A cross Florida travel day today, west coast to east coast. Fort DeSoto has an early check out at 11:00 and the anxious camp hosts were stalking us beforehand. They must have some Saturday plans they are eager to get on with. At 11:03, as I was putting the final item we had out away in the basement, they rolled up in their little golf cart and asked if we were leaving. I said yes and they scoldingly said check out is 11:00. We laughed as we pulled over to the dump station to do our thing. Rebels, with three infractions by eleven o’clock – three minutes late, I drove the wrong way on the one way road over to the dump station (we were the 2nd site in and rather than do the whole park loop, I slid out the 100 feet) and Cali walked over without her tether. We were soon on the road for a grinding drive through the center of Florida. Traffic was thick through the Orlando – Kissimmee corridor with a few accidents and just a lot of people. Who lives here? If one was to live in Florida there are two beautiful coasts, who would choose to live in the hot, swampy, flat ass middle of the state? Tons of Disney employees, I guess. I stopped at the Marathon station in Kissimmee to clean the coating of splattered bugs off of the windshield. After I started pumping, I realized the squeegees were all missing. When I asked the clerk inside, he said the locals steal them all, so he gave up. So I’m still peering through a layer of “love bugs” as I drive into Tomoka State Park in the late afternoon.
Welcome to Orlando
We set up camp then took off on the bicycles to see what goes on in Tomoka State Park. We rode down to the marina and had a look at the Tomoka River. We pedaled to the end of the road and had a peek at the big statue honoring ‘Tomokie’ a Native American chief from the 1600s. There were a few narrow side roads we explored looking at other places to paddle.
The marina seemed like the best place to start an adventure so we launched the boards from their little dock and paddled down the river towards the Ormand Beach coast. Beautiful palm and pine forest lines the banks. The bridge where the road in crosses is a popular spot for locals to fish. A group were sitting on the concrete foundations while others cast their lines from the bridge above. We passed under and kept following the channel markers around the next big bend.
Up ahead we spotted the telltale v wake on the waters surface that told us a manatee was coming our way. He poked his head up to give us a looking over then continued in our direction. We quit paddling and just floated as still as possible and he passed right next to us humping up out of the water and showing us his tail fluke as he sank back down underneath. We were excited to see yet another manatee on our travels.
It was just a “fluke” that we spotted this manatee in the Tomoka River
The sun was sinking low so we turned around and made our way back to the dock. In this direction, the wind and current were in our favor and we effortlessly glided home pausing a few times to take a look up a few side channels. The woods were scenic with the late evening lighting with ospreys nested high in the trees and egrets fishing in the shallows. We got back to the boat ramp and strapped up the boards then watched the sun go down over the far mangroves.