Sunday, April 27, 2003

Sunday, April 27, 2003

Galahad & friend talked me into finally canoeing the Everglades.  I've been a little trepidatious cuz of alligators, snakes, spiders, the heat, and the blisters involved in paddling so much.  A few of those fears were assuaged somewhat by having the friend paddling instead of me.  Also, it was an overcast day, so the heat wouldn't be too bad.  We packed up water, sun block, hats, towels, snacks and an ice chest.  We stopped at Subway to buy lunch for the trip, and then went through the Wendy's drive-thru to get a pre-lunch lunch.  We ate the hamburgers in the car on the way there.

We arrived a little late (as usual) and talked to the guy there.  I asked him a zillion questions about everything from alligator mating season to thunderstorms.  He told us to lie low (literally in the canoe) if it started lightning, and he loaned us 3 ponchos in case of rain.  He also told me that mating season was virtually year round now as the water patterns were all messed up, so the alligators were confused.  It turns out that I didn't see any of the big bull males doing their rumbling growl & dance.   I was sorry to miss it but ecstatic that I wasn't in the water next to them when they did it.

The canoe held 2 people but they rigged it so they could throw an extra, non-secured seat in the middle.  This had the effect of me raising the center of gravity higher in the canoe, so I was forbidden to paddle.  Oh gee what a shame.  :p  I offered to help twice anyway but was politely rejected.

The trail we went down was 5.5 miles round trip.  The rain came down in a  torrential downpour about 20 minutes into the trip.  We quickly & gratefully donned the ponchos.  I was told that the wildlife would really perk up after a rain, so we should see & hear quite a bit.  When the rain stopped, we took off the ponchos, bailed out the bottom of the canoe, and kept going.  We saw so many varieties of herons & egrets.  I had a few dragonflies land on me and take a ride for a while.  Maybe it was my lotion?  ;)  I wonder when they finally left if they were confused as to where they now were.  We passed a few baby alligators and many, many alligator trails leading off the main channel.

I started to calm down a little and enjoy the raw beauty.  I did freak a little when there was a medium-sized spider in the canoe until my brave Galahad swatted it off with his bare hands.  /shudder  And then we saw our first adult alligator.

Galahad almost hit him on the head with the paddle cuz he was that close.  He quickly pulled the paddle out when he saw it and could barely vocalize to whisper "gator on the left."  He just swam past us and went about his business.  They paddled a little faster anyway.  I was pretty tense but felt better in my fear knowing that it got them a little anxious, too.  We had a few more close encounters and stopped for pictures on one of them.  The scary part was how they could just disappear into the black, murky water.  We saw lots more babies and no water moccasins.  Yay!!!!!  That type of snake is routinely more aggressive than alligators so they had me a little worried, too.  And no close calls with lightning.  Yay!!! 

I listened to the sounds of the Everglades and imagined how the Indians survived when they got pushed down this way.  How scary it must have been with no civilization -- to live in this swampy, aggressive, unforgiving land and start villages from scratch.  They had so much to learn.

At the halfway point, we stopped and had our 2nd lunch.  I felt very Queen of Sheba by this point.  I kept looking for my fan boy.  ;)  We even had yummy cookies for dessert.  The heat descended on us as the clouds cleared up.  Man, it was fucking hot.  Now I was really feeling for the Indians who lived here so many years ago.

We had a vulture strafe us.  They are so gorgeous in the air -- it's hard to imagine it's the same ugly bird one sees when they are sitting.  Of course, we all goofed that we weren't dead yet, so it could carry on about its business.  We passed a condo of bird nests.  I'm not sure what kind of birds they were, they looked like grackles only prettier.

About 3 hours after we started, we saw civilization up ahead in the form of a boat ramp.  I for one was happy to have all of our limbs intact at this point.  Of course, my Galahad decided he needed one more close encounter with a big fucking gator, so we paddled towards a large one who submerged as we approached.  Whew!   I managed to persuade them it was a good idea to head in now before my skin was all crispy from the sun.

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