Saturday, December 4, 2021

For Those with Cabin Fever, Here’s an Outdoorsy Idea for You: No Cabins, Just Fun!

Rumination from the Rock and Beyond

If you love the outdoors, and who wouldn’t when cooped up/isolated/sequestered for weeks, and you don’t mind paddling a canoe with another paddler, this could be the outdoorsy mini adventure you’ll love and will want to repeat.

Outside of Arcadia in DeSoto County, about 2.5 hours from Naples, is a beautiful and rustic outfit called the Canoe Outpost/Peace River, where you can enjoy several miles of canoeing downstream on this picturesque, lazy river with nothing but blue skies, white fluffy clouds and the fresh, new leaves of spring to soothe your soul. Ah… can you feel it?

The procedure is pretty easy. You drive in and park, then head to the “office” to complete registration sign-in sheets and make your payment for as many boats that you need in your “party.” You can bring your coolers, strainers, sieves, shovels, containers, plastic bags, tubing rafts, fishing poles, and sunscreen; shop in the gift shop, browse around the grounds, watch other canoers return and wait for your turn to board the bus. Are you wondering why you would bring strainers, shovels, containers and plastic bags? Here’s why!

The Peace River has long been a source of shark teeth, which are unbelievably fun to find. They can be the tiniest, barely a 16th of an inch to knuckle-sized. Some are whole and some aren’t, but the joy of finding them is hard to describe. We had a party of five on our last trip and each time someone found a tooth, it was an event to be celebrated by the group. You could find one by digging out a shovel-full of gravel and sand, dumping it into your sieve or strainer, swishing it around to remove the water and extraneous debris and then painstakingly checking the remains that are left. I say “painstakingly” because the shark teeth are black and most of the pebbles that are included in a shovelful are black! My eyes weren’t as keen as my grandson’s, who found about 99 shark teeth to my less than half of that total.

A peaceful vista.

Sometimes the results are a frown of disappointment and sometimes it’s elation when an entire shark’s tooth is sitting in the strainer and gleaming in the sun just waiting to be collected and appreciated. There can be a lot of small pebbles in the strainer and it’s a challenge to uncover a tiny tooth, but when you do, it’s a celebration, a delight, and a wonder. How did those sharks get into the inland of Florida and be submerged all these years to be excavated by shark teeth seekers in the 21st Century? That might be a research question to investigate between outdoor outings and sustained sequestering during the virus.

After digging and meandering down the Peace River, stopping on the banks for more shoveling and sifting, it’s apparent that some spots are better than others. What makes the difference? I haven’t figured that out yet, but the fun is in the discovery, no matter where you find a cache of teeth and how many you find, or even just one. 

So, your trip down the river can involve picnicking, stopping to stretch your legs, have a swim, and/or search for shark teeth, turtle shell pieces, and bone fragments. It’s an adventure, especially in the Spring of the year when the new leaves on the cypress trees are a soft, pale green with new life and the birds are nesting and singing their enticement to mate.

The canoe is a metal, banged up, and experienced vehicle for meandering the river. It comes with life jackets, paddles and seats with backs—optional—that can help ease the back stress of leaning over to paddle. There is a crew that helps load all the gear and canoes and drives you to the place where you put into the river. They unload the boats, line them up along the bank of the Peace River, with the life jackets, paddles, and seat backs—if you choose. Tips are appreciated, and you know the base pay is minimal for those workers so help them out. You haul the rest of your gear/belongings to the boat of your choice, load up and push off to a “scavenger hunt” like never before.

When we were last there two weeks ago, the water was a clear and a comfortable temperature for wading, standing and sifting and even tipping, if you happen to flip over for some reason; because we did! But it wasn’t awful, and we climbed back in with no injuries or loss of belongings—long story for another article!

The beautiful thing about getting away and out into nature is a sense of relief. In the great outdoors, most of us keep our distance from others, not only because we honor personal space and don’t want to intrude on others’ appreciation of the beauty, but because there IS lots of space! So, without anyone who’s venturing into your space, there’s no need to worry about who’s in close proximity so contamination by the virus decreases. You can paddle, picnic, explore and enjoy the great out-of-doors with minor worries—like “Did I bring the sunscreen?”

I can’t urge you enough to take advantage of the great outdoors, whether you take out a kayak, paddleboard, canoe, your hiking shoes or your boat, the freedom of outside recreation is… just that—freedom. Not to mention the shark teeth! 

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