kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
I don't feel like I have a whole lot to say today, though the hamster wheel in my head is spinning as always. :) So instead, have some recent photos!

Last weekend I took Friday off--I have some more vacation days to burn by the end of the year, and we'd been talking about going back to St. Augustine on a weekday, hoping the fort and old town wouldn't be as busy as it is on weekends. Ha! Instead of gaggles of tourists, there were gaggles of school groups instead. Note to self, in the future go there in the first weeks of the school year or something. Though it's way hot then, and at least we had lovely weather!

Clicky! )
And that's that. Thanks for looking, as always!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)

I realized I didn't post about my kayaking excursion from the weekend before last! It had been a while, so I felt I really ought to get back out on the water, and I'd enjoyed the couple Sunday-morning paddles I'd done on the Wekiva, so I loaded up bright and early again. And now that summer's winding down and school's back in session, there was even less traffic than usual on the river, which was nice. I'm sure I was the first one out from Wekiva Springs State Park, and I didn't meet anyone coming the other way until near the Rock Springs confluence. I went downstream to just past Wekiva Island, and then came back up. And as the image up top teases, I made some friends!

Clicky! )
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
Spot the gator?

I know, I just did the Wekiva a couple weeks ago. But I dunno, this might become a relatively regular Sunday-morning thing for me, it's a convenient location and a nice paddle!

This time around I got an earlier start--Wekiwa Springs State Park opens at 8am, and at 8:03 I was there. I suspect I was the first boat on the water, and had the whole river to myself as I headed downstream. This time I thought I'd go to the confluence of the Wekiva and Rock Springs Run, and head up RSR for a bit to see what that's like.

Just keep paddlin'... )
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)

Sunday morning we had no plans, so I thought it might be a good opportunity to load up my kayak and hit the water. After that nice paddle along the Wekiva River a few weeks back, I'd wanted to go there again. So I tossed the boat in the van and off I went!

More! )
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)

We did a fair amount of paddling this weekend! My sister-in-law came over for a visit, so Saturday evening we loaded up the kayaks and headed out to Secret Lake Park in Casselberry. It's a nice park with a playground and a short hike and boardwalk, but it also has a launch onto North Triplet Lake, which is connected via little canals to (as the name might imply) two other lakes, Middle Triplet and South Triplet. There are actually some other lakes it connects to as well, but North Triplet and Middle Triplet lakes have been fine to get started with. We thought it would make a nice first excursion with the new kids' kayak (though we did try it in the neighborhood lake first, as I mentioned before).

Clicky for more! )
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
Even though I don't really have many photos to show, and I don't usually include trips to the neighborhood lake since those don't feel like proper paddling excursions, I wanted to make sure to note the weekend's developments in the kayaking department. See, we'd been considering getting a small, inexpensive kayak for the older girls to try out and see if they like it. I had one in mind at the sporting goods store, so when I got a Memorial Day weekend 25%-off coupon we said what the heck, no time like the present. I took the girls to the store and picked up one of these--normally $120, but on sale for $110 and then the 25% on top of that, not a bad deal at all!


It's a cute little thing, nothing special but nice and lightweight. Hallie was really keen on getting it as soon as I mentioned the idea. Hermione kinda leaned towards not-interested, but she's always like that with new things until she actually tries it and finds she loves it. Anyway, we got it home Friday evening and tossed it in the pool so they could try it out in a controlled environment. Naturally, it was a big hit immediately:



Both girls really took right to it and figured out paddling pretty easily, even though the only paddles I have are adult-sized. They had a little trouble stopping and reversing, but that'll come with time. They also practiced climbing back up onto it from the water, and even standing up on it to see how stable it was. And we had them see what floating with a lifejacket on feels like too, which is good to know.

Yesterday evening our area was dodging some thunderstorms, but they all seemed to be going around us and not coming through, so I loaded my kayak onto its wheels, put the kid kayak inside (perfect fit!) and hauled them down to the neighborhood lake. Took two spins out and back--the first time I had Hallie and Amy on my boat while Hermione tried out the new one, and then Hallie took the new one and I took Amy again. It did start raining, but just a light sprinkle that we hardly even felt, so not bad. And again, the girls both did just fine with the new kayak--really well, in fact. We got out through the lily pads into the open water of the lake, then just paddled around for a while and watched a pair of terns swoop around and occasionally dive into the lake to catch dinner. It was quite peaceful, and I think the girls really enjoyed it too. No photos, though--I wished I'd brought my camera, but I wasn't sure if I'd need to do any rescuing or towing, and with the rain it's just as well I left it behind too. Next time!

I'm really excited that maybe we can start paddling as a family pretty soon! With the new member of our fleet I could take all 3 girls out, with one of them on the little kayak and two on mine. But I think our plan now is to procure one more kayak, a mid-sized one that would work for me when I'm going out alone (the big kayak is nice, but it's such a pain to get up on the van and muscle around out of the water, I worry about how secure it is while driving, and on the water it's a bit slow), but that Hermione or Heather could handle solo too. Then we could all hit the water with me and Amy and another kid on the big kayak, Heather or Hermione on the medium one, and Hallie or Hermione on the little one. Lots of options! I could even see us getting another one of the kid kayaks since this one seems to be a hit, but then it would become problematic to haul all 4 around without getting a trailer of some sort. I guess we'll see what happens.
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
At the end of our street is a lovely little lake of the sort that dot the whole state of Florida. The lakefront area is the neighborhood's common property, sort of our own little private park that serves as our gathering place for the annual homeowner's association meeting and the neighborhood events and festivals we host now and then. The girls love to go down there to run around and look for critters--grasshoppers, minnows in the lake, tadpoles if there are puddles, dragonflies and wading birds in the stormwater retention pond that's also down there, other things on occasion. I've also hauled the kayak down there a few times now, since it's not too tough with the wheels. I haven't really posted about those kayak trips because I don't consider them true expeditions, and I usually don't even bring the camera so there's not much to post anyway. There usually are some interesting things to see, various waterbirds on the lake and other birds flying overhead looking for fish--but since I haven't been brave enough to take one of my proper telephoto lenses on the kayak, I wouldn't get good photos anyway.

But this past weekend was a little different! Saturday after dinner (it's nice that we're getting a bit more daylight now, and even more so in a week or two when the spring time change comes) I thought it would be fun to tote the kayak down to the lake. Heather's sister Stef was visiting, so it was even an opportunity for Heather to come out on the boat with me--usually she has to stay on shore to watch the kids, of course. So I took Hermione out for a short trip first, and then I went back out with Heather and Amy. And what should we see but a gorgeous bald eagle, swooping down over the lake maybe 100 feet ahead of us. It landed on a grassy part of the shoreline, where it hung out for a bit and got some drinks of water from the lake. I happened to have brought my camera this time, thinking I'd try my old manual-focus Tamron 35-210mm f/3.5-4.2 lens, which I realized is actually a pretty good lens for kayaking in terms of focal length range, plus it has a not-too-shabby 1:3.8 macro mode for when I'm close up to shore. The manual focusing presents a challenge, especially in fading light and on a moving boat, but still, I'll have to keep it in mind for future trips!

So I paddled slowly in the eagle's direction, snapping off lots of shots as we approached, hoping I might get a couple in focus. This one was pretty close:


As we got too close for the eagle's comfort, of course, it took off and headed for the pine trees along the shore, but I got a lucky shot (almost sharp!) as he did:


Aunt Stef and the other girls on the shoreline as we headed back.

I must say, it's nice to have the lake so close when I feel like taking a quick paddle and don't want to deal with loading up the van. Especially now that the evenings will be getting longer before dark falls, I'll have to do this more often. And the water is calm so I should start feeling confident enough to bring the good lenses. :)
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)

I was actually reluctant to post this as a Paddling Diaries entry, because it was a rather short one and I didn't get many photos. But oh well, it was an excursion so I guess it counts. :)

The plan was to go to PEAR (Palatlakaha Environmental and Agricultural Reserve) Park near Leesburg--it looked like a neat place to check out, and it has a canoe/kayak launch for the Palatlakaha River, a section of which runs through the park. So I loaded up the kayak and off we went. We played on the playground first, then ate the lunch we'd brought, and then thought we'd take a little hike. So we did that, which was quite nice--we walked for maybe a half hour and still only checked out a portion of the park, the place is big!

After the hike, Heather took the younger girls back to the playground while Hermione and I went to get the kayak and take a paddle. So I got the kayak down and onto its cart, and hauled it down the path to the boat launch.. only to find that the ramp's gate was closed and locked, and the river itself was choked with weeds and would be a nightmare to paddle anyway. Lesson learned: always check the launch and water before unloading the kayak!

So much for Plan A, then, and I had no Plan B. But we'd taken the kayak that far, I wanted to use the damn thing! We realized we were only about 10 miles from Lake Griffin State Park, which we'd first visited a month or two back and really liked because of the huge live oak tree that lives there. So we headed over there, got a new state parks annual pass, and hit the water. I took Hermione and Amy out and back for a little bit first, and then dropped them off and took Hallie for a short ride. Like I said, it was pretty short, maybe 45 minutes total on the water, but it was a gorgeous day to be outside so it was a good day anyhow. After I got the kayak back on the van, we headed out to visit the Mammoth Oak (where the girls had a ball again), and then headed home.

So have a few pictures! Clicky )
Oh, as a sidenote, when we purchased the new state parks pass, the guy made it valid through February 2017! I don't think he meant to do that--when he first said 2017 I figured he'd just misspoken so I didn't correct him, and then when he proceeded to write 2017 as the expiration date and punch 2017 on the pass card itself, I thought it too late to correct him! So I guess we'll see if someone at another park questions and/or corrects it, but 3 years for the price of one sounds pretty good to me!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
Ahh, you know how I love these old live oaks festooned with Spanish moss.

The weather Saturday called for another unseasonably warm day in these parts, so my daughters liked the idea of heading back to DeLeon Springs State Park, where they could take a dip in the spring pool while I took the kayak out for a spin. Our plan was to have lunch at the Old Sugar Mill restaurant in the park, but when we arrived we discovered that there was a special event going on which had the park packed to the gills, and the wait for the restaurant was 2 hours. Yikes! So we turned around and had lunch at a charming little bakery cafe run by a very nice German couple, and then headed back to the park. In addition to being very warm, it was also rather windy--and I discovered upon getting my gear together that in my brilliance I had grabbed two paddle halves that did not fit together, leaving me a bit underpowered. Oops and lesson learned. But I soldiered on and took a short trip into Spring Garden Lake with a half a paddle.

Off we go! )
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)

So like I said, for this past Saturday I was contemplating a few destinations for a proper kayaking excursion, with a few criteria. To wit:

-Not too far away (say 90 minutes, tops)
-Good scenery (may as well start out with something awesome, right?)
-Easy access for put-in and take-out
-Minimal launch fees
-Reasonable distance between put-in/take-out
-Something for Heather and the kids to do while I'm on the water

When we found out Stef (my sister-in-law) was going to come along too, I wanted to make it somewhere really good too, since we're sort of showing her the highlights of the state (as she just moved here last summer). So we decided on Silver Springs. At first I was thinking we'd just take turns paddling around the headsprings area (at the old Silver Springs amusement park site, which became a state park in October), but it turned out that I could put in at Silver Springs and paddle about 2 miles downstream to the dock at (what used to be) Silver River State Park, and that sounded like a good distance to start.

Continued below the cut! )

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