Tag Archive: big red

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!

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….

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