We camped at Crooked River State Park on the last leg of our Florida trip. My parents had stopped here overnight with my sister Katy on the way to Disney and thought we should add it because of the awesome river to kayak. They were right, but it was soooo hot and we were tired and the timing of the tides was not ideal, so it just didn’t happen. At one point we bandied about going back to Florida but most everyone on the east coast tries to go to Florida this week so that was out. So Crooked River it was.
It stormed most of last night, waking us up about 4am with something rattling outside. It sounded like someone or something was in the storage area just under our bed. So after our hearts settled down and we secured the awning which shouldn’t be out in high winds, we went back to sleep. For the record, Maggie is a terrible guard dog and did not bark once at the rattling. Since she is pretty lovable we will give her this one flaw.
After waking up for real this time and taking Maggie on her morning walk, I could see the line of clouds blowing away and blue skies peeking out from underneath. We took some walks, played a little Kooba and the boys rode around. At 12:30, we headed to the river.
Timing the tide changes is important for an enjoyable paddle and we hit the water at exactly the right time. The park does a great job with the trail markers and a map that describes what you will see. Almost on cue just as we passed marker 803, Tim held up his hands and pointed to the water, and there they were…. Dolphins!!!!!! About six of them popping up and down as they were feeding on fish. Bobby and Tim were a little ahead of Joey and I so we got to watch Bobby’s face as two of them swam behind him, two between him and Tim and at least one who peeked up at him as he swam under Bobby’s kayak. I will never forget the look on his face as he made eye contact with the dolphin. It was magical. We stayed there a bit and my boat drifted a little away when they popped up nearer to me. I could have just stayed sitting in the river listening to the Dolphins blow air from their air holes and watching them when they were so close. However they seemed done with us and swam away and we paddled on. Bobby and Joey were estatic and that carried them through most of the rest of a very long paddle.
We stopped for a while on Grover Island where the boys found a patch of sand. Bobby is going to middle school next year and while the transition out of childhood is definitely starting, trips like this highlight how adolescence is truly one foot in childhood and one in adulthood. There he was, curls bouncing pretending to stomp in the soft sand, down on hands and knees because he was a dinosaur stomping in primordial ooze, then he was Godzilla destroying cities. And then, oh the sulking!, when Tim pointed out that by attacking cities he was actually throwing sand all over their kayaks. Mercurial moods, which so remind me of him at two. I hope he never loses his wonderful imagination, and that he gets through middle school with minimal emotional scarring.
We continued on our paddle up stream toward a private dock the ranger said was a neat place to go. The dock does not get used and birds like to roost. We had no idea how long it was until we got there or the number of birds. There were hundreds of these small shorebirds that looked like sandpiper s just sitting on the dock. Bobby and Joey floated as close as they could and the birds just stayed still but kept a close watch. Tim and I waited back in the grasses of the path we had taken. Suddenly one bird spooked and hundreds of birds took flight all around us as they flew right past our faces and began to fly. I had seen a murmeration of starlings before on TV, but nothing prepared me for how amazing it was to watch it happen all around and then above us as the birds looked to roost again. The boys were quiet and so was the water, so to hear the sound of thousands of wings beating the air and to feel the air move as they flew so close, was completely inspiring. It literally took my breathe away.
We headed back paddling a total of about five miles, the most the boys have ever gone. Their personalities really showed when they got tired. Joey refused to speak to any of us and had such a deep scowl on his face as he pushed his paddle through the water, refusing to stop even when Tim pointed out that he was going the wrong way. Bobby collapsed into his boat at one point refusing to touch the paddle again. Only after we threatened to leave him and he caught site of the dock did he suddenly gain strength to get back. I liked to point out, that for the time being, Mom is still stronger then them. It won’t last for long, but today I can gloat just a little!
We rested a bit and then finished the day with a bike ride through the Palmetto Trail, which felt and looked an awful lot like our Sesqui State Park. We should all sleep well tonight, hopefully we will not have any nighttime disruptions!