Hiking out and about

Little Manatee River State Park

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I’m really behind on blogs as usual, even after getting a netbook with the specific intention or writing more blogs with it. Takes 21 days to make a habit right?
Anyway this weekend was great and since part of my new habit making process includes shorter blogs, I’ve decided to write a rundown with some images.

On Saturday, we went to bed at 4 am, as per normal…and got up at 7:30 so we could run down to the park office and rent a canoe before anyone else, thinking of course that every other person in the park was only here to rent a canoe and there may even be a line.. possibly a duel. We were wrong and of course much earlier than we needed to be. We picked up the keys, oars and life jackets anyway and decided to stay awake and get some breakfast at Denny’s. Breakfast was terrible and we returned to check on the animals, pack and head out to the river. The canoes were blue and plastic but fairly large and would be easy to use, even for us who has little experience in canoes, both of us having been on rafts in rapids more.
The Little Manatee River was wider than a creek but not much of a river for the first mile or so, shallow and free from creatures. As we got further down stream we started to see turtles and even a huge fish whose massive slimy back broke the surface for a moment as it turned and slid into the black. I have a phobia of large fish.. it’s not them really, its the blackness they hide in while they potentially eat my toes and drag me under (I watch the show River Monster’s and this happens!). I didn’t get eaten or even bit but I did drop the video camera in the water while trying to take a photo of some stupid rotten structure on the shore. Maybe it was a fish who caused me to drop it. He bumped the boat, attacking the camera in the depths – thinking it was my foot. There were plenty worse things to fear really.
We had gone hiking twice in the week to a lake near the campsite in search of Alligators that one ranger told us were in and had hopes for the river but in a way had given up. We floated miles seeing huge Orb Weaver spiders with webs that span the treetops from one side of the river to the other, a big fishing spider protecting its egg sack from canoeists on a branch jutting out of the middle of the river and many slider turtles from one to 3 feet long, bathing on logs with their arms and legs up off the log like some strange yoga position, but no alligators or signs of them. When we started to reach some civilization, mainly some guys on a rope swing followed by a large anchored boat and 3 fisherman’s trailers we decided to turn around. We had been paddling and floating for about 2 hours already and hoped to do more things before dark.

On the way back, looking around at things as we did going past the first time, we were about 1/4 of the way back when I saw a weird texture in some floating muck. It was a medium sized alligator with gorgeous yellow eyes. He just float there as we got closer, pupils narrow, we kept getting closer, trying to take a look and take a photo, even going back a few feet to get another go. He was completely unmoving and seemed to either be asleep with his eyes open of completely convinced we couldn’t see him. He eventually got sick of us either way and splashed his body and tail in a massive violently and stirred up some of the foulness he was resting in, leaving splattered people and a putrid smell in his wake. It was fun and slightly heart attack inducing to be so close to a wild predator that large, and he wasn’t even as big as he one day will be.
We made it back unscathed, paddling against the weak but present current and not taking enough breaks for water, we were exhausted and a little sun burned. We headed home for an animal check then off to Tampa for some Ethiopian food and to check out the beach.
We were late arriving to Fort DeSoto State Park, nearly closing time for the beach but when we arrived to see tons of people fishing from the bridges and families arriving at the same time we didnt rush. By the time we left I was so tired I was falling asleep sitting up in the car, even after an energy drink and a slap to the face (by me). When we got home after 9 (long drive to Tampa and back), we decided to take a “nap” which turned into my sleeping the entire night, waking up at 9 the next day.

Sunday is an easy one. We got up, made breakfast and drove to Anna Marie Island where we hung out at the beach, floating in and playing in the rolling tides of the Gulf while schools of little silver fish swam around our legs and looked us in the eyes through the walls of the waves that towered over our heads before we jumped and let them crash around us. The fish seemed to get thicker as it got later and after a while Ross got one down his shorts and I had at least 5 splash into my face, one nearly getting into my mouth while I laughed. apparently I love the ocean (though not up my sinuses or in my eyes oddly). I never would have known from the freezing cold jelly fish filled waters of the west coast that it could be fun to be in the water.

We are home. I am again very tired. Photos!

Our neighbour the gopher tortoise.

Giant orb weaver and leftovers.

3 inch long grasshopper on our first alligator hike.

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  • i’d looooove to live in that trailer by the river. But preferably far away from alligators. I’m actually kind of giddy you’re in Florida now*, because i was there in July and i can say “YES!! those spiders! i saw them. They’re crazy!! and YES!! those grasshoppers i saw too! also near a swamp reserve with alligators.”

    I wonder what it would be like if one of those pounced and landed on my arm. The grasshoppers. Not the alligators….

    *or at least i *thought* you were in Florida. I read it on FB i think…but the blog says you’re in Georgia..hmm..stop slacking on blog updates 😉

  • Excellent blog with great info. I’ll be visiting this park soon, and can’t wait to bicycle and take photos. All the best.