Two hours on the interstate from Gainesville to Tallahassee, or 5 hours easing the van along U.S. Highway 27 poking your head in springs of the first magnitude pouring their sweet water into the Suwanee River. Beleaguered by bad hotel pillows and cheap plastic chairs I tin-manned down to the Ichetucknee river in a pouring thunderstorm. The blankets of rain and the accompanying roar made for a private, intimate setting like a corner table in a raucous bistro.
A tree limb was down across the timber walkway, about 15 feet of snarled, moss-covered Water Oak bridged across the rails. I ducked it and stashed my possibles in a corner of the deck slightly sheltered from the rain.
Nobody around, and the most visited river for a few hundred miles all to myself. The water was up and moving fast, not what I expected as I eyeballed the best spot for a quick baptismal. One bare foot onto the moss-covered ramp and I was on my back and moving seaward wits scattered about me but within arms reach. I braced myself out flat in self-arrest fashion and conducted the physical inventory. Finding no injury I flopped over the side into the rushing water, hanging to the bottom rung of the ladder as I flagged out into the current. Looking downstream all I saw was wetness and jungle and someplace I didn’t want to be around the bend.
Sloppy wet I did my best to insulate the driver’s seat, admittedly my best wasn’t much to account for, and I trundled down the road to the next hole.
Lafayette Blue and the rain just finished, I slipped into the first pool and stood to my chest feeling the relentless push of millions of gallons towards the underwater tunnel 25 feet to the next pool. Above me a stranger says, ” if you find yourself going under there, don’t fight it, just go with it.” I nodded agreement and backed away to an anchored nook with a Cypress knee armrest and watched my arm hairs stream towards the Suwanee.
The day before I pedaled around the trails of San Felasco and found myself staring across a hundred yards of murky runoff submerging the trail below the power-lines. It was getting on late so the turn around option was less possible than appealing so I hoisted my feather light bike and tromped ahead, eventually sinking up to my thighs. “You’re being really brave right now Juancho” I comforted myself. Snakes don’t hang out in flash flood ponds I don’t think. What could live with such uncertainty?
After the ride, but before the fall, I met up with the Lost Poet in person and there he was, sitting across from me at the Thai restaurant, even dropping a little Sawadee and what not from his days in uniform. Crazy though, 19 years of mutually unexcused absence. He looks like he has held his own whatever transpired. I turned over some archaic documents and felt like I had completed some solemn task, but all I really did was have a few beers with this walking ghost from my memory and watch the color run back into his being until there we were, just living in the shared space of modern time shaking our heads and laughing.
My neck is stove up, I guess from that fall, but for a 24 hour adventure I reckon I got away pretty clean all things considered.
I refer you to the image on the left for verification of how things are done when you live in a big ring circus.
I had momentary flashbacks to your fall into the creek at Soloman’s Castle in remote Hardee County over 30 years ago. Sure glad for those swimming lessons with Brother Tom.
Mighty fine adventures, Mr. J.
A trail ride, a couple of swimming holes, and beers with an old friend. Pretty good recompense for all those slow miles on the low road.
This was a wonderful read. You took me right there man.
The Circus has provided many great tales from the Suwannee Corridor!
We once caught a late afternoon canoe paddle up the Ichetucknee from the 27 portage. Had the river to ourselves all the way to the spring. It was a like being in a National Geographic episode.
Those springs, rivers and sinks are some of the true wonders and your communion with them is remarkable.
Food: mediocre. Friendship: solid.