So Rudy and I took a road trip up to the Chassahowitzka River this last weekend to do some exploring and get out of Dodge for a little while. The last time we went to the Chaz, we spent several hours hanging out at the caves in Seven Sisters Springs and didn’t have much time to explore the rest of the river, so we wanted to go back and see some of the other springs that we didn’t get to see during our previous trip.
We left bright and early Saturday morning, although when the alarm clock went off I had serious reservations about making the trip up there because I was extra tired and feeling extremely lazy. After a five minute discussion about whether we should or shouldn’t go, however, we came to the conclusion that if we stayed home we’d end up regretting it and feeling like losers for wasting a perfectly good Saturday doing nothing.
The drive there is about 1.5 hours from St. Pete which was a breeze, especially since it was a Saturday which meant we didn’t have to deal with the horrendous rush hour traffic in Tampa that always makes me want to tear my hair straight outta my head.
So anyway, an hour and a half-ish after leaving St. Pete, we arrived at the Chassahowitzka River Campground, where we rented two kayaks for the day, and after loading all of our camera equipment and supplies into the kayaks…we were off in search of springs and wildlife and who knows what else.
We weren’t on the water more than ten minutes when Rudy noticed something splashing around near the river bank up ahead of us. My first thought was that it might be a gator getting into the water, or maybe a large bird fishing for breakfast- whatever it was was kinda far away so it was hard to tell.
As we got closer to the commotion, I could see a fin sticking out of the water which I at first thought was a shark, but soon realized that it was instead the fin of a dolphin. Upon this realization, I yelled something to the effect of “Holy shit, it’s a dolphin!”, and then paddled as quickly as I could to the water’s edge where the action was taking place.
When I got right up close to him, he started splashing around and chasing after a school of fish, and soon a whole bunch of them were jumping out of the water right near my kayak as they attempted to avoid death by dolphin. I was a little bit worried that one of the fish was gonna jump out of the water and hit me in the face, or possibly land in my lap and scare the crap out of me causing me to tip my kayak over and ruin all of my camera equipment, but I was willing to take my chances because dolphins are awesome and I felt like this was one of those rare and special opportunities that I needed take full advantage of.
So Rudy and I sat and watched him chase fish for about twenty minutes or so, and it was so entertaining…there were several times when he swam right up next to our boats and then flipped himself over while under the water so he was on his back and looking straight up at us.
Man, it was awesome!
We both tried to get video of the action, but it was really hard to try and paddle with one hand while holding a phone with the other, and then on top of that, neither one of us had put our waterproof cases on our phones yet so we were both worried about dropping them overboard while trying to record (and it wouldn’t be the first time it’s happened, btw).
Most of the video footage we ended up with was totally crappy, but there were a few clips that turned out OK which I spliced together in the video below. If you look closely 40 seconds in, you can even see a fish in his cute little dolphin mouth (well, it looks like a fish to me…you can be the judge).
So anyway, that whole experience was totally freaking awesome and also the perfect way to start the day off…in fact, if we had turned around and went home right then- the getting up early and the 1.5 hour drive would still have been absolutely worth it and then some.
After the dolphin show we headed off towards “The Crack” which is about a 30-ish minute paddle from where we launched our kayaks. Our plan was to get there early and maybe hopefully possibly have some peace and quiet before it got too crowded, and from there we’d take off and check out some of the other springs that were further down the river that we had yet to explore.
To get to The Crack, you have to paddle wayyyyy the hell far down a narrow passageway that is extraordinarily beautiful, and also teeming with wildlife. I’ve seen snakes, turtles, and all kinds of fish and birds back there, and although I’ve yet to see a gator…I imagine there are a ton of them lurking in the shadows (if I were a gator, that’s definitely where I’d be hanging out).
Once you get somewhat close to the entrance of the spring, you have to get out of your kayak and drag it because the water level is low and there are a bunch of trees blocking the way. If you’re a sissy or are afraid of bugs, spiders, etc, this probably wouldn’t be a place you’d enjoy very much, btw.
It’s very jungle-y, is what it is…
When we finally made our way back to The Crack, we were happy to see that no one else was there, however, what we were not so happy about was the fact that the mosquitos were OH MY FREAKING GOD RELENTLESS. Like really, really, bad. Aside from that one time at Bahia Honda when we got chased by an angry mob of asshole mosquitos and ended up running back screaming to the parking lot to seek shelter in our car- this was the worst mosquito attack I’d ever had the displeasure of experiencing. Holy crap were they ruthless, and unfortunately neither one of us thought to bring bug spray because we’d had no issues with bugs during the last two visits.
Since we were sans bug spray, we tried putting on copious amounts of sunscreen in an attempt to keep those evil little bastards at bay, and while doing so seemed to help out a little bit, it just wasn’t enough to make any noticeable difference. After about 45 minutes or so, we couldn’t take it any longer and decided to gtf outta there and go explore some other places on the river.
Here are some pictures we took before we hightailed it…
On our way out of Mosquito Hell, we passed a lady in a kayak who told us about another spring further down the river- she said it was really pretty and usually way less crowded because it’s harder to get to, and since we’d much rather work our asses off to get somewhere with no people than be lazy and hang out with the masses…hearing about this spring was music to our mosquito-bitten ears.
She gave us directions and told us it would take about a half hour to get there and so off we went. I’ll just make a long story short here and tell you that we paddled for probably an hour and I’m pretty sure we made a wrong turn somewhere because we ended up at a dead end in the middle of nowhere and if we thought the mosquito problem at The Crack was as bad as it could get…well, we were sorely mistaken.
Wherever it was that we ended up was a really beautiful spot on the river, however it was impossible to enjoy the scenery because of the stupid bugs. They were so bad I couldn’t even stop to take pictures because they were swarming all over my face and although I’m pretty sure mosquitos don’t understand English, I was screaming “OH MY GOD LEAVE ME ALONE!!!” (and possibly a few choice curse words) at the top of my lungs while trying frantically to get the hell out of there.
Oh wait, hold on- I just looked at my camera roll and found two pictures I managed to take before we escaped…
So anyway, after that debacle we headed back upstream, found a nice little spot on the side of the river (no mosquitos…yay!) and had lunch along the river bank along with a well-deserved glass of river wine. It was delightful, is what it was, and we ended up staying there for an hour or so enjoying the shade, the breeze, the view, and our delicious lunch.
We had to have the kayaks back by 5:30 and it was getting late in the afternoon by the time we were ready to leave our little oasis on the side of the river, so we decided to head back towards the kayak launch and just hang out at Seven Sisters Spring for the rest of the day.
There are underwater caves at Seven Sisters and I had already made up my mind that I was gonna swim through them from one end to the other that day and I wasn’t leaving the river until I did. I swam into them the last time we were there but was too chicken to swim all the way through even though I knew I was capable of doing it. I’m a good swimmer and I can hold my breath for a fairly long period of time, plus, the distance under the cave isn’t even really that far…it’s really more of a mental challenge, and I was determined to overcome it.
I love me a good challenge, man.
So anyway, we paddled back to Seven Sisters and although we knew it was gonna be crowded because it was a Saturday during the summer and because it is one of the prettiest spots on the river and also the easiest to get to…nothing could prepare us for the shit show that awaited us at the spring…
That’s just one half of the spring that’s pictured above- to the right there were just as many people and this photo was taken an hour or so after we got there when probably a third of the crowd had already left. If I had to guess, I’d say there were about fifty people in the spring when we arrived and of those fifty people, probably half were smoking cigarettes so there was literally a cloud of smoke hanging in the air above and around us which was delightful and refreshing and just how I like to enjoy nature.
I picked up several cigarette butts that were floating in the water courtesy of people who were too fucking lazy to be bothered to throw them in the trash, and boy if you ever want to piss me off, just go ahead and throw your garbage on the ground in front of me. I don’t how it’s possible to be that lazy and/or disrespectful of your surroundings, but man it really makes my blood boil, and unfortunately I see it happen all the time at the springs.
So, anyway…although the scene at Seven Sisters was kinda depressing and made me lose a little bit more faith in the human race, we still managed to have a good time people-watching and goofing around in the chilly spring water.
Oh and hey guess what…I ended up swimming all the way through the underwater cave and I made it out alive…woohoo! I didn’t get the nerve up to swim through it until a few minutes before we had to have the kayaks back, so I didn’t really have time to stand there and contemplate the possibility of whacking my head on a rock and drowning- I just went for it and I’m really glad that I did because I would have felt like a failure otherwise.
It only took me nine seconds to make it from one end of the cave to the other (Rudy counted), and aside from a split second moment of panic when I was midway through…it was a piece of cake and now I want to go back and do it again ASAP.
So there ya have it…that was our day on the Chaz, and despite the mosquitos, and the getting lost, and the cigarette smoke, and the crowds- we still managed to have ourselves a good old time.
That’s all for now…Later gators! 🙂