I don’t write on Facebook often, so when I do I like the post to be worthy. Before going to bed last night I posted that I would be waking up at 5:00am to go snorkeling. This would be our second attempt at entering this park. Amanda and Jon, our roommates, along with the husband and I woke at 4:45am and were in their car by 5:3 am for a two-hour road trip. We were the first car to arrive before 7:30am (the park doesn’t open until 8:00 am) but definitely not the first car in the park; there was an exercise class in progress. Before getting wet we got to walk down a boardwalk with red flowers, brown squirrels, and green lizards. I was the only one to bring my wetsuit to a 72 degree river and I was the one to squeal the loudest as every inch of my body entered the river. Once submerged the water invigorated me.
My previous experience snorkeling was in the ocean, tiring after pretending to be a fish, but trying to swim upstream required more leg muscles than I thought. This did not stop me from working my way up to the top of the spring to see my first gar (long spotted fish with armored scales and an elongated jaw) of the morning. Turning around to go down stream was a decision made easily, as the current pulled me past fallen trees, groups of gar, a few otters, and grey and white herons on towards a rope across the river restricting me from swimming any farther.
Across this rope were researchers and we could only guess that they were able to see all the manatees that had been promised to park visitors. When they approached our side of the rope the girl in the canoe told me they were there to remove foreign fish with their long sharp spears. Later, I would climb out of the water to explore the boardwalk further and attempt to sneak a peek at one manatee; I was lucky enough to see two. I also learned another reason for the spears. The researchers were swimming in alligator water (not flavored) but I was able to catch an eye and nose of one in a photo I took.
As all the teenage boys arrived we decided on lunch. Amanda and I went into the 3-story Thursby House full of wood-stoves, dishes, and some building blocks while the guys swam a bit more before loading our gear into the car. We were able to look around the first floor and peek inside the outhouse where it looked as if someone had pooped in front of the hole instead of into it. We will return again when the manatees do in the winter.