This is my little digital journal from the government shutdown. Today is day 9 (Friday Oct 11th), not counting the weekend. Click here to see all of my government shutdown journal entries.
Today I got up at 7am because I wanted to get canoeing pretty early. I could have set my alarm to get up before sunrise, but I’m on vacation so I just got up whenever I woke up today. I checked Facebook real quick and then ate some breakfast burgers, since they make for a pretty quick meal.
Then I drove about 30 minutes to Pine Island Conservation Area. Here it is on Google Maps. My original NASA boss, Gary, told me about this place many many years ago and I’ve been wanting to check it out and have just never made the time. This government shutdown is allowing me to do all sorts of stuff that I’ve been meaning to do, though.
There was a map station at the entrance and according to the map there were two separate canoe trails. A 2.3 mile loop run and a 3.0 mile run. The loop was obvious on the map, but the 3 mile run was not completely obvious to me at the time. After studying it later at home, I’m fairly certain that the 3 mile run and the 2.3 mile loop overlap on the Indian River side.
I started on the south side of the sanctuary at the start of the 3 mile run. My thinking was that I would quit after the 3 mile run run if I was tired. My problem was that I actually started in a lake next to the run instead of starting in the run. I didn’t actually realize that I was in the lake till I got to the opposite end and noticed that it didn’t take a sharp right turn as the map showed. Oops. No harm, though. It was a nice warm up run. The lake was dead calm. This photo was taken on the lake at about 9:30am.
Had I used my GPS app on my phone and zoomed out a bit, it would have been obvious that I was not in the correct body of water. But I didn’t do that. Oh well. Lesson learned. So after I took my tour of the south lake, I got my canoe put in at the start of the 3 mile run and immediately started encountering manatees. Huge manatees. Manatees in large groups, no less. I did my best to avoid them, but these things had no respect for my personal space. They acted like they owned the place. :-)
I didn’t see more than a couple jumping fish and some birds in the south lake, but in this canal there were tons of wildlife. I saw alligators, manatees, ospreys, large cranes, and even a bald eagle. As soon as I got out into the Indian River, there were tons of fish running in schools and lots of fish jumping out of the water. This is a fisherman’s paradise. I, however, am not a fisherman.
The breeze was starting to pick up and work against me while I was traveling north on the Indian River, but I stayed close to the shore where the breeze was minimal. By the time I got up into the north part of the sanctuary and at the start of the 2.3 mile loop, the breeze was calm and I felt pretty good so I kept going. I hadn’t really been paddling very hard. I was just taking a nice leisurely pace.
The north part of the sanctuary has multiple marsh ponds connected by small channels. There was one spot where I wasn’t even sure I was going to fit my canoe through. This is a great way to see natural Florida marshland. This is probably the same landscape that the first settlers saw way back when.
The largest pond at the north end of the sanctuary was a bit of a challenge since the wind was working against me. I was travelling north and the wind was pushing south. But I knew as soon as I turned around the northern border, I would be travelling south on the Indian River with the wind at my back, so I pressed on.
So after making the turn around and ending back in the Indian River travelling south, I was expecting the wind to push me south and I was planning on just lazily riding it home. But apparently the wind died just as I arrived. It was dead calm. I don’t believe this happens on the Indian River very often. It was pretty weird. The glassy smooth water did allow me to see lots of fish, though.
My rear was starting to hurt from sitting in the canoe, so I stood up and paddled and I could see even more fish. I know stand up paddle-boarding is a popular activity these days, but is stand up canoeing also a thing? Did I just start a stand up canoeing thing?
You can see a fish in mid-air in the photo below. You can also see that I’m in about 1.5 feet of water. The lakes and canals in this area are fairly deep, but the Indian River is very shallow unless you are out in the middle where the boat channel is located.
In this glassy smooth water, I also saw some dolphins feeding. I didn’t get close enough to them to get a good photo, though. I saw some small stingrays in the Indian River too. Here is a photo I took of a small stingray resting on the bottom.
So when it was all said and done, I actually ended up canoeing on both trails, plus repeating a large portion of the 3 mile run, plus a lake. By my estimate, I canoed 7 miles or more today. I started a little after 9am and finished a little after 4pm, so I was out on the water for 7 total hours. It was a long day, but I was not paddling hard during any of my day. Most of the time I was just taking it easy and paddling gently. Although, that being said, I’m sure my shoulders and back muscles are going to be killing me tomorrow.
The weather today was really nice. The high temperature was 85, I think. It was mostly sunny all day long. I think I applied SPF 50 sunblock three separate times today. I think I got a bit of sun on the back of my neck, though, because the last time I applied it was sweaty and I don’t think it took very well.
Here is a Google map of the Pine Island Conservation Area marked up showing my path today. This is not a GPS trail … I did not use my GPS today because I wasn’t sure the battery in my phone would last that long and I wanted to make sure my phone was available for emergencies. This is just a satellite image that I manually marked up with my path. Click on the image for a full size version.
So that was basically my entire day today. Afterwards, I stopped for some ice cream. Then I got home and rinsed off all the canoeing stuff, then I took a shower and ate a grilled swiss cheese sandwich. Then I relaxed on the couch for a bit and now I’m writing this blog post.
It’s sorta funny that sitting at the table typing into my computer, I still feel like I’m standing in my canoe and it is gently rocking back and forth. It’s just a bit dizzying. I wonder how long it will take to wear off. I wonder if it will impact me getting to sleep tonight. I’m about to find out because it’s 10:30pm and I’ve had a long day in the sun, so I’m going to bed now.
So that was day nine of my unplanned furlough slash vacation. My to-do list had 21 items on it last night when I went to bed. Tonight it now has 20 items on it. I’ll take it.
What will Monday hold for this furloughed government employee? Stay tuned!