After breakfast, paddlers were shuttled to Katie’s Landing, a great put in, and began the first day’s 12 mile paddle to Blue Spring State Park. Because we got on the water late, paddlers didn’t arrive until about 4pm. We set up camp, had dinner delivered and readied for more predicted cold weather. This night was 26 degrees, but our entertainers, Bill and Eli Perras, were real troopers and performed by the fire pit a short distance from our tents and the take out. The highlight of our stay at Blue Spring State Park was the sight of 273 manatees in the spring run. Many took the opportunity to view the manatees ‘stacked like cord wood’ as the cold set in.
The next morning, we had breakfast, struck camp and set out for Highland Park Fish Camp, 13 miles downriver, going north on the St. Johns. Highland Park Fish Camp has been in operation at the same location since 1962. The office/store is more museum than place of business. We were entertained that night by the incomparable Magda Hiller, who made her sixth appearance at a Paddle Florida event, and she did not disappoint. The temperature was a cozy 39 degrees . . . a heat wave!
With paddlers still chilled from all the cold weather they endured, they saddled up and headed for DeLeon Springs State Park, 9.6 miles away, where they arrived around noon and had a final barbeque lunch before departure. Jan Corcoran did her usual fantastic job with rest stops at Highbanks Marina and Ed Stone Park, along making sure everyone was taken care of. Thank you Jan!
The people who cancelled the trip missed a great adventure, but the folks who stayed and braved sub-freezing temperatures, will have stories to tell for a lifetime.
Special thanks to Florida State Parks and the Office of Greenways & Trials for their indispensable assistance in the coordination of all Paddle Florida events.