On New Year's Day we decided to use our paddles as they were intended. We made the 2 minute drive over to the canoe launch area and checked in with the concessionaire. For $5, they would bring Christy back from the takeout so that she could return with the car. This seemed like a good arrangement, so we loaded our canoe onto a cart and wheeled it to the put-in. This may have been the most challenging part of the trip. The path was narrow and bumpy, and it was tricky keeping the canoe on the cart and the cart on the path.

We reached the put-in, which is actually a short distance downstream from Juniper Springs. The stream starts narrow and shallow, with lots of twists and turns. At first, the water was clear, and we could see the sandy bottom and spot fish as they swam by. As we continued downstream though, the runoff from the storm changed the water to red and then to black.

The scenery was fantastic. We were in the Juniper Prairie Wilderness Area, and were completely surrounded by semi-tropical forest. Cypress was common, but Palm Trees and Palmetto seemed everywhere. In fact, it was the forest itself that provided the only real challenge of the trip. Fallen trees were common, and the high water made it difficult to float under some of them. At best it took a great deal of precision to squeeze through some of the tangles. We eventually reached an impassable tree, but retreated and snuck around the far side of an island to avoid it. Another deadfall presented a challenge, but 5 minutes of maneuvering got us around the far side. A third deadfall really was impassable though, and would have been difficult to carry over. We portaged around it through the swamp, actively watching for alligators as we went.

Shortly after lunch we reached the worst section. There was a long stretch of fallen trees. We were able to find our way through, but it was tricky. We had just ducked under one tree in a series when I looked up to check our course. I hadn't seen a second limb that was hidden right behind the first tree. I did get a good view of it right before it hit me in the right eye. @#%&! That hurt! I was lucky it didn't knock me out of the canoe (or for that matter, knock me out).

Aside from the violence, it was a good trip. During the last couple of miles the character of the creek changed. It opened up into a grassy area, which looked like ideal alligator habitat. We didn't see any though. Apparently they keep a low profile in the winter. On the other hand, egrets and herons were common, as were turtles. There was no shortage of wildlife, despite the lack of alligators.

We reached the highway bridge which signified the end of the trip. While we waited for the van, several other canoes arrived. Apparently there were a fair number of people on the creek, but we never would have guessed it. We only saw two other boaters on the river, one while we were eating lunch.

Christy rode in the van back to the put-in, and then returned for me and the canoe. We went back to camp, and enjoyed steaks and potatoes, along with another bottle of wine. There was no storm this evening to intrude.

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