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It was so chilly when we started out! All bundled up in double pants, long sleeves and jackets, we set out to explore nature. As we headed out and throughout the paddle, we encountered so many birds! Ibis, Great Blue Herons, Night Herons, Ospreys & Limpkins. It was beautiful to see them at every turn.

The trees were tall and housed many a spider, who spun their webs above our heads. At times we needed to duck down slightly, just to make sure we would not get a face full of web!

We wandered down the watery trail, up to the first dam. the water was low, so instead of paddling the boards over top of the dam, we instead hoisted ourselves onto the pathway to the side and carried our boards over. Thankfully the wooded pathway is not slippery, as you would expect. Once past the dam, the water moves very fast, giving us a sense of rapids – Florida Style. We only had to steer our boards, in order to avoid the roots popping up everywhere, breaking through the water. At times, the roots would be just below the surface of the water…. just low enough for them to be out of sight, but high enough to grab our boards and spin us around, threatening to throw us into the cold water and scrambling to get back on – knowing something is always on the floor bottom looking up at our toes. At this point, most of us opted to be on our knees, which proved to be a much safer option, and did not overturn any of us.

At the turn-around point we were surrounded by Cypress Knees. They looked like people, all congregated on the water banks, as if they knew something we didn’t. We made sure to take photos of their meeting. Watching us at this point was a curious Kingfisher. He would jump from branch to branch, following us, making shrill noises. He stopped in time for us to┬áinclude him in a photo we took of a tree branch masquerading as an octopus.

Almost back to the launch spot at Picnic Island, we were talking about the past 2 hours and the nature we had seen. We were surprised we had not seen any alligators, especially due to the cooler weather we had as we started out. At this point, jackets and long sleeves had been abandoned, and the rays of the sun were beating down just enough to keep us warm and comfortable. Perfect gator weather, when about 40 feet in front of us a large-ish alligator, about 7-8 feet long, decided to swim across our watery path. We all paddled towards the reptile, as we were head that way anyways, and were able to watch as he slowly disappeared under the surface. Leaving all of us wondering who was paddling on top of him. We waited an appropriate amount of time to see if he would resurface and let us see him, but we think he knew that and he stayed safely on the sandy floor of the river.

All in all, this adventure was definitely one we would like to repeat over and over again. Not a paddle for beginners, but definitely for those who have been taught already and would like to venture into the green wild of Riverbend Park.

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