Just got back from a whirlwind trip that consisted of visiting the swamps and shores of Florida, on foot and in kayak.
The first place to visit by kayak was Blue Springs State Park. Blue skies, beautiful weather and the rush of a gator toward us made for a breathtaking trip. We were watching local turtles performing their ballet when the gator splashed us back into reality. We were in the water with things bigger than us! Including manatees that could knock us over in a heartbeat.
This event preceded a spooky trip down a canal through floating plants of water celery and green beds of large duckweed. As we worked our way--usually pushing our kayaks with the paddles through the green stuff and around, over and under fallen trees--the thought came to mind of snakes. I wanted to see snakes on this trip--maybe dangling from branches, but became more disappointed as we went along.
Plenty of anhinga, black-crowned night heron and even wild turkey--but no snake. Until... We were hungry, exhausted and tired of sitting in our "yaks", when out of the corner of my eye, in a hole in the bank, a face stuck out and stared at me. Huh! Strange--almost toy-like, with a black band. Something told me NOT to go back and check it out. Which is good that I listened to that voice--as water moccasins live here--or cottonmouth. Whew! I'm glad I didn't investigate the snake that watched me.
Next, on to the beach. How dangerous can that be? OK, so the rip tide was strong and I did get in to the ocean, but I also didn't want to mess up my knee again like I did last summer, so I sat out on swimming. But while sitting on the beach--hello, what's this? Floating on the water, a curious thing that looked like a puffed up Jiffy Pop container. Maybe it was a message in a bottle. So I followed it in to shore with binocs. I got up to investigate and was quickly thwarted by Lisa and Marie who informed me that it was a Portuguese Man-o-war--very dangerous. I stayed clear of the long six foot tentacles but was still intrigued by the rich color and wanted to get a closer look. Oh, that urge to touch! Dang. Not this time either. (The prickly pear cactus was nothing compared to this guy.)
So the next trip was hiking a path filthy with 'Beware Gator' signs. Here I got to see a ring-necked snake and a water snake. Tons of little lizards, the green anoles, and of course a larger three foot lizard, a gator sunning itself. Pretty cool. But there was more to explore. Pelican Island, the very first National Wildlife Refuge and Merritt Island and Barrier Island Sanctuary and finally the Intracoastal waterway of the Indian River Lagoon.
This was the most fantastic trip yet. To be in a kayak and having dolphins fishing mere feet from your vessel. It was breathtaking as osprey dove, pelicans dive-bombed and herons lunged for breakfast. Dolphins were everywhere as were the mullets and snooks leaping clear of the water in the clear blue sky.