Saturday, January 21, 2012

Enjoy it now

The signal from Jim's SPOT unit was activated at 8:21 EST as he began a 20-mile leg of the trip toward Key West.  The group will stop on the northern end of Key West this evening and then finish the trip tomorrow with a last 6 or so miles.  Jim was able to shave a bit off his paddle yesterday by going in close to Cudjoe Key and following a channel.  That saved him about 1&1/2 miles so his trip yesterday was 16.4 miles instead of the expected 18 miles.  WHEW!  There was entertainment provided for the group at the KOA Campground on Sugarloaf Key last night, but Jim said all he wanted was to get some rest for sore muscles. Winds in the area today are expected to be easterly, at about 5-10 knots, with humidity at 67% and a high temp. of 79 F.  Family members in upper sections of the East Coast are expecting snow today.  It is extremely dry out here, and cold, with no precipitation expected here.  At least there are no prairie fires at the moment.  They did a lot of damage out here last year.  Drought conditions and fires exacted heavy tolls in the Okefenokee Swamp also.  An acquaintance who is a spokesperson for a Florida paddlers group, the FPCKC Group, says that water levels in the Okefenokee Swamp are so low that paddling trips are very limited, to about two miles.  Fires within the massive swamp began on April 28, 2011 with a lightning strike, and continued to burn until December.  Most of the fire is out now, except for some small areas of peat fires which only higher water levels will extinguish.   Overnight canoe trips within the refuge were temporarily suspended due to fire damage and low water levels.  As of July of last year that fire had consumed about 75% of the 400,000 acres in the refuge.  Okefenokee refuge is the largest freshwater swamp in North America, encompassing about 700 square miles across the Georgia/Florida state line.  More than 480 square miles of that were scorched by the massive fire.  We spent about a week near St. Marys, GA, last year, at a campground and witnessed ash-falls from the Okefenokee fire several times.  Paddling conditions in the Florida Panhandle are regularly reported to us by the Florida Panhandle Canoe and Kayak Connection.  Their website provides invaluable advice and some really neat pictures of paddling trips participants have taken.  It gives links to: Jim Parker's "Paddling the Florida Panhandle and Surrounding Area," USGS Real-Time water levels for Florida and Alabama rivers, Florida Designated Paddling Trails, Paddling.Net, and a list of other paddling clubs in the area. If you plan to do some paddling in the Florida Panhandle, look them up.  We were honored to meet Jim Parker last summer.  He came out to paddle with my Jim as he was beginning a paddling trip along the west coast of Florida.  We encourage anyone with an interest in that area or in paddling in general to look him up on the FPCKC site.  Now - as for the snowier part of the story; a cousin in snowier climes sent me this:  It was snowing heavily and blowing to the point that visibility was almost zero when the little blonde got off work.  She made her way to her car and wondered how she was going to make it home.  She sat in her car while it warmed up and thought about her situation.  She finally remembered her daddy's advice that if she got caught in a blizzard she should wait for a snow-plow to come by and follow it.  That way she would not get stuck in a snow drift.  This made her feel much better and sure enough in a little while a snow-plow went by and she started to follow it.  As she followed the snow-plow she was feeling very smug as they continued and she was not having any problem with the blizzard conditions.  After an hour had passed, she was somewhat surprised when the snow-plow stopped and the driver got out and came back to her car and signaled for her to roll down her window.  The snow-plow driver wanted to know if she was alright as she had been following him for a long time.  She said that she was fine and told him of her daddy's advice to follow a snow-plow when caught in a blizzard.  The driver replied that it was OK with him and she could continue if she wanted, but he was done with the Wal-Mart parking lot, and was going over to Sears next!  :>)  Enough with the smoke, fire and ice for now.  Fair winds and happy paddling to our intrepid group in the FL Keys.  Enjoy it while you can!!!

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