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In a clever ploy to get out of waking up at the crack of dawn and biking 40 miles, my girlfriend decided we would head up to Wekiwa Springs for a paddle with the UCF outdoors club. Since this park was only about half way across town, it took a mere 2 hours for us to drive there in Orlando’s Saturday morning traffic. Unlike our usual sea kayaks, these canoes each had an enormous carrying capacity and the club members were determined to use every inch of it. Among other camping necessities were a 24-pack of cola, a dining tent, and assorted meats and cheeses. We managed to find a few unoccupied crevices where we could store our ultra-light tent and daypacks; fortunately, Andie had opted not to bring any extra clothes for the 2-day adventure and we thus still had enough room to squeeze in the volleyball.

Since the nearest parking space was about 200 yards from the put-in, it was our responsibility to haul the overloaded canoes down to the water. We had to make a separate trip for the hefty beer cooler that had ironically been assigned to our boat. The spring itself was a mob scene, with hundreds of native central Floridians clogging the swimming beach and paddling rented canoes out into the pristine waters. Between bouts of canoe collisions, however, the natural appeal of the springs was soon apparent as swarms of plescostomi swam amongst the sparkling soda cans in the crystal-clear depths.

It soon became clear that the two of us had no clue how to pilot a canoe and before long, we were well behind the rest of the group. After a leisurely quarter mile downstream, we turned up Rock Springs run for a 4-hour stretch against the current. We took frequent snack and swimming breaks as we zig-zagged from one bank to another in an effort to collide with every piece of foliage along the way; at the typical 72 degrees, the waters were amazingly refreshing up until we saw the first 5-foot gator. An inquisitive otter swam beside our boat for some time and stared at us whilst pondering whether we could be convinced to part with our tuna sandwiches.

The upper end of the run included a number of downed trees which would have presented little challenge in a kayak but were nearly impossible to negotiate with our beverage-laden beast of a boat. The general procedure was to have both of us get out onto the log, use our combined weight to pull the bow up and over until the canoe was nearly balanced at its midpoint, begin teetering the unwieldy thing back and forth in an effort to shake it across, and then give up, sit down, and wait for another group to show up to help.

We got to the campsite around 5 and, following an exciting trudge into the forest with our supplies, we chased away a rattlesnake and readied the equipment for dinner. Having no knowledge of my cooking ability, the group appointed me as chef, erroneously presuming that boiling water for soup was a simple task that anyone can handle. Despite their enormous provisions, the group had neglected to pack any spoons and we were soon sipping cheese and broccoli soup from aquafina bottles as we chatted around the campfire.

Andie failed to engage any of the campers in her various improv games, so they largely just whiled away the evening cooking smores and burning assorted trash. Once the appropriate blood-alcohol level had been reached, several of the more inebriated members set out on a moonlight canuding trip – we fortunately turned in early and were spared the lurid details of this little expedition.

In the morning, I woke to find the rest of the party eagerly waiting for me to come and make pancakes. No one had bothered to pack oil so we attempted to substitute banana and peanut butter – this yielded a huge gooey mess which was quite tasty but in no way resembled a pancake – most settled on pb&j’s instead.

The return trip was a good deal less challenging - with the beer polished off, surmounting the assorted obstacles along the way was a much easier affair - but we still took every opportunity along the way to climb trees and swim in gator-infested waters. Wildlife was once again abundant with a 7-foot gator, a 6-inch baby gator, a few funny-looking heron/duck things, and a swimming moccasin. The rest of the group had only been waiting an hour or so by the time we arrived – this gave them ample opportunity to sign up for an exciting upcoming volunteer opportunity where environmentally-minded folk like themselves could go spearfishing for invasive species. The trip was followed up by the obligatory stop at the neighborhood Sonny’s and we returned just in time for the campus Catholic club’s weekly Mass – as luck would have it, the service was outdoors on this particular Sunday and our swimsuits and camping stench seemed to go largely unnoticed.

We both forgot our cameras this week, so below are a bunch of random pics of our amazing culinary creations and previous adventures in Orlando.

Pizza... sort of...

Cumberland Island (not technically in Orlando)

Sweet potato curry

Andie looking positively thrilled about eating our latest creation

Riding through the streets of Orlando in an entertainment center

The great lasagna muffin experiment