Monday, January 12, 2009

Florida's Finest

So I had this crazy idea.

I mentioned to Himself that we should explore some outdoor activities that we could do as a family. After all, we live in the state with some of the nation's finest water trails.

Let's try kayaking!

Some of you make envision white water and crash helmets when thinking of kayaking. I can assure you - I want no part of that. I'm talking moderate exercise, gentle currents, and Florida wildlife.

Fortunately, our friends at RigelZoo own a variety of kayaks and canoes. They invited us to test out each of them before making any decisions. The result was one gorgeous day, captured on film by DR.

This was my first time at the Wekiva water trail. Himself and I have decided that Florida is trying to reel us in by giving us the most beautiful January day it possibly could; mostly uncrowded, 76 degrees, minimal bugs, and a slight breeze. Well, we're definitely taking the bait.

We started at King's Landing and paddled upstream to the Wekiva State Park. Once we passed under this unused bridge, civilzation was left behind.

Himself and I started in this tandem kayak. I liked that we were sitting down into the boat and not on top. I also liked that Himself could rescue me if I passed out or became too pooped to paddle. There was plenty of room for both of us, bottled water, and snacks.

We seemed to work pretty well together. Himself noted that his dyslexsia seemed to set in when trying to remember how to steer. It only took a few minutes, however, before we were paddling smoothly and avoiding most obstacles.

Do you see the tree ahead? Honey? The tree branch?

I see it. I see it, already!

I tried paddling on my own. I felt like I wasn't really getting anywhere! It seemed that whenever he paddled we would surge forward. Whenever I paddled alone, It felt like we weren't moving at all (or were maybe even going backwards).

Contrary to apearances, he is not about to smack my melon with his paddle. If he were, his smile would be much more sinister.

This is my friend, D, the mom of the gang at the Zoo and wife to DR. Check out her blog! She certainly has her hands full! D is paddling their smallest kayak. It's easy to spin this thing around and put it wherever it's pointed. D made it look especially easy!

A heron, captured by DR. It seemed to pose so prettily for the camera! Most wildlife would let us get pretty close as long as we were slow and quiet.

As we got closer to the State Park section, we found this fella up on the river bank:
Our first gator sighting! I'm not sure if you can click on the picture and make it larger, but you can try. There's about five turtles on a log in front of him, all facing him, of course. All that greenery is floating and only the gator is on land.

Himself spots the gator. I look oblivious, but actually I had already seen it and was laughing at the antics of other canoers.

We went all the way to the state park water-entrace and switched canoes. Here, John is in the Kayak Cadillac belonging to Zach R. He loved it right away!

Coming back from the water-entrace, we passed this sectioned-off area full of duckweed. It make look like slimy water, but actually it's nice and clean! Duckweed is NOT moss or algae. It's actually hundreds of tiny plants growing closely together; so closely, in fact, that it looks like one could walk across it.

Duckweed wasn't the only thing in this sectioned off area. Do you see them? Do you see why you don't want to go walking across?

I've circled them. These are two of the four gators we spotted in this area! Luckily, we could see their eyes and snouts. Ocassionally, we could see their zippered backs above the waterline.

Here's a photo DR took of several turtles, sunning on a log in the background.

Here's what I didn't see the first time we paddled past!
The gator is in the large circle. The smaller circles are turtle heads popping out of the water. This area was not sectioned off with a barrier.

I loved being in this smaller kayak. It wasn't hard to get out of any mess, I could go backward or forward with ease, and I could turn completely around to talk to my companions if I wanted to.

I wanted to! There was so much to see!

At one point, we heard the soft footsteps of deer. With paddles silent and peering eyes, we finally spotted them in the thick brush. I'm not sure if DR got a photo since they were pretty camouflaged.

We decided we needed to give these individual kayaks an upstream test. So far, we had only needed to do minimal paddling and steering as we floated gently downstream toward King's Landing. We all took the branch of the river leading to Rock Springs for a while.

We've spotted something far up in the trees. . .

Good thing it is far up in the trees! Looks like a hornet's nest!

Lastly, I traded the individual kayaks with Himself. The minute I grasped Zach's paddle, my hands and my arms said, "Ooooohhhhh." He paid a little more for this paddle and it was worth every penny. We definitely want to save to get nicer, lighter, more ergonomic paddles!

I didn't think I would like sitting so high above the water instead of inside like the other kayaks, but actually, I liked it a lot. The only thing I had to get used to was the fact that I couldn't maneuver it as quickly as the smaller one, so it took a little more planning. The benefit was that I could paddle in a straight line much easier, where the smaller one tended to adjust my direction with each paddle stroke.

At the end of the day, we were excited about the prospect of spending time with our family this way. Once the kayaks and equipment have been purchased, the expense is minimal ($5.00 launching fee at the park, gas money to drive there, picnic lunch!). It's definitely a healthier, more pleasant form of entertainment. The time together was enjoyable, being outdoors and exercising was enjoyable, and the opportunities to add camping are a bonus.

Plus, I'd rather look at things like this than the television any day:
A red-shouldered hawk greeted us upon arrival!


agable said...

Looks like a fun time :).

icardi said...

I love the picture with the turtles looking on to the alligator. It looks quite comical, as if they were all like "how close can we get to it" or "isn't he such a cute looking gator *in child-like voice*"

Rebekah said...

Wonderful pictures and what a fun adventure!

I think with that particular award, you just give it to whomever you want. Some awards come with instructions as to how many you are to give it to (not that you have to follow that rule), but this one didn' give to your heart's delight! :)

Jess said...

Wow. That looks so wonderfully relaxing.
(Only later do you realize you received a good arm workout. ;)

BA said...

That looks like so much fun! It sure was a beautiful day to do something outside. I'm glad you had a great time together.

Phyllis said...

So, why didn't you invite me!?!?!?!

Oh, yeah. I'm on the other side of the world. That's one of my favorite places, one of my favorite ways to spend a day. Thank you so much for sharing!

melanie said...

looks like a fun time...and YES, alligators!!! :)

Phyllis@Aimless Conversation said...

Eric did this several times while we lived down there. Truly looks as if I missed out. =( I know who to call to borrow equipment when we come for vacation! ;-)

The gators are a little creepy. I wouldn't want to fallout of the canoe!


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