A 40 degree thermometer reading and the flow of the Withlacoochee make no sound!
The phone rang early and often with paddlers wondering if the paddle trip was a "go", but it was the call from Abby-the-camper at Hog Island that got my attention. "Kurt, it's 34 degrees here...are you coming...are we going?" My smile stretched the already chapped lips and I assured her we were on the way.
The bumpy road leading to Iron Bridge Recreational area was littered with deer tracks and scarce on traffic. My enthusiasm peaked when four deer crossed in front of the truck. Always something about a wildlife crossing that tugs at my heart-strings and renews my relationship with the outdoors.
Upon arrival the paddlers emerged from their cars like butterflies from a cocoon... a stretch, a yawn and a smile! The sun was already reflecting off the tannin tinged waters sending slivers of light through the swamp. The cypress knees always remind me of wizards...faces, hats and gowns galore here.
12 kayakers posed for a picture then lit up the river with vibrant colors of pink, orange, red and gold. Water dripping from the wing-like paddles rippled into the wake toward a shore lined with fist-sized snail shells. Fresh earth turned over by the feral hogs are a sign of intrusion & destruction but Bob, while picking trash from the tangled branch reminded me of something Paul Erlich once said - "The fluttering of a butterfly's wings can affect climate changes on the other side of the planet." Hmmmmm... it's the little efforts (ongoing) that make a difference... one wing beat at a time...
New-found friends in the back of the pack whispered quietly as the river grew thin. Ahead paddlers resorted to a walk/drag technique that made me smile. "When you follow the flow to the outside bend, things be deeper". The wizardly cypress knees kindly point the way, can you see them?
A limpkin, a hawk and a flock of white ibis was all we saw during the 3 mile journey downstream. Not a boat, a canoe or a person to be seen, we were all to ourselves as we approached Hog Island. Looking back down the channel the wing-like paddles of various colors shimmered in the sunlight until landing softly on the sandy shore where a variety of lunch snacks emerged.
Another stretch, another yawn, another smile and we took flight back into the flow. Colors stretched beyond the next corner, sunlight warming my face as we pressed on through the shallows and across the sand to the deeper, darker depths of the flow. Everything looks like a gator ya know...’til you see one!
Something about actually seeing the destination relaxes the soul and eases the mind. The colorful kayaks lazily drifting....’til next time.
“I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming, I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly dreaming I am a man.” ~Chuang Tzu
Kurt Zuelsdorf. Writer, Urban Tracker, Outdoor Enthusiast at Kayak Nature Adventures kayak and sup rentals