Sunday, February 17, 2008

Tip a Canoe and Amanda Too

Amanda and I headed to Juniper Springs Recreation Area for a canoe run. We woke early, and arrived at the location at about 8:30. We paid for the canoe, and I pushed it around on a specialized dolly to the start of the run.

I had my doubts about doing the canoe this day. Amanda woke up in the middle of night, probably around three or four o'clock, whimpering and crying, due to a sharp pain in her neck. (No, it wasn't me!) She thinks she pulled some muscles wrong while carrying heavy bags. At daybreak, the worst of the pain had passed, but her neck was still very sore and tender and she had trouble turning her head. While driving, I'd often look for her to see when it was safe to change lanes.

So I had my reservations about doing the canoe run right now. It could wait a couple of days, but Amanda was adament that she could do it, so off to Juniper Springs we went.

Juniper Springs, unlike most water sources I've seen in Florida, is clear, allowing us to watch strange-looking boils in the water. The ground in most of Florida is made up of limestone, and the spring is slowly eroding the rock. Some places where the water comes out of the ground, the rock has been ground down to a fine powder and looks like it's boiling, except that it's limestone powder and underwater. Just wait until you see the videos I took of it!

I took charge of the canoe, sitting in the back while Amanda took the front.

The woman who rented us the canoe warned us the run was not for beginners, and almost immediately, we could see why.

The water level, in most places, is very shallow, so we had to navigate around them into the deeper areas, which has often just a few inches. Then we reached the first of many trees that had fallen across the creek, and we had to guide the canoe (and ourselves) under them. I usually leaned back to get under the trees, but because Amanda's neck hurt, she usually lean forward to get under them.

And at other locations, several trees had fallen across the creek in opposite directions requiring sharp turns to get around them.

This was the first canoe run either of us had been on which required so much work to get through. It was fun, but hard.

And we had the river almost completely to ourselves. Only one other person rented a canoe that day, someone who had thru-hiked the AT last year by strange coincidence, and most of the time he was behind us on the river and out of view.

Near the four-mile mark of the seven-mile run, we had to go under another tree. I'm not sure if we were coming in too fast or at a bad angle, or maybe a little of both, but Amanda grabbed the branch yanking the canoe off balance just enough for a substantial amount of water to get into our canoe.

At this critical junction, we both had two very different responses. My thought was, "We're okay. The canoe has several inches of water in it, but we're still afloat and we can paddle to shore, get out, and dump the water."

Amanda's thought, keeping in mind that she was in the front of the boat and unable to turn her head back to examine the situation, was "There are several inches of water at my feet! We're sinking!"

Then she jumped out of the canoe!

In the process, she tipped the already low canoe enough so more water was able to flood over the side, and at this point, my rosy expectations came to a dashing end. We were sinking. Or at least I was--Amanda had already abandoned ship.

My first concern was electronics. My camera, PocketMail, and even my wallet needed to be kept dry. Most things were in my pack, which I was wearing, and my camera was in a pocket of my pants since I had been using it.

I grabbed onto the limb that sunk us, pulling myself up and out of the water.

Then I realized, that was a pretty wasted effort. I had to get to shore, and the only way to do so was to drop into the water and walk. I couldn't get the camera out of my pants since I needed both arms to keep me suspended above the water, so I dropped down into the water, pulled out my camera, and waded to shore where Amanda had already gotten out of the water.

I handed her my camera, terribly wet from the soaking it got, and my backpack. I had to go back in the water to retrieve the canoe, but I could leave these things with her on shore.

The canoe went downstream perhaps 15 feet before getting caught in an eddy in a deep pool of water, and I took a couple of steps in that direction before realizing how deep the mud at the bottom of the river was. It was trying to suck off my Waldies.

I took my Waldies off and handed those to Amanda as well, now wearing nothing but socks on my feet.

Then I went in and retrieved the canoe, still stuck in the neck-deep water which suddenly felt ice cold on my chest.

I got the canoe, and brought it back to Amanda on shore. The crisis was over. We still had to empty the canoe of water and I had to assess the damage to my camera and the contents of my pack, but we could take our time about it now.

The other guy in a canoe arrived just in time to watch the unfolding disaster, and I jokingly told him not to do what we did. =)

I had Amanda give me my camera and I took the batteries out. I didn't know how badly damaged or not it was and didn't want to experiment with it now, but having been soaked in water, I didn't want any electricity running through it. Amanda did the same with her camera. My pack I opened, and thankfully, the contents were dry.

Amanda and I tipped the canoe to its side, emptying the water water out. I held the canoe steady as Amanda got in, then she hung onto a branch of a tree to keep the canoe steady as I got in.

The rest of the canoe run went fine, and four hours after we started, we made it to the end. We and our canoes were picked up and it was back to Juniper Springs for us.

We drove to Orlando afterwards, spending the night a couple of miles away from the Magic Kingdom--our destination for the next day.

Both of our cameras suffered water damage, mine more than Amanda's. The lens on Amanda's camera was fogged up but otherwise seemed to work fine. My camera had been completely submerged in water and was significantely more wet. I left the batteries out and took out the memory card, decided to wait until the camera had completely dried before starting it up and seeing how it worked (or not).

"This would never have happend on the Jungle Cruise," Amanda would say. =)


Anonymous said...

It's so interesting to hear people's reactions to our springs. :o) To me, they're just a normal part of Florida's nature, so it's really cool to see them through your eyes. Thanks, Ryan!


Anonymous said...

There's a *lot* of crystal-clear water and bubbling springs in N FL. Ichetucknee Springs is the same way, as are about a dozen springs within a couple of miles of Luraville. Unfortunately, the FT doesn't go to either of these places.

If anyone is interested, here's a plan for a wonderful day: Drive to Luraville, which really is only an intersection with one little market. Drive around to the side of the market where a large map of the area has been painted on the wall. It shows where all the springs are. One is Telford Spring, right next to the bridge on 51. The largest and prettiest spring has been made into Peacock Springs State Park, complete with admission fee, but most of the others are free to visit.

The springs are all crystal clear, and they all flow into the Suwannee River -- which is black due to natural tannic acid. Where the waters meet, you can watch fish hiding in the black water, dash into the clear for a second and look around, and then back into the black for safety.

-- Kirbert

Kaaren said...

President Tyler would be so proud! :)

Anonymous said...

wahoo, Amanda , hope your neck is feeling much better. perhaps that 'tip' did it good, I hope so.
Have fun in Orlando!

Anonymous said...

OK - I read this installment during lunch today and everyone around me turned when I laughed at the top of my lungs. Thanks so much for sharing this piece of your adventure with us. I needed a good laugh on a stressful Monday.


Anonymous said...

Give a wave to Mickey for us, will you? Actually, it's the 3 fairies from Sleeping Beauty that are my favorites. (They'll bring you good luck if you see them!)

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Perfect title for this post :D

Hike on!
~Twinville Trekkers