My houseboat journey along the St. John's was a wonderful experience despite a windy start. My good friend America and her wonderful husband John drove the boat and prepared food for the week. It was so great to have a support team.
When we arrived at the Holly Bluff Marina (a great place to rent a houseboat!), it was extremely windy. I think winds might have been gusting over 30 mph. This is not good for driving a houseboat. We were banned from leaving the dock, although they did say we could have the boat for an extra day. I ended up driving down to Blue Spring to visit the manatees again. I absolutely love manatees and never give up a chance to commune with them. This one was amazing, rolling and spinning in the water.
The next day we went south, heading towards the confluence with the Wekiva River. It was incredible there and where we moored was spectacular. I kayaked on the Wekiva in the evening and at sunrise the following day. That is where this beautiful starburst surmise occurred.
Sunrise at the St John's-Wekiva Confluence ©
After I saw this amazing sight, I was treated to another miracle–a whole flock of wild turkeys feeding nearby. These three were along the shoreline and I watched and then followed them for quite awhile. They seemed perfectly comfortable that I wast there, as I didn't paddle or make a sound. The way they light hit them and revealed the incredible colors of their bodies simply amazed me. This was a gift I hadn't asked for, as I never dreamed such a sight could be possible. All I kept whispering was thank you...
Turkey Trio, Wekiva River
From here, we headed north to the Dead River and Hontoon Island where we moored for the night. The following morning, I climbed up on the deck of the pontoon boat and saw this amazing hawk couple. They looked so peaceful and romantic, but it was all an illusion. They were just scoping out the scene. For the rest of the time we were there, they went for squirrels and ibis and anything else they could get their talons and beaks on.
Hawk Couple on Patrol
Our last day, we headed up to the Alexander Springs area photographing ospreys, herons, ibis, and other birds along the way. Then we went back and docked in an elbow just below the St. Francis. I decided I would kayak the Norris Dead River. I went down to marker 34 where there was supposed to be an entrance, but I did not see it because the Hydrilla had taken over. I ended up going to marker 38 to the Woodruff Wildlife entrance. I began kayking back towards the Norris River and it was beautiful in the last light of the day.
Norris Dead River in the Last Light
It seemed like some idyllic paradise to me, but just like Eden I knew that I had to be careful. If I didn't get back to the main river soon it would be dark and who knows what shadow creatures I could encounter. I thought if I just made the next left I would be heading back to the St. John's. Unfortunately, that was not true. This was the other end of the cut at marker 34 and it was clogged all the way through. Fortunately, I decided to ask a couple in a fishing boat. Thankfully, Rick and Marcy, two amazing people and great Samaritans on the water, who fortunately also lived in the area, knew that the map I had was useless and that the only way back to the houseboat was to marker 38 and back along the St. John's. It was a good hour or hour and a half paddle and there was no way I could make it before dark. These kindly souls towed my kayak back and let me ride in their boat with them. On the way back, I made these images, one of the sunset with my iPhone and the other of their rat terrier with my camera. I was so happy to have met them and knew I was being watched out for as usual. Thank you universe for all your protection when I need it!
Rescue on the St. John's
Sunset, St. John's
This morning, I kayaked down the St. Francis and was blessed to see my creatures, including an eagle, an osprey bringing nesting material, and several kingfishers, none of whom seemed to mind my presence and allowed me to watch and study them for quite some time. How blessed we are to inhabit this planet with such wonderful beings.
Eagle on the St. Francis
Osprey Bringing Nesting Material
So thankful that the St. John's is being brought back and that river keepers and citizens have stepped up to protect this amazing river. All the other waterways in Florida deserve to be preserved too. Let's do our part. I can't imagine a world where these kinds of soul connecting encounters were no longer possible.