Tuesday, February 12, 2013

St. Johns River, Day 1

The original post was on January 14. To add to that, we made an early start to get down to Middleton’s Fish Camp on Blue Cypress Lake. The early start would enable Jean to get back up I-95 before dark. The upper St. Johns is a 2,000 square mile basin with canals cut for flood management and control. It isn’t even called the St. Johns this far up river, but is identified by canal or landcut numbers, like the C-40. Blue Cypress Lake is the last recognizable point in the headwaters of the St. Johns River. Middleton’s is a great resource for those pushing off to do the St. Johns, and I had talked to Jeanne Middleton several times in the two years that the trip had been in planning phase.

Joe and Jeanne Middleton operate Middleton's Fish Camp.
Joe's been here over 48 years.  If there's anything he or Jeanne
can't tell you about the area, it hasn't been discovered yet.
Gus Bianchi was joining me to do the river, saying the trip had been on his ‘bucket list’ for some time. He was in a frenzy to not miss the NFL playoffs, so we split the cost of a cabin with a television for the night. Lisa, a paddling friend of Gus’s, brought Gus in with his truck, boat, and gear. She sat and offered some recommendations on campsites before heading home with Gus’s truck for the week. Once we had our boats on the wharf in front of the cabin and our gear stowed inside, I took a walk to watch some of the local activity.

The elevated bridge that gives access from the ramp to the lake.
I could have done without the way the next morning started, but it is all part of the experience. It was about a foot-and-a-half drop from the wharf to the water’s surface. I loaded Ibi first, with the idea of sliding her off and into the water. Her bottom, unlike most canoes and even kayaks, has no flat section in the hull for initial stability. The bottom amidships goes to a slightly rounded vee, but it’s a vee nonetheless. As I slid Ibi into the water, the hull lay over on its side, and a bag I had fastened on deck took over and helped roll her further until the boat filled with water while still half in and half out of her natural element. (Color my face red.)  We had to pull her back out, and Gus pumped her dry with his bilge pump. After removing the bag from the deck, and with both of us holding Ibi level as she went in, we slid her back overboard with no problem, and I then returned the bag to its original place. In the process I sliced my thumb. With Ibi’s deck and combing christened with blood, the trip was officially underway.

Ibi and Gus' boat on the wharf in front of our cabin.  The powerboat
belonged to our neighbors in the next cabin that had come down from
Ft. Pierce for some fishing.
While I got my gear straightened away, Gus floated in the lake off the canal entrance and wet a fishing line. By 9 am we were finally underway and headed across Blue Cypress Lake to the mouth of the land cut that marked the headwaters of what would become the St. Johns River.

Blue Cypress Lake fishing shack.



No comments:

Post a Comment