Wekiwa Springs-Part 2

 Sherman Fox Squirrel (check out that tail!)
March 14, 2012     Mid-week we did some biking around the Park due to the overcast and drizzly day---not a good day for kayaking.  And we had to move our campsite due to our late reservations in the Park.  While driving back to our new campsite from the Park Office, I slammed on the brakes and stopped the car in the middle of the road.   Watching an unusual animal run across the street and climb a nearby tree, I fumbled with Alan’s small Canon, which was luckily in the next seat.  Turns out it was an endangered Sherman Fox Squirrel, and this particular critter was even more special because he was black except for the white face mask.  This was a seriously BIG squirrel-- at least 2½-3 feet long.

  We opted out of swimming in the Wekiwa Springs.  Water here is 72 degrees year round; that may be delightful when it is 95 degrees, but it was a little chilly for our blood.   A handful of park visitors indulged but most seemed to leave the water rather quickly.  Artists continued painting, even during the light rain, but they stayed a little closer to shelter than the previous days. 

Exploring the area, we found a privately owned business, King’s Landing, a few miles from the park.  In addition to renting canoes, they offered pickup service down river at Wekiva Island.   Heading out the following morning, we went to the Landing and launched our kayaks into clear waters of Rock Springs.  This waterway leads into Wekiva River about 8 miles downstream.  As much as we had enjoyed the paddle out earlier in the week, this trip was even better.

Departing the dock, we didn’t see another person for over 3 hours.  What we did see was dozens of turtles resting on trees that overhung the water, alligators sunning themselves along the banks and more hawks than I’ve seen in my lifetime.  Traveling downstream at roughly 2-5mph, we found that we used the paddles as a tiller to maneuver the twists and turns of the stream as much as for forward movement. As we neared the Park environs, we started to hear voices; and then started to pass other canoes as they paddled upstream.  Numerous boaters were obviously novices.  They were all laughing and having fun even as they were stranding themselves on sandbars, running into other canoes or getting stuck in the bushes along the shore.

Magical and serene except for bird calls and an occasional gator bellow, this was the best kayaking trip we have ever completed.  It is definitely on our redo list.  The Paint Out was also a success.  By the end of the week, the large tent-gallery was filled with newly created pieces of art mirroring the beauty of this popular park.

(Don't miss the other photos below)

Florida Longleaf Pine creates a giant (10 inch) pine cone.

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