A day in Jonathan Dickinson State Park

Sometimes you want to be able to do a little bit of everything and that’s what you find at Jonathan Dickinson State Park.  It’s one of those local places that are often forgotten about because it’s so close. Too often we’re looking to go far when sometimes your own backyard is good for some fun.

In my experiences there, I’ve camped, hiked, biked, kayaked, and even volunteered. Volunteering at a park is a great way to get involved and learn activities you wouldn’t otherwise be able to do.

Ok, so now you want to go, here’s my take on how to spend the day.

First off, go all the way to the back of the park and head out on a kayak. Early morning, the river is peaceful and you can see Osprey nests in the trees and the occasional alligator in the river. At the docks the river is wide, but kayak back a bit and you get into the narrow winding section. You’ll find dark black water that reflects the canopy of large trees and foliage. Turtles and alligators are regular seen back here.

Once back on dry land, grab your bike and head out for a ride. If you have a mountain bike, you can bomb down the many trails that Club Scrub maintains. Sugar sand, hills, planks, and other obstacles make for challenging trails. If that’s not your thing, you can still have a very nice bike ride.

The main road is suitable for cycling and you can explore the entire park on bike. One of my favorites is the old road that runs parallel to the railroad tracks. It’s not technical, but you’re off the beaten path and occasionally will see a hawk or turtle around. It has offshoots to connect to other areas of the park as well.

Now you’re probably hungry so head over to one of the many picnic areas and enjoy lunch near the river. The store also sells food and there’s nothing like an ice cold popsicle on a hot summer day.  While you’re in the store check out the times for the Trapper Nelson boat tour. It’s a motorized boat tour that will take you the historic Trapper Nelson homestead. You’ll learn a wealth of history of the park and its early caretakers. No paddling required, just relax and enjoy the ride. There is an extra fee for the boat tour so inquire before reserving.

After you’ve enjoyed lunch, visit the Kimbell education center and learn more about the park’s history, the variety of plant and wildlife, as well as the many programs offered. Kids welcome!  If you’re there in the summer, you’ll enjoy the air conditioning for sure.

For the rest of the day, it’s time to stretch your legs on the different hiking trails around. The Kitching Creek trail is a nice walk along the river. It connects with other trails so you can walk a nice loop by the river and return to the parking area. There are other trails near the Kimbell center and near the park entrance as well.

The finale of the day will be the walk up the observation tower to watch the sunset. The observation tower is a large platform with a 360 degree view. You can see the ocean Atlantic Ocean to the East and the expanse of the park to the West.

Well that was a full day; kayaking, cycling, boat tour, hiking, and sunset from the observation tower. With two large camping areas and cottages, you can spend the weekend and spread these amenities over a couple of days.

Next time you’re in the Jupiter, Florida area, be sure to spend a day at Jonathan Dickinson State park.

More info here:  http://www.floridastateparks.org/jonathandickinson/

My First Take on Paddleboarding

“You ever done this before?” Dan asked. “No but I have kayaked”. “Well this is more like canoeing than kayaking” he said. “I’ve done that too so I should be good.”

This was my first experience paddle boarding so I was nervous and curious at the same time. Myself and nine other first timers met a boat ramp in Hobe Sound Florida.   As we watched Dan unload the paddle boards we all had the same questions.  Would it be hard to balance? How do I get on this thing? How about off? If I fall off, what do I do?

We picked our paddle boards and the adventure began. Thanks to Dan’s great instructions, we found it’s not that difficult. To launch the paddleboard, place it near the dock. Then sit down on the dock and place your feet on the board. You’re basically using the board as a footrest at this point. Gently, climb on and kneel on the board. This wasn’t too difficult, but you’ll be free floating at this point so stay to the center for best stability.

Ok, we all survived that part. Now was the real test, standing up.  To stand up, you lean forward and almost do a pushup. I gently stood up and the board began wobbling side to side. After a few side to sides, I settled in to a fragile balance and began to make my way.  Paddling helps keep you balanced so moving is good.  It is just like canoeing though; you steer yourself based on the side you paddle.

Once I got into a rhythm the wobbling subsided and I could focus on enjoying being on the water. It’s a bit like riding a bike; once you get going and stop thinking about falling it is fun. I saw stingrays, pinfish, and mullet. One advantage of paddle boarding is that you stand up so you have a much better view of the marine life and surrounding areas.

We paddled along and then came our main challenge; crossing the river among the boat traffic.  The boats didn’t concern me because it’s a “no wake” zone and they were going very slow.  I could just see falling off in the middle of the channel. The water would be dark, deep and even with a life jacket, I’d be scared.  Some of the group wiped out here, but fortunately I made it.

We made it to our halfway point which was a small beach on the barrier island. Getting off the board was easier than getting on; just walk off the board into the sand. We walked across the sandy barrier island to the Atlantic Ocean.

As we crested the top, we were met with a post card view.  The ocean was sea green and turquoise in color with rolling waves set against a clear blue sky. The water was that perfect temperature to just sit in.  During the trip over we did our best to stay out of the water. Here, the water was so inviting we stayed in.  A few adventurous souls paddled out into the rolling waves with varying degrees of success.

After enjoying some time in paradise, it was time to make the trip home.  The rest was much needed because the return trip was facing into the wind. It wasn’t the strongest wind, but enough that if you weren’t paddling, you were going backwards. Using shorter strokes, I was able to maintain momentum into the wind.

On the way back we saw a large Osprey nest with both parents. They eyed us warily as we went by and we all looked up in awe. You see so much more wildlife when you’re on something that’s quiet.

I mentioned that paddle boarding is like riding a bike and just like riding a bike, you’re most likely to crash in your driveway. I was just across from the dock watching a boat go by when a small wave caught me by surprise and down I went. Fortunately, I caught myself and didn’t end up in the water. Just a reminder from the water gods that I’m not on land yet and to pay attention.

It was time to disembark and Dan warned us about this part. He must’ve seen this story unfold hundreds of times. People start off tentative, gain confidence, then return to the dock and crash. You’re supposed to slowly glide up to the dock and slowly sit down.  I slowly pulled up and promptly sat down. My butt went one way and the board the other. I didn’t go in the water, but it was far from graceful.

Another fun day and I survived in spite of myself. If you’ve been wondering about paddle boarding, definitely give it a try. You don’t need any experience, it’s not that difficult and it’s fun to explore on the water.

 

WeCar Car Sharing Program

If you take public transportation to work, you know how nice it’d be to have a car to use for those occasional errands, last minute meetings, doctor’s appointments, or just go somewhere different for lunch.

The City of West Palm Beach Transportation Management Initiative (TMI), in partnership with the Florida Department of Transportation, has introduced the WeCar car sharing program, a division of Enterprise Rent a Car.

The new service comes with an added incentive to commuters and residents already using an alternative mode like carpooling, vanpooling, riding transit, bicycling or walking to work at least three days a week. These individuals can receive free membership for the first year and 10 free rental hours over the 12 month period.  (Restrictions may apply)

Since I take the bus to work, I qualified for the new incentive. Nothing like free!!  Normal price is $8/hr. and when I registered for an hour, taxes and fees brought the total to $11.20.  If you’re a commuter, definitely sign up for the free 10 hours.

Registration required a valid driver’s license and credit card, no surprise there. A few days later my WeCar member card arrived in the mail. The card unlocks/locks the car to start/end the rental period. It also has directions on it, which is a huge plus.

The Toyota Prius WeCar is located at 333 Evernia Street in the SE corner of the garage right next to the entrance.

It was really easy to use. I reserved my time online (just a few hours prior), then arrived at my 11:30 time, held my member card over the reader inside the windshield. The lights went from yellow to green and the doors unlocked.

Once inside, the keys are in the UPPER glove box. Course, now I had to learn how to drive a Prius. I pushed the Power button by the steering column and nothing happened. I held my foot on the brake and still nothing happened. I removed and reinserted the key and then it started.

I stopped by a store to grab some lunch and had to remember to take the keys out of the glove box. You need to take the glove box keys with you to lock/unlock the car during the rental time. Don’t use your member card till you’re completely done!

Returning is just as easy. Unload all of your stuff, leave the keys in the glove box and hold your member card over the transponder and the car locks.

A nice surprise is that I also can reserve WeCars in the Miami area. In theory, I could take the train down and pick up the car for a few hours of sightseeing. If you need a car for short periods of time, definitely check out the WeCar.  It’s very convenient and easy to use.

For more information: http://www.1800234ride.com/section/WeCar/231/