The weather forecast was 84 and sunny with morning fog so we said “GO” to the christening of our SEAEAGLE 380x. Should we take it to the Lido Key or Turtle Beach on Siesta Key or try the Myakka River? We’ve never done a river so let’s go there. We might even get to talk to a volunteer. Twelve minutes later we were at the Welcome Station where the ranger said it was good water and an easy put-in place was at a bridge about a mile in. I love this Florida State Park. We took an airboat tour here with Gary’s parents a couple of years ago and saw plenty of alligators, birds, fish and plants. We again visited to climb the Canopy Walk, a specially built system of towers and a suspension bridge to study treetops in the forest by a Dr. Margaret Lowman, a canopy scientist and mother that had a threefold objective as Selby Gardens’ director: to entrance the public with a little known method of study, encourage students and schools to take an interest in the ecosystem through research projects, and carry out Selby’s research objectives. But today it was to get on the water and try out our new kayak. There were a lot of curious looks as we opened up the boat, spread it out, hooked up the pump and in 12 minutes everything was ready to go!
Down the bank we went, I jumped in the front, Gary pushed me in a little, hopped in the back and with a little bit of shoving with the paddles, we were off. The fog was nearly gone, but because there was no breeze, the clouds were kinda nice.
My first photos were of a young egret and an immature ibis on the left bank.
About 200 yards downriver where the banks started closing in we saw our first whopper of an alligator.
Now watching them behind an enclosure or from land near our car, they are OK. But my heart is still palpitating as I remember this guy watching us just about 30 feet away and me snapping shots. He suddenly turned towards us and lurched into the water going under. Well, let me tell you, I just about lost it. At least I was quiet about it, but both Gary and I were really uncomfortable seeing them lying so close to us with their eyes open and their teeth sooo visible…Anyhow, a couple of kayakers were behind us in separate boats and we slowed down thinking there might be safety in numbers. John and Ed said there was nothing to worry about. They won’t bother you. I asked if I could get that in writing. They had passed about 50 of them further up river. Yippee – yes, that’s sarcasm. They eyed our SeaEagle and John mentioned that he would like something like that for when he began fulltiming in a couple of years as the hard boats were just too difficult to handle. Did he say fulltiming? Yep, and when I said I found this brand on Howard and Linda’s site RV-Dreams.com he knew about that and he and his wife, Terri, are forum members and planning to attend the Rally in SC in April. Right about then they reached their exit point and left us with promises to find each other at the Rally. What a world, huh? To meet someone on a river that you know will see again in a couple of months and can correspond with in the meantime? Coincidence or North Star? Well, we continued a little further meeting more and more alligators and getting more and more rattled, until we decided we couldn’t enjoy the water knowing there could be man eaters only ¼” of canvas between us and them. We turned around, and headed back to our car. Our plans of going under the bridge with lots of people on it were thwarted because, of course, they were looking at gators IN the water. Paddling hard and furious, we shoved up on the grass, I hopped out, easily pulled the boat up further so Gary could get out, hauled everything up to the parking lot and looked behind us. There was a 10-footer in the water probably saying to himself “Darn, just missed lunch”. This is the stuff nightmares are made of. As we were taking apart the boat, a volunteer stopped by on his bike and talked with us a while. Originally from Michigan, he and his wife fulltime now and this will be his 12th year volunteering for Myakka. The one thing he recommended was to put in an application early (they do two month commitments) and that to have some sort of skill (carpentry, electric, etc.) is really helpful. Well, other than painting, that leaves us with the rest of the crowd who want to work in a really beautiful park where it’s warm all winter. We drove past the camping parks (2) and on up past the lake to the north gate where there were two picnic areas on the water. Absolutely peaceful and quiet; just the chirping of cicadas and crickets. I definitely could get used to this. We headed home to wash off the kayak and it was a cinch. We left it out to dry overnight. After dinner I visited the RV-Dreams forum and indeed did see Eagleshea (John and Terri’s sign-in name). I submitted my first “Get-to-know-you” post and within 15 minutes got replies. What a great community of people helping people. Later, gator. [Oh, my….]