23 Mar 2012

Deep Creek

Tonight we are camped on Deep Creek, south of Maytown Road. To get here we backtracked from our friend Courtney Ward’s fish camp and turned out kayaks up Deep Creek where it meets the St. Johns at the north end of Lake Harney.
Weariness from our week of paddling hung on me today, so I moved at a leisurely pace. Elam moved ahead, intent on filming the beautiful cypress swamp that surrounds Deep Creek in its downstream reaches. I fished along the St. Johns, not being able to resist a likely-looking lilly pad or submerged tree. The sentinel palms on the east bank were perfect subjects for photographs, if only there had been a few more showy clouds around. Must be all the photographers I’ve been slumming around with. At one point recently Carlton furrowed his brow at the sky and declared that the clouds weren’t organized enough for his taste.

At the mouth of the creek two manatees glided past us on their way upstream. Carlton spent an hour photographing a particularly bold limpkin he found. The limpkin is an expert at preying on freshwater clams, deftly plucking them from the shallows, opening the shell and pulling out the meat. Carlton described the bird eating 10 clams, going to the bank to preen, and then returning to feed again. Ten more down the hatch. Preen. This appeared to go on for hours. It was the kind of systematic efficiency that thrills Mr. Ward, the expedition engineer. His pictures will tell the story.

I fussed with photographing the manatees I found at the lower half mile of Deep Creek. Tannin-stained water and sharp reflections of cypress trees made it a mostly fruitless effort. It was more enjoyable to sit quietly in the afternoon light. I hummed a Robert Earl Keen song about living fast or dying slow. A committee of black vultures stood watch in the greening cypress. I assured them I was very alive, only a bit road-worn.