Nine Hardy Souls Explore St. Joe Peninsula
Port St. Joe, FL--Generally the trips taken by the Fellow Travelers involve freshwater streams and swamps. Some trips taken in March have turned into frigid challenges. On March 10 nine Fellow Travelers did something unusual by canoeing the saltwater bay at St. Joe Peninsula State Park.
Donald May and Charlie Stines loaded themselves into the Suburban Profane about 6:25 AM and arrived at Paula Allen’s spread in Thomasville a little after 7:00. Paula was ready to go, and Margie Massey was there with rookie Jeanne (pronounced Jeanine) Hewetson and Margie’s springer spaniel. Margie, Jeanne and the dog rode separately.
Everyone arrived at Art and Janice’s home about eight. Greg Baker and John Williams came there. Janice served everyone fresh fruit and fresh doughnuts. After a bit of socializing three vehicles departed Tallahassee for the trip.
It was an easy drive. There was a St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Crawfordville and a Normandy Invasion Celebration in Carabelle, but no one stopped to join the festivities. Margie stopped to entrust the springer spaniel to her daughter, Rhett, just where the SR 30 leaves US 98 to go to the state park.
Upon arrival the gang found out that it was necessary to have reservations for the primitive camping. After a little talking the park officials took our $40 and allowed us to camp. After everyone took advantage of the comfort stations it was time to load the canoes and start humping. Art and Janice took the Penobscot 17 (Gunn boat), John and Paula took the Canadienne, Donald and Greg took Greg’s Spirit II, Margie and Jeanne took the Mohawk (the Kyle Weeks boat), and Charlie soloed the Penobscot 16.
It was a beautiful day for paddling. The temperature was in the low seventies and there was a gentle breeze--of course, it was a headwind. There were a lot of birds, especially pelicans which Donald confused with penguins, but the real entertainment was watching several dolphins cavorting near the canoes.
There was a long lunch break around 1:00. Since no one was in a hurry the gang sat in the folding chairs and enjoyed the sunshine on the beach. After staying there a while it was more canoeing down the bay. The water in the bay was shallow even though put-in was at near high tide. It was possible to see fish, jellyfish, and stingrays in the water. The water color was an emerald green.
Around 3:45 the first paddlers spotted an abandoned boat. It was nearly at the end of the peninsula and marked what looked like a good camping spot. Everyone began scouting the shore for tent sites. Camping is not allowed on the beach itself. Art and Janice were lagging behind but finally Janice came into sight soloing the canoe. Shelfer had got out a bit early and walked into the area just about the time Janice arrived.
After pitching the tents the nine gathered on the beach to brave gnats and wait for Art to cook his chicken perleau. It is a chicken and rice dinner and was quite tasty. Supper was enhanced by a grand salad Margie prepared and by some sweet grapefruit slices and other fresh fruit she provided. Art even had supper done by 6:00 and it was eaten in the daylight.
Once supper was devoured the campers went to the tent area. Art took the canoe out into the bay to wash the pot and fell in. His GPS was probably the real casualty. Several gathered firewood and John built a fine fire. It did produce some black smoke due to the burning of plastic plates and the pine wood. The rules say no campfires but they also say to build fires on the inside of the peninsula and to clean up the ashes. The gnats were not a problem around the fire. It was the night of the advent of daylight savings time and everyone stayed up rather late swapping lies. John went for an extended walk and the others began to worry that he was lost, but he finally came back.
No one noticed missing an hour of sleep with the time change. Charlie arose and had Greg’s Dunkin’ Donut coffee made and got to watch the sunrise as a bonus. He also prepared a breakfast of sausage, grits, and eggs which was supplemented by Margie’s fresh fruit. It was a cool morning and jackets were welcome.
Once the dishes were washed the canoeists played around. Gathering around the abandoned boat brought ideas of Survivor and questions about who would be voted off first and who would survive. Finally, it was time to paddle back to the put-in. There was some swapping of paddlers as Margie joined Greg and Jeanne joined Donald.
It was a bracing paddle against the wind. Again, there were dolphin playing, mullet jumping, and birds fishing. Greg and Margie arrived back at the park around 1:30, followed by Charlie and then by Jeanne and Donald. After loading those canoes, the trailer was taken to Eagle Landing to save Art, Janice, Paula, and John a bit of paddling.
Once the canoes were loaded it was time to leave. Everyone except Greg stopped at Boss Oyster in Apalachicola for a real good seafood meal. After that, it was back home.