Day 19, 2015 – Mile 1515 – Fort Clinch State Park – Eastern Terminus of CT Trail! – April 3rd

I woke up around 5 AM, and hit the Drive-Thru at McDonald’s with Gus and he would drop me off just as the sun would rise.  The air was dead still, and fog loomed over the Salt-Water marsh prairies. The no see-ums were relentless and It was good motivation to keep on moving on the water to avoid getting bit.  The sun was glistening on along the tips of the sea grass in all directions.  Fortunately again, I got an early enough start to work with the current a lot.  In the meanwhile, while I was paddling, Gus was rigged to go Kayak fishing for Red-Fish and would pick me up in Ft Clinch later in the day.  He would end up catching several fish that day.

As for me, it was 23 more miles of the trail.  I passed the Little Talbot area, and crossed the inlet just North of that area.  The day would have no body aches, no gear troubles, or no challenges against the weather… just a consistent stroll throughout the day.  I would paddle past Amelia Island on my right, and cross underneath the last bridge (A1A) of what felt like 1,000 during the course of the journey around Florida.  Then I began to smell the factory mills of Fernandina Beach and could see land off in the distance that no longer belonged to Florida.  It was Georgia. I remember visiting this area once before on foot over looking the water and thinking if I would ever get the opportunity or have the courage to Kayak Around Florida.  At that time, I never knew if I would. Now here I was at my last mile, on a perfectly clear day as the bow of the kayak would hit the last grains of sand that would mark the end to an incredible journey.

It took me a couple years to do the trail starting off on the intracoastal waterways where I live in Southeast Florida, then making the long stride from Pensacola to Key West, and finally wrapping up the East Coast on this trip.  Florida has a long, long coastline and the wildlife is richer than I could have ever imagined, some in good ways, some in bad ways… it seems like every small insect wants to bit or sting you!  Seeing sunsets and sunrises into the water on the same day is a miraculous experience.  Seeing clear skies after days of thunderstorms brings on a warmth that you could never simulate at home.  I have met some incredibly nice people I never would have met in remote areas that I never would have visited.  The diversity of the people, coastline, history, and wildlife all adds to each unique experience of each and every day, no area of Florida is exactly the same.

Even more importantly are the intangibles that you pick up on doing a trip like this.  To be grateful for simply just existing in basic comfort and safety, in self-dependency, and a within sight of a good attitude that can take you anywhere.  We are a social species, and craving the company of others is a natural phenomenon that we should be thankful for by having friends, family, and even acquaintances in our lives.  It does not take an intimate conversation, but rather the presence of others to automatically make you feel more at ease.  We cannot control our surroundings, but we can conform to them using patience and perseverance.  Getting upset at things we cannot control is a waste of energy.

Spending time in nature is a great way to balance or lives and humble ourselves.  You do not have to go as far to the extremes of spending months at a time, just a Sunday afternoon from time to time will fine tune you among your busy life.  All the best things Florida has to offer is on or along the water, and there tens of thousands of areas right in most Floridian’s backyards that many never get to enjoy.

This was  a major milestone I am proud to accomplish, and I am glad I ambitiously set aside the time for the experience of a lifetime.

Photo 1: Last Sunrise

Photo 2: Panoramic Shot

Photo 3: Factory Mills and Fernandina Beach

Photo 4: Georgia way off in the distance

Photo 5: The end of a long journey

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Day 18, 2015 – Mile 1492 – Casa De Gus – April 2nd

I was fortunate to catch Florida Paddling Trails Regional Director of Jacksonville, Gas Bianci at a good time who would meet me at the end of the day at Sisters Creek Marina and let me stay at his house.  But not before I had to knock out some good mileage.

I would be getting deeper into Duval County today, also known as Jacksonville.  Luckily, today the tides were exactly in my favor for the time and location I was starting out at.  I was flying down the narrow stretches of water way and you could really get a visual for how serious the tides are here.  They would rise and drop six feet here where in most parts in florida, the tides move 1.5-3 feet.  That means the tides are 2-4 times more powerful in Jacksonville!  At low  tide, I saw a boat sitting way up the sky on a boat lift where I had to tilt my head backwards to look at it.

Today was hitting bridge after bridge, passing through Jax beach, and finally having to hit the St. Johns River as the last miles of the day.  It was a slack tide and I aimed straight where I needed to go, but before I knew it I was stuck in a several mile per hour current that was taking me out towards the inlet instead of Sisters Creek where I was getting picked up.  I had to go back to hugging the shore trying to fight against the current but it’s power was immense.  It was either that, or cross back over and try again at a spot further upstream, but I was too impatient for that. I paddled hard and hard traveling  0-.5 mph.  I made my way around a large container ship, then around a seawall where the water was pounding the wall. I realized if I did win the battle, the current would have pinned me against the wall and I would be in serious trouble so I kept on paddling with all the advanced paddling techniques and stamina I had acquired over nearly 1,500 miles of paddling.  I ended making in relief but it is something I never could have done as a newbie.

From there I met Gus, took a shower, and we went to White’s, a southern seafood restaurant on the water.  We both got the all you can eat fried catfish.  The catfish were whole… heads, fins, and all!  Nice and Crispy. It was also the local fishing tournament hot spot so the place was jammin’!

Photo 1 – endless marsh

Photo 2 – landing at sisters creek

Photo 3 – Turtle-ly enough for the turtle club

day 2 sawgrass day 2

day 2 turtle

Day 17, 2015 – Mile 1462 – Unofficial Primitive Camp – April 1st

I ate a Delicous brekfeast, had some key lime pie pastries, and was off on my way.  I planned on waiting until noon to depart intentionally as the tides would be screaming out of the St Augustine Inlet.  I had no idea, but the tides are extremely strong in this segment, and with the full moon they are at the strongest of the month.  I left at 10:30 as I could not wait and man, I had to do some tough paddling. I was hugging as close as 20 feet to shore in 1 foot of water to stay out of the current.  Then as the tide loosened up, the winds began to blow heavily which were not in my favor.

I had a moment of awe as these tall boney trees were popping up everywhere and being in the desolate areas of the marsh.  You would still see a Canadian traveling up in their sailboat, but that was about it.

As I was getting close to my last couple miles, I thought I had the end of a rough day but not before some last minute thunderstorms squeezed in with gusty winds.  I had about 1 hour of daylight left and was 1/10th of a mile from the campsite until my gps went out.  I went to reach for new batteries and water had seeped through my dry bags and penetrated through my zip lock bags.  My dry bags have given way to months of salt water abuse at this point.  All my batteries were rusted and I  could not recharge my GPS.  Thankfully there was a stick in the water marking where the campsite was because you could not find out where the site was until you were right next to it. Had my GPS gone out any earlier, I likely would not have been able to find it in an area where there is not a lot of solid ground.  The campsite was a rugged one, but it would be my last night in a tent if all went to plan.  I was going to be staying at the Casa de Gus for the final night.

Photo 1: Nice trees near the end of the day

Photo 2: Pirate ship in st augustine

Photo 3: Rest stop at Timacuan Indian Territory

day 1 beautiful

day 1 pirate ship

Day 1 Timacuan Break