November 2, 2009 by Bethany
You read that right, we made it to our final state of the kayak trip, state #14, the Sunshine state… FLORIDA! It’s pretty hard for us to wrap our minds around it actually. Knowing that we have come so far to get here and our ultimate goal is within reach is overwhelming. We pretty much can’t imagine what Key West will feel like.
FYI: This post is going to sound like a rant near the end since we had some pretty aggrivating experiences. The kind of grumpy unhelpful annoying expereinces that could make a soul bitter and angry. Please know… we have emotionally recovered and are happy again… but it totally stunk there for a while.
On to the story:
Dan posted last fron the King and Prince Resort on St. Simon’s Island. We had such a welcoming experience there. After we left the business center, working on all the logistics of the trip, we enjoyed a lunch with Colleen, who work s at the hotel and after that we went shopping in town for some new books to read and replacement dry bags at Southeast Adventures. That night we met Rob, who works at the front desk. He gave us a book and a big dose of encouragement,as well as a dinner at Waffle House. Gotta love it. Terry from the Florida Times Union came to the hotel and interviewed us for THIS article. We were very overwhelmed by the outpouring of interest and kindness at the King and Prince.
The next morning, Ron met us for breakfast to talk about our experience on the GA coast since he is trying to set up at paddling trail along the coast. He gave us a ride to the marina where we met Terry from the paper again to take photos. We were packing up and realized that I had a pretty bad hole in the bottom of my boat. That’s a problem. For real. Dan tested the water tightness of the boat and it was leaking for sure. Dan tried to do a quick fix with some aquaseal and duct tape but it was not really working. We were at a loss. Like it was planned, Michael from Southeast Adventures showed up and rescued us with his friend. A few minutes, a heat gun, and some plastic solved our rather large dilema and we were on the water without losing a day. It was like it never happened, sortof.
The paddle to Jekyll Island was rather short but we got to watch a HEAVY rainstorm pass us by on the West. It was really cool to see. Thank goodness we didnt get hit by that… not that getting wet is all that big of a deal. When we paddled under the bridge to Jekyll, Terry was there taking photos again. We finally got some shots of us in the boats, NOT from our perspective. Wating for us on the docks of Jekyll Harbor Marina, was Tom from Habitat Crew with his current rowing partner Denny. We met Tom in Charleston, if you remember, and it was really fun to see him again. The marina let us keep our boats there for the night AND lent us some bikes for the day. The four of us rode our bikes all over that island, and saw the sights. It was really a beautiful place full of huge fancy historic “cottages” and spanish moss. We had a little mini celebration for Denny’s end of the trail there in Jekyll. Pizza from a motor scooter rental place isnt so bad by the way. shocking.
With a continental breakfast in our tummies, we left for Cumberland Island. Crossing the St. Andrews Sound wasn’t actually too bad. We had heard about it being a beast at times but I guess Dan and I just times it right. There was a little bit of chop and I’ll admit we were tired in the end but it really was rather tame compared to what I had envisioned. We called the ranger station on Cumberland island, trying to make reservations for the night at the Brickhill Campsite but they were “Unable to help us.” The Ranger even told us that they did not have access to that site via vehicle and could not come and collect our money that way. That’s funny, because there is a road that runs right behind that site. Was that a lie perhaps? UGH! why why why why WHY do rangers, both state and national, always seem to TRY and ruin our days, (excluding Edisto Beach State Park in SC and Reid State Park in ME)?
We camped there anyway. What were we supposed to do?
The next morning, after hearing trucks drive by the “unaccessable” site many time, we got up to a swarm of no-see-ums. We bolted to the boats and paddled away without a good sweep of the campsite. As you might guess, we left something there. All the way down at the south end of the island, we realized we had left Dan’s greenland paddle back at the campsite. This paddle, handmade for Dan by Bill Bremmer of Lumpy Paddles, we too important to simply forget about so we had to come up with a way to get it back. We paddled to the dock at Sea Camp on the south end of Cumberland and headed to ask the rangers for help. Usually this is unsuccesful and this time was no different. The rangers just told Dan that they just weren’t heading up that way until the morning, (it was around 1:00 in the afternoon and remember yesterday they told us they had no rode access to that site..) and that Dan was welcome to fill out a lost and found card if he liked. Thanks so much… Meanwhile, I had asked a man fishing on his motorboat if he could drive Dan up to the site. He was fishing for shrimp when we pulled up to the dock earlier. Dan said hello to him and asked if this was Sea Camp docks from our kayaks and he had ignored us, answering only after Dan was basically 3 feet away and he could not ignore him anymore. I walked down to the docks when Dan left for the Ranger Station 20 min later and asked him if he would motor us back up to the Campsite, offereing him $30 for the ride. He impatiently asked my why we needed this paddle so bad, told me it was not an emergency, and that he did not have time for me. “I dont have time for this”… then he continued to throw his cast net out for shrimp for 2 more hours. During this time, I hung out with Charlie and Linda from NJ who were waiting for the ferry. Dan was off trying to work something out with the rangers and called Charlie’s phone after about 1.5 hours and let me know how unhelpful they were, laughing at him, and ignoring him for a while until he walked right up to them in their offices. Fabulous. I walked back down to the docks to the SAME recreational fisherman who was still there, who didnt have time earlier for me, and he proceeded to let me know how FAR away the campsite was, and how expensive gas was, and how he was tired of fishing for the day. Thankfully, after listening to him explain his woes to me for quite some time, putting me through akward silences and long explanations of what a great guy he was for being willing to CONSIDER helping us out, Dan arrived and this fisherman with no time agreed to take Dan back to the site, “And Im gonna charge you for every mile!” whatever. We wanted this paddle back and it was to far to paddle back to and stay on schedule. An hour later, Dan and the fisherman came back with the paddle and Dan gave him all the cash in our wallet: $35. The fisherman, who I will keep anonymous since he was such a jerk, kindly offerend to let us keep the money in the wallet and MAIL him some money later. gee. thanks. Its weird when someone does something nice for you but is a complete “you-know-what” the whole time. Im thankful but also appauled by his nastiness. Weird. We got the paddle and paddled on… a few hours behind scedule with a re-enforced aggrivation with park rangers.. and a new aggrivation with the GA recreational shrimp fisherman.
The FL state line was our only gleaming hope for the end of the day. We have been looking forwards to that moment for a looooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooong time obviously. We crossed it. It was awesome.
Then…. more weirdness. The Nassau County Sherrif boat pulled up to us with their lights flashing and checked us out making sure we had PFD’s and whistles. Welcome to FL. The first safety check of our trip. I didnt mind actually. We had what we needed and those guys were pretty nice. They told us that Fort Clinch State park, (our destination) was beautiful and to land right there on the beach. Good Plan.
Earlier that day, Dan had called the state park, trying to make a reservation for the night. The Ranger, knowing our story, exclaimed “NO LAUNCHING OR LANDING OF KAYAKS FROM THE BEACH!!!” ok…. so what do we do then? He told Dan about a little island nearby that was for kayakers and that we could camp there. No problem. So where do we camp on the island Dan asks…. “I cant help you with that… youll have to fugure that one out on your own.” great. Another really unhelpful park ranger. When we got into Florida, the sun was setting and we saw the Campground as well as the other option… the island. We decided to go for the campground since we didnt know where the campsite was on the island and the ranger wouldnt tell us. We broke the launching and landing rule but…. what else were we supposed to do? When we got there, some kind hearts at the campground let us keep our boats on their site, right near the water, and Dan called to ask for a reservation again. The ranger… was unhelpful. “You have to come to the ranger station (4 miles away) in order to make a reservation. NO i will not come to the site to meet you. You have to move your boats all the way to YOUR site. You have to launch your kayaks from the public launch outside of the park, (miles away).” great…. this day kept getting worse. Finally Dan let him know that there was NO way for us to get to the ranger station before it closed. We would be happy to pay if we could get to him. The ranger told us a site to go to…. the furthest one from the water across from the DUMP station for the campers, and he would be by later to get our money. Nice. We decieded to leave our boats right where they were with our new friends, and set up camp at the other end of the campground. Thankfully… Captain Grouch never came by. I think it would have made things ugly since i had quite a few things to say to him.
whew… this is where things started to look up thank goodness.
Mark, a local paddler and part of the Florida Paddling Trails Assoc, came by in the morning, found a ranger, and got us a free campsite for us and permission to launch. Then he paddled with us from Fort Clinch allllll the way to the N end of Little Talbot Island. Mark was a trooper since the day was totally challenging. When the current wasnt against us, the wind was. I was exhausted at the end of the day and I do this all the time. Props to you mark! Marks friend picked us up and ran shuttle and also took us to Kayak Amelia where we left our boats for the night. Mark took us out to a seafood dinner and let us sleep in his family’s oceanfront condo for the night. It was an unforgettable Halloween.
November 1st was my 26th birthday. I got an extra hour of sleep and woke up to a sunrise I could watch right from bed. Cant beat that. We had breakfast and then Ray and Jody from Kayak Amelia picked us up at the condo. They took us back to the shop, gave us both Tshirts and cookies and then dropped us and our boats off at the Boat Ramp from the day before. They were great folks and if you are ever in the area, go and a kayak trip with them. It’s worth it JUST for the cookies 🙂
The paddle yesterday was somehow one of the most fun paddling days to date. For some reason I couldnt wipe the smile off my face. I think it was a combo of good weather, sweet jams, good currents, a hotel to head to, the fact that it was my birthday and most of all… the sinking in of the reality that we were paddling in Florida finally. We also spotted our first manatee of the trip right after crossing the Saint Johns River! Even though we know they do not hurt anyone or anything it was still huge enough to scare the living daylights out of us. It surfaced right next to Dan. It looked like a underwater elephant or something… We ended our day at the Beach Marine in Jacksonville Beach where they helped us with our boats for the next two nights, gave us a ride, and were generally cheerful and welcoming. Gotta love it. The hotel gave us an upgraded room and they were extreemly nice to us! This place is a must stay if you are ever in the area! My birthday dinner was phenomenal. Good birthday, ended watching MILK on HBO into the morning. Cant complain.
What’s next I wonder….