June 02, 2013

Tubing the Itchetucknee River

One of my all time favorite Florida things to do is tube the Itchetucknee. I've done it all my adult life, starting probably about the time I got my first car and became mobile. Tomorrow is my husband's 70th birthday - holy crap on a cracker - and I am surprising him with a trip down the river. We live about 45 minutes away, so it is a perfect way to do a watery Florida activity without having to travel to the beaches.  And since we are in central Florida, beaches are 2 hours away in either direction.

This river is spring fed so it remains a constant 72° all year long and is crystal clear. It flows six miles through shaded hammocks and wetlands before it joins the Santa Fe River. The current is strong enough to keep you floating without having to paddle, like the lazy river in Disney World. Only you can see live white-tailed deer, raccoons, wild turkeys, wood ducks and great blue herons from the river. I have even seen otters and an occasional snake. Mostly you see dragonflies. They love to hitch a ride on some part of the boat or the tip of your toes, and float lazily along the river. There are a bazillion rental places around to rent tubes and one man boats, which is what most people do. Some bring canoes or kayaks. Some bring their own gear, but if you have ever traveled with a carload of kids and inflated tubes (we have), you'd know that the cranky factor goes way up before you even reach your destination. 

These people are in inner tubes. Ha! Inner tubes have holes in them which means your butt gets wet and cold. We rent one man boats which is, well, a boat... with no open middles, and that means you don't get wet. Theoretically.

Hubby and I each rent our own boats and this is how we roll... he helps me get in my boat at the beginning of the river, he gets in his, ties our boats together, and then we float together until the end where he helps me out of my boat. I can wear shorts and a t-shirt and don't have to wear a bathing suit, which makes me very, very happy. I carry an umbrella and have it open to protect my skin from the Florida sun. We look just like Katherine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart in African Queen. I even call him Charlie while we are floating. It's his duty to keep us out of the grasses so snakes can't get to me. Yes, I know they could drop out of trees, but I choose to pretend that can't happen. It is truly beautiful scenery, worth any risk of an up and close contact with any critter. Well, not really. If I ever have a snake drop in my boat, I promise you will see me on CNN.

After we get out of the river, a shuttle bus takes us back to our car which is parked in a picnic area, and tomorrow we will be picnicking. It's the perfect plan, and a perfect way to spend your 70th birthday.  Happy Birthday, Pieface.