Manatee Encounters of the Third Kind , by Lauren
On October 7th, 2009, I went to Oleta River State park with Miss Christy’s nature class. It was a warm day out, perfect for swimming. Thankfully most everyone was wearing their suits so we could all really get into nature. We started out, weaving through forested trails, butterflies and dragonflies weaving about us. We identified a beautyberry bush, with very small leaves and only a few budding berries. We all caught sight of a zebra longwing butterfly, the Florida state butterfly. It was all lovely, peaceful and serine; almost like a fairy tale (I could swear I saw a pixie). And when we came up to a little riverbank, trees and rocks surrounding the mostly clear water, Miss Christy said to go ahead and take a swim. We took some handheld nets and began to look for fish. I spotted a puffer fish, which K, C, and I all tried to catch relentlessly. As C moved to a more forested part of the river, he spotted an iguana up in a sea grape tree making noise. It looked to me to be an adolescent. By the time it was time to move on our nets were still empty, but nobody seemed to mind. We had found some fishing wire in the trees, and Miss Christy showed us the proper place to dispose of it, in a special receptacle on the dock. We took a walk on the small fishing dock, spotting large needlefish, a snapper, and watching some guys fishing. Well, finally we got to go swimming at the beach! Or it was like a beach. But we got in there and started relaxing and playing around. Maybe a half an hour later, Miss Christy was looking for sea urchins in the rocky area. Suddenly, she got extremely excited and starting yelling, “MANATEE!! MANATEE!” She settled down after a moment and everyone gathered to see. It was a large manatee, at least seven feet long… and coming straight for C, K, and me! I held out my hand and brushed my fingers together like I had something for the sea cow, and it came right up to me, brushing its nose against my leg. It was beautiful. I reached down and stroked it with the tips of my fingers before it made a wide turn and slowly swam away. That had definitely been the highlight of the day. We ate lunch on the picnic tables at the beach and played for a while longer. It was a really fun trip.