Ahhh, winter in north Florida! Gotta love it – NOT! When your career involves being in the water up to your hooha 95% of the time – winter cold water is not your idea of a great day in the field. So, when I had to stay in G-ville (Gainesville for those who aren’t from here), it was just peachy when Little Kristen and I heard the weather report included 10 degree temperatures AND LIGHT RAIN.

Our mission was to survey/recon a section of the Santa Fe River. This was supposed to be a beautiful site and a super experience. Limestone lined river, clear running waters, beautiful Florida canopies. Instead – we arrived on site in 20 degree wet weather.

We dragged Big Red, our open hull kayak I bought off of a buddy for $50 and we used like an old mop, down to the bank. The water was black and deep and it looked freezing. We donned our neoprene chest waders and loaded up to get ready to survey in unknown depths of water in horrible weather conditions.

I know I have mentioned Kristen being 5’2″ and the water was up to her chest – and black – and cold. Even in neoprene – freezing water is freezing. We worked our way to the location she had chosen. We began to set up. Part of the beginning is Kristen placing pin flags on the tops of banks. These banks were pretty high and rocky. She had to climb up steep rocks and then splash down into the water and do it again.

As soon as we got ready to begin the survey, it began to rain. It was very frigid. It had risen to 22 but we were freezing. We called John to see if we could still survey in the freezing rain – all the while hoping he would say that the equipment couldn’t handle it. He said that it would be fine! It might be fine – but we were not.

I ripped a hole in my waders climbing up a steep rocky bank and water leaked into my waders all day. Kristen was exhausted, I was frozen and the rain was still coming down – into our waders! The bottom was rocky and it was difficult to walk because you couldn’t see the bottom. I got my boot caught many times.

he funny thing is – it was beautiful. It was so different from central Florida Rivers. I marveled at the rocky formations. I loved the nakedness of the limestone in the rain. The canopy was amazing and plants I didn’t know were all over the banks. I couldn’t wait to look them up. (nerd)

“But Jacque, weren’t you miserable and upset? Didn’t you want to quit?” Hell yeah! But something happens out there. Just when you get to that point – the point where you want to turn around and refuse to go on, you see something. There is a small something just ahead that you have to see. It’s worth the mud, the dark water, the scratches, the risk. You get there and you realize later that it really wasn’t so bad. It was worth it – and you would do it again – and again – and again. 

Each time I enter black water, crawl into dank mud, reach my breaking point I know that I can go further – because i have so many times. It makes life’s trials and tribulations seem petty. It makes office gossip disappear, it smooths wrinkles, it increases blood flow to your heart and mind, it gives you super powers – it is a drug! I am addicted….