I write this while risking liver failure from ibuprofen overdose. But I get ahead of myself.
On vacation, I went exploring with wife, Laurice, and brother, Jim. Jim lives in Dunellen, Fl. We decided to take in the awesome nature this area of the world has to offer. I have always wanted to see Manatees. Growing up I have seen numerous nature shows and heard even more stories. So I elected to skip a trip to Disney or Universal Studios.
We got a late start. Getting a few emails and calls about gigs, while Jim had some real estate deals to take care of. We finally headed west towards the Gulf of Mexico. It was about 12:30pm when we finally got to the river. We stopped for lunch right on the water at CRACKERS. I only had way to much fun with this after passing signs for Cracker Town and Cracker Style Log Homes.
Finding a boat rental, sense of adventure won over common sense. I am far from being in mediocre shape, so perhaps hind sight tell us Kayaking was not the best choice over a motorized floater. Secondly at first glimpse choosing to paddle 40 minutes when a nice spring was right ot about 5 minutes away might seem crazy, but the pictures of the THREE SISTERS - the springs - looked great. Secluded, untouched by most...
So Jim gets his own while Laurice and I share a Kayak. Right from the start I struggled. We both did. Jim was fine, getting way ahead and then relaxing to wait for us. Laurice and I never found a rhythm. I had fears early on that getting back after using all reserves would be troubling considering how hard it was just to get there. HOwever, the current was against us right now. Passing a number of great waterside houses, a dolphin feeding in the shallows (one of the highlights of the trip but I am trying to get to the drama) and a few isolated overgrown mini islands, we finally reach our channel of choice. We pass under the bridge we drove over just 30 minutes prior. Right away we feel in another world. Another few houndred yards we find the hidden mouth to the THREE SISTERs. http://www.thiswaytothe.net/springs/pages/three-sisters-springs-citrus.html , http://www.tfn.net/Springs/ThreeSisters.htm
There is a small channel (12 feet wide at most). Crystal clear water with a few rocks. There are 3 poles that keep out all boats except canoes and kayaks. When you go through you are immediately transported to the set of Black LAgoon or Tarzan from 1950s. Three mini lagoons all connected by central pool. Most of the area was chest deep, except where the actual springs give the perfectly clear 72 degree water. We get there by 3:30. The boats are due back by 5pm. At 4pm we figure lets turn back. I swim out of the lagoon as I am just loving the water. Finally I figure its time to get in the boat. HERE WE GO!!! - quick note, everying about to come... it was all worth it for a glimpse at the beauty of the THREE SISTERS!
I push off the bottom to jump up at which time I get the worst charlie horse in my RIGHT calf. The water is not deep and I quickly rub it out and stretch. I go to get back on and I tip the boat, previously inhabited by Laurice. She falls out as does our bag with camera etc. and the plug that keeps water out of the hidden compartment which we had never noticed. Now the boat is taking on water. Jim and I pull the boat to the shallows to try and dump some of the water out but we drop the cover. This whole time we slowly drifted from spring like clear waters to grass filled darker lagoon area. The kind you would expect to see more gators and crocs. We are getting a little nervous. Snakes too!
I get back on the boat. Laurice tries to do the same but we flip it again. This nonsense continues for about 10 minutes. Again HIND SIGHT perhaps we should have taken up the offers of help from a few motoring passers. Finally I decide to swim for it while they paddle. This kind of works for a while but I am getting tired. Plus as they get a head I realize more and more fear of swimming alone in darker grass filled waters. The let me catch up. Jim decides he will swim for a while and quickly realizes where I was coming from. We pull over to shallows near some private docks. Jim and I try one more time dump out some water. I slip and cramp up my LEFT calf. Bad too. Takes a while to stretch out. At this point I am exhausted - both legs tender and threatening to cramp again, while the rest of is just beat. Jim, a great former life guard, makes the call to get me out of the water. i walk up a concrete stairwell into a private yard.
Topless (sorry if you are eating) with a soaking shoulder bag and paddle - oh and I have on wet socks... don't ask - , I walk through the yard to the street. Quickly I realized I walked the wrong way as there was a canal ahead I had not previously seen. A few neighborhood folks are amused by the sight. One young couple walks by "We're you Kayaking?" Chalk one up for Florida Education! They do point me in the right direction. As an afterthought they offer a ride, but the walking is actually feeling good working through my cramping. Then a couple pre teens ride by on bikes. The 11-12 yo girl strikes up a friendly conversation. "We're you Kayaking?" Am getting more amuzed as i go. She circles me once offering some advice which I wish I could remember for comedy purposes. I now am finally on the main road not far from the rental place. Just then Laurice yells my name. I am pleasantly shocked. She had gotten out at the bridge and picked up by the lady from the rentals. Apparently the kayak taking on water was very difficult to stear. Jimmy is now towing it behind his boat.
We get to the Boat rental and they are in hysterics that we are late. I try to impress that Jim might be in trouble, not know his current physical/mental state and all alone on the river. "Maybe we should get the pontoon and go after him!" "He is very late. We need to charge you extra." COmmunication is not good. I think she was Indian. Think accent. The local pothead beach bum was of no help either.
Finally Jim come paddling around the bend. He is beat. We make a little stink but we're all way to tired to argue. I pay the extra money. All are safe. A well deserved beer. We drive home. The last big moment, while driving home, (Jim behind the while - I am just starting to really ache in the back seat -) I see a large black head up the road - looks like a large dog. "What is that?" It is just about 3-4 feet to the right of the road but almost looking right at us. Jim slams on the breaks which startles the animal. It jumps up turns and crosses the street - finally disappearing into the woods. It was a massive wild boar. Beautiful animal too as pigs.
So now, after already falling asleep once, I am up in terrible pain. More from the paddling and swimming. My legs actually feel alright. Tender but managable. My Shoulders and arms are in a hell of their own.
I really need to spend some more time down here. Perhaps all winter LOL. There is so much beauty that I am actually not hating my current status. And now I have a new niece on the way to warrant more trips by Uncle Walter.
Tommorrow I start to stumble north. The whole time today I really wish I had a reality series and a camera crew full time. Not the first time I and others in the cast have said this. Depending on how you edit, this was the funniest or scariest moments in my life.
READ PART TWO OF THIS STORY