Friday, March 19, 2010

Kayaking on the Estero River X 2

Roger here....

We recently made two kayaking trips on the Estero River, just a couple miles from where we are parked. Our friends, Chuck and Cindy, joined us.
We both have Sea Eagle inflatable kayaks that are great to
transport in the motor home (not sure how we could transport hard shell kayaks without an elaborate rack system on the already-full car) and surprisingly simple to inflate. The whole inflation process utilizing the foot pump that came with the kayak only took about ten minutes. I have asked a couple kayaking pundits
if these kayaks would do well in certain types of settings and they tend to turn up their noses, a bit. However, having paddled both types, I can detect very little difference.

Trip number one...
We launched the kayaks from Koreshan State Park. Cindy was a little (maybe a lot) nervous about alligator encounters.
I assured her that alligators are no more attracted to soft-sided kayaks than hard-sided kayaks. I then mentioned that it was the people inside the kayak that they are attracted to :-). I really did not think that we would see any alligators in the brackish water, and tried to assure Cindy of this. The river did not seem to have any banks for alligator "sunning" that were not infested with mangroves
- at least at the launch site. The warning sign at the launch site did little to calm Cindy's nerves.

It was a perfect day for kayaking. There seemed to be little or no flow to the river. The temperature was in the lower seventies (no sweating that day). There was no wind to blow us around. The park ranger at the gate recommended that we paddle upstream first until the river closes in. So that we did. We passed by numerous gigantic live oak trees that were draped with moss
and covered with ferns and epiphytes (air plants). We encountered the impressive bamboo stand
that we had walked through on a previous visit. As we passed through the historic section of the park where the Koreshans once lived, we got pics of the ever-present bougainvilla
and an urn in a garden area filled with flowers. We had seen these same plants on our hike a few days prior.
The mangroves and palm trees were everywhere. As the river narrowed it had the feel of a jungle - I guess that it is a

Lots of wildlife (no gators)...
We got a good shot of a green heron. (Dianne here: I think it's a little blurry, but in my defense, we were in a moving kayak....) It was creeping along a log, ready to lunge for a minnow in the water. The minnow didn't have a chance. We also saw a few turtles
and got a decent photo of a pair sunning on a log. AND, the highlight of the trip - a manatee swam in front of, around, and under our kayaks.

We were near the end of our trip when Dianne very calmly said, "I'm not kidding, there is a manatee coming right toward us."
Initially, it appeared to be a slow-moving lighter spot in the dark and brackish river. As it got closer we were able to see it move through the water and appreciate its size. We calmly hung around the area where it was swimming, being careful not to do anything that would bother it. The manatee rewarded our patience by raising its head for air numerous times. What a calm and gentle creature! Being so close to it was a surreal experience.

Trip number two... The first trip was so cool that we decided to do a second paddle on the same river, only this time heading downstream toward the gulf. We knew that the distance would be three miles. We have paddled further than that many times and did not think it would be a difficult task in the calm, slow-moving, waters of the Estero River. WE WERE WRONG. We did not take the gusty winds of the day into account.
The river widened significantly as we paddled by huge houses, retirement parks and marinas. THE WIND WAS IN OUR FACES DURING THE ENTIRE FIRST LEG OF THE TRIP. It was so strong that any time we stopped paddling to rest, we were blown backward. No rest for the weary as we struggled on. A couple of times we were passed by excursion boats filled with relaxed people. They seemed to be enjoying our struggle. A little bit past the evidence of civilization, the flora thinned and the land became more sandy. The gulf, our goal, had to be just ahead! But every time we turned a corner, the only thing that awaited us was a wider, and windier stretch of river. We had to be so close, but our collective will (maybe it was just me) to get to the gulf eventually dwindled and we turned back for a much quicker return trip to the launch site. Sorry, no pictures this time - too busy paddling to get the camera out of the dry box. The good news - three hours of great exercise!
The first order of business after returning from our trips was to take the dogs for a walk and let them do what they do best, lounge in the sun.
They are always so excited to see us. In the last photo, Jasper is showing his enthusiasm for Cindy's return by hopping on her lap. Those sharp toe nails, bony legs and lethal wagging tail always enhance the experience of our over-sized lap dog!

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