Later, Gator

Canoeing on the Hillsorough can be a pit pricey, but the ride is worth it. Hot tip #1: bring your own canoe; it's allowed, and it's free. Hot tip #2: make sure to get lost as often as possible. The river is far from an absolute path -- at Thonotosassa the current won't give you any trouble -- and its byways contain many of its treasures.[image-1] We spent the first half hour navigating from Sargeant Park into a dead end (a pair of black vultures warned us that the path was closed) and an impasse of fallen branches and lurking gators. At every turn, an elegant heron was perched to observe our progress. Ibises poked their proud beaks at us from bushes and brush; red-shouldered hawks swooped perilously low and shrieked majestically; and Leslie shrieked once in a while as well, when she felt a spider on her arm or, as she put it, "some bugs in my crotch."

Peninsula cooters (they're turtles, amigo) lounged on most of the available deadwood, and though we didn't get to tango with a water snake, we did get to see a nice-looking gator (seven feet tip to tail, impressive jaws, kind eyes) up close and personal. Everyone had a great time without the loss of a single limb, though I suffered badly after a close encounter with a fire ant nest.

Brian also enjoyed one of his curious urinary escapades, when he unzipped on a deserted bridge and let 'er rip. Before too long -- but after he had committed -- a mother rolled up with an indignant child in tow. The boy pouted and pointed at Bri. "But Mom, how come he gets to pee off the bridge?"

Well, son, he doesn't know any better...he's new in town.

-- Ted Scheinman

What: Canoeing on the Hillsborough

Must-Do? Says Who? Ben Eason, CEO, Creative Loafing, Inc.

Casualties: $96 for two canoes; one (1) sunburned knee; and, predictably, a fire ant attack.

Notable Quotable: “But mom, how come he gets to pee off the bridge?"

We'd been showing Gino and Leslie a good time on the town, whisking them hither & thither from the Columbia to the Pier to Tropicana Field (see Fair is Foul and Foul is Sweet) and many/most of the bars in between. But as any city-dweller knows, before too long you get a yen for those wide open spaces, those big green places, where the water flows and the ibises roam. So on Sunday we took the highway to Thonotosassa in hopes that we might (as a friend once said) "get all in tune with nature and shit."

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