Thursday, February 21, 2013

St. Johns River - Day 6

We were up at 6:30. We had enjoyed dinner enough that we decided breakfast at the Lone Cabbage would be nice too. We also had a standing invitation from the Lone Cabbage’s owner, Norm Earley, that if we returned this morning, morning coffee would be on him. We loaded up and paddled back to the fish camp wharf to tie up in the same place as last night. Our plan was to have an early coffee, get breakfast at 9 o’clock, and be on the river by ten. That’s where we hit a snag. Yes, they opened at nine, but the cook didn’t come in until ten, and they wouldn’t be ready to serve until 10:30. Having already packed away all our gear and left our campsite, we found ourselves in a pickle. I asked Mr. Earley if there was any chance we could buy a couple peanut butter and jelly sandwiches from him. The cook walked in just then, having apparently come in early, and he set to making our sandwiches. The owner refused payment for the sandwiches, so I gave the cook a $5 tip for his effort on our behalf. After gulping the impromptu breakfast and the remainder of our coffee, we hit the river. If you happen to find yourself around Cocoa, FL, turn off I-95 at Exit 201 and head west on King St., or Rt. 520...after 1030 am. Lone Cabbage is a nice setting right on the St. Johns, and the food is good and plentiful.


The term free-range means that livestock are not raised in an enclosure, but are free to roam at-large to seek their own food and water. Since they are getting plenty of sun and no chemically-altered feed, and because of the exercise are presumed to be stronger and healthier, it is generally assumed that free-range meat is better. On most of our crowded farms, the term is misleading, because even “free-range” livestock, especially poultry, are in some kind of enclosure. That’s not true here. I have no idea of the numbers, but large numbers of cattle are indeed free to roam hundreds of square miles without a fence in sight. Even the river doesn’t confine them, as they walk or swim across the channels at will. This also meant they were free to roam freely through the campsites, and bovine landmines were everywhere. We would have to kick them out of the way to make camp, or step carefully, especially in the dark, to avoid stomping through the patties while preparing meals. We even got slowed a couple times while cattle forded the channel as we floated nearby and waited for them to pass.

All-Terrain Vehicles for sure.  Not your usual ATV.
The wind was already up and dead out of the north. It was blowing in earnest at 20-25 mph, but we used every bit of shore and marsh grass to maintain our headway. We made a rest stop at a very nice camping spot south of the Rt. 528 bridge, which I later learned is called the Possum Bluff Rest Area. It is indeed a beautiful spot. At least it’s beautiful until you happen on the human litter. We had no sooner stepped ashore than we saw a couple large olive-drab track vehicles approaching, later joined by a third. Our first thought was that we had inadvertently landed on a military installation. We were to learn that these were what the locals call ATV’s, and they were deer hunters. I felt a whole new appreciation for the intellect of deer. These things had everything but a machine gun mounted in a turret on top. If the deer can live through such a military-style assault and survive in enough numbers to maintain their species, they are pretty smart and cunning indeed. We enjoyed a break there, and as soon as the ATV’s pulled out, we followed and continued north.

Possum Bluff Rest Area.  Click on any picture to enlarge.
The weather was threatening all day with heavy, dark cloud cover, a couple showers, and increasing wind. By the time we made our day’s destination at the Isle of Palms, it became even more menacing. We decided on a camp spot, which also happened to be where the Airboat Memorial is located, unloaded, and rushed to get our tents set up before the rains came. Our efforts to get the tents erected was slowed a bit by having to kick enough cow patties out of the way to clear an area large enough. We tried to pull our folding chairs out to relax a bit, but soon the showers drove us inside, and I prepared dinner inside the tent’s vestibule flaps. I estimated the winds at 35 mph, and this was confirmed by reports of 33 mph winds from a Melbourne radio station. Gus was frustrated by the passing of his folding chair when it collapsed under him, with one of the metal sections hurting his already sore leg. We were forced back into our tents by more rain showers, and I sat under the vestibule of my tent to cook dinner as the rain came in waves. I called Jean at six, did my journal notes by battery-powered camp light, closed up the tent, and went sound to sleep.

The Isle of Palms was easy to spot from a distance.  It was the
only thing rising above the grassy marsh.


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