Saturday, December 15, 2012

Florida: Placida: Don Pedro Island and the Woolverton Trail

Don Pedro Island State Park claims to be where "Peace and Solitude Meet the Gulf."  A nice slogan, and by the time we arrived there we were ready for some of both.  Our rental car, from Alamo, had neither a fob nor an electronic button which locked all the doors.  We'd picked up the car at midnight, and didn't notice the problem until we'd arrived at the hotel.  The next morning, certain we were missing something, we went back to the Alamo office, where the lot attendant verified we hadn't missed any buttons and the other person at the front desk explained that that was Alamo's standard practice: in small and mid-sized cars automatic doors or windows were not guaranteed.  Alamo really did mean for us to be reminded each time we stopped the car that we had selected the wrong car rental company.

   Our drive south had been crowded with traffic which eased only as we pulled onto Placida Road.  Don Pedro State Park has two pieces, a section by the road with parking and restrooms and a section on the gulf, accessible only by boat.  In keeping with that theme, the dock was accessible only by water, or by working your way carefully over a few scattered boards designed to test for winter weight gain.
Testing boards at Don Pedro
     It wasn't far to the launch, which had many mini crabs and lots of fish to view.  At Don Pedro we met a pleasant kayaker coming in from his morning on the water.   He had an early version of sit-on-top Kestrel by Current Designs.   Those weren't made any more, he told us, "too unstable."
   Sleek, slim and white, it seemed a good fit for the trim man.  He'd just finished a wonderful paddle.  He'd traveled between two tiny islands and landed on the outer section of Don Pedro Park.  He'd crossed the island to a beach on the Gulf.  Sightings of dolphin and rays were common, though he hadn't seen any this morning..  Now that he was back on the mainland, he could rinse his boat off by the parking lot.

    "Don Pedro," he stated with confidence "has the best launch facilities on the coast."  Then after a short pause he repeated, "and the beach is on the Gulf.  The Gulf."

   And because he was so positive about Don Pedro, I've included it here, though we did not paddle there. It was as if he spoke with enough emphasis, we'd pull out the origami kayaks we'd hidden in the trunk and launch them.  But, alas, we had no kayaks, only a few addresses for rentals.  One of which was just down the street.

    Grande Tours Inc offers kayaks and Paddle Boards.  Their location has an access to Coral Creek and is just a short trip to the Intracoastal Waterway and the Woolverton Trail.

Launch at Grande Tours
   From their launch it's about a mile to the start of the Woolverton Trail.    We were given several visual cues to guide us.  Will, who'd come in just to pick up a check and stayed to help us (since a shipment of boats was also arriving), even warned us that the main entrance canal to the Woolverton System had a bogus sign cautioning that it was private.
    In no time we were outfitted with a pair of Wilderness System Pungos (13 and 12) and an Aquabound aluminum paddle for me.  Mark used his own carbon Northern Light Aleut Paddle.

    Along the first mile the most impressive sight was of men casting nets to catch mullet.  They gathered the nets in their arms and somehow flung them out to form perfect 20 foot wide circles on the sea before pulling them in again and repeating the process.
   The entrance to the canal was indeed marked private.  It's about a quarter mile down to the entrance to the trails.   Starting from mosquito control ditches through the mangroves, Ed Woolverton carved out, and most importantly, carefully marked several miles of trails.  Now in his 90's, Ed Woolverton still lives in the area and an interesting carved paddle he made graces the showroom at Grande Tours.  The paddle is pictured above.

   The trails are indeed an accomplishment, but I found them a bit claustraphobic and abandoned them at the first turnoff, choosing instead to paddle across the shallow waters of the bay and into a few inlets.
Mark lazes in a cove
    Jumping mullet were out in force, as were boats filled with fishermen cursing about their inability to be where the fish were.  Other wildlife spotted were Osprey, bald eagles, green herons, white and brown pelicans, and vultures.   A small pod of dolphin made their way down the deeper boat canal, just in front of us.

      The Pungos were good little boats with sturdy foot pegs.  With a long straight keel line they were steady trackers, but not great turners.  The Aquabound paddle was pretty good.  It was a four mile paddle, a refreshing break in our drive south
Willets?? on an oyster bar with some Condos behind

    Ed Woolverton receives an award for promoting tourism
    Blueway Trail discussion of the Woolverton Trails
     Grande Tours offers several tours and other services


  1. Sure do envy you guys and appreciate your scouting reports from Florida. That's quite an interesting paddle design!

    1. It certainly looks like a fun paddle to try. I suspect there may be rotation forces, but I do admire his creative spirit!