Wednesday, March 10, 2021
Martha studied kayaking possibilities, and I had bought permits for Eglin Air Force Base, on which there are four streams. However, all were closed except Turkey Creek. The nice ladies handling permits said there must be something going on.
We made sandwiches and headed to Hippie Hole. It’s a fairly long drive up a sand road. Other sand roads connected to this one, and one could surely get lost in here without a good map. I never put the truck in 4-wheel drive, but thought I might need to a couple of times. We passed the take-out bridge on the way up. Our other option was to float from this bridge to town, but we would need shuttle help.
At Hippie Hole, two ladies were splashing around in the water with their two dogs. Those dogs knew their job was to protect their owners. Thankfully, they had a good hold on them as we put in.
The water was crystal clear on a sandy bottom, surrounded by cypress trees and bushes. It is only 15’ wide at the put-in and winds constantly around twists and turns. Some are almost U-turns. It flows at about 4 miles an hour, washing up against the outside bank of each turn. With so many hurricanes in this area, there were lots of trees in the river. Fortunately, some great people had cut the downed trees and limbs.
We thought we could go with the flow and enjoy the ride, but we were constantly navigating the turns and ducking limbs, bushes and trees. Our float was only four miles long, so I figured an hour, which I didn’t think was long enough. After an hour of constant dodging obstacles, we had no idea how much longer it would be. For the first time I assessed the terrain. We were in low land not quite a swamp, but there would be no walking out of here. Did we miss the take-out? I THINK there was a bridge, but with Martha making all the plans, I had paid little attention.
If we missed the take out we would be another three hours of constant navigation with a couple of granola bars and one bottle of water. We had brought no change of clothing. If we tipped over in the chilly water, we had no matches to build a fire. I cursed my nonchalant attitude on a stream that we didn’t know.
I pulled up to a sandbar, took out my phone and opened Google maps. Lucky to have cell coverage, it showed we were a half mile or so from the bridge. Relieved, we paddled on, but after 20 minutes, I pulled the phone out again. Had we missed it? When I first looked, were we going toward the bridge or away from it? How could we miss a bridge?! It showed we were going in the right direction and were almost there.
Relieved the be at the take-out, our plan was for me to walk back up the sand road for 3.7 miles and get the truck, but thinking about it, we decided to go together. I would rather lose the boats than worry about Martha being by herself in the middle of nowhere. There were so many tracks in the soft sand, it was amazing – like reading a book. A man was walking a dog; tons of dear tracks; turkey tracks; raccoon; a fairly large cat, probably a bobcat and many others that I couldn’t identify. There are wild boar here, and I have read plenty of stories about them charging with their huge tusks. What was the defense? We didn’t even see a tweety bird.
It took us an hour to get to the truck, and I was whupped. Relieved and whupped. We stopped at a couple of turns, not sure which way to go, but arrived at the take-out. We were happy to see the kayaks still there. We had not seen one vehicle go up or down the road.
Driving home, we assessed the adventure. The stream is gorgeous with beautiful water in a pristine area. All the twists, turns, logs and bushes just made it more interesting. If we had tipped over, we could stand up on a sandy bottom anywhere. There was no real danger, and the take-out was impossible to miss. Someone had even put orange ribbons on limbs leading to it. We would put this stream on our favorites. Martha rated it a 10 for beauty, but a 7 for ease of floatability. I rate it a perfect 10. If you want easy, take the lower section. If you want it harder, you can take the top section, 2.5 miles above where we put in.
Yes, there was anxiety, fear of the unknown, but that’s part of the adventure. How often do you get to walk back to your car in an hour….on a sand road in the middle of nowhere?
We showered, dressed and went to Doc’s Oyster Bar for dinner. With eight beers on tap, we ordered beers and oyster appetizer and found a table overlooking the water on the lower deck and rehashed the day’s events. I asked if we were going to kayak tomorrow, but Martha said no, but she’d be happy to put me on the stream.