Silver River Kayak Float

A second chance for the gators to eat me while floating in a kayak on my Florida vacation. This time, we are floating the Silver River at Silver Springs State Park. The big attraction here – there is a colony of monkeys that were introduced to the area by a tour operator in the 1930s (there is an urban legend that they were released during the filming of a Tarzan movie). There is a bit of a controversy surrounding the monkeys – they have been trapping and removing them from the area due to the health hazards they present.

On our quest to find the monkeys, we hoped to find some big gators to photograph, and to see other cool wildlife along the way.

We set this float up to be a round-trip drifting downstream a bit, and then paddling upstream to return to the cars. One disadvantage to this – you are working hardest against the current at the end of the day, but it did not turn out to be a big deal.

This is the launch at the upper end of the river.


The float starts out in a bit of a backwater with very little current. It was a very pleasant paddle. The easy stuff made our trip into a loop…If we would have looped the other direction we would not have had to paddle upstream at all.


Early on we saw this big turtle sunning on a log.


More turtles


There have been various tours operating in this area since the late 1800s. Along the shore were all sorts of old buildings that have not been used for quite some time.


paddling down to the main river.


Big tree with lots of moss.


An American Anhinga drying it’s wings.


A baby gator sunning on some grass. Almost missed him.


While checking out the baby gator, this Little Blue Heron landed and started walking toward the baby gator. I stuck around to see if anything interesting would happen.


Gator on the left, turtles and heron on the right. The bird did not get close to the gator.


This is the main river…much larger than the last float.


We met a nice guy who had paddled all up and down the river today and had not seen the monkeys. He recommended that we turn back upstream because the current was pretty tough. So, we ended our quest to find the monkeys. Turns out it wasn’t too bad for us. As he floated by, he pointed out this gator that we had missed on the shore.


I’ve already posted Great Blue Heron shots…this one was kinda cool because I caught him ruffling his feathers.


A Snowy Egret


A bigger gator hanging out on some floating grass. Check out those teeth!


This little gator smiled for the picture. I was surprised that the turtles would stick around so close to him.


Biggest gator of the trip. He was near the headwaters at the spring, really close to the current resort.


Big gator from a different angle.


Wekiwa Springs Kayak Trip

Well, it has been quite some time since I last updated my blog. For once, it is because I haven’t really been doing anything worth posting. That has changed this week as I’ve flown to Florida for a week to hang out with my parents in their RV.

Our first adventure on this trip was a kayak trip through Wekiwa Springs State park.My mom and dad did a bit of research before I arrived to determine the best drop off/pickup locations for the run. Since I had a rental car (and they towed their Jeep), we had two vehicles to set up for the drift (and didn’t have to deal with paying someone for a pickup).

The trip begins at King’s Landing…


My kayak is an inflatable, so my mom and dad handled all of the vehicle logistics while I set my boat up. Here are the kayaks rigged and ready to go. In the background is the little shop at the King’s Landing launch…doesn’t really look like a castle Smile


Took a picture of the launch while killing time for the car swap to be completed.


Looks like there will be gators on the float.


First gator of the trip!


Still waiting to start…a hawk was hanging out and let me get pretty close for a picture.


We finally started! There is a small waterway from the launch out to the river.


The river itself was very narrow, and had lily pads up and down the sides. Looks like a good place for a gator to hide.


The early part of the river is outside the state park and there are many run down houses and docks along the waterway. I was waiting for some spooky banjo music, but it never started.


There were tons of turtles along the float. Many of them had cool orange or yellow on the bottom.


A wide angle shot of the river as we enter the state park…you can see the entrance sign on the left. The river really never widened more than this.


Went past a small group of American White Ibis.


We would occasionally have to go underneath large branches or trees. This one looked like a big hand reaching across the river.


The first real gator! We almost went right by him. I bet you go past ten of them for every one that you see.


Drifted up pretty close to some Black Vultures. There are two of them in the picture if you look closely.


Close up of a Black Vulture.


Another shot that does a good job showing the feel of the river.


A bigger gator hiding in the weeds.


Near the end of our float, a Great Blue Heron posed for us.


One final gator on the trip…nice smile!


The river was so shallow that I could not use the skeg on my kayak. This made it tough to track straight or to zip through the twisties. So, I expended a bit more energy than I would have expected for a 9 mile float. I’d still do it again though!

Lake Pleasant

After the big race, I decided to stay in Arizona for a few more days.  My parents drove their RV down from Seattle to find the sun, so I hitched a ride on their couch for a few days.  We stayed at Lake Pleasant Regional Park.  This is a big park around, surprise, Lake Pleasant.

The campsite was on top of a small hill overlooking the reservoir.


We brought kayaks along, and my dad and I spent quite a bit of time fishing. As much as I hate to admit it, I did not catch any fish while my dad caught a nice Largemouth Bass and a decent sized Striped Bass.

DSC00583  dsc07210-1

I love stargazing while I’m out camping.  Unfortunately, the moon was out making things difficult because it is too bright.  One night, Jupiter was very close to the moon (the picture came out surprisingly well for being a handheld photo).

jupiter and the moon

There is really only one short hiking trail in the park – a bit of a disappointment given the size.  I spent one afternoon with my Mom following the trail through the desert.


There were a few critters around, but not as many as I expected to see.  There were a few rodents and lizards around, and the coyotes would howl like crazy at night.



Overall, the park was ok – it would be better for a one night stay, there just aren’t enough activities to keep things interesting longer than that (unless you want to fish all of the time). This was a great extension to my trip, allowing me to hang out in the sun and relax while my legs recover.

Car Backpacking? Walupt Lake and Nannie Ridge Trail

Kim and I have been doing a bit of hiking lately, and we’ve decided to take it to the next level and do some backpacking.  So, we went to REI spent a ton of money on gear.  Now we need to go use it! 

To ease into things, and to try out the new gear, we decided to go car camping and do a hike that originated near the campground.  After doing a bit of research, the campground at Walupt Lake and the Nannie Ridge Trail looked like an ideal setup for this task.

We loaded up our packs (my new REI pack) as if we were going to go backpacking and tossed them in the truck.  The total weight of my gear was 35# while Kim’s was 27#.   Much of the gear that we are using I actually purchased for camping on my motorcycle.  Since I have a bit more room and can carry a bit more weight on the motorcycle, the gear is a bit on the heavier side.  I could trim this down quite a bit, but it would be spending some $$$ on a new sleeping bag and tent.

In addition to the new backpacking gear, I’m looking for a better camera to take hiking with me. I’ve been using my canon point and shoot, but I want to get something that takes higher quality pictures, but isn’t as large as bringing my Canon 1dmkii. I managed to borrow a Sony NEX 5N from my brother to try out.

Walupt Lake

The goal for the first day was to get to the campground, set up the tent and go kayaking in the lake with our inflatable kayak.  Since we are taking the truck, the kayak is a bonus that we get since we aren’t actually backpacking.

Many of the trail reviews discussed all of the berries along the trail, and how lucky you are if you can eat them because other hikers and bears tend to nab them first.  So, I decide that we need to bring my bear spray just to be safe.  Normally I keep the spray in the garage with my motorcycle camping gear, but I couldn’t find it there.  I ended up searching the entire house for it, and never found it…so, we stopped at REI in Issaquah on the way down and picked up another canister.

The estimated drive time to the campground was about 3 hours.  With our detour to REI, lunch in Enumclaw, and driving down the dirt portions FS 21 (which is part of the WABDR as well) it took closer to 4 hours to actually get to the campsite.

The campground was quite a bit larger than I expected, and more crowded too!  We had hoped to get a spot right on the lake, but all of the lake sites were full.  The lake sites were also crowded together.  We ended up with a secluded site on the far side of the campground.  While it was a little bit of a walk to the lake (and the trailhead) we couldn’t see our neighbors on either side! Setting up the tent went pretty quickly and easily – I’ve done it many times on motorcycle trips.  The weather forecast was for hot dry weather, so I decided to skip putting up the rainfly.


(note the chairs in the picture were “bonus” items that we brought because we were car camping, they were not included in the pack weights above).

Once we had the camp set up, we drove the truck to the lake and inflated the kayak.  Of course we needed to fish while we were kayaking!  There were fish jumping everywhere – unfortunately I did not have my fly fishing gear with me, but I did have my packable fishing rod (also not included in the pack weight above).  We spent a couple of hours touring around the lake with the fishing rod.  We lost one small trout about ten minutes after we started.


After kayaking, it was time for dinner and a fire.  We brought some crappy fire starters that we couldn’t get to light, so Kim went back to the truck to scavenge for paper.  Not only did she come back with some paper, but she found my bear spray as well!  Once we had the fire started, we settled down for dinner.  Again we cheated a bit and brought some appetizers with us…but we did eat freeze dried food for our main course.



After dinner we sat around the fire until after dark and then climbed into bed.

Nannie Ridge Trail

We were up early the next morning – neither of us slept very well.  Started chatting about 5:30a and actually rolled out of the tent around 6:30.  We made a quick breakfast and then loaded up our packs.  Since this hike was about 9 miles, and we hadn’t really been backpacking yet, we decided to “lightly” load our packs so we could start to get a feel for things.  We ended up with the packs in the 15#-20# range.

The first task was finding the trailhead from our campsite.  We had driven by it while picking out a campsite, but didn’t pay that much attention.  Fortunately it wasn’t too hard.  Where the trail exits the campground, there was a typical trailhead sign that said we needed a permit or face a $100 fine.  However, there were no permits or a box to place them once filled out.  We decide to continue on without a permit.  It turns out that the trailhead is for two different trails, and the permit station was where the trails split apart – about 100yds from the campground.


Most of the elevation gain is in the first two miles of the hike.  It starts out as a nice hike through the forest.  The trail is fairly wide and there are plenty of signs that people take horses on the trail.  On the way up, there was a small creek crossing, and the remnants of several seasonal creeks that were now mostly dry.



As we went up in altitude, the trail narrowed and the trees became a little more sparse.  Tons of wildflowers started popping up.  No evidence of any of the berries that I had read about.  After a little more than two miles, the trail comes to a crest.  At this point, there is a small trail that takes off to the summit of Nannie Peak, which is hidden from us by the trees.  We decide to go check it out.  After a short hike, the peak comes into view and we decide that it is beyond our ambition for the day.  We take a short break near a meadow with spectacular views of Mt Adams, and unfortunately a bazillion mosquitos.



The mosquitoes forced this rest to be a quick one, so it was back down to the main trail to continue on.  The trail gives up a bit of altitude to skirt around some cliffs that weren’t really evident until further along the way.  We did come to one small snow crossing which didn’t prove to be too difficult.


Hiking along the ridge was nice – not a lot of ups and downs, and the scenery was fairly open so you could get a good look around at things. 


Eventually, we passed Sheep Lake and shortly thereafter  intersected with the Pacific Crest Trail, which was our turnaround point.  Near the intersection, there was a tent set up with nobody around.  This was the first evidence of people that we had seen on the entire hike.


We hiked back to Sheep Lake and had a nice leisurely lunch.DSC02555

After lunch, we hiked back down the same way we came up.  The views on the way back were much more interesting. Mt Adams was a constant backdrop in this direction.

We finally saw our first hiker with about a mile and a half to go on the trip…we were hoping to not see anyone, but we couldn’t complain too much.

Once we were back to the campsite, we dropped off our gear and went for a quick swim in the lake.


Then it was some wine (another advantage of car camping), dinner, and off to bed early.

The next day was pretty straightforward – wake up, eat breakfast, break camp an drive home!  Good first backpacking test for us.

Overall, hiking with the pack on was a bit harder than I had expected.  Starting off with the pack on felt easy, and it didn’t bother me much during the hike. My knees got a bit sore coming down the hill at the end.  I really noticed the weight (or lack thereof) was when I would take it off at a break.

As for the camera, I’m still unsure.  I mostly used it in the various automatic modes since I didn’t really have time to become familiar with it.  In these modes, it seemed to be really aggressive about shifting the ISO up – as a result, a lot of the pictures were very noisy when viewed full size.  The advantage was that you could take photos in extremely low light.  I’ll have to play with it more in the manual modes before I decide if it is the right choice for me.