Let the Planning Get Real! For our upcoming next grand adventure that is: paddling the Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail (referred to in the future as the CT)!
Yes, finally after an unusually cold December and January the weather trend here in Florida is warming. And our logistical planning for this trip we’d originally hoped to begin in late December after Cliff’s graduation and our Christmas family reunion kicks into higher gear.
The full 1,515 mile circumnavigation from the Alabama border on the Gulf to the Georgia border on the Atlantic takes at least 4 months. The prime paddling season here is November into April (before it gets too dang hot and the bugs get too dang plentiful and ornery, I guess). Yes, we are a month late beginning, leaving us only 3 months. And Yes, despite our five-day paddle in Mosquito Lagoon in the Canaveral National Seashore where the no-see-ums ate me alive And despite our one day twisty, windy Juniper Springs Run paddle And despite our almost daily mega-mile walks along the roaring Atlantic ocean, yes despite all of this John and I have gotten lazy, several pounds heavier and inexplicably accustomed to luxury. We agreed we’ll be lucky to paddle the full length of the Gulf in the three prime paddling months we have left, and have adjusted our sights accordingly.
The plan now is to attempt to paddle Miss Pink and Baby Blue roughly (like, mega mega mega roughly) 950 miles from the Alabama border to Key West over the course of 3 months. So, along the Emerald Coast, the Forgotten Coast, the Big Bend, the Nature Coast, Tampa Bay, the Ten Thousand Islands, the Everglades, and the Keys. Don’t those names just make you want to paddle?! But dang the logistics are, let’s say, interesting. And only 20-some people have EVER completed the entire route, whether in one trip or broken into several trips. (Geeze, where IS everyone?)
Last summer John and I came up with the idea to to do it. And started researching it, reading the blogs of everyone that’s paddled it and blogged about it. And then we ordered the Trail Guide while in the States last summer and began the arduous task of deciphering it and taking notes. The guide went with us to Nicaragua, where it sat on our table, unceremoniously ignored. And then was accidentally left behind in our Colorado barn when we flew in and picked our camper up while doing the timed, divorce-threatening, lifestyle-packing-change shuffle. (Thank you Karen Steinberg Reed for digging around in the barn, finding it right where I’d forgotten it in the pocket of my suitcase. The suitcase, ahem, that I wanted to bring in the camper until John realistically pointed out that there wasn’t enough room.)
So, reunited at last with the guide book, our route planning began again in earnest. Where can we get water? What’s the longest stretch we have to go without water resupplies, meaning how much carrying capacity fo we have to carry with us in our teeny tiny boats? Where can we get white gas for our cook stove? How often do we have to get it? And groceries. How often can we easily (meaning not too far a walk from where we land our kayaks) buy groceries and what’s the selection like? Where can we camp, every night, for three months? And how do we keep from getting lost in the seemingly endless stretches of low-lying swampy, marshy islands and actually find that one legal campsite amongst it all, while the tide is low and we see mud forever and an alligator lurks at our side? And how many freakin bug bites am I going to have? And will there be a store to buy more bug juice when I run out?
I think we’re almost done assembling all of our gear and charts. (Thanks Sara (Antonio Torruella) and Tania M. Torruella for receiving the last-minute packages of gear that we ordered and for providing our lodging as we’ve waited out the weather and the arrival of our packages.)
Food shopping awaits. Installing John’s new compass awaits (his less-than-one year old busted and we’re not waiting to send it off to get repaired). Etc etc etc.
But what we are doing NOW is scouting a few of our resupply stops on our drive from my sister’s condo at New Smyrna Beach, Florida, where we’ve been based for the past month, back to my dad’s condo in Orange Beach, AL, near the CT’s starting spot.
We’re camped tonight at Shell Mound Campground near Cedar Key, northwest of central Florida. It’s one of the designated camping spots on the Trail, but we can tell that it’s only accessible at high tide.
Cedar Key will be a perfect resupply spot with an easy sand landing by a public bathroom and just a few blocks from a well-stocked small grocery store and a hardware store that carries white gas. And good seafood and beer, which we had to test out and it passed!