Wednesday, March 31, 2021

The Perfect Way to Start Any Day

February 2021                                                               Most Recent Posts:
Silver Springs State Park                       First Days at Silver Springs State Park
Silver Springs, Florida                            On the Prairie in the Middle of Florida


As I mentioned in my previous post (link above), I go kayaking on the river first thing every morning the weather will allow.

Today, I was barely out on the water when I saw this Osprey overhead.  I was excited to see him as at least for me sighting them here is relatively rare.  What a face!


Probably the two water birds I see most often here are the Anhinga and the Wood Duck.  Just to say that seems amazing.

When I first began coming to what was then Silver River State Park, about 10 years ago, it was rare to see a Wood Duck and if I did, they wouldn’t stay around long once they saw me.  Over the years, as the state bought the Head Spring park and changed the rules about what could be done, Wood Ducks have gotten more and more numerous and less skittish of kayakers.

Today I paddled by this line up.  All on one log, a male anhinga, then turtles then Mr & Ms Wood Duck and more turtles.   They were all enjoying the sun.  Me too.


Another relatively common bird here is the Moorhen.  I hope you can see that his legs and bill tip are color coordinated.  Pretty slick.


The most amazing encounter on this day, and the reason for the blog title, was paddling right beside this trio as they cruised the river together.  Not sure how the wood duck couple know the alligator isn’t hungry.  Take a look at this video showing how close we all are.


A very rare sighting is any turtle above water on the river.  They dive as soon as they see you.  And especially amazing is that this is Florida Soft Shelled Turtle.  See his distinctive nose?

Not only do the large wide based Bald Cypress trees have amazing knees but they also have what I call great toes which of course are roots and more visible during low water such as this.  These trees grow to over 150’ tall and more than 6’ in diameter.  Quite majestic!


One of the things the park service did when it took over the entire Silver River was to prohibit fishing.  Not so nice for the fishermen but great for the rebounding fish populations and my frequency of seeing them in the clear water.


For my turtle lovers, I saw what I assume is this family of mom and various sized kids.  Luckily they didn’t all slip back into the water before I could get these pictures.


This fella really looked stuffed into his skin.  Even his feet as he sunned on this log.


Check out those claws  Don’t his elbows look like he’s wearing an alligator suit?


I looked twice at this  river art as I paddled by.  What’s it look like to you?


Some mornings it was quite foggy on the river.  I thought the female wood duck looked especially ethereal in the fog.



It wasn’t long until the sun burned off the fog and the day became bright and beautiful.


Unlike the wood ducks and the alligators whom I could paddle along beside and spend some time with them watching, this Black Crowned Night Heron was doing his fishing at one spot which I had a hard time staying by with the flowing spring water wanting to push me down stream.


He was so much fun to watch as he walk along the water and jabbed his bill down to catch whatever he saw.  Notice his yellow breeding colors.



Some other birds looking beautiful this morning were the male Anhinga drying his wings and the Great Egret in his breeding feathers.


Wet head.  Notice the breeding color .



The varicolored green heron was skulking up on his prey too.


The waters and sky were almost the same color.   I feel so lucky to be kayaking on water that is so clean and clear. Now if they would just ban gasoline engine boats along with fishing, wouldn’t that be heaven?


I remember the first winter I spent in Florida, I was amazed at the size of the Great Blue Heron.  He seemed so rare and exotic.  I try not to let familiarity and that he is a common resident bird cloud my vision of his beauty.   He has his breeding feathers on too.


And then the manatee again.  I know I showed them in my last blog but they are such a delight and I know I will be heading north after this.  And there are so few places in my travels where I see them.  So,  more manatee pictures.


Many of us hung around watching them not trying to be too bothersome.


A mother and calf.  What a treat!


Apparently breeding season was some time ago for the cormorant.  As I neared the head spring I saw this nest.  The “baby” isn’t so small.


I turned in to the Fort King water trail to start my floating trip back and passed under the bridge that on another day I will walk over. Very picturesque as I’m sure they intended.


It’s about 10am and the masses have arrived at the canoe/kayak rental dock.
I won’t have the river to myself any more.


But I do find a few out of the way places and in one of them find the monkeys.  But that’s for another post.  A teaser for you to anticipate.


It was definitely a Wood Duck day.  These two pairs were in no hurry as I neared the end of the Fort King trail and found myself back out in the main river.  The amazing colors and design of the male Wood Duck is a testament to Nature’s magic.


Two gators nose to tail in the sun.


The Pied Billed Grebe is very difficult to take pictures of.  He’s quite skittish and dives the moment you get your camera up.  But I think he’s so cute I just keep trying and some times get lucky.  He blends in so well that he’s hard to spot in the first place.


If there is a better way to start every day than on this wonderful river, I have no idea what it is.


And to top it off, this fine hawk flew in right in front of me as I was walking through the woods almost back to Winnona.



What I do with the rest of the hours of my days isn’t nearly as interesting as my mornings.  If there were fewer people on the water I might never come in.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

First Days at Silver Springs State Park

February 19 – February 22, 2021                          Most Recent Posts:
Silver Springs State Park                      On the Prairie in the Middle of Florida
Silver Springs, Florida           Those Low Down No Count Reservation Blues

I pulled out of my site at Kissimmee Prairie Preserve and drove down the LONG entrance road and the LONGER county road from there to civilization and headed west.  It was 179 miles to Silver Springs State Park Campground, a good portion of it on the Florida Turnpike for which I have a Sunpass.  I topped the pass up yesterday.  It was a long , for me, but relatively easy drive.

IMG_4110Last year reservations were more difficult than in previous years but not as impossible as this year and I was able to get my favorite pull through site starting today. 

The campground has a mix of back ins and pull throughs.  A few of the latter have FHUs.  I have tried a couple of those but they are more unlevel so I’m happy enough to use the dump station to avoid the leveling complexity.

IMG_3939The park has 4 small campground loops and a cabin loop.  I think it would be fun for Carrie and her family to come rent a cabin for a week some time while I”m here when the kids (2 & 4 now) are older.  But I know they want any Florida trip to include Disneyworld.  As I recall all too well, it’s hard to get much time off from work in this country.  We really are workaholics compared to the rest of the developed western world where six weeks “holiday” is standard.

Because of the wonderful Silver River and its attractions - gators, manatee, wood ducks, monkeys and possibly but rarely the River Otter, the park is one of my favorites and I know it very well.  In addition to kayaking every morning which gives me more than half of my 10K steps goal, just going to and from the dock, I hike the rest of my steps daily on the other trails

This map shows the two trails I take most often, the river trail and the swamp trail.  Together they are about 3.5 miles.  From the campground to the trail heads and back adds enough to round out my 10K step – 4 to 5 mile - daily goal.  Of course they both lead to the river.

The morning after I arrive, I head out for my first paddle.  You can just barely see the campground with the tent symbol in the lower middleish section of the map.  The launch is on the map where the blue River Trail meets the river (boat symbol).   I drive Ruby up to the parking lot P at the head of the blue trail, put the wheels on with some difficulty and pull the kayak (Tootsie) down to the put in where I kayak for the morning, come back and lock her up against the fence.   From then on, until the day I leave, all I have to do is walk down with paddle, water and camera.  I do this every morning unless it is raining.  It is my hands down favorite thing about this park.  I can hike to my kayak.  No putting it on and off the car every time I want to use it.

This is a short cut to the river trail at the head of the parking lot.  Not a lot of people know about it so don’t tell.  It is not the “official” trail head.


It’s a beautiful walk through a live oak forest.


As with most trails to any river, it is down hill on the way there and UP hill on the way back.  I try not to think about pulling Tootsie back up especially over this very large, much of it fist sized gravel they have spread in 7 or 8 areas to try to deal with the erosion Florida's frequent summer rains cause the trail.


IMG_4081Just as you get to the dock are the wildlife warning signs for both the alligators and the wild monkeys that reside here.  For the story and history of the monkeys, go to and use the upper left search bar to search for Silver River/Silver Springs or monkeys.  I’ve written about them numerous times before.  You can also find a description of the kayaking day we had with Nancy and Bill Mills when we returned to this dock to find it had been taken over by the monkeys and they kept us in our kayaks for 20 minutes or so I believe.  It was too funny.  But, they are wild and not to be mistaken for pets.

The boat launch is very nice and there is an port-a-potty nearby for those who stop for lunch.   Notice the buoys on some small islands just off shore.


This little blue heron was there.


Here’s where Tootsie sits and waits for me.  She’s locked to the fence and has a cockpit cover on with my PFD inside.  The park has a couple of canoes nearby that I believe they used to rent when this was the Silver River State Park.  But now that the state has bought the old Silver Springs tourist attraction, the whole thing is called Silver Springs State Park and the rentals are done at the head spring.


This map of the river is also at the head of the launch.  It shows that the park encloses all 5 miles of the Silver River from its headsprings until it empties into the Oklawaha River.  So wonderful that it is completely protected on both sides.  I wish all of Florida’s many spring runs were.   They should be.

There are two choices for kayaking the river from the park.  You can drive, or hike (2.5 miles one way)  up to the headsprings park and put your boat in or rent a kayak or canoe by the hour or day.  Then you float down/paddle back or arrange for a shuttle at the end of the 5 miles of river at the Ray Wayside.   

I put in at the State Park Launch and paddle 2 miles up and float 2 miles down.  Sometimes I float down to “the Island” turn around paddle back for about 2.5 miles total.  But I prefer my work up front and the float at the end rather than vice versa.

Enough of the logistics.  As you can imagine, I have a LOT of pictures from all those mornings of paddling the river.

IMG_3972Most days I head up stream to the head spring but on this particular day, I headed down toward the Oklawaha.  I didn’t go all the way there since I didn’t want to have to paddle back up stream all that way.

The Silver River banks are mostly still in their winter attire.

It was a tad windy as you can see from the water in the picture above and in this video I took of “cruising down the river” as the male anhinga made his presence known.  Hope you feel like you are with me when you watch it despite my inability to hold the camera still in the kayak.

The trees on the left are Bald Cypress which are wonderful with their broad bases and multiple “knees”.  They had just started to show their feathery green at the end of my two weeks at Silver Springs.


Even as they decay, they are homes for shelf mushrooms.  So many!


The flowers along the river’s edge don’t stand out as much in these pictures as their yellow, purple, white and red colors do among the green leaves.


These are my favorites.


I only went a short way down the river before turning back since I wasn’t seeing any wild life.   Not too long after passing the park put in, the wildlife picked up

I took this video of a Little Blue Heron fishing.  Take a look.


If I could come back as a bird, I might choose an Anhinga or a Cormorant.  They can both fly and swim and of course walk on land even with these webbed feet.

I’m afraid you can’t see this cormorant’s strikingly blue eyes.  He’d just gotten out of the water and his feathers were wet.

He’s a bird with webbed feet.  Pretty cool.  He can hold on to branches with them when he flies up in the trees.  Nature is so amazing.


Today was my lucky day.  I saw the manatee.  My pictures aren’t great since manatee are hard to photograph under water unless they break the surface.  But they are just so wonderful I could follow them around all day if it didn’t feel like harassment.  It always makes my day when I see them.


Sometimes I don’t see them at all until I hear them breathing near by when they break the water with their noses.  They are mammals and can’t breathe under water.

I am really enjoying the park and the routine I have of going out early to Kayak before others are on the river and heading back about 10am. That gets me about 2.5 miles of walking. It’s often only in the upper 40’s or low 50’s which is cooler than I like for kayaking but I’m here and so is the river.   Gotta take advantage of its closeness while I can.

In the afternoon, I go out on one of the other trails.  Most often on the Swamp Trail which also leads to the River.  Out and back there gets me another 2.5 miles.  I’ll show some pictures of it in an upcoming post.

In between I read, I finished Writing Wild which I talked about in my “blues” post (see link above) and very much enjoyed it.  It gave me a number of other ideas of things I’d like to read by women nature writers.  I do yoga with Adrienne on YouTube when my signal is strong enough.  Her sessions are a bit slow and too easy for me but I like her gentle way.

Of course I cook though mostly on the week-ends and then I warm things up back and forth for the rest of the week.  Things like mushroom stroganoff or various soups, or beans and rice.

Still trying daily to fill in that month campground gap from mid February to Mid March for next year.  So far, no luck.

More wildlife pictures including some of the monkeys coming up in my next post which I hope won’t take me as long to get ready.   Leave a comment and let me know what you are doing as spring approaches.

Thanks again for reading.