Once upon a time Jessica Penot of Ghost Stories and Haunted Places wrote “The Paranormal Blunderer: What You Shouldn’t Do When You’re a Paranormal Tourist,” a funny guest blog I could very much relate to.
I got to thinking about it and some of the travel mishaps I’ve had after GhostlyObsessions left the following comment on my Snorkeling the Barrier Reef in Belize YouTube clip:
Cool video clips! i need a camera like that one. That way next time i fall in a lake or river? while i’m out exploring it won’t be ruined by the water.
The main reason getting an underwater digital camera was on my mind at all was because of the lessons I’d learned on a cruise we’d taken to Key West and the Bahamas. However, that wasn’t the first time I’d learned cameras and water don’t mix.
I often like to chide Monster Hunter Burt Gummerfan that I prefer traveling to places in search of ghosts rather than creatures and beasts because ghosts can’t eat me. Our jaunt to the Okefenokee Swamp in search of the Skunk Ape is an example of why I say that.
CANOEING SEEMED LIKE A GOOD IDEA…
It was a beautiful day for our first visit to the Okefenokee Swamp. It was warm and humid, as is par for the course most months in southeast Georgia, but not stifling or unbearable. It was in the high 70s when we arrived, which was almost comfortable and pleasant.
We had just missed getting on one of the little tour boats that takes visitors through the swamp. But there were plenty of canoes to rent for those who wanted to explore the canals on their own.
We both used to canoe a lot as kids. It’d been years since either of us had had the opportunity, so, being the adventurous and independent types we are, we set out via canoe to check out the lands where the fabled Skunk Ape was said to roam.
We paddled only a short way before the trees started closing in dramtically on the canal. To my surprise (and horror), I started feeling claustrophobic. It seemed everywhere I looked limbs dripping with Spanish Moss dangled overhead. It made me wary. I kept waiting to spy a spider or snake in the branches. (Just waiting for an unsuspecting canoer to come by so they could drop on their heads and get tangled in their hair…)
Then I spotted something up ahead in the water. The canoe suddenly lost all appeal. Instead, it seemed to me a Death Vessel delivering me to my doom.
GATORS, GATORS EVERYWHERE!
My back stiffened and my paddling became more mechanic.
“Court, you okay up there?” Wayne asked. (I was sitting in front, he’d taken the rear.)
I didn’t respond.
“Court? What’s going on?”
“That,” I said, lifting a paddle to point at the monster swimming in the water towards us.
“Well if that’s got you freaked you out, don’t look over at the bank.”
Which of course is exactly what I did.
That’s when it really hit me.
“Holy shit! I just put myself in their territory. There’s no railings or bars or anything else keeping them from me. And that one’s even closer than the one in the water. He’s maybe 20 feet away. And look at all those freaking teeth! Why the heck is his mouth open like that?”
Even though I wanted to paddle away like crazy,where to go? If I turned us around Wayne would be pissed. We still had two hours left on the rental.
Besides, was it like sharks? Did sudden movement attract alligators? The last thing I wanted to do was draw their attention. So, I gathered what little presence of mind remained and took a picture. There. At least something good could come of all of this.
Still, I had to get out of there. I had to get to somewhere that I could breathe.
We came to a junction with another canal. It looked promising. It spilled out into a wide open space, what the map noted as a “prairie.”
My breathing slowed. My heart stopped racing. My muscles relaxed.
I started taking pictures, enjoying this peaceful and calming place free from gators where the birds frolicked amongst the lilypads.
Until Wayne said, “I’d rather be back in the trees. Where are you going to go here if we fall out? You’ll get stuck in the mud trying to get away. Good luck with that. Guaranteed gator dinner for sure! At least with the trees you’ve got some ground to run on and branches to climb up in.”
“Gators? Why would they be in here?” I asked naively, thinking we’d found a gator-free zone.
“Um, because we’re in a swamp and that’s where they live?”
“Yeah, along the shore. Not here.”
“They’re here all right.”
“No they’re not,” I argued. I suspected he was trying to B.S. me like he likes to do.
“What’s that then?”
Refer to the second picture from the top above. That photo wasn’t snapped the day we were canoeing in the Okefenokee, but it was snapped in the same area of the prairie on a later visit.
Great. Now my imagination ran rampant with visions of an alligator capsizing us. I was desperate to get back to the cover of the trees.
But Wayne wanted to get one more picture of the alligator, who was so close we could’ve bonked him on the snout with our paddles. (Which I was contemplating doing if he got any closer. He wasn’t going to capsize me!)
But he swam along paying no nevermind to us and I gladly turned us around and stroke, stroke, stroked my way back towards the safety of the rental dock.
We were nearly there when Wayne suddenly yelled, “Oh shit!”
“What?” I panicked, wondering what on earth might be the matter.
“The camera. I think I lost it. Do you have it?”
“I gave it to you last, remember?”
“I thought so, but I was hoping you had it. It’s not in my pocket. It must’ve fallen out.”
“Oh well. So sad, too bad,” I said, not breaking my rhythm.
Now my heart aches at all the lost shots on that camera. (Not only did we have some of Okefenokee, but also of Jekyll and Cumberland Islands.)
But back then? I was focused on one thing and one thing only: getting the hell out of gator territory! Forget the Skunk Ape. He might’ve been interesting to see, but he wasn’t worth fighting the gators over!