I’ve been putting this off. The original plan called for frequently dipping the paddle in the Myakka River, but there is a thin rime-like film on the blades from being pulled through water of the salty variety only. There is one explanation for this procrastination:
It isn’t necessarily an explanation based upon logic or reason, but one based on gut. Paddling in water where large animal encounters would be of the dolphin and manatee class has been a lot more attractive than paddling with gators. Yes, there has been a fear factor at play here which, logically, there need not really be. However, fear doesn’t always follow logic.
Cognitively, there is no reason for this foreboding, I posit. How many alligators have I seen? More than I can count. Every time, without exception, if they’ve felt my presence too closely, they’ve slipped away noiselessly into the water. How hard can it be to follow the “Give ‘em space, leave ‘em alone rule?” The facts – good old concrete experience of consistent reptilian behavior – should form an airtight case against anxiety, but it doesn’t. Still, that’s not going to stop me from putting in at the state park.
The river’s been calling for months and I finally heed the call and head east on a Friday morning, away from the congestion and noise pollution of the thick morning traffic. Waiting for the light to change under the highway is miserable. Horns and tires on the interstate above and stereophonic loudspeakers in automobiles give me one last roundhouse to the skull before I pass out of their range and roll down the windows and take a good long breath. Sometimes it gets so bad you don’t even want to breathe.
Things start opening up: ranches replace retail and some sweeping prairie views come into sight. The road goes over a canal showing high water and it’s impossible not to check the water for “subjects.” Traffic is thin and the road is straight and there is time and space to patch up the slow leak of intestinal fortitude.
At the river, in the shade of oaks and sabal palms, there’s no one else around unless you count a lone cicada in the trees droning on and on in a long sustained buzz. The noise is a raspy one and not at all pretty, but it fits in well out here. This isn’t the manicured and raked and over-landscaped and packaged version of Florida – there’s no “It’s a small world after all” playing here.
I do a quick re-con down to the river to scout out where to put the boat in. On one side of the bridge, what looks to be a type of retaining wall slopes down to the water. It will do. Naturally, I scan across and down river; I’ve seen plenty of gators in this area over the years, but see none at present.
On the way back to the car, a small armadillo roots through the grass looking for breakfast, but it’s gone when I return with camera.
The boat is inflated and I carry it down to the water. There is a distant rumble of thunder. To the west is an impressive-looking cumulonimbus rising to great heights and building upon itself. Given the morning rain pattern of the last few days, it will probably pour here in the near future, but that’s the least of my concerns.