Destin, FL Feb. 7, 2015
Waiting to do our canoe trip turned out to be an excellent decision. It did mean more driving but that was offset by: great weather (sunny and temps 60-65); and river water level just right so Chris did not worry about the speed or depth. The latter item had caused some (okay, quite a few) moments of concern on her part.
The drive from Destin was an hour and a half instead of a ten minute walk out our door. But being at the Courtyard meant we had a protein rich breakfast and thus no excuses about being tired when we were paddling.
The staff at Adventures Unlimited were helpful and answered Chris’ questions. They hauled us and the canoe up to the drop off point. This would be a four mile trip; not very long but a nice length to refresh our paddling skills. We used an easy coordination system. Chris could paddle on either side and switch whenever it made her comfortable. I adjusted at the rear. I am knowledgeable enough about paddling that we did not have any problems but not so knowledgeable that I could figure out what to do and at the same time advise Chris how she should be paddling. It worked out fine.
The average depth of Coldwater Creek was about 3.5 feet. Not too deep for Chris to worry (I can’t swim) and yet deep and swift enough to provide a helpful current. The creek is primarily spring fed, the water was cool but certainly not Minnesota frigid. The creek twists and turns constantly and with submerged logs and overhanging branches, our paddling got a good workout. (Our pictures are of straighter stretches when we could just float for a bit while Chris took a picture.) Chris also served as lookout for underwater and overhanging hazards. The water is clear so you can see the bottom easily. In numerous locations there are sandy beaches, we stopped at one of them for a break. On this trip we did not see any meaningful wildlife.
The 1980 Florida Legislature declared Milton the “Canoe Capital of Florida”. I am not sure if the title is completely justified or just the result of people buttonholing their legislator before someone else. However, we found Coldwater Creek excellent. If we were more experienced, we might have tried Blackwater River, which also has white, sandy beaches and clear water-just faster water.
We made the turn into the landing area quite easily; another pre-trip concern that was not a problem. When we checked out, Chris was talking to the owner who explained that a customer had complained to a TV station that the landing area was not visible or marked for canoers. The TV station did an investigation and showed on-air how well marked it was. It was lucky for Adventures Unlimited the TV station came out to view it and not just repeat the claim. It turned a potential problem into good publicity. The owner also told us of other canoe outfitters around the state in areas we will be visiting. We will have to make sure to try them out.
After lunch, we stopped at Arcadia Mill Archaeological Site in Milton. This is a site in Milton, long grown over but now recovered by the Santa Rosa County Historical Society and the University of West Florida located in Pensacola. Arcadia Mill’s story has numerous threads that tie back to America’s development.
Early developers of the site came from Martinique, Connecticut, New Hampshire and the Florida territory-after we purchased it from Spain in 1822. The entrepeneurial drive took an area rich in quarry ironstone and timber. The developers (and slave labor) re-worked the water supply to provide power and transportation. Creativity expanded the site beyond lumbering to manufacturing of textiles, shingles, pails, bricks, and flour. Changing economics, fire, theft by one of the owners, etc contributed to its eventual demise. Not until the 1960s when residential construction was on an upswing was the use of the land in the 1800s recognized and preservation begun.
The mill display area did a nice job of also informing a visitor about the longleaf pine. It is one of several southern pine species used in lumbering. It has had a bad press indicating it takes longer to grow and produce a return on investment for the timber grower. However, the longleaf is resistant to most disease and to fire and is less likely to be destroyed during hurricanes. It produces better wood and overall should be a good crop for timber growers.
Our drive back to Destin headed west first to the Pennsacola Scenic Bluffs Highway. What can I say? Well, it was pleasant and we are glad they preserved parts of the bluffs. However, it was lucky that we printed out the description of the drive before we left home. It is not well marked. There are few places to pull over and enjoy the view or learn about the historical significance of the area along the highway. Like many other scenic views, there is an aversion to trim the trees and shrubs so a person can actually see and enjoy the view.
The final drive from Pensacola east to Destin took a while as we drove through congested areas with people out and about on a Saturday night. Tomorrow is probably Fort Pickins and Gulf Islands National Seashore.
Ed and Chris 9:10 pm