CRASH KASPLASH!  The big alligator surprised me and I veered my canoe away from the thick  cattails as he plunged into the water.
 I was paddling along the wide canal that circumnavigates Loxahatchee Wildlife Refuge. It's 59.5 miles around and, for no other reason than "why not", I decided to go the full distance.

 It was an idea perhaps ill conceived. Strictly speaking the refuge closes at sundown and it would take me longer than a day to cover the distance. My biggest concern was getting kicked out at sunset and being stuck with my canoe along some highway with no way home. It seemed like an acceptable risk.

 So it was that my friend Joe, aka "Big Rasta" dropped me off at the refuge around 9am. With only essential gear, and my espresso maker, I departed down a little used canal heading west. I wanted to avoid drawing attention to myself and this small canal, that eventually dead ends, would give me a 3 mile head start. 

It was a perfect Florida day. Puffy white clouds in a gorgeous blue sky. The wind was light

 After 3 miles I came to the floodgate and portage my canoe and gear up the rocky embankment, across the road, and down into the main canal that circles the refuge. Off we went.

 The canal is wide and runs dead on straight, only turning occasionally at sharp angles. The distances seem vast. A few stretches are in excess of eight miles. That translates into about 3 hours of paddling in one direction.

Paddling can be an arduous, unpleasant and labor intensive experience: or you can approach it from a different meditative "zen like" place, in which case it becomes less like effort and more like breathing. Experience helps.

It's from this point that I spent the day, contented to enjoy the sunshine as the miles easily slipped past. By mid day I had made the second turn and was heading north.