Suwannee Solace Part 2 of 2

Sunday provided us yet another beautiful start to our day. I woke with the sunrise and spent time outside with the dogs, wandering the campgrounds, pondering the emotional Saturday Paula and I shared.   Perhaps one of the most difficult things a person can do is try to hold back insurmountable grief. Loss is never easy. Words are never enough. I’ve been there more than once.

But to get a call on a Monday that your husband keeled over and died during his routine Doc appointment—well, what are you supposed to do with that?! Struggle through a million questions in your mind? Feel devastated, lost, alone, robbed, deserted, helpless, confused, enraged or all of the above? Or perhaps just block it out, believing it simply isn’t true; he’ll be home any time now? My heart breaks for Paula! I am just glad she decided to make this trip. Indeed, I cannot imagine going through what she just has.

We are more than ready to have some fun.   I am anxious to get this party started!

Paula’s head pops out the trailer door. “Good morning!”

Yes it is!

Today we will embark on a grand canoe adventure on the Suwannee River. We delved into an area map, plotting a reasonably do-able route that, by our estimation, should be completed in about 6 hours. Both being highly experienced paddlers, we agreed we can do it. If we ‘put in’ at Blue Springs, we can stop right here at Convict Springs, then bike back to Blue Springs to get the truck, and drive home with the bikes. We grabbed our food, water, and gear for the day. After a hug goodbye to the pups, we were rolling out of the campground, ready for a day on the river!

SuwanSolaceP26Rural forest and farmland, tall green pines and live oaks, the drive to Blue Springs was so beautiful! So similar to home, and not at all what you would expect from Florida! We passed by miles of horse pastures, amazing colorful fields of native flowers, farmsteads, and grazing farm animals. A perfect country drive!

We arrived to Blue Spring Park by 9 am, and prepared to launch our canoe. Paula volunteered to start our journey in the back of the boat, and we will switch half way. Decisions come easy for us. We work together well. We laughed and made light of our ‘extreme packing’ situation . Since both of us had backgrounds of being in charge and carrying the responsibility to guide a trip, it appeared we had about a month’s worth of stuff between the two of us for our 6 hour trip. Truth be told, we probably didn’t need a flashlight along, let alone two. Extra clothes and rain gear? It’s not even a full day trip! A GPS? Not needed. Compass? We’re floating downstream, probably not needed. Cameras? Well I’m not going to take one this trip. 16 granola bars? I will surely barf if I consume half of them in one afternoon….we carefully examined our pile of gear, and downsized our ton of stuff to some food and water, life vests, and paddles into the boat. By the time we got onto the water, we were both tired from laughing so much.

Gliding onto the Suwannee was borderline magical. There’s something about the waters that pulls you into a state of reflection, or a state of self-realization. My thoughts drifted to memories of sad things, and those sad things then lead me into a sort of solitude that almost echoed from bank to bank, rolling downstream. I felt comforted in my sadness, and honored those sad memories. I hoped Paula felt something similar. The river was absolutely motionless, and looked like glass. I cast my eyes far ahead of us, and studied every branch jutting out of the dark water, expecting it to rise up with huge snapping jaws like the alligators in the movies! Alas, there were many alligator stumps, and alligator rocks, but thankfully, no actual alligators.

“It’s really not warm enough for them up here, you rarely see them up here.” Paula reassured me. Yeah well, there’s always going to be a rogue gator, defying the norm, looking for cool weather food source….

“Ohhh! There’s one! Is that one?”

“No, that would be another alligator stump.”

SwuanSolaceP27One would think that it would be pretty easy to float down a river, but the Suwannee was moving so slowly, we did actually have to paddle. That is, when we felt like moving. It was fantastic to just float along, gazing into the banks, or up at the blue sky, nibbling on treats, reflecting on lives well lived. We were the only ones on the water. This was our river. Our time. All ours. Until the water patrol buzzed around the corner, and blew past us, sending our canoe into a less than gentle rocking motion.

Yup that same water patrol buzzed up and down the river past us at least 5 times throughout the afternoon.

Amazingly, he was about the only other boat on the water. We stopped at Peacock Spring and explored the little channel that brought you to the actual spring. It was surreal, with gangly trees sprouting out of the waters, and strange alien-like plant life I’d never seen before, and the waters were an earie blueish green. Not a soul in sight besides us. We grounded the canoe, got out and took a good stretch, and checked out the primitive campground. It was exactly like the one we saw yesterday! We pulled off to the shore several more times to explore the wilderness settings we floated by. The Suwannee doesn’t boast much development in this area at all. Except for the occasional cabin type dwelling, it was pretty remote feeling, uninhabited, and wild. We saw cranes, eagles, ducks and many jumping fish on our journey down river.

And about those fish……

A splash over here, a splash over there, here a splash, there a splash, everywhere a splash splash; giant tarpon ‘round the boat, e-i-oh-my-oh! They were everywhere! I had a hankering to drop a line in the water but didn’t have my pole. Then we floated around a corner and there was the sign:

DANGER, TARPON WATERS

BEWARE OF AGGRESSIVE FISH

Okay then! We looked at each other. Apparently the tarpon are aggressive enough to tip a canoe or kayak over, and kill you. My curiosity and hankering to fish disappeared instantly, replaced with searching for tarpon stumps and tarpon rocks along with the alligators. Some of the dark swirls were very near the canoe. Some rose up and showed some body, others simply flicked a heavy tail and dove deep. And no, they absolutely were not manatees. Paula tried to calm my fears with a crazy story of how she was the only person – ever – to be bitten by an alligator at Myakka State Park. Yeah, that really made me feel better. Not. But somehow, her story didn’t surprise me, either. Of course the next thing would be; “Two Canoeing Women, Killed by Tarpon.” Or “Two Women, Capsized By Tarpon, Eaten By Alligators.” The rest of our journey we made jokes, laughed at everything and nothing, and got downright serious in solving all of the world’s problems for a few minutes, to boot.   What we didn’t do was keep track of our time and distance.

SuwanSolaceP28We were lagging behind schedule. That meant power paddle. We switched seats. Because I am a strong paddler, it took some time before we got into sync again. By the time we hit Convict Springs our upper bodies were spent. Spent but we were still laughing and enjoying the day. We dragged the canoe up to the lawn and rested. The idea of a 90 minute bike ride sounded a little too ambitious, so we decided to drive my truck back to get her truck. It was somewhere between pulling the canoe up and deciding on driving that I made a major, horrible discovery. OH CRAP! I left my keys in her truck. We can’t drive back to Blue Springs. And we’re too tired to bike. But we are very smart outdoors-women with answers to all of life’s problems, so, in a moment of brazen creativity, we opted for a shuttle ride to Blue Springs.

I’m not gonna lie, I about fell asleep in the back seat of the shuttle ride while Paula and the driver chatted up a storm. But we got to the truck and back to camp in time to pick up the canoe from the launch and get back to start dinner right before dark. We shared some wine, toasted to new beginnings, good times, good friends, and more adventures together.

Friday morning as she prepared to head back south, Paula made the bold decision to “take the scenic route” and stop along the way. My friend chalked up a few “firsts” this weekend. Just a taste of what can be a whole new chapter of firsts for her. And as for me? I feel blessed to have shared time with this wonderful person. She has become a cherished friend, indeed.  Now I will continue my journey north to Minnesota, making my own scenic stops along the way.  I’m already planning our next adventure!

Thank you for reading my post. Was it inspiring? Scary? Funny? Unbelievable? I’d love to hear your thoughts! All comments are greatly appreciated. Life is an adventure—and it begins today! Why wait for an invitation to live an amazing life full of great experiences? There are lots of inspirational stories under my blog category, “PRs Amazing Outdoor Adventure Update”. If you like what you see, please let me know by “liking” my website. You can even join my tribe to automatically receive new postings ‘hot off the press’.

If you find yourself spending your time not doing what you love, I invite you to contact me for help to create your own, amazing adventure. As always, please feel free to share with others who may find meaning and value in exploring limitless possibilities with PR Brady AdVentures. Thanks again!

 

 

 

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Comments

  1. Sounds like a great adventure the two of you had! Laughter and being able to enjoy life’s journey is so important.

  2. Pat, I’m so sorry for your friend Paula’s loss. You two are lucky to have each other as heart-friends to console and comfort one another — and to make each other laugh. I loved reading about your canoe ride down the river. I’m a fellow member of the Overpacking Brigade. Sixteen granola bars? Yup, I can relate. As for alligator stumps, there’s an old log stuck in a river nearby that I’m convinced is an alligator. Not many gators up here in Oregon, but really, you never know.

    • Thanks so much for your kind words! Wow, Oregon? There is so much amazing country to see there, lots of canoe territory, too. Agreed, it’s not likely to see a gator, but maybe Big Foot is thumping around in the woods? I got myself into a big pile of trouble in Oregon once, to the tune of $500….it only took two Vineyards…..and back then $500 could buy a whole lot of wine!Couldn’t believe what I had done when I got home and the boxes arrived! 😉

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