Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Secret River

It was last summer when I learned the Anclote River begins in J. B. Starkey Wilderness Preserve.  While on a run, a fellow runner with her two scampering black labs and I crossed paths.  She recommended a service road along the powerlines that I had long overlooked.  The Anclote River passes the trail, she pointed South.  She told me that she didn't take her four legged running companions down that way in the summer months because it tended to flood.  It sounded wonderful.

Powerlines in a wilderness park seem like an odd choice of route for a cross country runner.  Why not take to the deepest and most rugged paths?  I have learned that the powerline path cuts directly through the park.  Trails intersect right and left; new opportunities to explore seem unlimited.  But I do love those rugged trails, too.

It is summertime, although the river has yet to flood my path.  Just two weeks ago there was little river to speak of, so I was overjoyed to see the waters of  the Anclote River gushing from one side of the road to the other this morning.

According to Wilfred T. Neill in the Pasco Times of March 20, 1977: “The name Anclote dates back to early Spanish times. The Spaniards called these islands Cabo de Anclote—Cape of the Kedge Anchor—because ships had to use a kedge to winch their way through the shallow water or the winding channels. And early French sailors called the islands Cap d'Anclote, which, of course, has the same meaning as Cabo de Anclote.” According to Neill, Anclote is by far the oldest place name in Pasco County and one of the oldest in Florida. The name is found on a 1715 map which I have seen, and a 1545 map, according to a newspaper article. The Red Race of America (1847) by Henry Rowe Schoolcraft has:
“ANCLOTE, an island on the southwest coast of Florida; also, a river flowing into the gulf at that locality, which is also called, in the Seminole dialect, the Est-has-hotee.”
From Origins of Place Names and Anclote Images

The segment of the river that crosses my path is unlike the better known mouth.  This part is narrow, winding, shallow, and hidden.  There are no boaters or fisherman, just a great blue heron, a slew of mosquitoes, and a sole runner to be seen.

I have viewed the river at this point of intersection countless times, but toady it seemed as if it were singing as it ran by, to use the words of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings from The Secret River.  I could not simply run past it today.  I had to see where the waters would lead me.

Mere steps away from the trail, the morning sun was blackened by a veil of leaves and intertwined branches.  Inside, the air was noticeably cooler, a welcomed relief from central Florida summer heat.  The twisting waters and buzz of mosquitoes were the only sounds.  No longer was I in a wilderness park with other runners, cyclists, and hikers.  I was simply in the wilderness! 

To follow the river further, I decided that it was best to cross and move westward.  Thankful for long legs and, at the moment, lower water levels, I managed to hop across without getting too wet.  I felt more free than ever before.  It was difficult to believe that I was in the same park, now that I was without trails to follow and signs marking the way.  Only the riverbeds and fallen trees directed my path.  I could not help but think of the early settlers of this area.  At one point in time not too long ago, this is what my home was like.  No fences.  No traffic.  No footsteps but your own. 

I felt like I had traveled far, crossing the river multiple times, and occasionally standing in awe of this seemingly undiscovered part of the park.  When I made my way back towards the poweline path, I was shocked.  I had traveled no more than 100 meters down the maintenance road, and even that was a generous estimate.

There is still so much more to explore, I thought.

I'll be back tomorrow.

Oh, and I finally broke in my new shoes.  After a week of exclusive road running, they are now covered in the sand, grit, and brown waters of central Florida.  It's about time.

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