We had a wonderful time visiting with Carrie’s son Jason and his wife Barbara, and Carrie loved playing with her “GrandPup” Crash. Well, me too. But we felt the need to move on and really try out this RV’ing lifestyle, and our first stop on the road north was a place that Carrie had visited as a child growing up in Southwest Florida.
It’s called Fisheating Creek State Park, near Lake Okeechobee, and we recommend it to anyone traveling this way. The sites are roomy enough for our 37-foot rig, they are well kept, the power seems stable and 50 amp full service hookups are available. Our only real complaint about the place is their WiFi equipment won’t accommodate the Google Chrome web browser on our tablets for some strange reason, although they work with Internet Explorer just fine. That’s a new one on me.
One of the toys we’ve been wondering about buying is some kind of watercraft. Should we buy and carry our own or just rent one where we find them? Will a 2-person canoe, a double kayak, or 2 single kayaks suit us better? Should the kayaks be sit-in or sit-on? This stop presented us with an opportunity to “try before you buy.”
One of the main attractions is the creek that gives the park its name. Fisheating creek meanders along the edge of the campground and eventually empties into Lake Okeechobee, and the park takes good advantage of this beautiful asset. They offer not only the rental of both kayaks and canoes but a shuttle that will take you to spots that offer either a 4-hour or a full day’s trip down the creek. You just need to make sure the water level is high enough to not get stuck in the sandy bottom along the way. At certain times of the year swift current is a real issue but we are still in the dry season. We did have some rain 2 days prior so depth was never an issue.
We chose a 2-person canoe as we’d never used one together. I’d used one in the Scouts and on a few occasions before meeting Carrie, and it took a few minutes to refresh my J-stroke. We opted for the 4-hour trip since we’ve not done much paddling lately, and left the put-in spot at about 9:30 about 6 miles upstream. Sure enough we attained a state of “fully tuckered out” by the time we landed back at the park. There were 4 kayakers in the van with us being delivered to the second drop-off point and we heard they barely made it back in time to turn in their gear. In our defense we got quite a workout at about the 2 mile point when we encountered a logjam of water plants about 25 feet across that was a real trial to dig through. Although it wouldn’t have made us opt out of the trip a warning of this potential roadblock would have been nice.
As we drove up to the edge of the creek to put our canoe in Carrie noticed an alligator moving through the grass, just an indication of what our day’s viewing would be like.
From the moment our driver helped us put in and said good bye we were both taken by the beauty and serenity of the creek. For the first 3-4 miles we were had the entire creek to ourselves and when we let ourselves drift along with the current the only human sounds you could hear were some faint road noise in the distance. The deep bass sounds of the Bullfrogs and Alligators grunting along the way made us wonder just how big some of them were. We saw numerous of ‘gators along the creek, either floating with their eyes and nose just above the water or along the bank sunning in the grass. They seemed as wary of us as we were of them, and they seemed willing enough to let us pass through.
The Cypress trees, surrounded with new growth called “Knees”, were dotted with air plants attached to crooks in the tree or to a limb; the oaks with lichen spotting their trunks and the Spanish moss hanging like so much tinsel on a Christmas tree all suggest that the forest is surviving, even thriving. We’ve read recently that Florida development has destroyed almost half the acreage of the original Everglades over the last century, and the vibrancy of the forest was a pleasant surprise.
We unfortunately didn’t see an abundance of wildlife along the way; even through our campsite neighbors who we met kayaking upstream told us they saw deer. After Carrie identified the call of a wild turkey through the trees we did see one feeding about 50 yards from the bank. There were a number of birds along the way, including a hawk hunting a family of ducks and several cranes and egrets. The most plentiful “wildlife” we saw in the last few miles of our trip was some campers on the shore and a wild tribe of kids swimming in the creek about a half mile upstream of the park.
We brought plenty of snacks and water but eating along the way was difficult with numerous turns weaving among the trees to navigate. It’s easy to imagine much of our route dry enough to walk on at other times of the year, but the trees also provided plenty of welcomed shade as the mid-day sun heated things up. The park wisely provides signs and trail markers along the route and a one-page map to guide us because the changing level of water would have had us making wrong turns on several occasions.
Having to have our canoe checked back in by a certain time made flexibility difficult but we made one stop at a sandy bend in the creek to stretch, walk around, and enjoy some lunch. As we become more seasoned RV’ers we’ll plan provisions for hikes and boating trips a little better.
We checked our canoe back in with a little time to spare and easily walked back to our campsite and our air-conditioned RV (I smile every time someone calls this “camping”.) We had a thoroughly enjoyable day even though my back and legs were singing, and we look forward to future trips to discover more the country’s natural splendor.
Next time maybe we’ll try some kayaks and compare the results. We’ll likely be watching for online sales in each area we’re hanging out in soon for a possible purchase of whatever vessel works out best for us.