Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Baby Strokes

Sometimes life is a bit like wandering around an orchard, full of different fruit.  For a while, say you are into citrus.  You spend a bit of time sampling all the different kinds, running from the sticky sweetness of the honeybell to the puckery tartness of the calamondin.  You don't dislike the other fruit in the orchard, you just haven't got to them yet.  Finally you look around and see the peaches, which everyone has told you were excellent, and you begin to explore them as well.  This takes nothing away from the citrus, but only broadens you appreciation for their place with the other fruits of the grove.

I've gone down similar paths with my outdoors life, wandering sequentially from hiking to camping to hunting, with some of the best days being a blend of all of these (such as my hunts in Catalina and another great trip last fall that I will finally get around to sharing one day).  Recently I've started to explore kayaking, which it has, amazingly, taken me this long to get around to.  

I've never been a big fan of being on the water in boats, motors are just too noisy for me and sail boats are too damn complicated for my enjoyment (despite the best efforts of a dear friend to convince me otherwise).  I did fish a lot as a kid, and actually possessed a commercial license as a teen that my dad and I used to run trot lines for catfish for sale to the locals.  However, the interest in fishing waned as an adult, and even being given a nice center-console fishing boat did nothing to bring it back (yep, that happened, SeaPro 170 with a 90 horse Johnson that my dad got scratch-n-dent and fixed up, used it exactly twice in three years then sold it for the cost of maintenance to my cousin).  

I'd been on kayaks a few times in my life, but only a handful.  As I posted last fall, a trip to Lassen national park to visit the above-mentioned dear friend included a few evenings catching trout on some beautiful mountain lakes that I thoroughly enjoyed.  I found kayaking on still water to have an awful lot in common with hiking, and the fishing wasn't too bad either considering how many bites we had.  

When I got back to sunny FLA, I hemmed and hawed and shopped and pondered and ultimately purchased my first kayak. I didn't want to blow the budget on something that might become another doghouse like my trash-pile johnboat, but I also wanted something that was legitimate enough to be useful for camping and fishing from.  In my research I found a package deal from a big-box sports store that included a Perception Pescador 12.  The Pescador 12 is nothing more than a re-badged 2008 Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120, definitely a kayak that had, and in it's latest incarnation still has, a big following in the paddling community.  
Camo model even.  That actually worries me around motor boat traffic, it might get some judiciously applied hunter orange spray painted highlights soon. 

So far I love it, not the fastest boat on the water, but then again I was never after speed.  It seems to track as straight as I can paddle and so far is super stable.  The initial paddle was across a portion of the Potano Paddling Trail around Newnan's Lake on a warm, sunny afternoon at the height of the swamp marigold bloom back in October.

Big sky, Florida Autumn style

I followed it up with another sunny afternoon on Camp's Canal, another portion of the Potano Trail.

So much wildlife this day, critters and birds everywhere.

A few weeks later I hauled the 'yak down to the Everglades for a couple paddles, the first an afternoon cruise down the winding, mangrove shrouded maze of the Nobel Hammock Canoe Trail. 

A long kayak would have some issues on these turns

The next morning I did five miles, my longest paddle yet, across the sawgrass of the Nine Mile Pond Canoe Trail.

About 10-12 inches of water, talk about hiking in a boat!
Most recently, I took a short but bona fied fishing trip with some friends of mine to the near-shore waters of Cedar Key, Florida.  I didn't catch anything but we did have a few bites and it was a beautiful if cloudy day on the water, about all a newbie can ask for.

My friend in the hat there has the 2013 Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120, about $300 more for a slightly updated model of the same boat I'm in.  He's a real cheapskate too, I love rubbing that fact in :)

So now I've ordered or checked out a half-dozen books on the subjects of kayak fishing in general and Florida fishing in specific and hope to finally get a few reds or trout for dinner.  There are quite a few informative and entertaining blogs out there as well.  I doubt that this will turn into a full-blown obsession but I'm more than happy to add it to my repertoire of outdoor recreation activities, not that I have enough time for hiking, camping, gardening, hunting, and all the other things I love as it is, such a hard life.

And for the record, I'm a much better gardener than I am a hunter.  I actually get to eat out of my garden on a regular basis.


  1. Nice blog. I am glad I found it. Adding you to my blogroll right now.

    1. Thanks man, I appreciate it. I just saw you blog today, I'm looking forward to reading it.