The wildlife was great. There were a couple of broad winged hawks in our backyard this morning when I was loading, which I took for a (very non-superstitious) good omen. Just before we got to the launch we saw a (live) deer on the side of the road. This is a great birding river; we saw double-crested cormorant, anhinga, pied-billed grebe, osprey, eastern kingbird, great egret, great blue heron, little blue heron, yellow crowned night heron, piliated woodpecker, american crow, turkey vulture, misc. gulls, and even a bald eagle circling high overhead (unmistakable white head, black wings, white tail, and HUGE). There was an alligator or two, and raccoon on the banks. The highlight, and real reason for choosing this trip for today, were the manatee. The first ones we encountered a mile or so down from the launch, feeding on grass beds under water (there were two). They seemed completely unconcerned about us floating just a few feet overhead. Every once in a while they came up to breathe, and then went right back down to keep feeding. Another guy was a little further down. He had a tracking buoy attached to his tail and was easy to spot because it floated a few feet behind him when he was close to the surface. He swam along with us for quite a while, practically serving as our guide for the better part of a mile. A few others popped up to breathe once in a while. It was so cool. They were only a few feet away.
My paddle blade in the frame, which indicates how close this big guy is.
We finally reached the takeout, where my bike was still safely locked up and untampered with. Aimee hung out and read while I pedaled 8 miles up the bike trail to pick up the truck. It was a nice ride. I'll definitely be doing more bike shuttles in the future. It was a great day on and off the water, and now I'm about to eat dinner (chicken stir-fry) and relax. Cheers.