Jan 22 2012

New Smyrna Beach, FL and Canaveral National Seashore Camping and Surfing

To make a long story short, I had to pay a late fee in Volusia County. The closest city to me was New Smyrna Beach. So I decided to make an event out of it and go camping. Then I head surfing was pretty good up there, and I had an old board that someone threw away. It had been fighting the elements for at least 6 years, but hey, why not?  I packed everything into my old Chevy, guaranteeing this would be an adventure, and was off.



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The drive to New Smyrna was OK, and when I got there, pretty hungry, I held out until it was too late, and the last place left on the mainland was the JB Fish Camp. The Mahi Sandwich was awesome. Lots of bikers, tourists, and fisherman exchanging stories there. The place had a good vibe and one heck of a view.  I would like to drive up with a flats boat and see this side of Edgewater.  After lunch, I went across the street to take a look at the beach.  I could hear the waves crashing, still being about a block away from the walkway.  As I walked up, it was an awe-inspiring site.

This was the first time I had seen the Florida Atlantic Coast in Northern Florida.  The beach was large and flat, and the waves seemed to come up to shore forever.  The sky reflected on the spacious, and there was but a few people.   Unlike Miami Beach, where one would have to walk a few blocks to get to the beach.  Here, you come out of your house, and just cross the walkway.  There was a walkway to cross the dunes about every 3 houses.  After a short video to commemorate the moment, I was off to the Canaveral National Seashore National Park.

Finding the visitor center and registering was easy.  However, there was a lack of maps of the campsite, and I didn’t want to lug around all of my gear in the wrong direction.  So after a few visits to the visitor center on locating campsite 2, I went ahead and spoke to a Park Ranger.  He advised me to drop my gear and walk in through an Authorized Access only area.   Geared up and ready to go, I started towards the walkway.

Crossing over to the beach, I finally got over the horizon, and saw it.  This was one of the most inspirational beaches I have ever seen.  The fact that there were no buildings around, and not a single person that I could see, is probably what did it.

It was one of those moments, where everything aligned.   The fact that my wife couldn’t make it due to school.  The fact that it was Sunday afternoon in a small town where everyone had to work the next day.  I don’t know.  But the fact was, this entire beach, as far as the eye could see, was all mine.  I soaked that in for a moment, and began to hike.

The campsite was elevated, and had a perfect view of the beach, with the waves crashing throughout the night.  After I set up camp, I tried my hand at surfing for a bit.  In the beginning I was kind of worried due to the beach’s reputation for sharks and rip currents, and the fact that there was nobody around.  But there was no way I was coming this far and not trying.  Bottom line, I sucked at it.  My board sank, I couldn’t catch any waves, and when I did, I couldn’t climb on the board.  In the end, I practiced until the sun started going down, and then sat ashore drip-drying.

Eventually it was time for dinner, and I was excited about the skirt steaks I brought with me.  Unfortunately, the charcoal I brought was old, I didn’t bring any lighter fluid, and everything in my camp was wet with salt spray from the misty shore.  On top of that, the mosquitoes decided to come out.  Luckily, they couldn’t get through my wet suit, and I brought a little bit of repellent.   Getting the coals to light was a bit frustrating.  Even with direct fire for 15 seconds on one coal, it just would not light.  After foraging and experimenting with a few different things, in the end, it was Styrofoam that got me through it.  While cooking directly with it is a bad idea due to the release of carcinogens, they make a good fire starter.

The Styrofoam that comes in meat packaging, lights up fast, melts, and that melted substance continues to light hot for a while.   Underneath some saw palmetto leaves I found dry grass and vegetation.  I created a mini tee pee out of four matches.  I surrounded this with broken bits of Styrofoam, that came with the steaks.  Atop of the foam i built a bigger tee pee with pieces wood (which was still a bit moist), and underneath I filled it with the shredded vegetation as tinder.  I lit a single match and the reaction began.   The matches lit the foam, which together with the tinder, dried the wood.  After a few minutes of smoke and fanning the fire (more oxygen = hotter flame), the wood eventually lit up.  I covered the wood with charcoal, following a few more minutes of smoke as the charcoal dried, I had a barbecue.  The steaks took a long time to cook, but were perfect.

After a good meal under the stars, I got myself organized and settled in my tent.  A little down because I didn’t bring any dessert.  I forgot that I had stashed 2 Oreo’s in by backpack on a whim.  That was a good find.  The two best Oreo cookies ever.  I made a goodnight call to the wife, a few emails, and I was out. I woke up around 2AM, but the shore put me right back to sleep.

I woke up around 6AM, at my traditional cereal and Lil’ Milk breakfast, and took some pictures of the sunrise.  After an argument with myself on whether I should stick around and enjoy the day, or head early to the courthouse, I decided on the latter, packed up, and left.

Aug 28 2011

Bear Island WMA Scouting Session

After a 2 year hunting hiatus, I decided to get back in the saddle, or “back in the boots”, better said, and decided to go hunting last year.  With school, rebuilding my home, and work, I had no time to put into the woods.  Hunting Florida Wildlife Management Areas all of my life, you’d think I’d remember, but I forgot, that in order to get in on the hunting you had to apply for quota hunts early.  So I was officially out.

I spent my time carefully mapping out the quota permit application dates, and areas I wanted to hunt.  I applied for Alligator, and was denied.  This gave me more fuel for the regular season.  So come application day, I was on it! Apparently, so was everyone else, because I got slim pickings. I was unsuccessful left and right, except for a couple of permits, one being in Bear Island, for Archery.  So I packed my gear and headed out.

As usual, in this time of year, the Everglades welcomed me with lots of water to slosh through, check out a video here:

All in all, it was a nice to be out there.  The strange thing was, I didn’t see any tracks or traces of deer around (or hog for that matter).  I have some other areas in Big Cypress where I frequent and the deer tracks are around.  I found what looked like a good area to put my tree stand, and I’ll be there, Walden in hand, waiting for the game to show.  Here are some point and shoots of the area.

And a video:

May 5 2011

Fishing for Oscars in Cacita Pond

With the 1 week of rest between classes coming to a close, I had to stock up my Aquaponics tank.  With nothing left but 2 Koi’s and an overgrown feeder fish, I needed more meat in the tank.  As planned in my previous post, I wanted to get some Oscars.  Off to the Glades.

My last hike to Cacita revealed lots of fish in this dried up pond.  So after trying to fish with bread by the canals near the Mikosukee Gaming resort, I made a quick run to Dade Corners, who supplied me with a fresh batch of worms.   After trying my luck again with the worms, and striking out, I decided to make a run for Cacita Pond.  An hour later, with 1 clean hour to fish, I made it.  And the result was some Alligator Gar, some Oscars, a couple Bream, and 1 lonesome Bass.  Oh yeah, and a whole lot of peace and quiet.

I stayed there until sundown in order to take a few long exposure shots.  Best one here.   Enough to see the gators come up from the bottom and start moving around.  Then back to civilization.  Here are a few pics of the catches.  I took home 1 Bream and 1 Oscar, which barely made it home, but survived.

Apr 30 2011

Mudding in a Drought?

So, this weekend we decided to give “mudding” a second try.  Except for a few small showers, we haven’t had any rain here in Miami for a couple of months now.  Combine this, with the South Florida Sun, and there is no mud, just moist dirt.  So the question is, “did we go mudding?”. Well, that’s all is perspective I think.  Mudding fanatics take their jacked up 4×4’s and push them to the limit until they get stuck, flooded or break something.  There is no mudding this time of year in Miami, it’s bone dry out there.  Anyone with a truck that can handle some serious mud, may as well be on the pavement.  But for some of us, this means we can take our regular trucks into the woods and see how they handle on soft dirt.

We get stuck, we improvise, we get out, and in the end, feel proud of what we accomplished.  2 2-wheel drive trucks with good tires, and 2 4×4 trucks with city tires, make for a good time.

Apr 3 2011

Tiny Planet Photomerge



Mar 24 2011

Gallery Updates

I didn’t want to repost them, but FYI, there’s some Gallery updates in the Costa Rica and Portraits section. http://kristopheronline.com/gallery/costa_rica and http://kristopheronline.com/gallery/Portraits

Jan 20 2011

Cape Sable Expedition

Cape Sable is the one of the last remaining natural beaches in the United States.  While my heart is set on final frontiers like Alaska, my pocket will settle for the final frontiers and no-mans lands in my state.  Not only one of the last remaining beaches, but Cape Sable is considered to be the southernmost part of the United States landmass.  The Florida Keys are connected by man-made bridges, so “it don’t count”.  Anyways, being that I admire all things tradition and “the hard way”.  I decided to leave the boat at home, and see it like the Calusa indians did, by Canoe.

Two adventurers, one REALLY old canoe, one beach awating.  This trip was cooked up and supposed to occur in 2009.  At the time, I had my sailing canoe conversion in full effect, and could wait to send it off.  Some of the oth

er guys were getting kayaks, etc.  And as adventure plans usually go, everyone is excited, but not everyone follows through.  The drawing was made, everyone had their edge.  Mine was, my old canoe, loaded up with gear, with a PolyTarp sail.  Another was taking his boat (cheater), and another was taking his kayak with a downwind sail…

So that’s as far as that trip went.  It was rescheduled for 2010, and by the time December came around, 3 people canceled, and then there were two.  As usual, I was juggling things, so after laying two pallets of grass, and preparing my front yard and driveways for permit inspections the day before, I packed at the last minute, slept 3 hours, and was off.

At this point we used my sailing canoe, without any sailing gear, since my leeboard thwart snapped in the shallows about a month before.  But equipped with a couple of Kayak paddles, we loaded that sucker up with cans, water, jerky (what else do you ned in life right?!), live shrimp, etc.  and were on our way out of Flamingo, Everglades National Park. Day 1.

Day 1 Begin
We checked in with the ranger, loaded up, got an encouraging comment from a local fisherman “both of you, and all that stuff in that canoe? brave men, I’ll tell ya”. And we were gone.  The ranger mentioned it might not be a good idea to cross through the inside of the island, because of the tide, but we were pioneers, so we decided to play it by ear.

Mud Flats
Low and behold, we got stuck in the mud flats.  It took both of our efforts to push at the same time, to move 1 foot at a time.  Tide was gettin lower, so unless we were going to camp in the mud, we needed to get outta there.  An hour and a half later, exhausted, and paddles creaking from the force, we made it out.  Aimed for the first Cape (which we thought was Cape Sable) and went for it.  After we got around the first bend, we realized that this 3 hour paddle after the flats wore us down, was only a halfway point.  So we took a 15 min. break.  Give or take 20 minutes to heat up some soup :).

After that, we set off for the real Cape Sable (East Cape).  Following an ohur long attempt at moving, against wind and tide, it felt like we were going nowhere, and the flats really wore us down, and <cue some more excuses>, so we decided to pull back in for camp.

First Camp
First camp was nice, but windy, I had to make stakes out of nearby wood and hammer them deep into the soft sand to keep the tent from flying away.  We caught some small catfish and a redfish, and ate it for dinner with some soup.  I took the guts and put them into some crawfish traps I had which I opened up to make crab traps and left them for the night.  In the morning, the tide went down about a block away from us.  The traps were washed up on land and had crabs, and the shrimp were in a mud puddle but miraculously still alive.  We heaved the canoe through the mud/quicksand, and were off again.  We had a nasty cold front come in that weekend.  It was great for rowing, but bad for sleeping.  Especially since all of my clothes and my sleeping bag, and change of clothers (sweats) were all moist.

Destination Cape

We left at daybreak and arrived at East Cape in about 3 hours.  We had the rest of the day to relax, make fire, fish, and best of all, DRY CLOTHES. It was indeed a breathtaking view.  The beach was covered in shells. Corals of all kinds of colors would wash up on shore, some still in their soft, jelly-like state.  Inland was very thick, and an extra day would have been necessary to explore it.  As with most situations when I spend a lot of time away from civilization, boredom sets in, and self-entertainment is necessary.  Thus was the purpose of the pelican feather.  Which I forgot I had on and almost made it to the marina with it on.  It happens.

Final Camp
At night, the full moon made the beach visible with little or no light.  Little black critters moved in the distance, which turned out to be racoons scoping the area.  At about 1 in the morning, we were awakened to a racoon reaching in the shrimp bucket and enjoying the rest of my live shrimp.  The fishing wasn’t all that good from the shore, but I’m sure a little East into calmer water would’ve been good.  Then again at aroun 3:30AM, the same coon was trying to get inside the tent (where all the food was).  He was shood away finally settled down.  We made a big fire the last night to celebrate and get warm, because come morning, we were shooting for all the way home.

East Cape campsite

Rowing Home
Setting off about 5:30AM, I would divide the trip back into three segments.  Getting past the canal took what seened like forever to pass.  Then we hugged the shoreline and made it to the halfway point.  The successful method was picking points in the shore and setting goals and rewards.  “When we get to swan log, well eat an apple”.  “When we get around the halfway bend, I will brin out the jery, etc.”  I believe it was that, that mentally got us through an entire day of rowing.   For lunch, one person rowed while the other had a 20 min. lunch break.  We ran aground 15 minutes away from the channel with the marina in site.  But the tide was going up this time.  So not pushing through, or getting off and pulling like last time.  This time we relaxed, I carefully heated a soup on my little Coleman stove, and before we knew it we were floating again.

Ariving at the marina, we got a few remarks from tourists about the canoe, but other than that, it was a regular day in the park after that.  The trip was over, It felt like a huge accompishment, and I feel proud to have see such a pristeen beach, unsculpted by man.

Jan 19 2011

Image Resizer solution for Windows

Found this quick tool if you need to resize a bunch of jpegs fast. Just right-click, select the size and you’re done. Has the option to copy or replace the old pictures.


Jan 19 2011

Ghost Orchid Expedition

If you want to find the elusive Ghost Orchid, you’re gonna have to get wet.  Hiking the cypress swamps of the Florida Everglades, you’ll come a cross a few Gators, and some moccassins may pass by, but don’t worry.  Don’t be afraid to slosh around in the swamp and be ready to get that tripod wet for the perfect shot…

Getting Wet for the Ghost Orchid


Check out some of my Ghost Orchid shots in the Gallery.