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rachel Eve Tittle

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· Kayaking on the St. Johns
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Kayaking on the St. Johns
By rachel Eve Tittle
Tuesday, April 23, 2002

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We unload our watercrafts and haul them down one by one to the awaiting river. The 16ft kayaks are a little tricky to maneuver through the curve of the path. The thick trees make it somewhat difficult as well, however we manage to make it to our launching spot. Sitting the boats down, prior to putting them in, I listen carefully as my partner gives me some more kayaking instructions. As I straddle myself into the small boat, I feel that I am prepared for my first trip. In the process of getting situated, I glance at the massive river and notice its placidity and irresistibility. I cannot wait to try my hand at kayaking! I’ve been anxiously awaiting this moment all day. We start stroking and our uncharted ride begins.
Wading along the St. Johns, one might think this to be dreamlike. Boathouses and protruding decks decorate the waters edge. Trees hang over the river with graceful ease like posed ballerinas. Their reflections create mystical canopies that we glide through. The kayak feels just as natural as our surroundings. As if this was one of many times of riding in lieu of my first. My partner offers continual instruction during our ride and is always lingering near. Having him close by makes me feel comfortable and secure. I feel so lively at this moment, like a child might feel going to Disney World for the first time.
Combing the water with our paddles we cruise by an orderly cluster of sailboats. I am amused by all the names painted on the boats. “Knot Easy,” was one of many. Most of the boats appear to be from Jacksonville, however there was one from Cleveland, OH of all places! One is loosened from the dock and is preparing to set sail. A blithesome looking dog is one of its passengers. His tail eagerly wags and he is scanning the river as if he has a strategy in mind for helping his master catch fish. We say hi to the captain as we pass by on our kayaks.
We stay to the side of the river as to not get in the main channel of boats that occasionally whiz by. Even though we are far away from the passing ships, our kayaks are gently rocked shortly after one does pass. Most of the boats have several people on them and everyone always appears to be relaxed and content. Some of the boats are pulling kids on inner-tubes or on water-skis. We break for a moment to watch the youngsters fly on top the water. The wakes made by their vessel appears to be sheer delight for them.
As we move along, my partner and I are occasionally side-by-side, at other times he is ahead of me, however never too far. When in front of me, I’ll occasionally watch him caress the warm water with his paddles. I smile and admire his body in motion as he moves the olive green kayak over the St. Johns. I believe we could have more fun filled times like this together.
After pursuing one direction for a while, we decide to turn our watercrafts around to explore a more secluded waterway. The channel is motionless as we enter. The first thing we observe in this hideaway is a nicely painted gray sign making us aware of manatees in the area. A mammal I would love to encounter from the kayak, what a view that would be! There is a lot of vegetation littering the top of the murky water and more docks slowly become noticeable as we creep around the first bend. There are bunches of trees on the starboard side with portions of their roots exposed. They remind me of an Ansel Adams photograph. We are slow-moving then stop for a moment to take in the scenic picture that we are in.
On our left is a delicate row of gorgeous brick homes. There are wooden decks and docks running alongside each backyard. Some of the dwellings are two-story, however most are single. All of their lawns have lush green grasses and there are several leafy trees sprinkled about the grass. It is a pleasant view from the river. As we discreetly go by, we discuss how splendid it must be to have such quarters and wonder what the homeowners do for a living. We cruise down a little further before turning around as we notice the sky becoming shaded with wondrous hues of ginger and crimson, indicating the onset of the evening.
Once we are back out in the main channel, I rest a brief moment from paddling. Slowly, I tilt my head back and allow the paddles to rest upon my lap. My eyes close and my mouth curves slight as the late afternoon sun goddess kisses my face. I hear only a chorus of birds and a faraway splash from a mullet twisting through the unbroken glass. An assuaging breeze teases my hair and dances upon my spine. I wish to give my partner a soulful embrace, to thank him for this sublime afternoon.
Taking deep breaths of the fresh air, I muse over our wonderful time of kayaking together on the sedated river. Suddenly, I am consumed with a craving to stay on the river all night. Kayaking in the moonlight would be romantic. Reluctantly, I lower my head, open my eyes, grasp the paddles and prepare to dock.

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Reviewed by Mary Galdi 7/25/2002
I enjoyed the way the author made me want to be out on the water with her and i actually felt like i was. I had the same same sensation of wanting to continue the afternoon and evening on the kayak with her.

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