Big Bend Paddling Tr - Trip #3 Report
(Trip #3)

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Report By:  gbailey    Date: 5/12/2006 
Rating:Trip Rating     Photos: See 6 photos     Map & Directions: View

Big Bend Saltwater Paddling Trail (Spring Warrior Creek to Steinhatchee) part 2 of 2

My Report:

... part 2 of 2

The boat ramp had a gravel slope and located next to it was a nice picnic table and overhead covering, along with a port-o-potti. The creek was approximately 20 feet wide at that point, with constant s-turns and switchbacks through the marsh, but you really canít get lost as long as you stay in the main creek. As we reversed course and paddled with the current, in a very short time we were back out into the Gulf and nearing the beachfront of our campsite. The water had obviously dropped a bit while we were out, since we had to wade through a little muck and some knee high reeds to get to hard ground. Still not a problem, approximately 3 hours past high tide. However, as daylight faded and nightfall approached, the ebbing tide sucked away all the remaining water along the shore, out approximately 200 feet or further. This was certainly not a place to arrive at any time other than near high tide, unless you travel with knee high boots.

Back at the campsite we started a fire with some charcoal I had pre-packaged, along with the gathered wood that Mabel, as usual, had collected. We had no need for a warm fire, just enough to provide the hot coals to cook the ribs and steak that Mabel and Gus had brought (still no fresh fish on the menu). Once Mabel got everyone to leave the fire along, she got busy with the ribs, while Gus made some mashed potatoes and I boiled up a broccoli / rice dish. Soon we were all sufficiently stuffed once again, with a few leftovers tossed aside for the soon to be surprised raccoons. Approximately an hour after sundown the moon rose once again, this time with more brilliance than the previous night. It shown through the low trees and grasses surrounding our camp so we all stood and applauded its appearance. All except for Franklin and Keith, who had decided to retire to their tents to avoid the buzzing mosquitoes. Funny thing though, no one else was particularly bothered by them, but we couldnít convince the two of them to come out and be more social. Even Markís spotting of a passing satellite and a few shooting stars werenít enough to rouse them to their feet. The expected low temp for the night was to be near 60, but with a little breeze now blowing, it felt very comfortable. Eventually, the yawns began to occur with more frequency, so we all headed to our tents once again, for the last time on this trip.
Sunday morning was bright and cool, with the FEMA tarp slowly waving in the mild early morning breeze. As we began to stir and start coffee, we noticed that the waters were still low on the beachfront. However, once again we had planned a late departure, so it was not a concern for us. After a hardy breakfast, we started to break camp in an orderly fashion, knowing that we were packing our gear for the last time. Mabel commented however, that some of us should save a little extra water, just in case we ran into bad weather and had to stay another night. Good advice, since several of us have done just that on previous adventures. The last thing we had to pack was the blue tarp, which really annoyed the horse-flies, sending them off into flying fits of rage. Just after 10:30 we were in the water again, with light southeast winds on our beam. After rounding Rock Point and passing by several creeks we were headed almost due east, with a distant radio tower providing a visible reference to Steinhatchee. With only 8 miles to end our trip, we could take an easy pace and still make it close to lunch time. Adding to our pace was the incoming tide, which pushed us along, together with the now slightly building sea swells. A few swells were coming by at 2-3 feet but still the wind was not a problem. Visible whitecaps offshore never made it to us before we neared the spoils islands, lining the northern edge of the channel markers. As usual, Franklin, Keith and Mabel plotted their route further offshore than the rest of us, attempting to miss the humps of oyster beds marked on our charts, but we never saw them either. Paddling so near high tide totally eliminated that fear for the entire trip. Keith had earlier stated that these waters are typically lower in the winter, especially when offshore winds are blowing. Combining low tide with offshore winds could make any route on the Big Bend much more difficult, an occurrence in fact, that we experienced in our previous February 2005 trip.
As we neared the channel markers we passed between the last two spoils islands, and cruised along with the now strong incoming tide, quickly toward the little fishing village of Steinhatchee. The kind folks at Ideal Marina and Motel had allowed us to park a shuttle vehicle at their place, which had nice waterfront cabins and a very convenient wooden dock onto which Mark climbed out of his kayak. I then towed his boat across the channel to the Jena boat ramp, to where he drove around and met everyone as we were lifting the still heavy boats from the clear waters. Within minutes everyone except Gus and I were heading back to Spring Warrior to retrieve the other vehicles. Due to the untimely brake problem that occurred during our first day, we were unable to shuttle all of the vehicles down to the takeout, thus delaying our departure for home a bit. But those kinds of things happen sometime, and you just have to go with the flow and make adjustments. While waiting for everyone to return, Gus and I once again had time to enjoy watching the many strange things that happen at boat launching ramps. It never ceases to entertain me at how difficult it is to load power boats onto trailers.
Overall, we were blessed with superb weather along with very complimentary and able paddlers, so our time on the water seemed to fly by.
Next up in our south to north, reverse course tour of the Big Bend Saltwater Paddling Trail will be Trip #2, which begins at the Aucilla River and ends at Spring Warrior. However, I believe a deal was struck before this trip that will take us down to the 10,000 Islands first, so Trip #2 may have to wait a while longer.

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Location Data:

Distance (miles): 29
Fees/Costs $: n/a

Photos from Trip #3:    (Click image to view full size)

Big Bend - Trip #3 No Comm
Big Bend - Trip #3

the group

Big Bend - Trip #3 No Comm
Big Bend - Trip #3

the boats at Sponge Point

Big Bend - Trip #3 No Comm
Big Bend - Trip #3

the GOMEX's calm waters

Big Bend - Trip #3 No Comm
Big Bend - Trip #3

Mark in placid waters

Big Bend - Trip #3 No Comm
Big Bend - Trip #3

Mark super hot stove

Big Bend - Trip #3 No Comm
Big Bend - Trip #3

Greg's Cape Horn 17


Special Interests and Comments:

Special InterestsThe Big Bend Saltwater Paddling Trail

Post Date: 2/28/2009

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