Sunday, June 5, 2011

Miles down the Santa Fe in search of the Naked Man

Not long ago some co-workers mentioned to me the Naked Man of the Santa Fe River. I was instantly interested, not that I am some sort of creeper, but because I am drawn to the absurd. I was told that when paddling down the Santa Fe river in High Springs, Fl. there are many small springs which you can pull over at and swim. One such spring is privately owned by a friendly man who is a nudist and will greet you outside of his thatched roof hut in a loin cloth (if you are lucky). I had to meet this "wild man of the Santa Fe" and headed North to the river not long after that.
I started my journey at the Santa Fe Canoe Outpost. They set me up with a kayak and took me a bit down stream for put in. It's been extremely dry here lately and the water level is down so much that the section of river directly below the outpost is mostly shallow sludge that is best to be avoided. Instead we put in down stream a bit and dodged that whole mess.

This is Greg from the Canoe Outpost warning me about Naked Ed. Thanks for the heads up Greg! The Canoe Outpost has several locations through out Florida and I would definitely rent from them again.

At the outpost

Shortly after put in I passed by these old bridge ruins. It was early on a Thursday morning so I mostly had the river to myself. The Santa Fe River is spring fed but due to the high amounts of leaves falling into the slow moving waters, the water takes on a brown tea color and lacks the clarity that other rivers in the area have. Of course near the springs the water is clearer.

It was a quiet morning and I saw tons of turtles and birds, but not a single gator the whole day. This river is much more traveled than the Silver River and regulations are more lax. Due to these factors there was alot more clutter along the river and the next time I go I plan on taking a trash bag and picking up cans as I go.

There was only one place where the water was so shallow that I ran aground and had to step out and float the kayak down stream a bit.

Ankle deep water!

Before long I passed the first spring on my trip. Poe Springs State Park invites you in to dock and swim but you have to pay the entrance fee. Since there were plenty of springs down stream that were free I skipped this one and also skipped Blue Springs a bit further down.

It was a beautiful relaxing day and just the break away from town that I needed. No traffic out here!

Did you know that river grass flowers? I was not aware of it, and seeing these low water blossoms all around my kayak was really cool. They were everywhere.

I saw several wild turkeys along the banks...

and before I knew it I had come across Lily springs, the home of Naked Ed. I paddled toward the small spring run that led up to his home.

He had lots of signs hanging from the trees and it kind of reminded me of that scene in the "Wizard of Oz where Dorothy is approaching the witches castle and all of the signs read stuff like, "Turn back now before it's too late!" Naked Ed's signs were only slightly less daunting and warned of the nudist up around the bend.Now I know at this point you are thinking, "this chick is nuts! Who raised this girl?" I know it sounds bad for a gal to paddle alone through a swamp to find a naked man that lives in a thatched roof hut, but honestly I had heard enough about the guy to feel fairly certain that I'd be safe. Plus I had my spot device tracking me the whole time. No worries.

What was kind of creepy though was that when I arrived no one was there. I got out and looked around a bit, wondering if I had missed him somewhere. Soon enough I heard a commotion and a little old man came walking down a gravel road toward the hut. He was fully clothed and toting a suitcase on wheels full of photo albums.

Turns out that I had caught Ed returning from one of his trips to town. I was actually quite relieved to see him fully dressed. He invited me over to his porch and there we sat and talked for at least a solid hour. He showed me his photo albums (which of course had quite a bit of nudity in them). They made me a bit uncomfortable but I didn't want to be rude so I sat and flipped through them while he told me the accompanying tales of friends and passers-by that had visited and camped out with him there over the years. Ed had become a bit of a local legend, and the micro-brew in town named their pale ale after him.

Here's Ed arriving at the hut with his albums...

So I guess the big question is, Why? Ed was born with brittle bones. As a child he spent much of his time in hospitals. Back in those days they didn't have alot of the medical advancements we do now. He was constantly in traction and in slings, primarily in the care of the nurses. Because of his condition he couldn't do alot of things for himself while undergoing treatment and grew used to being naked in front of his caretakers. He would say that he simply never learned to be ashamed of his body. Nudity was what came natural to him, so in time he decided to move out to a place where he could live comfortably.

We chatted for a long time until another kayaker pulled up and I decided I had better get a move on. Ed sent me off with a signed coaster. He typically only gives these away to people that embrace and join in on the nudist vibe at Lily Springs, but he gave one to me despite my modesty. He smiled and said it would make my mother upset. Hahaha! Thanks Ed!

Leaving Lily Springs I continued down River to Rum Island.

Saw these guys on the bank...weird right?I pulled into Rum Island and ran up the bank to used the ladies room (aka the filthiest port-o-potty I have ever seen in my life) and then continued on down stream.

Rum Island has a small spring you can get out and swim in, but I continued on even though I was getting hot. I had a planned stop in mind. I knew I was getting close to Ginnie springs when I saw the tube barge full of partiers on the water. Ginnie Springs is big with local cave divers and is also known as a place where just about everyone from the University of Florida goes to get wasted at sometime during their undergrad years. There were beer cans all over the river :( Sads!

Despite the mess on the river the springs themselves were crystal clear and beautiful. Check out the color of that water. My favorite!!

I drug my kayak up on the bank and got out to swim. It was gorgeous. Check out the spider lilies below!

Crystal clear water and a cave.

A great place for a swim!

After Ginnie Springs the river got really quiet. There were no more homes and only one or two other boats that I passed the whole time. It got quite long and I think I would have been happier if I had just stopped at Ginnie. Either way I paddled down to the next bridge and set up my hammock and waited for my ride. All in all a great day and something I would definately do again.


J Bar said...

Sydney - City and Suburbs

La said...

What a great trip.

ewok1993 said...

great post. i was hoping for a naked ed photo :)

chubskulit said...

Well captured!!

Watery Wednesday at my page.

Kate said...

What a lovely day for an adventure...relaxing float!

2sweetnsaxy said...

Thanks for sharing these. Looks like fun and a great day for such a fun adventure.

Linda said...

What a great adventure...I would have been curious about Naked Ed myself! Loved all the photos...I especially liked all the turtles in a row!

Kelly Burns said...

This looks like a lot of fun. The springs are such a pretty color.