Saturday, August 7, 2010

Ancient Indian Mounds and Mysterious Mangrove Creeks

It’s been hot here in central Florida, well real hot. The temps have been in the high nineties and on some days even hitting triple digits. Add in the near 100% humidity and it makes things just a bit too uncomfortable for any type of adventure requiring a person to sleep in a tent without air-conditioning. Since I have not figured out how to put AC in my backpacker’s tent I have been very reluctant to do any overnight camping trips. So things have been pretty boring around here for a while.

But I did manage to get in a day of adventure at one of my favorite places to sail and explore, Bishop Harbor on the east side of Tampa Bay. The past week we had a high pressure ridge stationed over the Gulf of Mexico changing our typical weather pattern. The high was producing a westerly wind flow throughout the entire week. The day would begin with a light breeze out of the west and as the landmass of Florida’s peninsula heated up the sea breeze would improve and we would get winds in the 10-12kt range. Not anything to get too excited about, but enough to have some fun sailing the Expedition Windsurfer. With this type of weather pattern the potential for afternoon thunderstorms is reduced so I would not have to worry about getting off the water too early in the day.

So after wrapping up a few loose ends at home and packing a cooler of food and drinks, I headed for Bishop Harbor. The first stop on my adventure would be to try to find an ancient Indian mound hidden deep in the bowls of the tropical jungle. I would need to hike through the mangroves into the snake and spider infested jungle of Florida’s back country. As I made my way through the dense overgrowth, I was sure that at any moment I would rouse a large snake or even catch a glimpse of the ancient peoples who lived here centuries ago. As I stood atop the ancient mound I tried to imagine what life would have been like for those who built the mound. What was the fishing like? Was the water clearer than it is now? How in the world did they deal with the mosquitoes? I pondered these questions as I made my way back to the Expedition Windsurfer to head to my next stop.

I found a nice clearing on one of the mangrove islands to lay my 7.5 Zenith windsurfing sail on while I took a SUP paddle into a hidden mangrove tunnel. As I paddled around the island to reach the entrance to the tunnel I spotted a dolphin jumping completely out of the water over and over again just like you see at Sea World. I managed to get it on the Go Pro video I made, but he was too far away to be seen clearly. As I entered the tunnel the mangrove canopy was so low that I had to paddle from a seated position. Because of the denseness of the surrounding canopy and the overhanging limbs the air was stifling, no breeze to keep the temperature pleasant even with the shade. Fish darted here and there; water fowl looking for the next meal would take off making a loud ruckus. I spooked a raccoon as he was having lunch in the shallow water of the tunnel.

I exited the mangrove tunnel into a lagoon named Moses’ Hole; an almost perfectly round body of water surrounded by mangroves. The fish were teaming. With no mangrove canopy, I was able to paddle standing on the Expedition Windsurfer which enabled me to see right into the water, spotting fish of just about every kind. I was wishing I had brought my fishing gear.

At the far side of Moses’ Hole I discovered another mangrove tunnel; this one deadened into a perfect place for lunch. At the end of this tunnel the mangrove trees were larger than in first tunnel providing nice shade and the sea breeze was filtering through, making the temps perfect.

After lunch I paddled back to my sail, re-rigged and did a 6 mile sail into Tampa Bay. On this leg of my journey I spotted numerous stingrays, it must be mating season. On my way back in I spotted something I have never seen before; a spinner shark. It jumped at least three feet out of the water spinning 3 or 4 times before disappearing below the water.

All this adventure in one day! Mysterious mangrove tunnels leading to strange places, Indian mounds with ancient history, wildlife of all kinds, and of course windsurfing. Who needs TV?

Take a look at the short video and let me know what your think. Sorry for the smudges on the lens.

Great adventures!