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The Straight and Narrow Avoids Disaster

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The Straight and Narrow Avoids Disaster

Guest Post by Nancy Dobias

A few years ago when I was at Myakka River State Park, I was taking pictures at the picnic area across the road from the canopy walk.  I happened to notice a group of about 6-8 kayaks coming down the river.  One or two were paddling faster and were further along than the rest.  When I looked back to see why the group was so strung out, I happened to notice that one lady was a novice.  The older woman was SIDEWAYS in the river.  Her family and friends were in kayaks on all sides of her...protecting her... shouting out instructions...giving quick words of encouragement as the frustrated woman struggled to find her way in the river.  As I watched her frantically trying out the various suggestions, her kayak went from one side of the narrow channel to the other.  

I couldn't believe what I was seeing.  I knew up ahead she would encounter the bridge and all the BIG GUYS that hang out along the banks of the bridge.  "How on earth is she going to be able to maneuver through the bridge uprights? What if she hits one of those uprights and overturns?  What is she thinking???"  I worried.  

I looked ahead to see if the kayaks in front would turn around to come back to assist.  They didn't.  The rest of the group formed a tighter cluster around the woman.  Perhaps they understood she HAD to control the kayak before she could go any further.  Gradually the woman seemed to calm down.  Gradually she got the rhythmn of what she needed to do.  Together the group paddled their way past me, on their way down the river towards the bridge, and safely through its uprights.

I always wondered if that woman truly understood the danger she was in when she decided to go kayaking on the Myakka River and saw the Big Guys clustered along the bank of the river by the bridge.   She was a novice.  She had a current to manage.  She had a kayak to maneuver through uprights.  She had enormous alligators watching.  

I would have thought that if you are a novice, you would first find a safer place to learn how to kayak.  I would NOT get my first experience on a body of water that has current and that is filled with alligators.  Since alligators are assumed to be in all freshwater, I would have at least chosen a pond.  My assumption would be that there's no current and that there would be fewer alligators.  

Today I discovered I could toss that assumption out!  Today there was a boatload of alligators in the Upper Lake.  I know they're always there, but I generally don't see them.  Today everywhere I looked, I saw them.  If I had decided THIS was the day I was going to learn how to kayak, I would have had a heart attack to have been out on the Upper Lake as a novice kayaker learning the fine art of kayaking....  "What if I hit one of them?"  What if one of them hit ME?" 

There was also a boatload of kayakers.  The enormous number of alligators apparently doesn't bother those who are experienced.  They just glide in and among them and of course the alligators could care less about the kayakers....but I think that's because the kayakers know what they are doing....

For someone who knows nothing about the sport, I would hope that those who are novices should always kayak with those who are experienced at this sport....

After all you might not want to accidentally paddle through two alligators who are "eyeing" each other....

Hope everyone has a WONDERFUL NEW YEAR and HAPPY PADDLING if you're a kayaker or one in training!

Santa's Unexpected Gift to Myakka

Guest Post by Nancy Dobias

Late Christmas morning I opened an email from Frank Freestone, an avid kayaker who is a friend of ours.  Frank was reporting on the conditions he had seen at Myakka River State Park.

Santa has sent paddlers a very special Christmas present in the form of nearly-flood level water in the Myakka River.  On Sunday, a trip to Myakka River SP revealed high water and rising. The park road north of the Birdwalk was closed. Trails were flooded, so the road was crowded with walkers.   I wonder what things are like at Deep Hole.  Yesterday at Sleeping Turtles Preserve, the River was just at flood level and dropping, with substantial current.  Quite unusual this time of year, but not impossible, this is a special something to enjoy!  

Naturally Larry and I were intrigued.  After we put the turkey in the oven, we headed out to the park to see what kind of present Santa had left the paddlers and wildlife along the Myakka.  Some presents are so special that they speak for themselves so I'll step back and show you through photos what Frank, Jean and their family must have seen when Frank sent out his email about Santa's gift to the river.

Click on the images to see larger.

Sure hope the paddlers and wildlife are enjoying their present!  I sure did!!!

A Perfect Stick or a Perfect Plan

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A Perfect Stick or a Perfect Plan

Gust Post by Nancy Dobias

For all those who get used to alligators being in a particular place, think again.  On one of the Myakka River State Park trails that we walk, alligators are typically on the other side of the river.  I assumed they were drawn to its sunnier location.  Saturday, however, they were on OUR side of the river.  Larry and I encountered our first "trespasser" slightly away from where some men were fishing along the shore.

Because they had discarded a very tiny fish along the trail, I checked to see if he were still alive.  He was.  Larry gently picked him up, cradled him in his hand and then proceeded to look for a safe place to introduce him back into the waters of the Myakka.  We expected that to be easy; get away from the alligator awaiting his free lunch, find an easy spot for the soft "toss" into the river, and life would be good.  Well, Larry found his perfect spot.  Gently he "tossed" the fish back into the water and back onto the shore the fish flipped!  A problem for sure!  He couldn't go down to the river's edge to retrieve the fish since alligators were hanging out on our side of the river.

He needed a long stick.  When there were no long enough branches to flip the fish back into the river, Larry went off in search of the PERFECT STICK.  In the meantime, the alligators were wondering what I intended to do.  "Did I have food or was I food?" they must have been contemplating..

Closer and closer they approached the shoreline.  I was above them, on top of the bank, maintaining eye contact with their eyes and occasionally with what their back-end might be doing.   My plan was to telegraph that I was a fellow predator.

My well-considered telepathy thoughts were not getting through though.  Closer and closer they edged out of the water while down the trail Larry sought the perfect stick.

Because the alligators were getting a little too close to where Larry would be when he returned with his perfect stick, I called out to him to be alert, that he had "friends" awaiting his return.  As Larry made his way back, the alligators must have sensed a possible danger coming.  Quietly they backed slightly away from the shoreline, sinking a little below the surface of the river and there they waited.

Larry, however, had other things on his mind.  Armed with THE PERFECT STICK, Larry had a fish to rescue.  He immediately went to work searching out the gymnast fish who was particularly adept at back flips.  Larry scanned right, he scanned left...no little guy.  He looked again.  Finally he lay down his perfect stick and backed away from the river, happy that the fish had rescued himself.

It's good to be a gymnast kind of fish...one dynamic flip...and THE PERFECT PLAN can come together!  Of course the alligators WERE a tad bit annoyed that no free lunch was forthcoming.

Back to Normal Along the Myakka

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Back to Normal Along the Myakka

Guest Post by Nancy Dobias

Order has been "restored" on the Myakka!  When I went to the park on Tuesday, I was interested in whether the alligators were still hanging out on my side of the river. As I first set off down the trail, a friendly little bird flitted out of some overhanging tree branches to chirp his greetings and to assure me that "normality" had been restored and all was well along the river.

Because I wanted to see for myself, I thanked him for his information but off down the trail I continued.  It didn't take long to realize that he was certainly right about one thing.  The river and wetlands were indeed their normal beautiful self.

As I continued my stroll beside the river, he was right about another thing.  The alligators had returned to their "proper" place along the banks, on the OTHER side of the river.  It was a sunny day and all were basking in the warming rays of the early afternoon sun and having their normal peaceful snooze in the grasses.

Since I was interested in whether the Tag Team Duo was also on the OTHER side of the river, I continued along.  Within a few minutes, I arrived to the spot where I had earlier encountered them.  There they were, happily sunning themselves, eager to partake of what the day had to offer, and doing it from THEIR side of the river.

Both were aware of my passage and both may have wondered whether there was any hope I may come over to "visit" with them.

However, that thought was put to rest immediately as I bid them adieu and continued along the trail, happy that they had returned to a "safer" side of the river and that balance had been restored to the universe.