Sunday, April 09, 2006

Gator tales

So I survived my kayaking through the bayous of Sweat Sock City yesterday, and there were gators, alligator gar fish, egrets, blue herons and even a bald eagle. We paddled for about 4-5 hours, covering about 5 miles on the bayou. It was very serene, very calm, and the day was perfect -- no clouds, deep blue sky, temperatures in the 60s -- with the exception of the really strong winds. I was rather pathetic for my first hour, battling against both the wind, and the fact we were headed upstream. While I did eventually figure out how to control my kayak, I did plow into other kayaks regularly, and on more than a few occasions, bumped into the bank, and once, had to duck because I couldn't avoid a low-hanging tree branch quick enough.

I apologize for not having any pictures to share with you; I think the batteries in my digital camera are dead (I hope that is in fact the problem).

I have a couple of funny stories though. The first time I saw an alligator gar fish, I literally thought it was the Loch Ness monster. Yes, yes, I know, that's Scotland, and this is not, but the thing was maybe 6 or 7 feet long, and did a little dolphin-like surface bob, and so I just saw the hunched length of its scaly back. At first I thought it was an alligator, but the guide said no, that an alligator wouldn't have moved that nimbly and would have stayed on the surface longer. We saw the alligator gars on and off throughout the day, always with the splash of white water. One time, the thing actually surfaced beneath my kayak (after banging into another kayak) and I yelped. Luckily, our kayaks were very stable and the surfacing only caused the boat to rock a little bit.

The second story is a bit more freaky. We'd not see much of the alligators during the day because it was a rather cool morning, and the bayou waters were warm; we did briefly see one alligator surface and we kept our distance for a few minutes and then it went back below the water. Two women in a tandem kayak told us that they'd seen a 12-foot 'gator a little bit ahead of where we'd turned around, and so we were kind of bummed that we didn't see it. As we were paddling back downstream, the wind suddenly picked up, as did the current, and two of us were head of the guide and another kayaker. Our guide called out to say he'd found an alligator sitting on the shore, and the two of us should turn around and come see it.

So, me with my mad kayaking skillz, turned my kayak around with some difficulties and paddled back up to where our guide was. From the distance, I could tell it was a baby alligator, which is a lot less scary than a 12-foot 'gator, but face it, it still have teeth. As I was paddling, the wind and current were blowing me closer to the bank, and I tried and tried to turn the kayak away from the shore, but to no avail. As I drifted closer, the baby 'gator slipped into the water, and seconds later, I crashed into the bank. And as I looked for a place to stick my paddle to push back into the water, I saw a pair of eyes staring at me. And then another pair. And then another pair. I yelped again. Louder, btw, than the gar fish yelp. I had just crashed into a nest of baby alligators.

"What should I do?" I asked the guide.


And so I stuck my paddle into the water and rowed furiously away. Because we all know where there are babies, there are mommas. The guide and another person in our group drifted a little closer to the nest and checked it out and confirmed that there were indeed three baby gators sitting there and we figured that the one we'd seen on the shore was going to join its siblings.

Back at the picnic site, we joked about the nest of 'gators, how we were going to blow it up into a fish tale, that by Wednesday, it'd be a nest of 12-foot gators swarming around my kayak. So I thought it was best to tell the story NOW, as accurately as possible. By Wednesday, surely I'll be more heroic than having to be told to paddle away. Maybe by Wednesday, I'll not only have stumbled up on a nest of 12-foot gators, I'll have wrestled them into submission and I'll claim dead batteries as the reason for no photographic evidence.

No comments: