I must pause at this moment in our journey to take some time and give thanks. It has always been that people are the catalysts to change in our lives. Well, I am here to give thanks for something – not someone.

There – like a friend who kept us safe!

In the beginning, we realized that we need to carry a lot of crap to remote places. We also realized that we had to walk up and down rivers and creeks with this crap. The best idea was a raft of some sort. Leave it to John to bring a friggin Kodiak raft into the wilds of the East Fork of the Manatee River at low flow….that story is for another day but suffice it to say – we FLOBBED (a term I made up to describe dragging a deflating Kodiak raft filled with very expensive equipment down the river) the thing back to the truck that day!

I had bought a red, old style,

Big Red was always with us!

fiberglass kayak with an open hull from a buddy (Brian) for nothing ($50). We began using it every day. It was PERFECT! It had plenty of room for equipment and gear (and us sometimes), it was a kayak so could be used to navigate places that were small safely, and we could hang on to it with the false sense of security thinking that gators wouldn’t eat us because we looked like we belonged to the kayak and WHAT GATOR WOULD EAT A KAYAK!!!

Years flew by and the team and our trusty kayak, BIG RED, engaged in all sorts of crazy adventures. You will hear some of these tails but others will go silently into the past….unremembered by the team, no photos were taken maybe or maybe we just plain are getting old.

The dark day wasn’t so long ago….the day BIG RED died. We were meeting on a gray 4am morning to go to the Santa Fe and Ichetucknnee Rivers for some serious surveying and recon. It was dark. I was early and I expected Kristen would be late.

I checked the kayak to make sure I hadn’t left anything of value and I entered the Denny’s at Wildwood ready to casually eat breakfast while I waited. Kristen arrived early – we shared a laugh and made plans over breakfast. We paid, and left the restaurant chatting wildly about the days we might spend in these spring fed beauties!

HORROR!!! DOUBLETAKES….that’s what it was HORRIBLE! BIG RED, still strapped firmly in the truck bed, was torn asunder! Someone had hit the kayak end and broken it in several places. It was so damaged that we would have to find alternate ways to work now. It began to rain!

Goodbye Friend!

We had quite a sad moment of realization! This kayak had been with us on most of our journeys, adventures, triumphs and tragedies! It had taken us safely to more places than we could remember. We needed it!! We both teared up. The loss of the kayak was more than that. We lost a piece of our team.

Just thinking about loading up Big Red and trudging into the wilds makes me smile! I will begin to write adventures that included Big Red. There are so many! The day we lost Big Red was the beginning of a very different kind of loss….it wasn’t long after that, that we lost what seemed like everything!

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