Sunday, May 1, 2016

Desoto Point on the Manatee River

Desoto Point anchorage in the distance
Sailing out the Pass-A-Grille Channel we turned south toward Tampa Bay. Our destination today was Desoto Point on the Manatee River off Tampa Bay. Although the wind wasn't great for sailing we did have some fun trying to sail out in the Gulf of Mexico. Instead of going all the way out to the west end of the Egmont Channel (Tampa Bay) we threaded our way though a small cut that showed at least 6 feet of water at low tide.
As soon as we made it through the cut we needed to cross the main shipping channel without getting in the way of the big dogs. We slowed way down and sidetracked a bit to allow this big fella and his pilot boat all the room they wanted.
Once we crossed Tampa Bay we entered the Manatee River and finally rounded Desoto Point into a nice little anchorage.
Desoto National Memorial Park offers a glimpse into Conquistador Hernando Desoto's landing here in 1593. There is a small museum, a neat 15 minute history movie and some beautiful scenic trails around the grounds. In the museum they had replica helmets and chainmail for us to pick up and try on. The chainmail was at best a "medium", so Mike passed on trying it on. It weighed a ton! Between the helmet, chainmail, padding, etc. they had to carry 80 to 100 pounds of gear not including their water and weapons. Wow, they were tough buggers.
You think of these explorers landing on a beach and spending some time gathering supplies, treasures and interacting with the locals. Yet we learned that Desoto spent 4 years traveling both on horseback and foot for 4000 miles from this spot. He never did find the gold he was so urgently seeking. The Indians just kept telling him, "Yes there is lots of gold, just keep going a little further north"
Mike trying on a new sailing hat

We spent the night aboard Wrinkles and then hopped back into The Ernie T to dinghy across the Manatee River to Snead Island. There we had a wonderful day of hiking all over the Emerson Point Preserve. The trails go by huge Indian burial mounds, house ruins, ponds, streams and amazing trees. The trails are a mixture of blacktop bike paths, crushed seashell footpaths and simple sand/dirt paths. Walking along the paths with just the sounds of birds calling, dried leaves crunching underfoot and the gentle wind rustling the wide variety of vegetation made for a memorable experience.

One trail featured a Lookout Tower, which Mike found humorous. He commented, "A lookout tower in Florida only needs about one hundred feet of elevation." Once we ascended the tiny structure we were rewarded with a magnificent view. We could see the very pretty Tampa Bay Skyway bridge, Terra Ceia Bay and most of the Emerson Park land.

Terra Ceia Bay and the TB bridge
Mike with one of the amazing trees.
Mike with one of the amazing trees.
Footpath trails
Sunset over Desoto Point
Sunset over Desoto Point



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