Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Canoeing the Loxahatchee and Remembering

Somewhere around 1990 when we was just kids, my cohort Brian decided that it would be fun for me to join him on a canoe trip on the Loxahatchee River, part of which is an ancient cypress wilderness. It sounded adventurous and I readily agreed. So, very early one morning we set out for Hobe Sound and Jonathan Dickinson State Park to experience the mysteries of the river. That day, the river was low and almost immediately we came to a dam that seemed impassable. The canoe had been filled with an ice chest and garbage bags chock full of oranges and bananas and candy bars and I was sure we'd have to portage or the canoe would capsize. Fortunately, Brian the great navigator, figured it all out. He had me hold my oar steady and somehow shot us clean over and the danger passed. Unfortunately, that prowess was shot to hell as we were navigating the cypress woods. There were little cypress knobs jutting up from river bottom and Brian seemed to be blind to them. I called out as we approached a thick one and then yelled but, then a second later, there we were in the mucky water, the canoe and all its contents scattered about. A lot more went on that day but not to get bogged down in detail, let's say that much of it went forgotten over time and so many other canoe trips in other waters. A definite amnesia set in about the Loxahatchee, so much so that when Alex came in from NY and wanted to go canoeing, I actually suggested this river! It was a lovely early February morning but we ourselves were not in the best shape. Brian had the flu, Dana had a bad cough and I had the cough and weakness from more than 6 months of a serious illness. Only Alex claimed to be in good shape, offering that he never gets sick! Now add to this a current that is running 4 miles an hour which means it's going to try to lead your canoe every which way, especially in the estuaries. As our canoe smacked into Alex and Dana's canoe and nearly smashed my hand, we got the idea. Alex and Dana had several tangles with the bushes as the current did it's thing. Brian and I were stuck in the sand and I had to help pole our way out. The highlight for me was snaking underneath a major branch that blocked the way-only backwards. I felt like I cracked my skull, there was bleeding, and I did something I rarely do, I yelled! Brian wound up with an injury from portaging the canoe which, just as 25 years ago, was heavily laden with ice chest and garbage bags. He carried this weighted down canoe over a heavy log that blocked our way. Let's say that by this time, my amnesia faded. I started to remember and remember well! We continued on, having a picnic lunch at the famed Trapper Nelson's land. Many stories abound about this odd recluse who built log dwellings there and left in the 1960s. I don't find stories of hobos particularly fascinating, but many people do. Once our resting was over, the open water and familiar trappings were a blessing to me at this point, even though the guys would have preferred some more scenery and danger! I tried to capture more vivid and interesting photos but just about every time I picked up the camera, Brian would shout "I'm gonna need you. We're going into a tree! Enjoy! The photos kind of speak for the wild beauty of the trip. You'll recognize Trapper Nelson's shack. The photo of Brian and Alex with mud spots is also self explanatory!