The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying:
“Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love;
Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you. (Jeremiah 31:3 NKJV)
“A whole is that which has beginning, middle and end.” (Aristotle)
What does Indiana Jones have in common with the African Queen? Both stories have strong beginnings, middles and ends. What do they have to do with my adventure? Well, sit back and enjoy the three hour tour.
Wednesday dawned just like any other day on the water. We fed the dog and drank our coffee. Then we went off course just a little bit. We planned to run over to Caladesi Island on our boat before Les’ first meeting. While he worked, I had a date with a kayak.
When we left the tide was low and the seas were calm. The early morning cruise was smooth and breathtaking. Birds congregated on the marshes and sand bars that were exposed during low tide. We even saw a racoon scuttling across one of the marshy areas. We navigated through the shallow waters and docked at the marina.
I went to the office to pay our fee for the day, and inquired about the kayak rentals. The park boasts three miles of a water trail through the mangroves and the outer edges of the island. The park ranger reccommended that I take the kayak after the tide started returning, so there would be more water for the kayak to float. I thought I would start my three hour/three mile tour around 11:00am, but it took awhile for the concessionaire to get to me, because she was also running the grill and the gift store.
I embarked on my journey about noon, an hour away from high tide.
I had no idea what I would encounter on the trail, but I figured since I had rowed a kayak before, I would be fine. I got settled into the kayak, reacquainted myself with “steering” to turn left or right and back up. All skills that I found would be very important as I paddled through the mangrove “park.”
I entered at the trailhead, ducking my head to get under the mangrove branches hanging in the entry. The sanctuary of the mangroves hushed around me, and I soon found out that regular paddling would be difficult. With the tide rising and the branches forming a tunnel over my head, I could not lift the paddle very high without whacking a branch. At the entrance the width of the path was around five feet, but it kept narrowing as I moved forward. But the shimmer of the sun dappling the scenery, a slight breeze and the absolute quiet of my surroundings lured me further in.
Sometimes, the kayak bow rammed into the roots of the mangroves or the bottom scuttled over the “knees” because the water was fairly shallow even at high tide. I pushed myself ahead without paddling, by leveraging the overhead branches. At one point, I noticed the kayak was continuing forward, even when I wasn’t paddling. The incoming tide was propelling me! It was delightful. And so silent. I was in awe of this place that our Creator invited me to explore, just me and Him.
At the one mile marker, I was pleased with my progress. With a few bumps here and there, the effort of paddling was becoming a little easier. I had a map, so I could see that at turn number five, I would leave the tunnel of mangroves to an open inlet and then paddle around a small point to re-enter the mangrove park. (The trail was well marked with red “flags” and numbered tubes stuck in the water along the route.)
I found the next entrance, and noted that the tide was still rising. At some points, I had to duck my head or lie flat to get under the branches, while the current carried me. I realized I hadn’t heard a bird or seen any wildlife, no fish in the shallow water, no egrets or herons in the branches of the bushes. It was becoming eerily quiet.
I encountered a stretch of stagnant water, and the current had disappated, so I had to start paddling in the confining tunnel. In my eagerness to notice some creatures in this shade darkened lagoon, I peered closer at the branches. Black crabs, the size of half dollars infested the brances. I mean every branch had five to ten crabs crawling on them. (Scenes from Indiana Jones and the African Queen merged into my imagination.) I could no longer grab a branch to help propel myself, and in my panic I started paddling furiously. In my fear fueled panic, the momentum of paddling jarred me into the branches.
I was so fearful of those black crabs falling into the kayak or even worse dropping into my hair or onto my arms that I forgot how to turn left, right or backwards. I literally was crying out, “Please God don’t let me touch a crab. Don’t let them fall on me.” I took a deep breath and started paddling slowly, and kept my eyes peeled for the crabs. I made it through the area with the high population of crabs, but now I was hyper aware of them, and the creepy things were still around.
As I slowed down, I decided to consult the map. I still had about a half mile left until the mangrove park opened back out to the open water. My awe had turned into dread, but I couldn’t turn back. Ahead was relief, and not soon enough.
I made it out to the open sea, a welcome reprieve. Even the headwind that I had to paddle against didn’t discourage me, after the harrowing event in the dark heart of the mangroves. My map was wet and disintegrating, but I could see that I would have to retrace the trail through a section of the mangroves to get back to the marina.
I paddled around outside the entrance, and ate the orange I packed for a snack, before I braced myself for more crabs. It was interesting, I hadn’t noticed them on the way out, but now they were evident. But this time, I was calmer and the tide was going out, so the ceiling of the mangrove canopy was higher. I didn’t need to grab branches to get back, I could paddle with more ease.
I exited the mangrove park, and glided my way over to the dock. I was glad to be back. Later, as I recounted my adventure to Les, I thanked God, because He did not let any of those creepy crabs touch me, which would have probably caused a catastrophe, like me jumping out of the kayak. He didn’t have to keep the crabs off of me, but He did. What love!
Click here to see a video of the tide pulling the kayak.
Here are pictures from the adventure. (NO, I did not take a picture of those crabs!)