Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Silver Springs State Park - Florida

   Silver Springs State Park is home to glass bottom boats, which do 30 or 90 minute tours of the area, including a group of springs considered to be one of Florida's largest first magnitude springs.  It got its start as a steamboat destination. In the 1860's Hubbard Hart purchased a steamboat which he used to bring tourists from Paloka to Silver Springs.  The steamboat offered a 24 hour trip, but was safer and faster than the roads.  Hart was key in developing Silver Springs, attracting a railroad depot there for connecting trips and building a hotel at the springs.  Considered one of Florida's first tourist attractions, the park has offered glass bottom boats rides since the late 1870's. 
    Like many early attractions, it is now a state park.  Over the years Silver Springs was used as the backdrop for early Tarzan movies, and also appeared in Creature from the Black Lagoon, among other films. The park has many other components; a camping area, an outdoor stage, a reconstructed village (open on weekends only) the boat tours and smaller museums.  Also off to the side is a canoe/kayak rental and launch.  The launch (and the boat tours) are an additional fee to the park entrance.

   The launch is in a corner of the parking lot, away from the main entrance.  It leads on to a small channel, like that shown above.  (This picture was taking coming back along a connecting channel.)  Spanish moss dripping from live oak, adds a certain serenity to the trip.
    Because we were there when the park opened, the boats were not yet at their docking stations, and we could glide over the various springs, admiring the depths and water life.
    Another picture showing how still and quiet the park was, and how clear the water is.
   We paddled by a variety of springs, some are known for their depth, or for their use in movies or TV scenes; one has a boat sunk into it, others are known for attracting turtles.
  In the 1930's the park offered "jungle cruises."  In an effort to enhance the experience, Colonel Tooey placed some rhesus monkeys on an island.  According to the woman at the entrance gate, Colonel Tooey had been told monkeys did not swim, and would be confined there.  By the next morning the monkeys were gone and now can be found from the Carolinas to the Keys.  There are still several troops on the ground, each with their own personality.  We didn't happen to spy any, but I did learn that anhingas have a cry very similar to squirrels, and sort of like a monkey.
   We did see lots of turtles and fish though.

   And several birds, including these ibis.
   We were a little worried either that the current from the springs would be fairly strong, or that the back channel behind the springs would be too shallow for the nine inch fins of our paddleboards, but neither was the case.
   The back channel was also filled with interesting sights and a fair number of animals.  At one point, Mark heard a splash and saw a three foot long alligator, fish in mouth, take off in the river.  The alligator swam by my boat, a dark shadow moving quickly.  We didn't manage to capture it on film, but let's pretend Mark is observing the alligator above.
   The back channel also passes by another sunken boat, a reconstructed "cracker" village, fort and steamboat landing, so there was plenty to entertain us on our journey back.
    The loop we did was just under two miles, pretty short, but considering we got to travel over several springs (in many parks the more active springs are roped off for swimming),  see all sorts of scenery and wildlife, plus enjoy a shady paddle, it felt like a great deal.  Those seeking longer paddles can head down Silver Springs River.  Though you may not be able to get all the way to Palotka anymore, you can certainly paddle a number of miles. 

Wikipedia Silver Springs Park
Map of Florida Springs
Florida State Parks information about Silver Springs

Summary:  Entrance to the park $8, launch fee $4 per boat, kayak and canoe rental's available.  Portapotty by boat ramp, flush toilets in the park.  Glass bottom boat tours are an additional fee.  Displays, and food available in the park.  The park sometimes shuts early for concert events.  Two mile loop with gentle current, longer trips available down the river. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Florida Road Trip! Visit with Durhamblogger! Carl and the important rhyme!

  About two weeks ago we packed our van with towels and paddles and life jackets and way too many clothes and a few too many guidebooks and just two iSUPs and headed south!
  Why no kayaks?   Because we weren't planning any big trips and having kayaks with us meant always keeping them on the roof.  Besides our kayaks are meant for big water and we were headed for shallow bays and narrow springs.
  We drove as fast as was comfortable to Florida, spent some time there and drove back a little slower and more randomly.  Which was grea,t because that gave us a chance to meet Durhamblogger; Mike and his lovely wife, Rachel!
  If you read his blog regularly, you know he is very safety conscious and also has many how-to posts and gear reviews.  It's obvious that he is an avid kayaker, but you might not guess that it was his wife, Rachel, who talked him into getting that first kayak.  It was a terrific visit!

   Now we're back home and in the midst of catching up on all sorts of miscellaneous work/house chores.  We've got all our pictures stored on the computer, so I just need to sort out what to report from the thirteen paddle adventures and  200 plus photos.

   Tonight I'll just post one more picture:  a portrait of Carl the venomous Coral Snake:
   For years and years a part of my brain has been dedicated to this rhyme:
      "Red touch yellow; kill a fellow"
  (There may be more to it than that, but it didn't seem as important.)
  Finally it's proved useful!  Without that rhyme I surely would have picked up and cuddled Carl, but because I had it memorized, I just kept my distance and let him go his own way!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Mount Hope Cemetery Animals

 More animal shots gathered off the water, this time from Bangor's Mount Hope Cemetery.    There are entrances off State St and Mount Hope Avenue.  The State Street Gate is open more hours.
"I'm flying"
Mount Hope is the second oldest garden cemetery in the United States.  (The oldest is Mount Auburn, Cambridge, MA.)   It has a stream running through the middle which widens into several ponds and a seperate turtle pond by the main office.  The water, and the banning of dogs, makes this a great place to find animals.
    Groundhogs are especially common, as are squirrels.  Unfortunately, by October, all the groundhogs are hibernating.
     In the spring and summer, uskrats are frequently seen in the ponds, or on nearby banks.  This one is just a baby.
    Less rarely seen are chipmunks.  And just once this summer were we able to spot a fox or mink.
Eastern Bluebird
  A variety of birds show up through the season.  For awhile Merlins were nesting in a tree.
    But this Cooper's Hawk just showed up recently.
There are an abundance of frogs, and tadpoles in season.  Surprisingly, herons and kingfishers are not there every day.
    But there are lots of mallards.  These ducks are hoping for some food.
   I hope you're having some wonderful fall adventures!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Essex Woods Animals

Green heron
   This may not surprise you, but it's a lot easier to get pictures when you're not in a kayak.  This is especially true if not being in a kayak means you can use a camera you wouldn't dare take on the water because it's not particularly waterproof. 

Solitary Sandpiper
  But there's a second reason it's harder to get pictures while kayaking.  Kayaking takes us to many wild areas where animals are not acclimated to people.  Walking, on the other hand, takes us along trails frequented by many other residents.
Cedar Waxwing
  These pictures are from Essex Woods, a 70 acre park tucked beside I-95 and situated between developments.   Featuring a path around a 40 acre shallow swamp, the park does not overwhelm with beauty, but it attracts an amazing variety of wildlife.  Essex Woods is one of several Bangor parks, accessible from either Watchmaker St (off Essex) or Garden Way (off Stillwater.)  Visiting is a great reminder of the discovery and wonder which can be found in local parks.
Cormorant- just noticed the ripples line up with some ruffled neck feathers
Green-winged teal
These are just some of the animals we've seen there.  It's not unusual for us to see more than 20 species in a day.  Experts probably see many more.   And there are also, lots and lots of mallards there.

Essex Woods is near the Bangor Dog Park, so in addition to runners, walkers and birders, expect to see lots of dog walkers.   You might even meet John and Kelley, of Hiking in Maine with Kelley, who provides this nice map with his posting. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Porcupine Islands in late September

80 degree(F) days in late September!   Who can resist being outside?   Not me!

  Sunday we were up early and off to Bar Harbor to launch from the bar.  At 8:30 there were some walkers, and a few cars out testing the make-shift road exposed by the tide.
  It was a still day, perfect for exploring - and the photos say it is definitely fall.

  Just one cruise ship in the harbor, but my eyes kept being drawn to it.  Cruise ships dominate the waters off Bar Harbor in the fall.  A few lobster boats were out working, as were various tour boats.

  All alone at the Hop, except for this armada of loons.

  Not many urchin casts on the beach, usually in fall there are several.  This is a picture of the only one I saw.  Instead, there was a fair amount of trash, enough to fill a grocery bag, with an extra bottle or two to spare.

  Not many other kayaks out; two tour groups by the first two porcupine islands (Bar and Sheep) and this paddleboarder way out by Long Porcupine.

   I felt very lucky to have been able to take advantage of the warmth; that so few others were at the Porcupines with us I can ascribe only to the multitudinous choices of outdoor activities in Maine.

Summary Information: Launch Bar at the end of Bridge Street in Bar Harbor. No parking at launch: parking is available on West Street and side streets. No facilities: the information booth on Thompson Island is one options as are public toilets at the town dock.
High about 2:30 PM  Launch 8:45AM Finish 12:30PM.  8.8 miles one stop.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Ironbound Island from South Gouldsboro

   South Gouldsboro is not a good launch to use during the summer.  There aren't many parking spaces, and being located beside a lobster facility, its a good bet those spaces go early.  But on a Sunday, in September, it was OK.

  The launch at Bunker's Cove is across from Stave Island.    And pretty much immediately we discovered where the cormorants had been hiding all summer.

   In the distance is the Veendam, off Bar Harbor, on the other side of Frenchmen's Bay.  A second cruise ship, Granduer of the Sea is behind an island right now.

    Our journey took us by Yellow, Jordan and Ironbound Island.  These are all privately owned islands without public access.  The buildings on the islands indicate they are owned by  people who love them and have the funds to enjoy them.

   Check out this little studio:
   When I first saw it, I thought it had a sagging roof and was ready to collapse.  But no; it has a tiny wing.  Adorable!

    It wasn't the buildings, or the ships which brought us to this site, it was exploring the keyhole sea caves of Ironbound.  These are found on the south east side of Ironbound, carved into the high cliffs.  They are best explored on still days.  The marine forecast called for waves a foot or less, but unfortunately that's not what we found.  So we only popped into a few, which were at angles that minimized waves.

     Inside a keyhole looking up, such an amazing sight!
  Same keyhole, but further back.

   On the southwest of Ironbound, we were surprised by a passel of seals bobbing in the water.  It was great fun to watch them watching us, but unfortunately the pictures are terrible, so I'll spare you those.

   We didn't see other kayaks on the water, but the Margaret Todd was out.

   Three or four lobster boats were also on the water.  Remember "no lobstering Sunday"  is a tradition, not a law.

Summary:  Launch:  South Gouldsboro, maybe 10 spaces, no facilities.  Launch 9AM, High 9:35AM, finish 12:30PM, 9.8 miles.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Circumnavigating Mount Kineo

   About 15 years ago, I looked at a map and thought "Huh, Mount Kineo (one of Maine's geographic wonders) is less than a thumbs width (about 3/4 mile) from a launch site.  We could do that."
A map at the launch area
   And so we packed up a Naturebound canoe, a Wilderness Systems Cape Horn kayak, two small kids, a bunch of paddles and life jackets and headed for Rockwood, a tiny town on the western shore of Moosehead Lake.  When we got there the wind was blowing and large white-capped waves were funneling through the squeeze point in the big lake.  It didn't take but a glance to see that there was no way this particular set of paddlers and boats was going to make it to Kineo.
  Instead of attempting the crossing, we paddled into Barrows Cove and explored there.

  Then a few weeks ago, while paddling on Mathew's Cove in Moosehead Lake, I saw Mt. Kineo in the distance and thought, "This would have been the perfect day to do that paddle."  It was a still day, and, unlike years ago, even if the wind picked up we had seaworthy kayaks and spray skirts.  But the day was more than half over, and there was work to get to at home.  

   This Friday was another calm day, so we packed up our Current Designs Sirocco and Wilderness Systems Zephyr, spray skirts, life jackets, paddles and assorted gear and headed once again to Rockwood.

   At the launch we discovered a dozen or so hikers hoping to catch the Kineo shuttle, a pontoon boat which makes the crossing about hourly in season. 

  But we didn't have to wait, we could take right off for Kineo.
One the way there!

   Mount Kineo has hosted a huge resort hotel between 1848 through 1938.  Presently, it's home to some lovely, grand cottages, a golf course (with a restaurant open to all), and a fairly large structure which was merely the employee housing for the old hotel.
The employee housing is the palest building
   We paddled into shallow waters of Frog Pond(actually a bay), admiring the views.
Mark paddles by a shallow area in Frog Pond.
  At the back of that bay is the narrow causeway which connects Kineo with land.  Kineo is not an island, but a penninsula.
Boats beside the causeway
  On the North Bay side of Kineo the mount is revealed in full splendor.  The top is about 760 feet (45 sea kayak lengths) from lake level.  The sheer cliff must be at least 700 feet straight up and portions are concave.

It's hard to capture how grand it was:
The cliff alone against the sky:

A concave section with Mark for scale.
Can you even see my tiny yellow boat in this photo?
We did not know it at the time, but that small bay below the cliff is nearly 250 feet deep.

  Mt. Kineo is composed of rhyolite, a form of flint.  Flint from the mountain is found throughout New England and beyond, showing its value as a trade item to Native Americans.   A few pictures of the rock face close up:
A cedar clings to the cliff

Rocks at the base
  We stopped for lunch at Hardscrabble Point, a backcountry camp site with picnic tables, fire ring, pit toilet and space for several tents.  These sites are first-come, first-served and shortly after we left, we passed a dozen canoes headed there for the night.
At the campsite
   The rest of the paddle was upwind in choppy water, enlivened by views of hikers on the shoreline trail or heading up the hill. 

   Now you might think finally getting to Kineo,  sans two children would be a "Cats in the Cradle"  event. 
  But it wasn't, because that misadventure was not the end of paddling with our kids.  First one child then the other grew into individual kayaks.  Our trips shifted from short paddles on lakes and streams to short paddles on the sea, to visiting Ironbound and Isle au Haut.  Along the way we explored lighthouses and forts, sea caves and islands.  We've paddled with whales, dolphins, seals, alligators, manatees, and much more.  There were also non-kayak adventures: biking, hiking, museums, attractions, family, friends, school, scouts etc.  The years have gone by in a flash, but they were traded for some wonderful memories and two incredible adults with their own lives and interests.  
   Instead of being melancholy, we were thankful we'd had the opportunity to see another Maine marvel and looking ahead to our next adventure.

More information:  Hiking Mount Kineo
                             Backcountry Camping: Maine Department of Agriculture Conservation and Forestry
                             Mount Kineo Golf Course, Shuttle and Restaurant

Summary:  Launch:  Paved, about thirty spaces, half trailer length.  Pit Toilets.  Distance, 7.8 miles, about 3 hours with 3 stops.  Moosehead Lake is a part of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail
Greenville (another community on Moosehead Lake) Police on ATV patrol