THE WEIRS TIMES & THE COCHECO TIMES, Thursday, March 15, 2012 Formerly & Everywhere! RFD# to the gulf stream waters 3 to the New York Island by Lorrie Baird email@example.com
GATORS, SNAKES, AND SPIDERS…OH MY! by Lorrie Baird We were on our first
paddle with the Kayak Club and right away I ended up neck deep in river reed without a clue how we got there. That’s because Jim was riding shotgun at the bow of our rented tandem kayak. Tandems are jokingly referred to as “divorce boats.” We weren’t feeling the humor. This was not my first
kayaking experience. That was reserved for a feature story I covered for the Weirs Times writ- ing about a local ladies’ kayaking club. Since I was writing
about female kayakers and more than a few of them had gray hair I figured the assignment would be a paddle in the park. As soon as the lady
paddlers sat their kayaks they were churning water like the wrinkle fairy was after them. Within min- utes I was eating their wakes. After what seemed like hours of agony trying to keep pace, we sud- denly hit dry land. That’s when the girls picked up their kayaks and easily trekked the portage seg- ment of the paddle. Me? I dragged my boat. By the time we finally got to our destination I was popping Ibuprofen like Lifesavers and praying for a heating pad. So here I was in the
middle of river pucker brush ten years later yelling directions at Jim who didn’t have a clue because he was riding pretty in the bow of the boat. It took us about ten minutes to work out tandem navigation and relax into the gentle flow of the beautiful Weeki Wachee River. Below us
warm crystal clear water was home to fish from minnows to mullet, the jumping jacks of the fish world. While kayaking in Florida it’s not unusual to have a mullet jump aboard and hitch a ride downriver, or smack a paddler in the face. Monarch butterflies flit-
ted over the river while a stately blue heron dipped his plumed head to drink and then stood as still as a pool statue with feath- ers. The morning was chilly, but the brilliant blue sky held the promise of warmth and sunshine. Still, a windbreaker jack- et under my PFD was perfect while my polar bear husband started the day out in short sleeves and a fishing vest under which he wore padded Ly- cra bicycle shorts. On his head perched an Austra- lian bushwhacker’s hat with black aqua shoes on his long skinny feet. He forgot to buy a band to hold his sunglasses on his head so he did the job with white string knotted at his temples. He looked like a version of Jack Hanna meets Steve Aus- tin at Wal-Mart. I didn’t look any better under my battered purple Maine “Whale Watching” base- ball cap. Although we got a good
look at the magnificent bald eagle sitting in her nest, we missed the ex- citement downriver from us. A fourteen foot alliga- tor – which usually pas- sively doze in the sunlight ignoring Homo sapiens with paddles - decided to slip from the river bank, head straight toward a lady kayaker and dive under her boat. Dang! Too bad it wasn’t me. I live for exciting nature encounters like that. I had two alligators chase me in one afternoon in the Everglades before I learned how fast they can
run. (I still say a manda- tory alligator encounter prevention video should be required for all Yankee Everglade visitors). That was the same day that I learned alligators don’t “snore” …if you hear a snorting noise RUN – in my case jump back on your bike and pedal as if life and limb depend on it, because they probably do. I got lucky. The alliga- tor spun and bounded up the opposite river bank like his tail was on fire. On this river the locals
enjoy freaking out kayak- ers with signs like this: “SEND MORE TOUR- ISTS…THE LAST ONE WAS DELICOIUS!” More than once I found my- self ducking under low branches and I was okay with that until I learned later at lunch that there are two problems with that. First, lots of spi- ders live in those trees and they all bite. Second, when tree limbs are dis- turbed it’s not unusual for a snake to drop down into your boat…or on the paddler…whichever breaks its fall first. Now
I would have no problem with that because I’m not afraid of snakes. Jim, on the other hand, would no doubt immediately demonstrate his ability to walk on water. Native Floridian pad-
dlers also enjoy telling stories to freak out us Yankees. We were told one female kayaking guide al- lows water moccasins to curl up on the bow of her boat while she’s paddling. But they’re only allowed to ride on the bow, not behind her. When asked why she allows them to ride with her at all, the storyteller simply blinked incredulously and said, “Don’t you know that wa- ter moccasins don’t like water?” Well here’s a new flash: if a water moccasin decides to drop in for a visit to my boat he’ll get a paddle sandwich for lunch.
I can already guess
what some of you are thinking. Stuff like that doesn’t happen in New Hampshire, right? The last time we were boating on Lake Winnipesaukee a hairy Spiderzilla decided to come along for a ride and scooted across my leg. Okay, I’ll admit it…I screamed…loud and all girly-like. My hero yanked off his shoe, bashed the spider and flipped it over- board before I could catch my breath. Jim hates spi- ders too. But he loves me more. So I figure what- ever the Floridian wildlife can dish out while we’re kayaking, together we’ll roll with it. It’s worked that way for
almost five decades. No reason to think otherwise now.
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