Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Black Water River Florida

March 9-11, 2012 is when we took this canoe trip. :)

So my grandma lives in Alabama real close to Florida. We wanted to go canoe camping and we chose the Black Water River in Florida, not far away, about an hour and a half. We had tons of gear packed, it is easy to carry a bunch of stuff in canoes. But still, I was worried it wouldn't all fit. I thought it might weigh the boats down too much and make them tippy.

I was in charge of packing food this time. Before I've always helped Mom with the food preparations on our camping trips, I've never done it myself so it was a challenge. At the very end Mom helped out and added in extra food, like a loaf of bread, peanut butter and jelly, and things for coffee.

Our family is not know for it's speed. In fact I think we're known to always be at least thirty minutes late. So not surprisingly, we had decided to try to get in the boats around ten o'clock in the morning. We made it to the river at three in the afternoon. Not bad I must say with all the extra stops we made on the way. ;)

This is one of Mom's favorite places. Stuckeys.
We stopped here because the canoes weren't riding right. While we girls looked at hats and blankets the guys were rearranging the boats. Monkey see, monkey do. We saw the hats and blankets, we bought some hats and blankets. :)

And here we are at the boat ramp.

Let us give credit where it is due. ;)

The baby had fun playing in the water. :)
Mom was "Fit to be tied" as Dad put it, that she couldn't come. But there were only two canoes and it would be kinda hard to take a baby on a weekend camping trip on the water. To console herself Mom went on a little joy ride in the red canoe while we unloaded things from the truck. The current was stronger than the expected and she was carried down river just a little bit. She made a big circle and came back.

We discuss what should go where.
See? I'm wearing my new hat. :)

We pose before we head off.
This is the traditional ------ Family pose. My grandfather is the one who started it. He and my father and his brother would always pose like this before they started off on a canoe trip. Rest in peace Grandpa.

And were off!
It was nice weather, a little bit cool but I quickly warmed up once we started paddling. The current was strong so it was easy going down river. A good plus for Dad because of his heart. Before heading off Mom gave me instructions on what to do for Dad, what supplements he was supposed to be taking, what to do in an emergency situation. So that's why I rode with him. 

Public access of some kind.
There was a nice boat ramp leading up onto the high bank. We docked our canoes. We had started late in the afternoon anyways and we were considering using this area as a camping spot. We decided against it though because it was too close to the road, maybe fires wouldn't be allowed in this area. We intended to have a camp fire.

We were really going through a beautiful area. :)
It was early spring time so things were beginning to get green again. The red on the tree are a bunch of little flowers starting to bud.

We continued on and stopped at many potential camping spots but chose none of them because the ground was covered with beer cans and trash. Obviously somebody comes and parties with his friends in that area often. We began to despair of ever finding a decent place to camp before it was dark. We canoed through private property and all the beer can ceased, but it was private and we couldn't camp there. After getting through the private property we found a nice big clean sand bar with only one old cardboard box where beer cans used to be. And that tucked away in the woods and not on the sand itself. We decided on this spot because we didn't want to wait too much longer to find some place else.

Here are some pictures of us setting up camp:

Cooking over the fire :)
It brought back memories to be camping again. We used to go camping all the time when we were little. I mean a lot. We only lived about thirty minutes away from the heart of the mountains. Anyways... We had stir fry for dinner and hot raspberry and mint tea. I had developed a head ache on the river so that's why we made it. Thanks to Mom for packing it!

We play a game of cards. :)
After supper we got ready for bed and then played some poker before turning out the light. We used big pine cones for our money. Each piece of the pine cone represented on chip.

I was the first one up in the morning. Fog was lifting off the river and it was very nice. Dad and my brother got the fire started back up and I made pancakes for breakfast.
My sister had the camera posed and said she wasn't gong to move until I took a bite. I figured, "Oh well" and so here is a shot of me shovin' it in. ;)
We ate our pancakes, sipped our coffee, and listened to Dad read the Bible for Bible time. Well, I was busy with other things so I didn't get to finish my pancakes till later. Don't worry my sister wasn't goofing off during Bible time. ;)

We got our camp all cleaned up, washed the dishes in the little fold up sink. (Can you believe it? We packed everything, right down to the kitchen sink!) The guys got the tent put back up and we two girls got all our things together. Everything was packed back into the canoes and so we headed out at nine o'clock.

Getting ready to head out.
Here are some traveling photos:

Dad explains something. I forgot what it is now...
We were near a military base somewhere I think. Big airplanes kept on flying over, Dad had a pretty good idea on what kind of plane they were.

We come to a "Primitive Camping Area" according to the signs:

Fire ring...
Really it was kind of laughable. This "Primitive Camping Area" was complete with a boat ramp, boarded side walks leading to the graveled camping area. Trails went along the bank of the river. There was road access and a platform for you to jump off of so you can go swimming in the river.

Trees were in bloom and some pretty white ones grew over the water. My sister wanted to pick some blossoms so my younger brother steered their canoe over to the side. While picking the flowers they discovered the tree was full of ants. My sister thought she had felt a sting so, in her own words, she "calmly walked into the water and dunked myself." Oh it set me to laughing so hard! Dad and I had stopped paddling and just drifted while waiting for them to catch up. It took quite a while. When I did see her she was holding up her capris because they were kinda lose as she didn't have a belt. It was rather comical.

After a good bit of paddling the river began to get shallower. In some places we had to pull our canoes past the sand bars because when we sat in them it weighed it down so they dragged on the bottom. Then we came to a log jam.

We had to go to the bank and unload all our gear and carry the canoes a little ways. The first portage. After reloading we continued. We passed by the Black Water River State park. There were people out on the sandbanks going for a swim, other people in boats too. People fishing and a bridge for cars to drive across. We passed all this by and went on. At lunch time we put our two canoes together like so,

and pulled out the sandwiches. Dad has to be gluten free since his heart attack so he had a can of Amy's brand organic chili. He's also mostly meat free so it was vegan too. To go with that we had dried fruit, nuts, and oranges. I managed to put a limit to the trail mix so we would have some at supper too. :)

Here's an example of the sand bars. When it got real shallow like this we pulled the canoes.
We stopped here for a break from all the canoeing. My brother and I balanced on log trying to see if we could get to the other end. It was quite slippery.

Portage number two. Here it is shallow but a little further into the log jam it gets real deep.
It was not long after our stop that we came to another log jam. We again unloaded everything and carried the canoes across. This one was a longer portage and it was much harder as it was very deep. The logs that look so big and solid just dip right down into the water if you try to step on them. It was a real challenge getting the boats back into the water without falling in. While the guys took care of the canoes my sister and I carried the gear through the thin woods to a nice bank. There was no way to get the canoes through the woods so they had to put them in at a difficult place. Once the canoes were in my younger brother paddled  them to the nice bank and we loaded all the gear back in. Soon after we came to a third log jam. This one, thankfully, was small and we were able to wiggle our way through without having to get out of the canoes.

The water stayed deep for a while but then began to get shallow again. The current had drastically diminished and eventually we found ourselves at the end of the river. So to speak. We were in the swamps. The river just went off in all directions. It became so shallow we were no longer able to ride in the canoes at all. But, it was not all green and slimy and foggy. This was a very pleasant swamp. The water was clear, we stood on sand, not mud, as the water went over our feet. There were very few mosquitoes. In fact my grandma has lots more mosquitoes at her house in the city than there was here. Still the only way to go on was to carry our canoes and hope not to get lost in all the different places the water went off into the swamp. We consulted our maps, thought about our situation and decided to go back.

Oh boy, going up river was not fun. I didn't get any pictures coming back up because we were to busy huffing and puffing. Although the current had slowed down quite a bit it was still pretty strong. My brother had brought along a little anchor, of which my Dad teased him about. Now we were thankful for that chunk of metal because we were able to stop any time we needed and take a rest without drifting back. We passed everything we had passed before.

On one of the many places where we had to pull our canoes because it was too shallow, there was an accident. My brother and sister were pulling their canoe and the sand bar suddenly dropped off and the water was deep again. My brother saw it coming so he hopped into the canoe. My sister did not. She walked right into it and then became frightened because she thought she was in an alligator nest. She scrambled into the canoe tipping it so it gained lots of water. In her frantic efforts she knocked our brother out of the boat and he fell in getting soaking wet. That did not make for a very happy brother. Moods were all ready out of sorts because we were having to go back up river and this did not make it better. Oh I laughed! My brother scowled and paddled furiously. My sister sat in the back silent. His fury did not last long however and so we went on our slow way.

We came to the little log jam then the big one where it was very deep. It was a real challenge this time and we had another accident. The boats were unloaded and the gear was awaiting them on the other side. Dad and my brother were trying to get the boats out of the water. Well those unsteady solid looking logs were there again and the water was very deep. I don't know how it happened but Dad went toppling overboard and his glasses almost went flying but he managed to catch them. He went completely under water, soaking wet. He came up and held onto the under side of the canoe. I was the only one that stayed dry. Dad and my brother got the boats out eventually. But Dad was missing one of the lens to his glasses!

We kept on paddling up river. Not long after Dad looked down at his feet. There was his lens at the bottom of the canoe! It had taken us two hours to get into the swamps and it took us twice as long to get back to the bridge at the state park.

Back at the state park.
We were very tired when we got back. There was a family on the bridge watching us coming up. We talked with them and told them of our most recent adventure. Later the man let us load our stuff into the back of his truck and took it all to a parking lot near by, including the canoes. Near by for a vehicle at least. It would have been a pretty little piece to carry the canoes all that way plus multiple trips to get all the gear together.

We were very thankful to this man for helping us out. Everybody was wet (except me) and tired.
The parking lot was a secluded one and not used often so we had a good spot. A park ranger came by on a green motorcycle and a green suit. Dad talked with him and he said that although it was against normal protocol he would let us stay here in the parking lot for this one night. He said to try to keep our things out of sight and that no camp fires were allowed. That was easy to do because there were plenty of trees growing in the parking lot.

I made stir fry for supper again using the little portable camp stove to cook on. It took a long time in doing it but it worked. It was dark by the time supper was ready so right after that we got ready for bed. We had some coffee and played a round of poker with some new pine cones. All were tired though so we did not stay up late.

In the morning my sister made pancakes for breakfast from the left over batter the previous day. Dad read the Bible longer this time because it was Sunday. We had planned on being done with this trip in time for church but as things turned out that didn't happen. During Bible time some more rangers drove up and Dad talked with them explaining we had talked to someone else the previous night. They said all right and double checked that we had someone coming to pick us up that day. Dad said that his wife would be coming after church so they were happy with that.

A scene from our camping spot. My sister is rubbing Arnica jell on her sore muscles. You can see where the wet clothes were spread out to dry.

Getting ready to go to the picnic area.
After reading the Bible we got all of our gear packed up, the tent was taken down and we stashed all our gear off in the under brush of the woods close by. We carried the things for coffee and dishes to be washed down to the picnic area where they had bathrooms, picnic tables and little grills to cook out on. Our camp stove had run out of fuel just after the last pancake so we made our coffee on the grill that was provided. My sister washed the dishes and we spent the morning playing Hearts.

Playing cards

Mom, Grandma, and the baby come after church to pick us up.

Mom had brought things for showers because she knew we would want them at the end of our trip. So we dropped them off to go on a short canoe ride while we went over to the camp ground and got washed up.

(Shown here is not the big sand bar mentioned below)

They canoed to one of the big sand bars that we had seen other on the day before. There the baby played in the sand and the two ladies watched.

 A young man helps his grandmother out of the boat. It was drizzly when we picked them up.
When we were finished with our showers we picked them back up. The sand bar they were on is just before the bridge so it is not in this picture. This was the easiest place to get up that was closest to the truck.

The guys strapped the canoes back onto the roof of the truck and we headed home. But first we made a stop at Baghdad, Florida which is where we had originally planned on canoing to. It is a little old town and very pretty with the Live Oaks draped with Spanish Moss. We had supper at Waffle House and got home late. It was a very nice trip and I had lots of fun. :)

[Correction: We came to Black Water River Florida State Park before all three log jams. I had written that we came to the first log jam and then the parrk.]

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