Ever since we first discovered it nearly 30 years ago, Laura and I have enjoying coming to Jack Island. Jack Island State Park and Preserve is a 340 acre island on the Indian River side of North Hutchinson Island. Trails circle the island and cross it. There is a birding tower on the river side of the island. This was the first place I discovered the thrill of “hunting” birds with a long telephoto lens, and that capturing them in this fashion was just as satisfying (even more satisfying) thank actually shooting something. We try to come back to the island as often as we can when we’re down this way.
Jack Island isn’t very far from Amy’s house. However, I’d never been there by boat. I think I might have paddled past it on one of my extended trips, but I’m not sure. This time I had a goal. I was going to paddle until I found the birding tower. That way I could truly say that I had paddled to Jack Island.
Conditions were almost ideal. There was a bit of a breeze and the water was bouncy, but not too bad. I paddled pretty much straight across the channel toward the spoil islands.
I didn’t even stop at the islands this time. I had a goal in mind. I found the entrance to the old inlet and paddled eastward, using the condos on the beach as a landmark.
The mangrove channels were beautiful, but tricky. I had lots of birds keeping me company along the way. Ospreys and herons scolded me when I got too close. Curlews and aninghas spied from above.
I followed the channels as best I could, but I came to a dead end. At this point I had to pull out my phone and check position. I was actually at the north end of the island, between the preserve and the Queen’s Cove development. I had to head back.
A narrow mangrove tunnel looked like it might be a nice shortcut. It was a nice little side trip, but also came to a dead end. I had to retrace my steps back to the main water.
The clouds were building, but I wasn’t worried. A few light drops of rain fell, but these let up soon.
Soon I spotted the trail that rings the island. As I paddled past a flash of red caught my eye. Several crabs were hiding in the mangrove roots.
Soon the view opened up to one with which I was familiar. I had seen these islands from the top of birding tower. Soon the tower itself came into view. I had reached my goal for the day.
From here I headed on back. Jack Island is actually closer to the main Indian River channel than I remembered. I could see the houses of St. Lucie Village across the way.
When I got to the point where I cross the main shipping channel I had to wait for a large older yacht to pass.
From there I paddled pretty much straight back to the house. I covered a little over six miles, shorter than I thought.
I knew that Thanksgiving would be a busy day, so if I were going to do any paddling I’d need to start early. While I’m here in Florida I like to do at least one sunrise paddle, and this was the time. I hit the water by 6:15, and the sun was already starting to color the sky.
I had set out tentatively. It was very cloudy, and I wasn’t sure if I’d get good sunrise shots. I need not have worried. I could see rain falling to the northeast. I paddled across the channel toward the nearest spoil island and just hung out a bit taking photos.
I paddled around to where the view of the sunrise wasn’t blocked by the island. Fortunately the horizon was clear, and I could see the sun break through over North Hutchinson. I floated along taking lots of shots as the colors danced over the clouds.
Satisfied that the sun had risen and the day was safely underway, I paddled over to my favorite island with its sand spit. The tide was higher than the last time I was here, and the spit wasn’t visible. The water was shallow, but just a bit too chilly to hang out. I backed my kayak onto the east beach of the island and poured my first cup of coffee of the day.
I knew we had a busy day, so I didn’t hang about. I paddled on back pretty much directly. It was a spectacular sunrise, and I added 2.65 miles to my paddling total.
It was a peaceful start to the day. It wouldn’t stay peaceful, though. I was just glad for this moment of respite on the water.