We set off before 9 am on the last and final day of our kayak trip. It was going to be a long paddle in the hot sun and there were no sand bars to stop and cool off at. Everyone had said that this was the most difficult day and Georgia gave us a pep talk that this was the day we had been training for. I paddled out a little ways before we all started because the reflections in Owl Creek were amazing that morning and I knew once everyone's paddles hit the water the reflections would be disturbed. I meditated for a few moments on all the peace I had experienced during the past five days and how grateful I was to reconnect with nature in this way.
Tom was not daunted by the supposed challenges of day 5. The reason I have no photos of him until the last day is that he was always a couple of hours ahead of us. This man must have been born to paddle. Day 5 we were all told to stay together. Actually, I was glad he had to hang with us, because I decided if it was so effortless for him I was going to watch and learn. I did pick up a very important tip during the day, and I too made it to our final destination with no soreness and energy to spare. The tip he taught me was to rest the paddle on the kayak even for a microsecond ever fourth or fifth stroke. It rests your arms for just long enough to fool them.
Fort Gadsden was the site of one of the deadliest attacks in the invasion of Spanish Florida. Two US Navy ships killed 270 men, women, and children at the fort when their shots apparently hit the magazine and created a giant explosion. The fort was occupied by military several times until the 1860s. During the 1830s and 1840s, the Apalachicola River was an artery for steamboats to travel to inland plantations to move their cotton, and boats stopped here as well.
This floating house was very tiny, but in an excellent location where the Brothers River flowed into the Apalachicola. It seemed protected by the tall trees on the island that cast their shadow over it. The view was expansive and it reminded me of how you are always supposed to get the smallest house in the best neighborhood. Perhaps this would be the floating house for me.
As the day wore on, it got hotter and hotter with only teasing hints of clouds in the sky. This was definitely a day to slog it out, but everyone knew the end was almost in sight and there would be beer and good seafood at the end.
The floating houses looked more and more appealing to me the hotter I got, especially the ones with screened porches. Some people kept hunting dogs nearby in similar screened buildings. In this part of the river we had to paddle a lot harder, as the flow was not as strong here.
We did finally discover some dry land and people got out to take a break and stretch. It was pretty entertaining to watch, but everyone felt better afterwards.
This floating house really made me laugh. It was literally a house and a boat put together.
By this point, I think people were dreaming of reuniting with friends and family. Maybe it was the lack of sandbars, or perhaps it was the relentless sun, or a combination of the two that made me feel like I was finally okay with the trip coming to an end. When the group passed under the bridge it seemed like a practice finish line and I suggested they all raise their paddles. It was a good thing, because when we got the actual end, I was so happy to be on dry land I forgot all about pictures. We took the St. Marks River at Mile 10, since that detour got us out of the busier section of the river, although we still were passed by boats.
To prevent heatstroke since we couldn't swim, I took frequent detours to the riverbanks to check out the wildflowers. While I was sitting in my kayak photographing these wildflowers, a butterfly suddenly appeared and started feeding on their nectar.
We took a little creek over from the St. Marks back to the Apalachicola. I had been on this same creek with Dan a few months earlier and when I saw the tree, I knew we were almost there. I think the scariest part of the whole trip was crossing over to the far bank because of the number of very large boats that passed us. Often the wind can be very stiff here, and we were lucky that it was not blowing too hard.
We waited for a while to regroup, so we could all come in together. As I sat in my kayak, I noticed the clouds were starting to form now that we were almost at our destination.
Everyone was smiling. Tom was smiling a lot as usual. He may have been dreaming of beer, or perhaps it is just because I don't think any amount of exercise can tire out this man!
Here we are after some great seafood. One of the best things about this RiverTrek is that you end up in the great little town of Apalachicola–one of my favorite places in Florida. Though tourists do come and they are dependent on tourism for their economy, the town still retains so much character and riverfront has many of the original buildings. There are no high-rises and overdevelopment here.
This is the view from Owl Creek. It is beautiful at all times of day, although the late afternoon/early evening is my favorite time there since magic clouds always seem to form and when the light hits the grasses it turns them gold.
Just before I headed to the Bed and Breakfast for a shower and a clean bed, I saw a shrimp boat heading out to sea. Fishing, oyster catching, hunting, and living off the land are a way of life here. The bounty this area has provided for generations is something the people here do not take for granted. With the fresh water supply in danger from the water wars and the mix of fresh and salt water balance disturbed, they are fearful that this bay is dying and with it their livelihoods and culture. When rivers and estuaries are impaired beyond the tipping point, it becomes questionable as to whether these water ways will ever return to health. More than 90 percent of sea creatures in the Gulf spend time in the Apalachicola Bay and fresh water is essential to keeping this bay alive. The time to save this gem that is beneficial to areas well beyond its watershed is now.