Rogue River-Rockford to West River Drive Dec 21, 2013

The first day of winter, and we are home in Michigan after the short trip to Florida and a week of vacation in Mexico. A kayak trip was planned down the lower section of the Rogue River in Rockford for Saturday. Ten kayakers took time out from Christmas shopping to join us.
Winter had come with a vengeance while we were gone, bringing the total for the year so far to over 24". That is about a third of our average annual snowfall. Last year we had less than two inches at this time. If it keeps up at this pace we may have a record year for snow.
A couple of days of rain and freezing rain did wash out some of the snow, but there was still plenty on the ground. It did clear up the ice on the river. The water levels were fairly good, although as usual on this river, we still had to watch out for rocks most of the way down.
Temperatures were in the low 30s as we started off. We kept an eye on the sky as more freezing rain was predicted for the afternoon.

The higher than normal water levels kept the rapids and riffles lively.

There were no downed trees to cause any problems. The tree that caused Dennis to go swimming last February was finally removed.

We saw quite a few ducks and about a dozen whitetail deer along the river.

Ice floes on the Grand River forced us to get off the river earlier than we usually do. We did have to climb over some ice to reach the river bank, but everyone made it off the river safely and without getting wet. 
We made it home before the next ice storm hit that afternoon. More snow forecast for the next few days should give us good ground cover for next weekend.

Miles Paddled today: 6.6; Year-to-date: 315.6 miles.

Riviera Maya, Mexico Dec 12-17, 2013

After working on the house all summer, and dealing with the problems that come with an older house, we really needed to get away. Vicki's dad wanted to go back to Florida for the winter, so we offered to drive him down to Bradenton and then spent a couple of days working his trailer. Then we flew from there to Mexico for a much needed vacation for a week.
The weather in Mexico was hot, with temperatures in the mid 80s every day. Strong winds from off the gulf kept the water rough and it threatened rain almost every day. But it held off for the most part, and we did have a relaxing time.
 A couple of days were calm enough to take advantage of the free kayaks at the resort. The only kayaks to choose from were cheap sit-on-top Ocean kayaks, so the seats were not very comfortable, and they were a lot more difficult to paddle compared to the kayaks I am used to paddling.
For a kayak junky like me they were better than nothing, though. And they allowed me to explore the resort area from the water.
A pelican flying directly toward my kayak.

A lagoon a little north of our resort looked like an inviting place to explore, but with an unfamiliar kayak and no GPS or maps to guide me on the channels along the coast, I was hesitant to explore it further for fear of getting lost.
 There were also pretty good sized waves breaking on the shore, and while it would have been fun playing in them, it would have made it difficult to get back into the bay with an unfamiliar kayak. So I was content just to follow the shore.

A good relaxing week in Mexico. But it is time to go back home.

Total miles paddled: approx. 5 miles. Year to date: 309 miles.

Sarasota Bay, FL Dec 9, 2013

After driving my father-in-law to Bradenton to spend the winter, and working on several repairs to his trailer, I had time to do a little paddling. I contacted Sea Life Kayak Adventures to book a tour in Sarasota Bay.
Being a Monday afternoon, they weren't busy. In fact, I was the only paddler that afternoon. 
We paddled into the bay, where we were greeted by a host of cormorants. They would swim alongside the kayaks, then dive under the boats to feed on the fish we scared up in the shallow water. They would resurface in front of or along side us with their catch. There would be as many as four or five at a time swimming alongside us or beneath the water. It was quite entertaining to watch.

A man made island built by John Ringling of Ringling Bros. Circus fame. It is now a bird sanctuary.
An osprey watches us from the island as we paddle along the shore.

A white heron watches cautiously as we paddle by.

A bottom dwelling jelly fish in a bay of the island.
A bald eagle also on the island. Apparently it was rare to see in the area since osprey and eagles don't get along well.
 A pelican resting on some equipment left from building the island.
More cormorants rest on more debris. The guide was hoping to see some manatees or dolphins in the bay, but they were not out today.

Entering the mangrove tunnels in South Lido County Park.
The tide was coming in, so a good current was flowing through the tunnels to the pond.
The exposed roots of the mangroves. Black crabs and oysters cling to the roots.
Exiting the tunnels to a large sheltered pond.
A place of solitude from the hustle and noise of the city nearby.
A sea star after we re-entered the mangrove tunnel.
Another white heron in the mangroves.

A night heron sitting in the mangroves. I paddled directly under it without noticing it until the guide pointed him out. He never moved the whole time.
Exiting the mangroves again, back into the bay and to the landing.
A short paddle, but relaxing time on the water as usual.

Miles paddled today: 3.3. Year-to-date: 303.9.

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