Back to Nature (Published on - Aug. 11, 2005)
It’s good to be home in Pinellas County
Photo by Rick Tremmel
A rare site, the nocturnal yellow-crowned night heron looks back with wide-eyed innocence.
Over the past 20 years I’ve traveled Florida in search of the best bays and bayous, the perfect river or lake to bird watch and kayak and canoe.

I’ve sat on many a beach to observe the Florida sunset. While packing a heap of equipment in my old Jeep, I’ve driven countless miles in search of the perfect campsite. Florida abounds in magical places, but I’m always delighted to come back home. We have it all right here in Pinellas County.

You’ll find superb places to bird watch and observe wildlife, rivers, bayous, beaches, saltwater, freshwater and a variety of ecosystems in Seminole, Largo, the beach communities, St. Petersburg and Clearwater.

It’s good to be home.

Photo by Rick Tremmel
The morning sun painted the still waters of Long Bayou.
We turned the kayaks upside down to prevent them from becoming miniature swimming pools as a result of the torrential, afternoon, thunderstorms. Our gear was packed in dry bags, ready for the following morning. The sweltering heat designated kayaking schedules for mornings or evenings.

We arose soon after dawn. The devilish no-see-ums relentlessly attacked us while on land, but within a few hundred feet of our campsite and shoreline, we were blessedly relived of this annoyance. The morning sun painted the still waters of Long Bayou with the tip of Van Gogh’s brush.

Silently the kayaks slid across the water barely breaking its surface. It was an hour or so after high tide, but we could already feel the sea currents shifting, heading back to the Gulf of Mexico. Once out on open water we steered around small mangrove islands that mushroomed from the tannin waters. Our kayaks stealthily glided by great blue and white herons, white ibis, a green heron, a napping black-crowned night heron and a female anhinga drying her wings in the fresh morning air. We could hear the far off rumble of early morning rush hour. An occasional fisherman lifted his cap in salutation. We soaked in the peacefulness.

After an hour’s journey we tied off on a weathered pylon to drift aimlessly and enjoy the breakfast we had earlier packed. Van Gogh paintings changed into Turner, Monet and set against Cezanne backdrops.

The sun was beginning to smart and bead sweat upon our brows. The current strengthened in the bayou to pull in the opposite direction away from camp. As we nosed the boats toward home they spilled gently over opposing waves. The waters emptied swiftly from the bay. Sea grass bent in the direction of the agitated water flow.

We paddled for a closer look of a great blue heron who was wading in a calm pool, in search of breakfast. Toward shore a stand of gray rocks providing shelter for crabs revealed an immature yellow-crowned night heron, wide eyed and innocent, a rare site. It wouldn’t be long until this nocturnal bird sought shelter from the daylight and away from human observation to roost in the trees and mangroves.

For this moment he was as interested in us as we were of him. We immortalized him through our camera lenses. His inexperience and immaturity was endearing as was his youthful curiosity. As the struggle to hold the kayaks in place increased and the effort to keep our cameras remaining dry we bid the little fellow goodbye. Calmly we slipped our paddles into the waters and pushed ourselves back into the current.

Always with the end of each adventure comes a momentary let-down which must be filled with images of journey’s past and journeys yet realized, but for every adventure realized awaits another gifted moment from Creator. Just around the corner, off a gentle shore, lingering in a purple sunrise or in the innocence of one genuine moment spent back to nature.

Karen can be reached at

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