Saturday, February 28, 2015

All that Chazz!

Chassahowitzka Spring.

The morning after our arrival was quite chilly and breezy, but sunny. After breakfast we packed some sandwiches for lunch and walked down to the boathouse to rent a canoe for the day. On our previous trip we had explored Baird Creek all the way up to its source at the Crack. We asked the attendant for suggestions about new creeks to explore and tide information. He told us that any of the other creeks downstream were worthwhile, and that the winds had been so brisk that there was very little perceptible tide, as the wind pushed the tides out. "Be sure to check out Snapper Hole, where the manatees hang out," he said.

We paddled across the basin of the main spring towards the Seven Sisters. A fallen tree trunk had created a new archway entrance to the springs there--I've been wanting to take a dip in the deep blue vent there, but it was too cold for swimming today.

Herb entering the Seven Sisters.

The Seven Sisters Springs.

The area seemed shallower than we remembered, and it was impossible to navigate around the other end into the canal, so we turned around and continued downstream.We explored a short creek on our right with three lovely homes with boathouses, any one of which I'd love to call home--what a setting! Swamp lilies bloomed along the edges of this creek.

Homes on a creek.

It took some effort to paddle downstream, because the flow seemed to be against us, indicating an incoming tide (despite what the guy at the boat rental had said). We found several other people on kayaks at Snapper Hole, with a small pod of manatees. There were two youngsters who were very curious. One of them hammed it up for us, turning belly-up with fins and mouth in the air, making sucking sounds. He repeated this performance every few minutes, to the delight of all onlookers.

Playful manatee.

Baby manatee sneaks up on Herb.

One of the baby manatees came over to check out our canoe, and seemed delighted when Herb leaned down to pet him. He went under the canoe and then swam back to check me, and I didn't miss the opportunity to also pet him. Ahh, such bliss--that's one for our bucket list!

We played with the manatees and took photos for a long time before continuing down the river. We paddled past Baird Creek, seeing many birds: cormorants, pelicans, herons and little blue herons. The Chass widens as one approaches the tidal zone, and now the wind was picking up.


Little Blue Heron.

A bit farther down we put into a creek on our right to tie up the canoe and have lunch. Three kayakers were leaving, and we asked them if they knew where we were. "Potter's Creek," they replied and told us they had seen some sea otters upstream. We finished our lunch and decided to go up Potter's Creek a bit.

Lunch on Potter's Creek.

We paddled across a wide basin with strong current (probably another large spring there) and were entering a sheltered forest, but Herb's hands were starting to develop blisters, so it seemed wiser to  head back at this point. It was getting late and it would be hard paddling getting back.

Upstream on Potter's Creek.

As we were coming back across the wide basin, we spotted a tiny head near some reeds--a sea otter! We'd never seen one before, never even knew they were here on the Chass.

As we observed, another otter surfaced several yards away, diving and surfacing repeatedly, seemingly playful. Herb surmised that perhaps the tiny head we'd seen first was a baby and its parent or parents (there might have been two otters, it was hard to tell) were making this elaborate display to lead us away from their young.

Getting back to the main river after leaving Potter's Creek, the force of the wind hit us like a hammer. We struggled to move forward against the current and wind, trying to hug one shore and then the other while avoiding the motor boats and their wakes. It was quite a workout, interrupted by short breaks for photos. We made it back to the boathouse around three-thirty, exhausted--we'd feel it in our muscles tomorrow.  But what an extraordinary day--all this wildlife on the Chazz!

The Four Amigos (pelicans).

For more photos of our day on the Chazz, see my flicker album here: The Chazz Two.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Day Two: Arrival at Chassahowitzka

Our cottage at Chassahowitzka River Campground.

We slept late the next day and got back on I-95 after a hearty breakfast. It's always great to feel the sun and air getting warmer as one approaches Florida. We pulled in at the first rest stop to get a new state map to guide us, and skipped lunch to time our arrival in Chassahowitzka for our four o'clock check-in time.

We drove south on Route 19 through Crystal River and decided to stock up at the grocery store where we had shopped the last time we stayed in the area--the store had changed hands and was now part of the Winn Dixie chain. We noticed that several restaurants had closed and many storefronts were vacant. Obviously the last four years of the current economy has taken a steep toll on this area.

I feel so fortunate to be able to afford a vacation here this year--the time we've had on the Chass and magical Weeki Wachee rivers--can't wait until you see the next photos and read the stories!

Herb relaxing by the Chass.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Return to Florida's Nature Coast

We began our vacation trip southward on a Friday morning and ate our sandwiches at the first gas fill-up stop in North Carolina around one PM. It was another two hours to the South Carolina state line. How could we not stop at South of the Border, setting for the climactic scene of Herb's novel, recently re-titled "Dog$"?  The colorful roadside landmark has become a touchstone for us by now.

It was quite windy, as you can see in these photos, but getting warmer already. We bought two new South-of-the-Border mugs to celebrate and continued on to Savannah where we had dinner and spent our first night.

Note: Herb's novel was recently re-issued at can be purchased in book format here: Dog$ or in Ebook format here: Dog$