Jumbo Shrimp. Great Depression. Calling a big guy Tiny. These are all examples of oxymorons. You can add Tate’s Hell to that list. Today was one of the pretties natural areas I have ever experienced. I’m sure the weather and time of year had something to do with it but I kept finding myself stopping paddling and just looking around. When I first put on the water at 8:30 am (that was kind of hellish) the trees were reflecting off the glassy water. A slight fog rolled in early and everything seemed like it had a black and white filter on it. The rays of light were beaming through the trees and fog. After the fog lifted it was amazing. The trees were changing for the season. Not like I am used to in the mountains since it’s a completely different ecosystem. They reflected perfectly off the black water for a picturesque look. It felt like I was paddling on a mirror. I had the entire river to myself. A few miles in I came to a bridge. It was only the second one I have encountered that I couldn’t fit under. It was due to my flag pole. I was able to pull over and lower the pole to get under the bridge but I could still touch the bottom of the bridge while sitting in my kayak. I was fighting the current all day but still making good time, when I was paddling and not enjoying the views. I would pass a random dock every so often but that was it out there. I figured I wouldn’t see another boat for the next few days since if I struggled getting under the bridge there was no way a motor boat would. I cranked up my speaker, partly to scare off any alligators, but also just to jam out. When the song ended you could hear it echoing all around. I was singing along to every random song that came on my diverse playlist. I was singing at the top of my lungs when I came around a bend and saw 2 kayaks. I killed the music hoping they only heard it and not me singing. There was a younger couple in a double kayak and a man and a dog in the other. I said hello thinking I was in the clear. The man asked if I was a member of the Grateful Deadbecause he heard some one singing Fire on the Mountain. I admitted that the beard threw people but I wasn’t a member. The man was the Uncle of the guy in the other kayak and had a place just up the river. The young couple was from the west coast but had been living in Canada farming and going to school. They were getting ready to head to Columbia for a few weeks then were going to try and hitch a ride on a sail boat and travel. They were impressed with my trip but I was impressed with the idea of getting to travel on a sail boat. I could carry so much more gear and use the wind to move. We talked for a while and I answered a lot of questions. We discussed different trails and rivers. The whole time the dog just sat in the boat with her owner. I think that was the most impressive thing of all. I had to get moving. I only had about half a mile to the next camp site I had hoped to be at Saturday night. And it was 12 Miles to the next camp site I originally planned on getting to Sunday. I’m not really on a time schedule but I figured it would be nice to put in some miles. I ate a quick snack and took off. A few miles in I saw what looked like a piece of wood shoot across the water like a remote control boat. Then the water around it splashed and it was gone. I can say for sure that it was an alligator. Probably 7 feet long. I screamed of course and took off looking over my shoulder every 3 seconds to see if it was following me. I saw one more maybe 3 feet long a little later and that was it for the day. When I was getting close to the campsite the sun was down and it was pretty much dark. I could see the cut out of trees where the camp site was and refused to turn on my headlamp for fear of seeing several eyes reflecting at me. I pulled into camp and was very impressed again with the set up. It was a large flat clearing under pines with a grill and picnic table. Having a picnic table is like staying at a Ritz Carlton. Being able to spread out my bags and sit down with out getting my chair out is a true luxury. And with barely any bugs is like staying in the presidential suite. I kept hearing something in the woods but wasn’t able to locate it. Even though I’m in Florida I am in the part that has bears and they have been seen around here quite a bit. I decided not to risk it and to make a fire but there wasn’t a lot of downed wood. But there was a ton of pinecones so I used those to ignite the larger logs left in the fire ring. As I was sitting at the picnic table writing this I turned off my head lamp to save battery. It is completely dark. With only the fire I can probably only see 15 - 20 feet in front of me. But the stars are blazing in the sky. I think the moon cycle is over now or it is rising later, because the past 4 nights it has been like sleeping under a street lamp with the amount of light it puts off. I have been told I am going to Hell before but if it’s half as nice as Tate’s Hell then sign me up.