When we lived and worked a winter in the Everglades, alligators were a part of daily life. We learned the basics- alligators can run about 30 mph in sprints, and are far safer if their mouths are closed, since they need a tremendous amount of energy to lift their upper jaws.
Oh, and the small fact that, in a national park alligators go where they want, when they want, and it’s the guests and employees who need to pay attention to their whereabouts.
One day, as I was biking to the restaurant where I worked, I encountered a six-foot long gator by the bike path bridge – the separation between the brackish mangrove swamps and the ocean saltwaters of Florida Bay.
Oh, and its mouth was wide open, only inches from the path…
Wide open, and ready to snap closed – maybe even on my leg…
I was only a minute or so from work, but I turned around, and went the long way, over the tourist roads. Yes, I was late – but no one complained. In Everglades National Park, apparently, ‘alligator on the bike path’ is a perfectly acceptable excuse for tardiness!
I have another alligator story, this one about a water encounter. My Accomplice and I had taken a canoe out onto Nine Mile Pond (more about the pond, when we get to N!). We’d paddled there once before, so we were somewhat familiar with the terrain.
I was in the front of the canoe, approaching a large driftwood log, when I realized that I hadn’t seen any driftwood there the last time we’d canoed the pond. Just at that moment, my Accomplice said something I won’t repeat because these are family posts, but it ended in “—that’s an alligator!”
In one of those moments of synchronicity, that was the exact moment when my paddle clunked into the ‘driftwood’, which stared at me out of a yellow eye, then submerged, to surface some distance away, with a hissing roar.
We laughed every few minutes the rest of the time we were paddling! Of course, it was funny mostly because we didn’t actually have to contend with the jaws of that particular piece of driftwood, which would have been an entirely different type of story…
Plateau Agave, courtesy of Grand Canyon, NPS via Flickr. Creative Commons license.
And now, as promised, an agave tale…
My Accomplice and I had an argument while hiking the Grand Canyon’s Grandview Trail. In those days, I had a tendency to stalk off when I was mad. This time, I was stomping alone down the trail, when I came around a switchback, and there was an agave plant –
Let me interrupt myself here to tell you a little about agave, in case you’re from a place where you don’t know about them. Agaves are a succulent plant, sometimes also called a century plant, because they blossom just once, and then die. Like many desert plants, they’re also equipped with extremely sharp spines.
Okay, back to the story. I came around the switchback, telling myself what a horrible person my Accomplice was, and I walked right into one of those spiny-tipped leaves. It wedged in under my kneecap, even though I was wearing sturdy jeans.
The pain was intense, and it bled more than I would have thought a simple puncture could – my sock filled up with blood, for Pete’s sake. For the next three weeks, I had a swollen, painful little lump where I got stuck.
Which goes to show that a hike really isn’t the best place for spousal disagreements…more on that, later, too.
So, if you go hiking in the desert, beware the agave! And if you want to play in the River of Grass, keep an eye out for open-mouthed alligators or suspicious yellow-eyed driftwood! This post is part of my #atozchallenge. Click the link to explore other “A” posts!
Do you have any humorous stories about odd plant or animal encounters? I’d love to hear them! And speaking of hearing, I fell in love with this song years before I lived in the ‘Glades…