Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Growling Alligators

Today I learned that alligators growl. I launched the kayak at noon onto Lake Talquin, from High Bluff Landing on the N bank toward the E end of the lake, not that far from where I've previously launched at Coe Landing on the opposite shore. My intention was to paddle W to a large cove that is created where the Little River feeds into the lake, and then to paddle up the river for a few miles to the next access (MLK Blvd or SR 268, Mike). My book (Canoeing and Kayaking Florida by Carter & Molloy) suggests that it's a pretty tributary of the Ochlockonee and that "very large alligators have been sighted here." I didn't notice that large gator line until just now.

It was pretty overcast today, a little breezy, high in the mid-70's; a perfect day to paddle, I thought. At the launch there was an otter swimming around and staring at me unload my boat. I started W, hanging about 30' off the beach. About half a mile into the trip I heard this low, deep, guttural growling sound coming from the bank nearby. I couldn't tell if it was coming from the woods or the tall grassy swampy area in front of the woods. I stopped and listened and it kept sounding every 20 seconds or so. I didn't know what the hell to make of it; bear, bobcat, what? I spun around and paddled slowly in the direction of the noise, staying mindful of my distance from the treeline should a bear come flying out of the brush. When I was about 20' from the tall grass, something low lurched quickly and noisily forward, indicating a gator. I never saw it, but I backed off and headed on my way. I had no idea they could make that noise. A little research online returned this video:


That was exactly the noise I heard. This is the wrong time of year for mating displays, so my guess is territory. Thing is, I've seen plenty of alligators, large and small. One friend suggested that I'm getting a little blase' about them. I've never heard this noise before. I didn't even know they made noises. It came from other places as well; either there was an echo on the lake or other gators were responding to this one's call (rather disconcerting). I saw a pretty big one a little further down, and the wind picked up enough to slap little waves into my beam. The combination of wind, chop, gloomy cloudy skies, and my perception that there were multiple large alligators all around me that were growling diminished my desire to carry on alone enough for me to call it quits. I know that it was probably fine, but no point in tempting fate and a possible future as alligator shit. I stroked back and loaded up. I spent the afternoon improving the garden and reading; very comfortable.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Ochlockonee River, Tower Rd. to Old Bainbridge

I had some responsible adult stuff to take care of today, so after I got it done I rewarded myself with a kayak trip nearby on the Ochlockonee, from Tower Rd. up to Old Bainbridge and back. I've done the first two miles of this before. It's not a remarkable section of the river, but it was a really pretty day, highs in the lower 70's, blue skies, light wind, so it didn't really matter as long as I was on the water and enjoying the day. I saw alligators from 9' to 1' (the little fella was pretty funny looking), lots of turtles, turkey vultures, hawks (broadwinged?), juvenile white ibis, juvenile little blue heron, and an eastern kingbird. I got out at Old Bainbridge to stretch my legs and snack and noticed that there was a hog's head and feet sitting in the water right by the boat ramp, just a few inches under. It looked like it had been there a couple days. I'm surprised a gator hadn't drug it off to chew on. This section of the Ochlockonee is about 6 miles long, so I did 12 miles, in about 4 hours.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Torreya State Park

Aimee and I enjoyed the wonderful fall weather today by hiking at Torreya State Park, about an hour west of Tallahassee. It's pretty hilly by FL standards, with bluffs over the Apalachicola River. Not counting connectors (in blue above; map available at trailhead) there are about 14 miles of trails. We started from the picnic area and walked down to the stone bridge then hung a left (onto the orange trail) to start the loop on the left side of the map. We lunched at Rock Bluff Primitive Camp and then took the shortcut back to the car via the main road. It's crazy how much the flora changes. One minute it looks like Appalachia and then there are stands of Needle Palm (like palmetto) and bamboo. We saw deer, northern flickers, one bald eagle, and a ton of piliated, red-bellied, and other small woodpeckers. The flower below is called a blue curl; we found it in a sunny meadow/pine stand along with lots of other wildflowers. We're definitely going to make an overnight trip here soon. It was practically deserted and it was beautiful and there were nice amenities like stacked firewood near the campsites.