There aren’t that many deep spots on the section of Turkey Creek above the Hippie Hole, but the solo canoe was upside down and pretty much completely underwater in one of them. The canoe’s would-be paddler was futilely trying to lift the submerged boat out of the water. Given that the canoe is 15 feet long, 32 inches wide, and 18 inches deep, and one cubic feet of water weighs 64 pounds, I’d calculate that it weighed -- well, it weighed a lot.
Red Zone Alert – A Rocky Start
Wow, my directions to the put-in were great! I’d told some of the group that that’s how I’d remember it, but, different people do remember things differently. Who’s to say whose memory was better?
About half of the group did make it to the put-in with no problem. If I was batting in baseball, that would be pretty good. OK, so maybe the directions had a few issues. The map was great, though, just not the directions I sent with the map. The problem was that I hadn’t actually driven the route before, even though I had it nicely traced on the map. Not a good idea. So my apologies again to the fearless paddlers who reported that they may have unintentionally entered the red zone in search of Turkey Creek. I do want to assure any prospective paddlers, that this is not the norm for our trips. We really do find pretty much all of the rivers we are looking for.
It wouldn’t have been so bad, but cell phones don’t work in much of the wilds of Eglin. As soon as we got our boats and gear unloaded, I headed back out to the main gravel road in search of a cell phone signal and lost kayakers. Fortunately, I found some of both. I led a small caravan back down to the launch, and I had a choppy cell phone call with one last couple to put them on the right track.
We ended up not too far behind schedule and running two different shuttles. Three of the group of 16 wanted to take out 6.5 miles downstream at RR 232, and the rest of us planned to complete the 11.4-mile trip and take out at the small bay at Twin Cities Park.
Brett had scouted out our launch site from the north, and the road really is nice, as far as dirt roads go, plus there is ample parking. We haven’t paddled this section of the creek in a long time because of the deep sand on the approach road from the south. The one time I drove my old 2-wheel drive truck here, I made it down the hill from the south with no problem. The problem was that I was parked in nice, deep, white sand, and I couldn’t get any traction for the run back up the hill. I had to get a little push from my friends to get going. That wasn’t an issue from the north.
The First Two Miles are the Longest
The short-trip group launched before the main shuttle returned, which was good for a couple of reasons: 1) We had to launch 16 boats, and our launch site allowed for only one boat at a time, and 2) It is always nice to have someone go ahead and clear your route.
We happily found that the route down the creek was well maintained, I suspect by our friend John V. Thanks, John! This upper section of Turkey Creek provides lots and lots of twists and turns and obstacles in the water. We also had several limbo logs that added to the challenge and slowed things down for the group as people tried to maneuver under them without tipping. This is no place to text and paddle. I tried taking plenty of pictures along the way, but I had to be fast, and I ended up aborting several attempted shots. As I looked through my photos later, I had some blurry shots of the bottom of the canoe and my cooler as a reminder.
The water on the creek is spectacular. The water is so clear that if not for the ripples, you wouldn’t even know it was there in some spots. It is great that the river is protected from development. Pictures don’t do the creek enough justice, but they are better than my descriptions would be. I will say that we return to Turkey Creek regularly for a reason.
My sister Catherine was just ahead of me when I heard her call out, “Are you trying to bury the boat in the sand?” Huh? I rounded the corner to see one of paddlers in stomach deep water trying to lift her upside down and submerged canoe up from the middle. It wasn’t working. My reaction was all wrong, and I still regret it to this day. What did I do? I got out to help her out. What was I thinking? I absolutely, positively should have taken a photo first. What kind of lousy reporter am I?
We got our flipped paddler righted and headed back downstream, and I found out later that a kayaker had flipped just upstream of us. He was pulling up to wait out the traffic jam and hit a stob in the water. Floop, splash. That brings us to one of the big advantages of sit-on-top kayaks. If they tip, you can just flip them right back over, and you are good to go.
By this time, I was a little bit past hungry. We had launched between 10:30 and 10:45, and I’m usually ready for lunch by about 10:15 – maybe not quite that early. For most trips (without too many obstacles), we figure about two miles per hour or so as our moving average speed. These first two miles were longer than your typical miles, though, so we were a good bit slower. We made the 2.6 miles to our normal Turkey launch site, the Hippie Hole, at about 12:30. This was the first time the whole group was together, sort of. 15 of the 16 of us ate lunch as Jim paddled by.
As we were having a leisurely lunch, I glanced at the time. Holy #$%^! It was 1:00, and we still had a good ways to go down the river. Who planned this trip? On most of our Turkey Creek trips, we’d launch from the Hippie Hole at 10:00 a.m. or so, not 1:00 p.m. The days still aren’t that long. We decided it might be better if we made haste.
The Last Nine Miles weren’t that Long
Turkey Creek below the Hippie Hole is small, but Turkey Creek above the Hippie Hole is really small. Our group of seasoned paddlers had warmed up on the really small section, so the rest of the trip was a breeze, comparatively. Although … you should never let your guard down too much on Turkey Creek. We had one swimmer after lunch. It wasn’t that warm a day.
Three extra paddlers decided that taking out at the midpoint sounded good, so our band of paddlers dropped to ten. We made our way through long canopied sections of the creek that Mary Jane described as somewhat creepy after I said they were particularly nice in the summer heat. Catherine said she was just thankful that there were no spiders hanging over her head on this outing. Just wait until summer.
The rest of the trip was relaxing, but we were ready to reach the takeout, so we paddled straight through. It seems like every time we cross the small bay at the end of the trip, the water is shallower than the time before. I got a walkie talkie message from Jim, who’d gone on ahead, “Skkerrt skkk, hissss, left.” That clearly meant that we should stay to the left when we went out into the bay, which is what we did, but we still ended up walking a bit in the 6-inch water. We were all at the takeout by about 4:00. Things worked out exactly according to plan.
Another good day on the river!
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Thanks to Laurie and Mary Jane for shuttling us back up to the top and to Brett for help in getting their boats and them back to the put-in at the end of the day.
Trip date: March 4, 2017