September 4

Well, it's unofficially official. I have now seen an alligator. I didn't get a definite look at one but I'm pretty sure I saw one, and I would be quite alright if I don't see anymore. While paddling down the Intercostal Waterway I kept thinking that it looked like a prime gator territory. Every movement in the water or log I saw I figured was a gator. When I got close and they didn't sink, I confirmed it wasn't one. At one point something popped up near me then went under. With no visual I thought it could have been a manatee. It kept surfacing and going back under about every 10th of a mile. I chalked it up to a manatee for personal well being. I was cruising at almost 5 mph for the first 14 miles today. But it took me about 6 hrs. It was so hot that I had to pull over in the shade about every 15 minutes. After 14 miles I stopped and walked to the gas station for something cold to drink. When I returned I thought I had an easy 2 hour paddle for the 8.5 more miles since the temperature had broken. I was wrong. The tides had changed and it was like I was paddling up stream. It was 6 miles to a bay then 2.5 across to the camp site. The sun was dropping fast but it was breathtaking. When the light gets right on the intercostal, the reflection of the trees on the black water is indescribable. It's like a perfect mirror. As I paddled out into the bay the sun was setting behind me. I couldn't help but stop to notice the amazing sunset. But only 2.5 miles to go I didn't enjoy it that much. I pressed on across the bay to a point where the map said was a camping spot. When I hit there the sun was down and the moon was up. I couldn't find any dry land. I noticed a small break in the weeds and paddled in to see if it would work. It would but the ground still looked a bit marshy. I backed out to see if there was a better spot. I decided I should put on my head lamp to see better. I really wish I hadn't done that. When I clicked it on my heart stopped. I saw about 4 sets of eyes start glowing in different spots. I might not be the most knowledgeable about Florida wildlife but I'm pretty sure there is only one thing they could be. I didn't find a better spot so I went back and paddled as hard as I could through the weeds onto the shore. If I could I would have liked to launch my boat all the way onto the shore. I didn't want to even put my pinky toe in the water. I pulled my boat out of the water and went to work. Not setting up camp, but making a fire. I don't think I have had a fire in over a month. I found an old palm tree with dead leaves. I started torching them. I kept breaking off branches to build the fire up hoping it would scare off anything close by. I kept hearing things move in the woods around me. When I investigated I found it was mutated grasshoppers. They were the size of my fist. I decided with the glowing eyes and all the bugs that there wasn't any chance ever I was going to be sleeping on the ground. I put my hammock up to at least make the gators have a challenge if they want to eat me. I keep hearing something splashing in the water, I'm hoping it was just fish but my mind thinks different. So even though I didn't get a visual confirmation of seeing a gator today I think it's safe to say that I am unofficially officially in gator country.