We have paddled this river many times and every time something new occurs. In the past we have heard deep cat like guttural sounds, found a leg of a deer along the bank, and been surprised by an owl flying over our head. And the night we spent out there held a special surprise for me.
Early that day Sean and a few of our friends paddled up to Silver River. I was unable to join them because I was teaching a rolling class two hours away. By the time I was able to join Sean they had finished paddling Silver River and were waiting for me at Ray’s Way Side Park. It is a common thing that they were waiting on me.
We gathered our camping kits then paddled down river to join up to the Oklawaha. The water was clearer than usual due to all of the rain. And the trees had that ravaged windblown look. The park service has been implementing designated camping locations to decrease the impact of camping along the shore line. And it seemed to be working because where we camped looked great! There was no trash, and we had a table.
It is always amazing how much gear some paddlers can put into their kayaks. Two of our friends brought so much gear for this overnight paddle that I thought they planned on staying for a month. But Sean was guilty of this packing style when we first paddled around Pinellas County.
During dinner the six of us swapped stories of better ways to cook, pack, and what not to do. Sean once had an aluminum cook set. And he forgot his hot pad to remove the pot from the stove… He used his bare hand to pick it up from the handle… the next camping trip he had a new GSI cook set.
I too have done some silly things but I did my most memorable mistakes when I was in Scouts. One mistake I witnessed was trying to speed up the baking of a cobbler in an aluminum dutch-oven by adding more wood. I do not know how hot the fire got but it melted the aluminum dutch-oven.
We also had a fire on the Oklawaha River. Camping is just not camping without one. The only thing that burned was Kevin’s marshmallows. Some people like their s’mores extra crispy. Granted I like to have baked apples as my campfire snack.
We then all bedded down for the night. Everyone was in tents but me. I wanted to sleep in my hammock and be gently rocked to sleep. A few hours before dawn, I was abruptly woken up by a solid bump. Something walked under me and was tall enough to push me like one does to an obstructing tree limb. I held my breath. All I could see was blurry starlight. What I heard sounded familiar. It didn’t sound like a dog walking through camp. It sounded more like a buck.
I did not fall asleep after that bump. The mind creates so many plausible and frightening ideas. After the sun started to break I checked the bank for tracks. And I did see some deer tracks near the water edge. So maybe a deer did walk under me thinking I was a tree limb.