Day 3 of a workweek is typically considered hump day–a day that happily signifies nearing the end of the week, when the weekend fun begins. No one on this excursion wanted it to be over though. We set off down the river to go sandbar hopping to cool off. I was happy to see a few clouds begin to paint the sky, and hoped we would have a cooler day paddling.
Each sandbar had its own unique qualities. Some were filled with natural vegetation, like this one, while others, like the one we camped on later were like the Sahara–expansive and empty.
I continued my search for the ideal floating house. This one somehow managed to become beached. It was interesting to see how they work.
This house had a lot of character. I loved the rust patterns and way the paint was decomposing, yet on the other hand it had a more costly metal roof and a big antenna. The people who owned this floating house clearly knew what their priorities were.
This one my friend Jim referred to as a fixer upper, although I think it required more repairs than I would be willing to undertake. I had to admit it did have character though.
Rob Diaz de Villegas and his son Max joined us on the third day. Rob was producing a segment on the trek for WFSU-TV. It was such a wonderful experience for Max. Most of the time, except on a couple of occasions when he got a bit tired (which was rare because he designated himself my energy giver), he looked like he was in heaven. I loved this photo when his father paused paddling for a second and Max looked at him so contentedly. This is what father's should do with their kids!
That night we were all transported to Gaskin Park for an amazing meal funded by Jim McClellan and Matthew Goodwin and prepared by Matthew from locally caught food. Captain Gill was so kind to take us there and back for what proved to be a truly memorable meal. One of the best things about this trip was meeting the locals who call this river home.
Jim is looking very happy because he knows how happy the rest of us are all going to be in a few minutes. Befriending Jim added such depth to my experience on the river as well. He is the author of Life Along the Apalachicola River, a wonderful little book with stories about his experiences growing up in the Apalachicola River Valley. Read on any gentlemen readers. There is even a chapter about how he convinced his wife to go camping in the woods with all the critters.
Here are the wonderful volunteers setting out the spread and the cooker the gator and brim were cooked in. Matthew Goodwin also prepared some amazing pulled pork. What a treat!
You can see that all conversation ceased as soon as every sat down with their food. I think Mike Mendez is wondering if this food was actually real. Tommy Thompson didn't care. He just closed his eyes and gave himself completely over to the heavenly tastes he was experiences. I believe everyone had seconds.
We were all full and content after the delicious meal. I walked down to the dock before we boarded to go back to the sandbar and was greeted with this peaceful scene.
In the boat on the way to our campsite, we got to watch the sun go down as clouds painted the sky and ghostly reflections appeared in the water. I felt like I was in the middle of an Impressionist painting. That night we sat around the campfire and laughed for hours. I laughed so hard I forgot all about taking pictures and just experienced the wonderful camaraderie our group had established in just three days.
When I woke up the next morning, I was greeted with this incredible sight. The water had carved little pools in the sand and the reflection of the trees and colors of the sky were spectacular.
It was such a beautiful morning on this sandbar that it warranted several photos. In the distance you can see the Apalachicola Riverkeeper support boat piloted by the river's indefatigable champion Dan Tonsmeire. It was so wonderful for all of us to spend time with him and learn more of the perils this river is facing as well as about how important it is for the region.
What a treat to be able to camp on such an expansive sandbar and to experience the true serenity of a wild river that runs through a National Forest. This was one campsite I was very sorry to be leaving.