Thursday, July 8, 2010

Turtles, Gators and a Tipped Canoe

Deciding the encounter with the sting ray wasn't quite close enough to nature we went canoeing down Juniper Spring. It is part of the spring system in the national forest near us. The river has constant current, crystal clear water, lazy meandering, tight curves and wildlife abound.

{Building thunderstorm}

Rushing, the river can be run in about 3 hours. We took our time putting in about 10:30 am and finishing just in time for the final pick up at 4:30 pm, stopping now and then for photo opts, eating lunch and to ponder whether that rumbling was jets (Dirty's dad's hopeful guess) or a building thunderstorm (reality).

{Beautiful view from the canoe}

Near the origin of the spring the water is pretty shallow, maybe shin deep. The little fish dart around the canoe tempting us to race them down the river.

{Before this camera went for a swim}

Dirty and I took the lead down the river and his dad and A followed us. You can't see it yet, but trouble is around the bend. Dirty's dad didn't quite bend back in time to get under a tree. He mistakenly grabbed the trunk to push past it but turned ever so slightly. The canoe overturned sending he and A splashing into the water. They must not have believed Dirty when he said 90% of what you put in the canoe will get wet. Cell phone, camera and two tourist soaked to the bone! Thankfully the phone was off. It and the camera dried out in a few days without any glitches.
{Turtle with a nice reflection in the water under the log}

All the photos are courtesy of A. I didn't dare take a camera, but she chanced it for us. Some of the photos are from her camera, pre-soaking. The others are from Dirty's dad's camera that also got dumped in the water, but was in a resealable bag.

{Palms dancing the tango}

{Percy! What are you doing here?}

{Smallish black butterfly with yellow spots}

{This butterfly is clearly a Steelers fan, too}

Now for the scary photos. These jokers (Dirty's dad and A, that is) obviously do not appreciate or respect how quickly gators can move when they are pissed. I wanted to smooth on past the gators pretending not to notice them or disturb them in any way, but the wacky tourists needed photos. I got more and more frightened each time A said, "Get closer. No, closer. I need to get a good picture." Honey, that's what the zoom is for.

{Baby gator back in the weeds}

The first gator we saw was just a baby, maybe 3-4' long. He was chillin' back in the cut. He wasn't too impressive so we smoothed on by him.

{Thankfully this gator decided that sunning himself was better than eating us}

The second gator we saw looked familiar and I was not interested in revisiting the experience from our last trip here. What? You don't know what happened last time? Dirty and I usually take our kayaks to the springs, which is what we did last time. It was Memorial Day a couple years ago. Our friends Dave and Christy came with us and rented a canoe. It was a great trip! Not too hot, no chance of rain and the river wasn't too difficult to navigate. We saw deer, birds, butterflies, turtles, fish, snakes in trees and a couple little baby gators.

{Another big gator cooling off in the river}

Towards the end of the river we turned this big bend which opened onto a big, bright grassy clearing along the river. Dirty was in the front in his kayak. Dave and Christy were in the middle in the canoe. I was at the end in my kayak. Keep in mind it is a sit on top kayak that-at best- is about 6" out of the water.

As soon as Dave sees the clearing he says, "This looks like gator heaven!" Hearing this a GIGANTIC gator that had been pleasantly sitting on the bank sunning herself turns her head and looks at us. She is pissed that we disturbed her nap and decides to slide into the water to tell us off. With the current pushing him, Dirty was already past the gator. Dave and Christy start freaking out and can't decided if they want to go fast forward or try and back up. They chose back up and nearly hit and tip my kayak. Then they get in gear and race past the gator.
At this point the gator is swimming towards me all alone at the back of the line. Dirty yells back, "If he starts to lunge at you hit him in the head with your oar!" I am thinking, if this thing comes close enough to touch with my oar I'm going to have a heart attack.

{Keeping to herself}

The GIGANTIC gator swims past me eye-balling me the whole way. All I could do was hold my breath and ready my oar. Astonishingly the gator swam on past, apparently deciding I would be to grisly to taste any good. We figured that once in the water right next to me that I looked more threatening then I felt. My kayak is about 14' long and with me sitting on top I was much taller out of the water than the gator even though she was a good 2' longer than my kayak. Suffice it to say I have a very healthy fear and respect for gators now.

Thankfully all the gators we saw on this latest trip were too bored to pay us any mind. Oh, and the rain held off until we loaded the canoes on the trailer and were on the way back to the start. =]


Angie said...

Holy Crap! I would be scared to death to be in the water with alligators! I've only been in water where you were just concerned about snakes.

Zonnah said...

wow I can't belive you went back after that. But it sure is pretty!