Saturday September 1, 2018
A nice clear morning, good for checking our resident alligator here on Lake Rosseau. He’s only about 3-1/2 feet long but I think he gets Linda to squeal every time.
First stop today: the Four Corners Market. We acquire one ripe tomato and a bunch of mushrooms while the friendly proprietor tells us all about smart raccoons that ravage her produce every night.
Next stop: The Simply Seafood Market. It was a real tossup between the redfish and the cobia – both looked great. In the end, at the recommendation of the fish monger, and because we’d never tried it, we went with the cobia.
Next stop: Winn Dixie. First stop inside is to a wine tasting table offering local vineyard whites and reds. Both were sweet, something to do with growing grapes in this warm climate. One of the reds was slightly drier than the other, so we picked up a bottle. Florida wine – that’s a new one on us. We top up a few other provisions along with a bag of ice to keep the fish cold.
Our final stop is something that’s actually been in the works for four years. We were last in Dunnellon in 2014, and we grazed at a place called Swampy’s located right along the spring-fed and deep blue Rainbow River. As we sat, a steady flow of tubers, standup paddleboarders, kayakers and canoe-er’s would appear from around the river bend, slowly drifting through dense grassy banks lined with huge trees of flowing Spanish Moss. A combination of Shangri-La and the famed Suwannee River of old. Well, we’d filed that memory away.
Linda has a rental paddleboard reserved, and I’ve got a kayak or canoe, whichever I like better. We arrive at Rainbow River Canoe & Kayak rental a little early. The place is bustling with customers bound for the 11AM bus – it IS Labor Day weekend – so we wait around. We meet Steve, who is expertly running the show. Super friendly guy and ready to help. He shows me an Old Time ‘Next’ canoe and it looks perfect – roomy for my legs and with a comfy backed seat. Yes! Linda is assigned an 11′ Ocean Kayak paddleboard. Yes!
The noon bus takes us almost 5 miles upriver to the ‘KP Hole’ stop on the Rainbow River, and we’re very sooned launched. Despite reservations about handling her paddleboard, Linda is soon standing and paddling like a pro. She says it is one of the most stable boards she’s ever tried.
My Next canoe is super fine. It is small and ridiculously comfy, highly maneuverable. Plenty of floor space for wallets and phones and snacks. Our first direction is upstream about 1/4 mile, but Linda soon tires of this and makes her 180.
How to describe drifting down the Rainbow River? Paradise, utopia, idyllic, yes of course. Words do nothing – there is too much magic here. The enchanting Spanish moss is everywhere. The waters are crystal clear – you can see every blade of grass on the river floor. Linda is looking mighty fine on her paddleboard.
Since it’s a holiday there are extra amounts of people on the river. Linda and I agree it is good people watching.
Lots of wildlife to see if you take the time. Schools of small fish and an occasional big one. Cormorants are everywhere, some with cream-colored heads. Egrets and herons and ibises. Little dark ducks with bright red-orange beaks. Turtles clinging to logs. Thankfully, no alligators. Quite a few low hanging wasps nests you’d best steer around.
Linda and I get separated by a long distance. The paddleboard drifts quite a bit faster than the canoe. After a couple hours lazing along in the sun, I truly feel like a melted pat of butter.
The skies and breezes change and we are soon hearing booms of thunder and seeing a few lightening strikes. And then, here come the rains! Linda is gesturing ahead of me, asking, “Do we take this ramp exit or should we keep going?” I point to the left – let’s keep going!
And the rains do come! Pouring down! I’m 100% soaked in mere minutes. But it feels great, cooling everything off. And it’s just a ton of fun when you get down to it.
Linda is gestering ahead into the reeds. Three otters are diving and surfacing and chomping on some unknown wonderful treat, crunching away and cheeping at each other. They zip all over as we watch closely for many minutes in the steady downpour. Super cool – how lucky are we? [No photos of course – can’t risk phone in this deluge.]
The rains continue for many minutes, and pretty soon my canoe is listing badly to one side or the other. I look around for the bilge pump but can’t locate it. Instead I grab a water bottle and start bailing, slowly but surely lowering the water level from 4″ to about 1″ – enough to keep it maneuverable.
We drift into town and good ol’ Swampy’s emerges on the west bank. There is Linda beckoning me over, so we both bank our gear in search of beer. Pretty soon we’re seated with our brews, watching others float by. Wow – does it get any better than this?
Linda takes a few photos of me launching back out onto the river from Swampy’s. I wasn’t quite sure how to safely get back in without tipping but managed it after a while. Under a bridge, then another 45 minutes of beautiful slow roll. The Rainbow River converges with the Withlacoochee River, which is coffee brown in color, a real contrast.
The tour is supposed to take about 2 hours if you paddle and 3.5 hours if you don’t. We’ve taken 5.5 hours. Admirably, the rental place rents by the trip, not buy the hour, and only require that we’re back by 6pm. We’re actually the last ones still on the river, and the staff expresses surprise we’ve taken so long. But Steve says that’s exactly the way you’re supposed to do it, and he’s really pleased we’ve seen the otters. He says they were munching on mussels.
What a fine day on the river!!
Back to our Lake Rousseau house to work on dinner. We’re talking steamed broccoli, sliced tomatoes, cottage cheese, and sauteed cobia. Wow, you know, we are getting pretty good at this. Both of us love the cobia. It has more flavor than the grouper we cooked in Carrabelle.
White ibises are punching holes in our lawn all evening, our resident alligator is lurking, and an anhinga perches nearby. US Open tennis, and then Shameless on Netflix. Florida living at its finest.