After our little early morning decorating party, we tidied up and raised anchor. Coleen did a great job a the helm while I worked the windlass. She expertly guided the boat out of the oxbow and into the channel. We had a short 5 mile journey to our next destination Hontoon Island State Park. According to the guidebooks and the notes I saw on Active Captain, we could expect a 5 foot depth at the end of the t-dock. I circled around taking a look before deciding to just go for it. My excellent first mate, Coleen, readied a dock line at midship as I inched the boat close to the dock. The depth sounder read 4.6 ft and as our draft is 4 ft that was good enough, although just a barely. Coleen secured the line around the piling and then stepped off to grab a stern and bow line. Again, she did an awesome job. Soon we were tied up complete with spring lines and a couple of hastily blown up fenders. We stepped back to admire our work with a high five!
Dockage with electric, water and hot showers was $20. We enjoyed a picnic lunch in the park before setting off to hike the nature trails. This is a place that can only be reached by private boat or the park pontoon boat. In addition to the hiking and biking trails they have a little nature center with very good exhibits on the park and its wildlife.
We headed down a trail through a shady hammock that was a bit spooky. I was keeping a sharp lookout for alligators or any other menacing creature. Our brave dog Prince led the way. After only a few minutes down the trail, as we neared a huge broken tree trunk, he yelped and jumped quickly, practically leaping into my arms. He totally refused to go further so we decided to take his advice and turned tail.
We stopped at the ranger station for advice. They suggested another , assured me there were no alligators as the trail was too far inland, but we might see armadillos, deer, mice, etc. I asked about bears, and they said, maybe. It was possible for them to swim over to the island, but none had been seen recently. So we set off again, me regretting that I had Coleen's leftover ham sandwich in my backpack.
The sign at the tail head had a huge section warning about what to do if you see a bear. Basically, you're supposed to stand still, not make eye contact, and then slowly back away. Right! Somehow I think running fast would be my first instinct. Only later would I remember I was supposed to stand still. Anyway, we continued on deciding to make noise by singing loud Christmas carols. It was another truly beautiful place. A shady hammock with huge old trees dripping with moss and sprinkled with native palm trees. Simply amazing. However, I was just too chicken! After about a ½ hour I had to turn back much to Coleen's dismay. Just as we were almost back to the trail head, Prince suddenly stopped in his tracks, having spotted an armadillos in the bushes. He didn't bark at it, but rather wanted to chase it.
I spent the rest of the afternoon cutting out our new sail cover making use of the long dock for rolling out the fabric, worked more on the ailing anchor light, went for a bike ride and made a yummy Mexican meal for dinner.
Yes, life is good on the river!