The smell of freshly-brewed coffee pulls me out of deep sleep and slowly, I make my way into the kitchen, murky thoughts now coming into focus. Through the darkness outside of the window, I spy my truck and trailer with my kayak all pointed to the road and ready to go.
To be out in the waters before the crowds awake… that is the prize. To have it all to yourself, to watch the Moon set while the Sun rises.
With my thermos full, my spirits begin to lift as I make my way down the road to the little bridge connecting the end of the peninsula where I live to the unspoiled barrier islands along the coast. Within a few minutes, I travel along the winding road to the end of the Gulf Islands National Seashore to a little turnout where I find my secret spot.
Lightning continues to put on a spectacular show miles out into the Gulf of Mexico, the sun just now striking the tops of the towering clouds as I get out of the truck to untie my kayak. With hundreds of sorties under my old belt, the ritual is now simple and almost mindless. Familiarity now takes the guesswork out of things. This anticipation of being out on these glassy waters revives my worn spirits. This is why I get out so often.
I have found that as the world becomes ever more connected, the bad news streams ever more shrill and uncivilized, it is necessary to break free and escape the noise as much as possible. When in the mountains, I hike endlessly up until I am all alone and here in Florida, I simply push off from shore and paddle away often simply gliding to connect to my current surroundings, all thoughts of worry now vanished.
That morning, as I make my way along the still undeveloped shores along this prized National Seashore, I spy in the shallow waters a school of Stingray going about their morning business. Not long after a group of fish come out of the water and fly across my bow when in the distance, glistening in the early morning rays, are a small group of Dolphin feeding on some unfortunates.
Instinctively, I point to their general direction and approach as quietly as I might. Something tells me that perhaps it is unwise to be atop a feeding frenzy, but I do it anyway when all of a sudden, up comes one of the Dolphin within just a few feet of my kayak, out and back down, exhaling through its blowhole!
It is one thing to see this from the stern of a powerboat, but to be among these wonderful creatures early in the morning on glassy waters is quite another thing indeed! On such a calm early morning, I feel the power of their lungs as they exhale, seeing the details of their wet, grey skin and of the blowhole opening and closing. This is truly a rare sight…
After a few minutes, I think it best to retreat and to be satisfied that I have seen this spectacle at all. And so, I make a 180 and head back closer to shore when suddenly, I feel a bump from below! With my heart rate now spiking, my thoughts begin to race! Had I angered this pod? Should I now brace for another impact? What had I done….?
Then, as I begin to hustle my way back to the shore, I spy the culprit; a little guy who probably just wants to know what this large mass on the surface is. Relieved, I smile and realize that we are no different than these lovely creatures that surround us.
Simple pleasures are the best, no background worries to detract. To wander out on foot or by paddling… Sometimes, as if to encourage us to repeat this, we are treated to the occasional wildlife sighting.