Oh! The fun we had on this trip! I have been wanting to do this every since my sister-in-law did this and raved about it! The boys were psyched up about going canoeing and they(nor I, really) had no idea what they were in for. I have heard it is a challenging run, and the day before we went I looked up a couple blogs about it. One in particular had the most information and one of the commenters called the run the "divorce run". In fact on the ride back to the launch area our driver confirmed that several area churches bring their couples that are in pre-wedding counseling to paddle this run to see how well they work together. I know why...
The canoes can be rented from Juniper Springs for $33+tax with a $20 cash deposit that is returned if you make it to the end by the last pick up which is at 4:30pm.(FYI, you must also pay the entrance fee which is $5 a person) We left the launch at about 11:15am and made it to the pick up by 4pm with half an hour to spare, and the driver was EARLY! The park rangers check for disposables, which you can not bring. Everything(food, drink and ice wise)must be packed into reusable containers. I hid some plastic bags which we put our phones into to keep them from getting wet. They also say that there are gators in the run, and to stay in the canoes. We didn't see any, and so the boys and myself were in and out of the canoe along the first 1/2 of the trip.
The run is narrow, shallow and shady about 2/3 of the way. It takes alot of cooperation and forgiveness to maneuver it well and even then you will still run into the banks and trees. There are alot of submerged trees, and hanging trees which you have to go under, over, or around. Sometimes you have to lift the canoe over the trees, which involves either rocking the canoe or getting out and pulling it over. A couple times we were standing on a tree to get the canoe over another tree... See what I mean by challenging? (I would love to take Sweet pea and the Rocket on this trip but I am afraid they would be too afraid. I'll wait till they are teenagers.) As it was, Zman and his friend were about to come to blows over steerage of the boat. Zman was in front and his friend was in the back. Zman was doing most of the work because he could see what was coming. He kept getting angry 'cause his friend wasn't doing his "job". I was in the middle, helpless, because they didn't want to turn anything over to me, I'm just a girl after all... (nevermind that I have been canoeing for waaaaaaay longer than them!) So I took loads of pictures and video and laughed and laughed and laughed! BOY! That was fun!
It is beautiful out there though, I kept taking picture after picture. It exasperated the boys. (Makes me wish I had a DLSR kind of camera, although that is harder to put into a plastic bag to keep safe, or rather, keep from getting wet.) So peaceful and quiet, if you can keep the others in your canoe quiet for 5 seconds! We didn't see any wildlife on account of us having too much fun(in other words, being too loud!)!
At about half way we stopped and had lunch and played in the water for a while. I heard thunder rumbling off in the distance("Uhhh, guys? I think it's going to rain soon.") so we packed it up and and headed on down the river. We had no idea of how much further it would be to the end(HA! It was pretty far.). It started to get cloudier and cloudier, the thunder steadily rolled closer and then finally it started pouring. Lightning cracking all around us, LOUD thunder instantly and in some cases I think it even preceded the lightning it was so close! And of course we are in water, in a metal boat, with NO PLACE TO GO BUT FORWARD towards the pick up point. We can barely see in front of us because it is raining so incredibly hard! The boys finally got it together with their paddling, and we really were moving at times. Zman said "This is a disaster" I replied "This is not a disaster, this is an adventure! A disaster is if someone gets struck by lightning or eaten by an alligator, but until then, it's an adventure!" At one point(close to where a gator had eaten a woman 2 years before)we had to pull over and empty the water out of the canoe because we were sitting so low in the water and the boys were working too hard at paddling while getting nowhere. It was a combination of dripping bathing suits from playing in the water, and rain. Every bend we came around I was praying we would see the bridge which meant the take out point, but it seemed it never would come. I was praying hard that God would keep us safe and please, please, please let that bridge be around this bend! Oh I swear the Hallelujah chorus played when we finally did see that bridge! Thank God He was lookin' out for us! To Him be the glory that He got us to the take out point safely! It was a lesson for the boys, and me. Wanna know what that lesson is?
Don't dilly dally on a one way, 4 1/2 hour canoe trip in Florida in the summer(DUH!) and if you do, God will look out for you, He'll scare you half to death, but He will look out for you!
I am also proud to say that the boys agree with me on the adventure! It is likely a trip that we will never forget. Zman's friend has a story now that rivals a few of his dad's stories of raising hell while growing up in Ocala. It doesn't come close to most of them, but it's a start! Zman has yet another memory of a crazy summer trip with his crazy mother! And I have the memory of two precious teenage boys learning something about themselves and God, all the while having loads of fun!
I asked them, on the way back into town, if they wanted to do it again the next day. They looked at me like I had lobsters crawling out of my ears! : ) Always keep them guessing...