Stalking Alligators In Florida
We visited the monster each morning when the sun was high enough for him to come out and soak up the heat. We caught enough glimpses of it to know that it was at least ten feet long.
Alligators were the furthest thing from our minds as my friend Ana and I traveled along the coast of northern Florida. We had paid $23 to camp in our rental van at a beautiful state park on the beach the night before. In the morning we saw a dolphin swimming near shore.
Then we heard we could camp for free at the isolated campgrounds which dotted the Apalachicola National Forest. Our frugality sent us into alligator country.
We spent two nights in the dark woods next to the dark waters of a slow river. Our only company was an old guy who seemed to be living there, and a nice couple with their two-year-old daughter. Lester was from England, Kari from Texas, and Indya was born in Guatamala. They met in India, of course.
Our little group circled the fire at night, trading stories, and occasionally sneaking down to the water with flashlights to look for the eyes of alligators. We heard splashes in the night, but saw nothing.
The Lake Talquin Monster
When the old guy told us camping was free at Wiliams Landing, on Lake Talquin, we all moved up there for a week. The hot showers convinced us. We continued trading stories around the fire each night, but now we saw all kinds of wildlife. Armadillos walked through camp, giant grey herons fished just offshore from the van, and there were raccoons, owls, squirrels, ducks, and turtles. Then was also the "monster."
March is a great time to get out in the woods in Florida, so I was poking around near a corner of the lake, when I heard the splash. There were no fish that big, I knew, and we had already seen two small alligators sunning themselves the day before. This one had to be a giant. Ana and I returned the next morning, and again heard the splash. It was under the water before we could see it.
In the coming days, we visited the monster each morning once the sun was high enough for him to come out and soak up the heat. We caught enough glimpses to know he was at least ten feet long. Kari and Lester made a "Crocodile Hunter" movie of us stalking it.
In time, it no longer panicked, but just slowly lowered itself into the water, as if getting ready to hunt us properly. We stopped trying to get so close to it. Our gang went to view alligators safely after that, from the tour boat at Wakulla Springs.