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KAYAKING ON BLACKWATER CREEK

Kayaking on Black Water Creek

We left before the sun was fully up, to drive several hours to the Seminole State Forest in Central Florida for a kayak trip that would take us down the Blackwater Creek, and into and up the Wekiva River. It was a perfect summer morning, as the eight of us drove the dirt road into the Forest to the put in point. Our guide was Rick Roberts and his wife, Linda, of the Florida Outdoor Adventures in Sanford. He had gotten the necessary permits to enter this pristine and quiet place. We encountered an irritated water mocassin on that dirt road, and another where we finally parked our cars in the meadow near the Creek. There were five of us ladies from the Florida Outdoor Writer. s ready for a day of adventure....

The Blackwater Creek runs about 22 miles into the Wekiva - meandering its dark, tea colored water through the 22,000 acre Seminole Forest. It is one of the most remote areas in Florida, yet it is very near to one of the most populated - Orlando! I'm not sure at what point on the creek we put out, but we knew it would take us four hours to go with the current to get to the Wekiva, and another two hour push against the current on that river.

As we drifted down, negotiating around fallen trees, and turns in the creek, birdsong filled the air. Alligators noted our presence, and slid quietly out of sight into the dark waters. It always amazes me how a 6'-8' reptile can hide in 1'-3' of water....no telling how many eyes watched us as we drifted by. Herons, ibis and limpkins heard our approach, and hid in the forest or took off down the creek with loud protests. As the hours stretched on, we would stop and stand in the cool waters to take a break, somehow aware of, but not fearing the alligators or water mocassins that may have been sleeping there. We feared the ticks in the woods,more. We humans made too much noise....

By the time we got to the Wekiva River, we were already tired, but we tried not to think of the two hour against-the-current leg of the journey. A couple of the ladies could go no farther, so Rick and his friend took over and towed them up the river. If you paused in your strokes, the current carried you back from whence you came, so you just kept going. When we stopped along the banks of this beautiful pristine river, I noticed the black clouds forming. I didn. t mind the rain, but did mind what came with our typical Florida afternoon storms. I paddled furiously, hoping the storm would pass us by. No such luck...When my hair stood on end, I yelled the "s" word, and ducked into the kayak as far as I could. At the same time a crack of lightning hit so loud on the bank behind me, it drowned out my scream. When I finally realized I was still breathing, I realized, too, I had cheated death again. That was the very spot I had consideried stopping along the bank to wait out the storm. I decided to keep going. The rain was warm, and felt good. The rain also muted the sounds of the forest.

Rick later told us a lot about the history of the area, and the people that lived there long before western man invaded this place. Indian mounds abound in the forest. These are kinds of places that need to be preserved, yet few people really know that they exist. Unfortunately, there is a little Catch -22 with this....we need to know about these areas and love them , in order to preserve them. The dilemma arises when we have to measure how much human intrusion is too much - where we can love a place to death. It is a very delicate balance. Rick belongs to a new group called the Friends of Florida State Forests, that donate their time, energy and money to make sure there is a balance. For instance, in the Seminole State Forest, permitted, keyed access is allowed for horesback riders, hikers, bicyclists, and canoers/kayakers. Unlimited access and ATVs are not allowed. The Friends of the Forests want to see these kinds of noninvasive activities in the State Forests, as many have as the activity du jour controlled burning.

Florida has so many unknown jewels like this, and they are all right in our own backyards. Take the time to seek them out, and you won't be disappointed....just try not to do it in a thunderstorm!

For information about the Friends of the Florida State Forests call (850) 414- 0869 or visit the Forestry website at http://www.fl-dof.com .

Please feel free to respond to any of the articles, and if you have news you wish to share, please email me at pgoldberg@goldenimages-photo-scuba.com .

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