Tuesday, February 19, 2013

St. Johns River - Day 5

With the dog’s help, we got up at 4 am. It was going to be a longer paddle today, 17.1 miles, and the weather was supposed to bring greater wind. Since we were awake anyhow, we made a start. I had to pull my mosquito head cover out for a while, but winter is definitely the time to do this trip. Within about 45 minutes, the mosquitoes were gone for the most part, and I had the mosquito net rolled up and back in my PFD vest pocket. The Oak Tree Camp has a nice picnic shelter, and after making sure we didn’t step in any cow pies in the darkness, we were able to set up our little propane stoves and make breakfast. The early start would also get us across Lake Winder before the wind really got going. We made a direct line run across the lake, and were just ahead of the wind. By the time we were mid-lake, the wind grew to 15-20 mph, but fortunately it was on our tail. Once on the north end of the lake, we found some shelter behind tall grass in the narrower channels.

A view of the shore and river from our Lone Cabbage camp.
I don't know if there was ever a house there, but the camping
spot was surrounded by a grove of orange trees.
One of the things that shocked me when planning the trip was trying to get the locations of the possible campsites. The St. Johns River Water Management District didn’t have GPS positions for the camps. They had pictures, but only vague descriptions of where to look for the camps. Once I got on the river, I understood why they didn’t have exact positions. Many of the camps are impossible to get to unless you have an airboat or helicopter. We paddled by a number of camps on Lake Winder, and we not only couldn’t see the camps, we couldn’t even see a place to land. This was another case of getting misleading impressions of a place from looking at satellite photographs of the area.

Our campsite south of the bridge and the Lone Cabbage Fish Camp.

The wind was blowing 20-25 mph by the time we reached Lake Poinsett. This is a large, wide-open lake where pretty big waves could be generated. We decided we would follow the lee of whichever was the windward shore. The lake tended toward the north-northwest, and the wind was out of the south, so the thinking in advance was that we could stick close to the west shore and stay protected. We wanted to make the crossing today, because the wind would turn and come out of the north tomorrow. To our surprise, there was no shoreline to hide under. There were reeds that grew out into the lake in the form of tufts of grass, islands, chains of islands, and peninsulas or large fingers that stuck out into the lake. We could find shelter behind the reeds, but then there would be bays that opened up between the bunches of reeds that left us totally open to the wind and waves for a hundred yards to a half-mile. At one point, Gus’ charting app on his GPS showed that we had been pushed a mile-and-a-half out into the lake from the actual shoreline. We would have to paddle five miles before we found an actual lee.

Gus at Lone Cabbage camp.
After Lake Poinsett, we came to the Rt. 520 (or West King Street) bridge and Lone Cabbage Fish Camp. This was only the second sign of civilization we had seen in four days. We decided we had earned a proper dinner, so tied up to the end of the wharf to stay out of the way of the airboats. Due to the wind, however, the airboats were not doing much business. We asked if camping was available at the fish camp, and were told ’no’, but we had seen a nice, sandy hummock or shell midden just a quarter mile south of Lone Cabbage, so we enjoyed a relaxed, leisurely meal, filled our water bottles, and then paddled back down to where we could camp. As a side note, I had alligator for dinner, and thought it actually tasted better than chicken.

It's not uncommon to find that someone has decided to spend eternity
in a place that brought them joy, or peace, or happiness during their
life.  We spent the night with Dottie, or "Red" as she was apparently
known, who lived from 1957 to 2006.  If I understood correctly, she
is the sister of Carrie Earley, co-owner of the Long Cabbage Fish Camp.


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