a beautiful spot right cold!on the river bank. Because parts of the floodplain are owned by the state, you’re actually allowed to just pull off and camp in these areas. Granted it’s primitive with no bathrooms or showers, but it won’t kill you to pee in the woods and skip a shower for a night! We set up our tent, gathered up some firewood (there was plenty in the floodplain forest), and cooked ourselves some hotdogs and s’mores. We even had folding chairs to sit on! That’s the great thing about canoe camping, and probably something most people don’t realize: you can fit a TON of stuff in a canoe. And the best part is you don’t have to carry it! Just plop it in the boat and off you go!

When we woke up the next morning, we lit another fire and ate some more s’mores (I probably shouldn’t admit that). Then we pushed off andcamp view enjoyed the last 7 miles of our trip. At mile 15, the Canoe Outpost picked us up and shuttled us back to our car. Honestly, it was really easy, and I think it’s an adventure that sounds impossible but is completely do-able! In fact, the Chicks with Ticks are planning to host a canoe camping adventure in March (more details on that to come). Hope to see you there!eric+zelda+gear

Ahhh, winter in north Florida! Gotta love it – NOT! When your career involves being in the water up to your hooha 95% of the time – winter cold water is not your idea of a great day in the field. So, when I had to stay in G-ville (Gainesville for those who aren’t from here), it was just peachy when Little Kristen and I heard the weather report included 10 degree temperatures AND LIGHT RAIN.

Our mission was to survey/recon a section of the Santa Fe River. This was supposed to be a beautiful site and a super experience. Limestone lined river, clear running waters, beautiful Florida canopies. Instead – we arrived on site in 20 degree wet weather.

We dragged Big Red, our open hull kayak I bought off of a buddy for $50 and we used like an old mop, down to the bank. The water was black and deep and it looked freezing. We donned our neoprene chest waders and loaded up to get ready to survey in unknown depths of water in horrible weather conditions.

I know I have mentioned Kristen being 5’2″ and the water was up to her chest – and black – and cold. Even in neoprene – freezing water is freezing. We worked our way to the location she had chosen. We began to set up. Part of the beginning is Kristen placing pin flags on the tops of banks. These banks were pretty high and rocky. She had to climb up steep rocks and then splash down into the water and do it again.

As soon as we got ready to begin the survey, it began to rain. It was very frigid. It had risen to 22 but we were freezing. We called John to see if we could still survey in the freezing rain – all the while hoping he would say that the equipment couldn’t handle it. He said that it would be fine! It might be fine – but we were not.

I ripped a hole in my waders climbing up a steep rocky bank and water leaked into my waders all day. Kristen was exhausted, I was frozen and the rain was still coming down – into our waders! The bottom was rocky and it was difficult to walk because you couldn’t see the bottom. I got my boot caught many times.

he funny thing is – it was beautiful. It was so different from central Florida Rivers. I marveled at the rocky formations. I loved the nakedness of the limestone in the rain. The canopy was amazing and plants I didn’t know were all over the banks. I couldn’t wait to look them up. (nerd)

“But Jacque, weren’t you miserable and upset? Didn’t you want to quit?” Hell yeah! But something happens out there. Just when you get to that point – the point where you want to turn around and refuse to go on, you see something. There is a small something just ahead that you have to see. It’s worth the mud, the dark water, the scratches, the risk. You get there and you realize later that it really wasn’t so bad. It was worth it – and you would do it again – and again – and again. 

Each time I enter black water, crawl into dank mud, reach my breaking point I know that I can go further – because i have so many times. It makes life’s trials and tribulations seem petty. It makes office gossip disappear, it smooths wrinkles, it increases blood flow to your heart and mind, it gives you super powers – it is a drug! I am addicted….

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