Did you know Cottonmouths float?
During my recent kayaking adventure with Hopewell Recreation and Parks, I witnessed it with my own eyes in the Swift Creek.
On a beautiful Saturday morning, myself, seven other people and our instructor "Big Bad" Brad Flynn met at the boat ramp at White Bank Park in Colonial Heights.
Before I share that exciting, fun adventure ... I feel compelled to give you a belly laugh telling you about my first kayaking experience.
Long story short ... two used-to-be friends (Zeek and Geek) secretively set me up on a true living NIGHTMARE. Zeek and Geek invited me to join them for dinner where I met their co-worker Bat Man. They discussed going kayaking at Lake Chesdin and invited me along. I agreed thinking it would be fun to try.
Minutes before I was to be picked up, I received a text message from Zeek saying she couldn’t make it. Then, seconds before ... as Bat Man is pulling up, Geek calls me apologizing that he can’t make it, but he encouraged me to still go with Bat Man; Geek reassured me that Bat Man had federal security clearance and is “safe”.
Bat Man talked incessantly! Coming from me, that’s saying a lot! LOL!
I seriously couldn’t get a word in to save my soul even after he asked me a question. He shared his childhood tales, hobbies, reasons why he AND HIS WIFE live in separate states, etc.
One tale that put me on red-alert was how his job as a young lad was to massage his blue collar father when he returned home after a hard day of working. I knew right then and there that subject would reappear before the day was over.
Hobbies of his that stood out included: collecting dead bats and insects of all kinds.
Not familiar with the route to Lake Chesdin ... after about 90 minutes, I commented to Bat Man about how we should have already arrived. He said he had a special surprise destination for me ... YIKES!
I immediately texted my friend Julia Bowman and informed her of my situation and whereabouts as best I knew. At one point, I asked to stop to get some snacks at a service station. While inside, I took a selfie of me in the restroom mirror and sent it to Julia saying ... this is for clothing identification because I may be with a serial killer.
After three hours ... two of which I pretended to be asleep while he was still talking, we arrived at Front Royal Outdoors.
Remembering the tubing trip down the Shenandoah River took four hours, I was so grateful when they had two single person kayaks available!
Kayaking was easy for me ... thank goodness so I paddled as fast as I could to stay away from his yakkity yak. At one point, he asked me to sit for a moment to take in the beauty. He held onto my kayak so we could float together. That’s when he accidentally brushed his hand against my leg. Ugh! I wanted to toss my waffles!
I opted to brave the Karo Rapids even though I saw kayaks turning over left and right. My inner Warrior Princess would not allow going around it as an option. I conquered it, which meant being home safe & sound sooner ... I hoped.
On the way home, he never once stopped talking. I barely said a word and once again pretended to be fast asleep.
I thanked motormouth Bat Man for a fun trip and said goodbye. He quickly stated, “The night doesn’t have to end; I’m very proficient in massage.”
Good gravy! I said no thank you, slammed the door and called and spoke with my so called friends for the last time, who ... by the way ... were very surprised finding out Bat Man was married.
Now, fast forward to my most recent, and more pleasant, kayak journey.
My second kayak journey was conveniently located, short and the group of peeps were a lot of fun. The kayaks and life vests were provided, also.
After Big Bad Brad provided us with simple, short instructions, he helped us launch our kayaks. I picked a purple one of course.
Mother-daughter duo Lois Roché of Hopewell and Christina Brockwell of Disputanta respectively kayak frequently.
Brockwell shared, “I don’t have a kayak, but I have the desire. We thought we’d find some like-minded people to share the sport with us.”
“I like kayaking really well. It gets me out of the house. I moved here from North Carolina a year and a half ago, and it’s a great way to meet people. I bought my first kayak in 2009,” stated Roché.
Hopewell Councilor Deborah “Deb” Randolph and her childhood friend Deb Field of Cuckoo [located in Louisa County] make an effort to kayak monthly together.
Randolph shared, “Hopewell Recreation and Parks are one of the few parks & rec that offer kayaking. Aaron Reidmiller and his staff do a great job.
“I want to support them as much as I can. The city puts a lot of money into that department. We want to make sure all citizens get the opportunity to experience the outdoors, the ability to exercise and be healthy. I think Hopewell does a great job,” said Randolph.
Along the way, I spotted a Cormorant duck, hawks, turtles, dragonflies, minnows and butterflies.
Field shared, “I’ve experienced muskrat love. I spotted one; it crossed in front of me, and then, kind of paddled along side of me. It was cute and it was fun!”
Big Bad Brad spotted a blue heron.
I was in the tail playing catch up since I was stopping along the way taking photos when I heard Brittany Hall of Chester exclaim, “There’s a snake!”
Seconds before, I noticed Hall and her friend Josh Wood of Hopewell close to one another with about a foot and a half apart; between them appeared to be a branch. I honestly thought they had grabbed a hold of it to keep themselves still to chat.
As it turned out, that was the Cottonmouth!
After Hall announced its presence, I stated, “Is he on that branch between you?”
Wood said, “That IS the snake.”
They drifted away and I was headed straight for it contemplating whether I wanted to paddle around it or dig out my camera to take pics. I took one for the home team and readied my iphone.
Believe me when I tell you, its head was way bigger than my fist and its body was much larger than my arm; it may have been both of my arms put together.
During the approximate two-hour excursion, I paddled by fishermen in jon boats and kayaks.
Ricky Belton of Dinwiddie and Douglas Woolverton of Colonial Heights had caught a catfish and a perch.
Friends Tim Bova and Jake Hull, both of Chester, were enroute to their fishing hole.
Bova shared, “We’re headed to our secret spot. It can’t be accessed by motor boats. We’ve caught largemouth bass, bluegills and red breasted sunfish, but nothing yet today.”
I came upon Tim’s father, Dave Bova of Chester, who shared, “I’ve caught two bass and two perch, but I released them.”
Dave wittingly added, “That’s my son up there who thinks he’s a better fisherman.”
Fort Lee soldiers were enjoying a little angling action, also.
Soldier Brian Benson shared, “I first catch shad with a net, then I use it to catch the big guys.”
Sgt. 1st Class Sylvester Sawyer II and his 16-year-old son Sylvester Sawyer III, who fish every weekend year-round, caught three largemouth bass and six catfish.
Big Bad Brad, who is Recreation program supervisor with the Hopewell Recreation and Parks, said, “I run the Aquatics Department; this is my favorite part of my job as of now. I also teach kayak lessons and swimming lessons in our indoor pool which is 84 degrees. And, I’m an archery instructor.”
Visit www.hopewellrecandparks.com to learn more about future kayaking opportunities and other activities offered by Hopewell Recreation and Parks.
Kristi K. Higgins, also known as "The Social Butterfly", writes about her experiences at various community events for The Progress-Index. Kristi is also sharing stories of human interest for Progress-Index customers. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 804-722-5162.