Friday, March 30, 2012

Florida 2012 - Week 4

Sitting by the fire with Grady at our first campsite

Our third & last campsite
Our stay at Jonathan Dickinson State Park between Jupiter and Hobe Sound includes three different campsites.  It is so difficult to get a spot at most Florida State Parks this time of year, so we have to keep checking on the internet for availability due to a cancellation, and we get lucky especially to find something for the weekend.  When we were out west last year, we never had to book anything in advance - we would just show up at an RV park and there was always several spots available, or we would just find a spot in the desert on federal land and camp for free!  But here in Florida, nothing is free and everything is full!

The park is big, the two campgrounds are over 4 miles apart!  The Loxahatchee River runs through the park so there is kayaking and canoeing, also motorboats for rent and a river boat cruise, but we don't rent a boat here.  We go to the source of this river just outside of Jupiter and rent kayaks there in Riverbend Park as this is the most scenic part of the river. 

Gator on the Loxahatchee, me in a kayak
On the river, we see two alligators, one which worries me as he swims out a bit in front of our kayak (which is only a few inches off the surface of the water), then turns and swims right toward me veering off to my right a few feet away from me.  I realize I was holding my breath.  He's about 5 feet long, not really a very big gator.  We also see a few turtles, one funny little one which has all four feet suspended above his perch and he's resting only on his soft belly.  The other turtle is big, almost a foot in diameter.  The ride on the river is beautiful, with cypress trees sprouting from the water; it reminds us of Okeefenokee Swamp in Georgia.  But a word to the wise: don't rent a double kayak unless you are sharing it with your lunch and not your spouse.  There will be less fighting that way.

We also spend an afternoon cycling around Riverbend Park.  There are many hiking/biking trails here - you could get lost except that there are maps at most trail junctions.  We pass swamps, forests and marshes; have a picnic lunch next to the Loxahatchee canal; we see a Limpkin and a White Ibis (both water birds) as well as a pair of Sandhill Cranes which pass us on our trail only about 1 foot away from us.  We can almost reach out and pet them, although I'm sure we would be nipped for our trouble.  This is an excellent park, and I recommend it for anyone in the area - it's outside of Jupiter on Indiantown Road just west of I-95 and the Florida Turnpike.

The trees lining the road to the Hobe Sound Beach
Once we go to the beach - it's as beautiful as every other southern Florida Atlantic beach - aqua-coloured water near the shore and deep blue a few hundred yards out.  The water is already about 75F, warmer than usual for this time of year.  The town of Hobe Sound has a beautiful entrance to the beach area - strange trees lining both sides looking like a runway to an exotic, tropical location, which it is of course.

Marilyn at Blowing Rocks Preserve, Jupiter
Marilyn at Blowing Rocks Preserve, Jupiter
 We came this far south to visit the Blowing Rock Preserve, an outcropping of "coquina" or Anastasia rocks found only here.  When we typically think of Florida beaches, we think of sand stretching for hundreds of miles along the coast, but here on the Preserve, these rocks that look like Swiss cheese make a small cliff wall for a stretch of about 1/2 a mile or 1 kilometer at a maximum height of about 6 or 7 feet.  The rock is made up of crushed shells and coral, with fossils and sand.  There is an education centre here, but nowhere do we find the reason these rocks are here (or at least exposed here) and nowhere else along this part of the coast.  But it does make for an interesting view, with the waves crashing up the side of the rocks and splashing us.  People are also here just beaching and there are signs to say to be careful if swimming, snorkeling or scuba diving, but I wouldn't swim here for fear of being crushed against the rocks in the strong current, although we read that the coral reef just a few yards out in the water is interesting to snorkel (that's the black shapes in the water just off shore in the photo).

On one day, we drive down to the river inside the park and just have a picnic lunch.  There is a swimming area roped off in the river but, knowing that there are alligators in this river, who would actually swim here?  And shortly after we finish eating, we can see a large ripple of water being pushed towards the shore.  Maybe a gator!  I grab the camera and head towards the edge of the water, and this very big water ripple comes straight towards me.  Now, I know it's something big.  This isn't just a fish (although mullet are jumping further out) and it's not the wind - I can see the crest of the water but not what's causing it.  The sheer size of the ripple stops me dead in my tracks about 4-5 feet from the water's edge and I can see that whatever it is quickly changes direction and swims off to my left only about 2 feet from the shore.  We ask another couple who kayaked up to the beach and are eating lunch if they think that might have been an alligator.  "Oh probably," she says.  "One lives here, I see him all the time."  She and her husband live about 5 miles away and kayak here all the time.  Yikes!  Too bad I didn't get a photo.

While we could have stayed here longer, it's time to move on.  Next, St. Lucie for a few days, then we head to the "west coast" and north.


  1. Hey you two! Love the posts. I wouldn't have swum anywhere we were this trip. Eeks to snakes and gators. Sounds like a good trip. When do you return?

  2. We should be home by April 26th. It's my son's birthday on the 28th and he leaves for Cuba the next day; also my neice's first birthday party on the 28th, so can't miss that. It's getting too hot almost to be in Florida, so I won't mind going home. (Typical Canadian - it's too hot! it's too cold!)