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Lookout for 2006 - B2N notes

B2N is short for Back to Nature. At this year's festival I attended three events that were either too wet or too overcast to photograph. Here are notes on Western Lake kayaking, swamp tromping, and night astronomy walking.

Kayaking on Western Lake

My kayaking partner had rented a kayak, which was ready and waiting at the boat ramp on Western Lake in Grayton Beach State Park. Oct. 21 was a nice morning. I left my bag with towel on the ramp. My last kayak trip was my first. I had tipped and lost my camera. However, today I was in back, steering, since I'd had more canoeing experience than my partner. That work took my careful attention, under the watchful eye of assistant leader Vicki Kitahara. I appreciated an introduction and periodic briefings on aspects of this rare precious coastal dune lake by the leader, Phillip Ellis. We paddled west across the lake and through a long outfall towards the Gulf. If it were open, we would go out into the Gulf, a prospect that scared and intrigued me. We came to barrier sand and couldn't go further. Beaching the kayaks, the group spread out on the fine white crystals. Phillip stood facing us with his back to the west. As he talked, I kept glancing at very dark thick clouds that appeared on the horizon in the west. They were coming closer. But he was being very interesting. None of us realized the intensity of the rain storm until it hit, scattering us instantly to our kayaks. The rain came straight down: hard, thick, intense. It was riveting, pounding, drenching. The lake surface with raised with a texture of drops 3" high. Mist rose up -- intensely dramatic. I still can't explain why this struck me as hilariously funny. The more I laughed, the harder I paddled, the more fun it became. Remembering brings back the intense exhilaration of being completely defenseless and wet, racing to prevent sinking and getting soaked beyond endurance. I'd say it approached natural childbirth as a peak experience of my life. We were not only back to nature, we were dissolved in nature, we became nature. That's it. How great that it's a laugh. The rain let up after we got ashore. I was glad to reach for a dry towel.

Swamp Tromp

I don't dare tromp through swamps here in NW Florida, except when guided by the ranger, Bobby Toothaker. I had gone last year and wouldn't miss this one.The bottom is slippery and unknown, so I don't bring a camera or anything that shouldn't get wet. Since this is a drought year, we had to walk miles to find a couple of trompable swampy-enough areas. We did not tromp on or get tromped on by alligators, cottonmouth snakes, or any other deadly or possibly hostile creatures he reminded us live here. We got mud-splashed and soaked waist-high. I suppose the word tromp is descriptive of how you get ahead. You can't step regularly as when hiking or walking as you'd better test each step before putting your whole weight down. People fell who weren't on something solid. You don't want to lose your shoe, which happened to someone whose foot caught under a submerged branch. You can't see what's ahead so you don't swing your legs. We all were bruised, nevertheless. Yet you don't want to linger in the muck, so you plow ahead as forcefully as possible. The payoff is being in a cypress dome, trunks dwindling overhead, seeing the strange growths that happen there.

Night Astronomy Walk

A large group gathered in a circle on the high dunes above the gulf shore at Grayton Beach State Park. Stars sprinkled the dark evening sky, clouds parting to reveal most of it. Our leader, Alan Knothe, explained that we would pace off the relative distances between the sun, represented by the trash can, and planets, small objects which we will drop at intervals all the way to Pluto, even though it is no longer officially a planet. It gets us way farther down the beach. A half-mile or so. By the time we return to study constellations on the dune top, the sky is completely overcast. Aside from the huge scale of the solar system, the most memorable feature was hearing the waves crashing in from the Gulf of Mexico; so near and yet so far, since I couldn't see them in the dark.

Back to Back to Nature festival or Lookout 2006.

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