Saturday, May 28, 2011

Little Talbot Island Paddle

Gus (L) and Dan at Huguenot Park
At Gus Bianchi’s instigation, Gus, Dan Makley, and I met at the campground ramp at Little Talbot Island State Park and launched our boats from there.  We paddled south through Myrtle Creek, Simpson Creek, under A1A (Heckscher Blvd.) to Huguenot State Park, north of Jacksonville.  There we landed for a rest and to wait for the current to go slack, while we had a snack and commiserated with a poor soul who had buried his car in the sand.  We gave a shove, but the car’s frame was now on the sand, and it was going to take a tow to get him moving.
Substantial digging had been done around and under the front of
the car.  It was in worse shape than the picture suggests.
Dan poses for photo-op.  No bikini-clad beauties were available.
Leaving there, we turned up Fort George River for a stop at the Kingsley Plantation, the oldest  surviving plantation home in Florida.  Zephaniah Kingsley obtained huge Spanish land grants in Northern Florida that became independent plantations specializing in various crops. Kingsley Plantation, at 1,000 acres and dating from 1798, was his primary home, but he and his wife also operated plantations that became local settlements in the Jacksonville area, such as Mandarin Plantation, Laurel Grove Plantation, which became Orange Park, Ashley and San Jose Plantations on the St. Johns River, and White Oak Plantation on the St. Mary’s River.

We pulled our boats onto a small beach a bit short of the plantation and walked up, as small riprap made it impossible to land directly in front of the home.  Our first discovery was of a gopher tortoise head-first in its hole and roped off to prevent passers-by from disturbing it.  We’d later see a second, but it was out sunning itself.  Being endangered, I’ve added pictures of both to give them their due.
We then visited the tabby barn, walked over to the kitchen garden, and walked around the house.  As you can see, it was customary for the kitchens to be separated from the house to keep from adding the heat, disruption, and most importantly, the risk of fire to the home.  The kitchen, also built of tabby, was fully laid out as if we had just arrived in time for lunch.  Once prepared, meals were carried to the house to be served. 

Kitchen in foreground, connected to house by covered walkway.  This
was also a meeting area and where they cleaned cotton and did other
similar tasks.
A double fireplace and chimney in the center allowed for two kitchens,
one on either side.

The house is fragile, being over two-centuries old, and has been closed for some time, but work is underway to strengthen and refurbish it.  Presently the house is empty of furnishings, and guided tours are possible only by reservation on weekends.  Even with scaffolds and construction crews around it, it is an amazing piece of history to see.

As an illustration of period design, notice that the bedrooms are on
the corners of the house and protruded so there are windows on at least
three walls of the bedroom for cross-ventilation.

We returned to our boats for a short slog against both a strong current and a building wind. Of course there’s a large area of subjectivity here according to who’s defining the strength of the wind and the length of the slog.   If you want to see the handling differences between canoes and kayaks, these are the conditions under which you want to make the comparison.  Gus and Dan paddled slowly against the wind and current, slowly but steadily pulling away from me, while I swung my 280cm. double solo canoe paddle as fast as a whirligig in a gale.

By the time we returned to the ramp at Little Talbot Island, we had only paddled 8.9 miles according to Google Earth, but had enjoyed a pleasant morning and afternoon on Florida waters, and shared our common interest.

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