From Black Water Swamps to White Sandy Beaches

From Black Water Swamps to White Sandy Beaches

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Port Leon Campsite to Wakulla Field Campsite---March 25th

There was a significant cooling off at night, so I'm back to wearing my winter cap and glove liners. The birds in the trees next to camp set up quite a ruckus at 5:30 this morning. Better than a rooster in the farmyard, they got Jon and I stirring early. It was only an hour's walk before we were at the St. Marks River, the trail terminating at the water's edge.
The data book said we'd have to hail a boat and the FT sign confirmed this. The problem was that there was no activity whatsoever on the opposite shore. One boat finally cruised past but the man at the helm misinterpreted our frantic waving as just an enthusiastic good morning greeting, the sound of the engine drowning out our pleas for passage. Well, what to do? Inflating an air mattress, setting our packs on top and kicking for the opposite bank seemed a bit desperate. Instead, Jon pulled out his binoculars and used them to get the name of the building---Shields Marina. He proceeds to call 411 information and gets the marina's number. Then, lo and behold, contact! The lady at reception tells him that it may be a little while, but someone will come over to get us. Sure enough, a short time later a pontoon skiff pulls up as nice as can be, we clamber on, and before we know it we're standing on the dock on the opposite side of the river with no wet feet. Amazing.
Unfortunately, the package Jon was expecting had not yet arrived. It was due to some screwy delivery schedule because the distribution center outside Talahassee was only 20 miles away. No wonder the US Postal Service is losing a bunch of money. Fed Ex or UPS would have had it there for certain. The good news is that it's only five days to the next trail town. The package should be waiting for him there.
Striding down the St. Marks bicycle path, we met Mrs. Shields, who owns the marina and her friend, a city councilwoman. They were interested in our journey on the Florida Trail and wondered what they could do to make it easier for hikers to cross the river. The easiest solution they suggested would be to place a bell on the far side that hikers could ring. Seemed like a good idea, fitting in with the best of maritime tradition. :-) A mile or so outside town at the junction with US 98, we resupplied at the trusty Dollar General and then went to scarf down a footlong at Subway. Just as we were leaving, a pickup pulls up and the couple inside ask if we need anything. We thanked them for their offer of help, but we were good to go. Friendly people. I like St. Marks!
We had a road walk to cross the Wakulla River on the highway bridge. The river is extremely clear because the volume of water actually comes from a great huge spring. It serves as a habitat for manatees which can munch on the aquatic plants and swim in the pristine waters. The trail returns to the trees a short distance after the bridge crossing and leads to "The Cathedral", a large stand of palms whose fronds form a natural vaulted ceiling, the soft light passing through them reminiscent of the effect of stained glass windows, the trunks forming row upon row of columns. An equally lovely natural spot is Shepherd Spring, its clear waters providing the first drinkable water since the Aucilla River. We filled our water containers, had a snack and headed for camp which was about a half mile away.
We arrived at 5:30 and were immediately assaulted by tiny biting flies, which in actuality are downright vicious. Thankfully the tent is again a safe haven. There's no place like home.:-)

St. Marks River
The Vaulted Ceiling
The Columns
Shepherd Spring

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