New Years! The inlet is far enough from St Augustine that any fireworks were barely audible. It was a clear night with a full view of the stars, but extremely cold. I woke up shivering inside my sleeping bag even though I had put on two layers to sleep with. I opened one of my hot pockets and tossed them into my socks to warm up my feet. I don’t have many of these and would have preferred to save them for later, but it's better to be warm now and hope the future is better.
I thought I had camped on an island. On the map, it's called Rattlesnake Island; not that there are any rattlesnakes here, maybe at some point there may have been a snake or two. Early in the morning when the sun had just risen, I crawled out of the tent carrying the wetsuit pants in my hand. I like to dip my feet in the water, so I don’t get sand inside while I slip them on. And I have to be butt naked to do this property. When I finished and turned around to walk back, a lady passed jogging right behind me. Where did she come from? There must be a secret pedestrian bridge somewhere. I don’t know how much of the scene she saw, but she seemed not even to notice me, or pretended not to, so I pretended not to notice her pretending and went about my business. Thank goodness she didn’t come by 10 minutes earlier; it would have been much harder to fake indifference then...
The distance today was short to recover from yesterday’s beating, and to prepare for tomorrow’s long haul past the St. Johns River estuary in Jacksonville. There was still a headwind, and I stayed in the intracoastal along the Matanzas River. This river is the backdoor way to St Augustine and it crosses through a marsh with grass so tall a panther could have been hiding by the water, and I would have been none the wiser.
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A little out from the inlet is the Matanzas fort. I learned that back in 1565 more than 100 shipwrecked Frenchmen were massacred on this site. The word was the French had been sent to wipe out the Spanish force at the St Augustine Fort, but they were blown off course by a hurricane and ended up on the beach by the inlet. The Spaniards, having learned of the French from local Indians, sent a force to intercept them. They were promptly intercepted and executed. Alas, sometimes the hunters become the hunted. The fort itself did not exist back then; it was built some 200 years later to guard the back entrance to St Augustine. To my surprise it seemed awfully small to call a fort, and it reminded me of a Lego toy set.
There were many small spoil islands in the marsh as I neared town. At first, I thought they were made of sand, but once I got closer, I realized that they were huge rubble piles of oyster shells. I have no idea why that was so, if they were indeed spoil islands made from the dredged material from the canal, they would be made of sand and be covered with vegetation, instead they were barren and had a foul smell of bird droppings.
Downtown St Augustine was packed like an ant hill, New Year’s must be their peak tourist season. I thought of landing and making a quick stop to an ice cream shop I knew from my days at the University of Florida, but couldn’t find anywhere to land. It was already late afternoon and my preoccupations turned to where I would camp for the night without being bothered. I settled on going to the backside of Anastasia island where the high tide mark left plenty of dry sand to pitch the tent, and was far enough from foot traffic that the park rangers would not bother to come and check. Only a few boaters and jet skiers were here, and they would soon be gone before sunset.
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