Little Manatee River Wimauma, Fla Dec 6, 2012

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Vicki and I discussed getting a tandem kayak so she could go along on more of my kayak trips. We decided to rent one while in Florida from Canoe Outpost in Wimauama to see if we could handle a tandem together. We paddled on the Little Manatee River where it flows through the Little Manatee River State Park.
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The water level was a bit low due to a lack of rain. It was very sandy at the start, and the water was very clear.  We hit bottom several times, but were able to get going again with no trouble.
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The weather was warm again, with temps in the low 80's and partly cloudy skies.

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There were a couple of downed trees, with very narrow openings around them, but we were able to get around them with no problems. The slow current made it easier, too. We'll have to see how that works with the stronger currents back home.

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 Vicki didn't do a lot of paddling because her wrist was still sore, so she was in charge of taking pictures.

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There were a lot of mullet swimming in the shallow water, and turtles on almost every downed tree and along the banks.
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 We took our time going down the river. We were in no hurry, just enjoying the nice weather and the different plants and trees that we don't see in Michigan.
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 There were several hawks along the river.
 
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The state park has a screened in building near the river with picnic tables where we stopped for lunch. We met two other couples who were kayaking also. They all seemed disappointed they hadn't seen any alligators. Vicki wasn't disappointed. She didn't really want to see any.

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Back on the water after lunch.
 
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The water was getting deeper but the low water levels were evident as the lilly pads were  quite a ways out of the water. And the bottom was darker so you couldn't see very deep into the water.
 
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As we passed one log, Vicki spotted an alligator sunning himself on the bank. We weren't more than fifteen feet away when we spotted it. It looked to be 6-8' long. We turned the kayak around to get a picture of it.

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More turtles sunning themselves. We must have seen close to a hundred in all.

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The sunken boat that meant we were near our takeout.
 
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 A short paddle, about 2-1/2 hours with the lunch break. But it seemed to go well with the tandem kayak. We'll have to look for a used one so we can go together on more trips.
 
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Total miles paddled today: 4 miles. Year to date: 269.6 miles

Mangrove Tunnel Tour, Palmetto, Florida Dec 4, 2012

My father-in-law owns a trailer in Florida, and due to health problems, he decided to rent it out this year. My wife and I decided to go down for a week to clean it up and get it ready. We couldn't go to a state with so much water without taking some time to go kayaking. I contacted Shan-T Native Kayak Tours to tour the Mangrove tunnels in Emerson Point Preserve near Palmetto.

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Vicki sprained her wrist a couple of weeks ago, so she didn't want to make it worse by kayaking. Other than the guide, an older couple were the only other paddlers in the group. It was a wonderfully warm day with temps in the mid 80's and partly cloudy skies.
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The water was very still. The only current was the incoming tide.
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The paddle started down a narrow channel before entering the mangrove tunnel.

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The exposed roots and overhanging branches teamed with little black crabs that scurried away as we approached. They were a bit camera shy.

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 After paddling a couple hundred yards, the tunnel opened into Terra Ceia Bay.

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 The water was very calm, and with only a slight headwind the paddling was easy.There were several osprey in the surrounding trees, and brown pelicans everywhere.

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We crossed a couple of hundred yards of open water to get to Emerson Bayou. The water was mirror flat, broken only by the occasional mullet jumping.

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We passed through another short narrow mangrove tunnel that was very difficult to find, and entered a large shallow lagoon. We explored the lagoon, finding several conch snails and their egg sacks on the lagoon floor. The whole area was full of wildlife.
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We paddled back out into Emerson Bayou after about an hour of exploring. It could be very easy to miss the passage if you didn't know where it was.
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View of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge from the bay.
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The wind at our backs made the paddle back a little easier.
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Re-entering the mangrove tunnels on the way back to the launch site. Another difficult to find passage that without a guide would have made it impossible to explore.
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About a 2-1/2 hour paddle. We learned a lot about the area, and may return here next year and do some more exploring. If I do return here, I will need to invest in a GPS.

Miles paddled: 2.7. Year to date miles: 265.6
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Pere Marquette River Nov 10, 2012

A typical gray November day in Michigan. This is my first paddle down the Pere Marquette River this year. The skies grew darker as I got closer to Baldwin, but except for a few stray sprinkles, the rain held off. Temperatures started out in the upper 40's, warming up to the mid 50's by afternoon, about 15 degrees above normal. The water was very clear and cold.

The upper stretch of the Pere Marquette is similar to the nearby Pine River - fairly narrow with a some quick turns. It is also similar in that it can be very shallow and rocky, with sharp drop offs. The shallow water tends to force you to stay to the deeper water in the outside of turns, with the strong current trying to force you into sweepers and deadfalls. It was just such a spot that made me take my fist swim in over a year.  I got over too far to the outside trying to avoid a shallow spot, and got turned sideways against the butt end of a log. The cold water was a quick cool down since I had overdressed as usual. Luckily my dry bag worked as designed, considering the kayak was full of water. After a quick change of clothes we were back on the water, although with a little more caution and more attention to where the current was taking us.
There were lots of fishermen to dodge on the river today. Somewhat surprising since the salmon run is over. There was plenty of evidence of that with the corpses of dead fish lining the banks in many spots. The fishermen seemed prepared for a long day, with several groups having tables and chairs set up on the banks and grills and fires cooking up a hot lunch.
The bare trees held a beauty all their own, and offered a view of what lies beyond the banks that you don't get in the summer.
The river widens and straightens out as you get closer to the Bowman Bridge take-out with fewer obstacles but still plenty of current to move you along.
We saw several eagles today, along the river and at the take-out at Bowman Bridge. I just need to be a little faster with the camera.
The clouds did break up some toward the end, providing a rare look at the November sun. Another great day on the river, as always ending too quickly. I should be able to get in a few more trips this year with a trip to Florida in December.

Total miles paddled today: 11.5. Year to date 262.9 miles.

Flat River - Greenville to Belding Oct 20, 2012

Time for our annual color tour down the Flat River. We started with six paddlers for another dawn paddle from our usual spot at Jackson's Landing in downtown Greenville. The rain we have had almost daily for the last couple of weeks meant good water levels on a river that usually runs low this time of year.
The clouds from the overnight rain kept it dark longer than we expected, so we set out using headlamps and taking our time. It helps that one of the paddlers lives in Belding so she knew the river well.
The temperature was in the low 40's when we started out, but wearing a wetsuit kept it plenty warm.
As it grew lighter it was apparent that the rain and wind had knocked most of the leaves off the trees already. There were still some good colors, but mostly golds, browns and yellows. All the red and orange leaves were pretty much gone.
We startled several flocks of turkeys roosting in the trees. Even though the river runs through a state game area, there was very little wildlife seen.






The sky was starting to clear up, looking like the afternoon paddle would have clear skies. We got out at Bricker Road and drove to Belding for a good hot breakfast.

After breakfast we were joined by 9 more paddlers back at the start in Greenville. The day was warming up nicely, although the clouds were thicker and threatening rain again.












The clouds started breaking up after lunch, and the temperature warmed up to the mid 50's.

We took a side trip up a tributary to an abandoned train bridge spanning the stream. A couple hundred yards paddling upstream against a strong current brought us to the old stone structure.
 It must have been quite a beautiful bridge at one time. It was still an impressive sight with the fall colors.



Nearing the end of the paddle. It has been a good year on the rivers and lakes of Michigan. I think this may be one of the few times in my life I am truly sad to see the summer end. After working outside for 25 years, I am usually tired of  the heat and humidity of the summer and more than ready for cooler fall weather. And even though this has been a very warm year, there have been a lot of good times, with both daughters getting married and lots of kayaking with many memorable trips. There will be a few more occasions to get out before the end of the year, and hopefully some winter paddles. But the warm weather paddling is about over, and I am looking forward to what next year brings.

Today's paddle:17.8 miles total. Year to date: 251.4 miles.

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