A MEMORABLE TRIP
By Holly Hudgins
It was during August of 1928, that two 18 year old Palatka boys packed their gear for a camping trip from Silver Springs, down the Silver River to the Ocklawaha, then to the St. Johns River at Welaka and back to Palatka. A canoe and paddles were our means of transportation after we reached Silver Springs. One of these lads was me.
A brother of my friend had permission to use the family Buick for our transportation to Silver Springs and then return to Palatka with the Buick.
At the time an old dirt road thru Peneil, Rodman, Kenwood, Eureka and Silver Springs was, I believe, a mail route. The construction of highway 19 and bridges across the Ocklawaha were a long time away. There was a concrete bridge at Eureka across the Ocklawaha that provided access to Ft. McCoy, Silver Springs and Ocala.
We strapped a 14ft. canoe on top of the Buick and loaded camp gear and a week’s supply of groceries consisting of pancake flour, canned milk, eggs, bacon, syrup, two loaves of bread, several cans of corn beef hash and canned fruit — sufficient for a week. We could have done it much quicker. We figured it to be about 75 miles.
We launched the canoe with all provisions loaded and started paddling rapidly taking advantage of the very swift current from the beautiful springs.
It was necessary to be in a hurry as it was getting late and we wanted to reach the Ocklawaha and find a high bluff to camp for the night. We had never been in this area before and had no map. We soon reached here the Silver River poured into the Ocklawaha which makes up in Central Florida from such lakes as Lake Dora, Lake Harris, Lake Eustis, Lake Griffin and others. The water in the Ocklawaha was in direct contrast to the beautiful clear water from Silver Springs.
The current was swifter now with both streams building it up. Taking advantage of this current and paddling rapidly we were soon down stream and had found a high bluff on the river ideal for a camp. We made our canoe secure and soon had our pup tent pitched and a camp fire going.
This was our first night and the mosquitoes soon found us. We kept the smoke from the camp fire going and the smoke helped drive them away.
We soon enjoyed corn beef and hash and a couple of pieces of bread and some canned peaches. We spread our bed rolls in the tent and sprayed inside with mosquito spray. We each enjoyed a fair night’s sleep.
We started the next morning with a good batch of pancakes, bacon and eggs and syrup. Oh! We forgot the coffee!
We wanted to explore some creeks flowing into the main river so we were soon on our way. We caught a couple of 3 pound bass. This made us a fine noon meal. We caught the fish on artificial lures and rod and reel.
We found another good camp spot before dark the second night. We pitched camp, got the fire going and enjoyed what was left of the two 3 pound fish, with more corn beef hash and canned peaches. Someone had told us that cow droppings, when dried into pones, would, when loaded on to the camp fire, create a smoke that would discourage the toughest mosquito. We resolved to search for some of these cow items near our next high bluff.
The morning of the third day found us on the water looking for more bass and we soon had more than we needed so we threw the extra ones back.
The third night was very much like the first two. We had not found any of the cow items that I had mentioned so we created as much smoke as we could with pine fronds.
We knew that a Mr. Watkins, a very well known Palatka man, had a camp at Cedar Landing. Mr. Watkins operated a small ferry across the river there with the help of a man named Louis. When we reached Cedar Landing, the next day, Mr. Watkins was there and very kindly gave us the use of a house boat pulled up at his landing. He insisted on us using the house boat. It had a gas cook stove, two cots with pillows, and it was thoroughly screened. He said that he figured we had had enough mosquitoes and that sometimes it was hard to smoke them away, even with cow items.
Two miles downstream was a small creek which was flowing from a beautiful spring. The two creeks combined to flow parallel to the Ocklawaha and then break up into smaller steams which all came back into the Ocklawaha. We learned that this creek from the beautiful springs was named Indian Creek and that the spring was named Blue Springs — the water was clear and blue. We left Mr. Watkins’ house boat and headed downstream to Welaka. We found that the tide was running upstream which meant that we had to paddle a little harder as it slowed the Ocklawaha current down as we approached. We reached the St. Johns and paddled across to the town. We stopped at the store for a good couple of cokes in bottles. After this refreshment we left Welaka for Stokes Landing. We planned to camp there, our last night.
The next morning we started early so we could do a lot of fishing before we reached Murphy’s Island where we planned to eat dinner. We had an excellent morning fishing and caught 10 bass, some of them over 5 pounds.
We reached Murphy’s Island and found a Mr. Gore was camped there where he raised hogs to feed on the acorns from the oak trees there on the Island. We prepared dinner and asked Mr. Gore to share with us. We used up most of the remainder of our provisions and cooked some fish. We gave Mr. Gore all we had left, except some fish to take home.
After dinner we paddled for Palatka
which was about 6 or 7 miles.
It was Saturday when we left Palatka, starting on our trip. We left about 4 P M. We arrived back in Palatka the following Saturday about 4 P.M. at the city dock. It was a beautiful trip, a beautiful experience and a thing to remember even after 65 years. It is wonderful to have had it to remember.