I really should have brushed up on my Easter Bunny knowledge before this year. Suddenly, E. had a million questions on Saturday night — How does the Easter Bunny get into our house? He’s not going to be able to reach the door handle. How does he carry all the stuff for Easter baskets? He doesn’t have hands, Mommy. Where does he live the rest of the year?
We only had one source for any of our knowledge:
I never saw the movie but DadJovi did … and hated every second of it. And this is a man who loves EVERY cartoon. But he really wanted to walk out of it when he took E. to see it last year.
So, to answer her many, many Easter Bunny questions, this was our only reference point. Clearly Hollywood needs stop making yet another Santa movie and instead make a kick-ass Easter Bunny movie. Or I suppose I could check Wikipedia.
There was one final question on Easter morning. We woke E. up very early because we had a very special day trip planned. As soon as we got her up, she ran to our bathroom and ripped open the shower curtain. I asked her what she was doing, and she said, “That’s where the Easter Bunny hid my basket last year.”
Clearly, the Easter Bunny is just as forgetful as I am. This year, he left it on the dining room table instead. D’oh! We just blamed Toby. We’re dog-sitting him for my in-laws, so clearly he startled the Easter Bunny and he had to leave the goodies in a hurry.
At least the damn bunny remembered to eat his carrots. Despite the fact that we know nothing about him, he still brought some cool stuff — the Muppets movie, the Mike Myers version of “Cat and the Hat” that the bunny found in the bargain bin for $5 (and p.s. E. is OBSESSED with it), some new coloring books, a water gun for our day trip (more below), candy, and this gem:
Well played, Easter Bunny.
But there wasn’t a lot of time for E. to ogle her new loot. We had big plans — our annual trip down the Juniper Springs Run in the Ocala National Forest!
I blogged about our trip last year, which was E’s first time. In case you missed it or don’t commit everything I write to memory (how dare you?), here’s the quick backstory: Juniper Springs is a gorgeous place. You get in a canoe at the top of the springs and row down 7 miles of tight squeezes. Along the way, it’s not uncommon to duck under and shimmey over fallen trees or to run into a few wild critters. The first few times we went, we ended up in the water.
There’s a reason it’s also called Divorce Run.
When you get to the end, the park service picks you up and drives you back to the start. Only one of you if it was a particularly relationship-busting ride.
But we successfully navigated it last year with a 3-year-old in the boat, so we thought we should give it another shot. DadJovi grew up doing this same run often, so it’s really something he wants to pass on to her.
She was ready to rock the ride again.
Normally, Juniper is packed. This year, we practically had the run to ourselves. We were one of the first canoes out and only saw a couple kayaks along the way. Ahhh, so much nicer. I smell a new holiday tradition!
The empty run combined with the most perfect weather day ever (it was about 63 degrees when we started and slowly warmed up, but the cool breeze never went away. Where has this weather been my whole spring?) created perfect canoeing conditions.
I love that picture above. The water was so clear and calm that sometimes it was hard to tell where the trees stopped and the reflection started. Gorgeous. It feels like you’ve gone back in time.
E. kept herself entertained with her new Easter coloring books, a few toys, spotting critters with the binoculars (she found five turtles and lots of fish along the way. Thankfully, none of us spotted any snakes!) and her favorite activity — eating.
During the 3 hour, 40 minute trip, she ate three granola bars, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, grapes, Goldfish and an entire Tupperware of Pirate Booty (that she was supposed to share with us!). If you go, everything you pack MUST be in reuseable containers. No juice boxes, no yogurt squeezers, no plastic sandwich bags. I learned that lesson the hard way last year and was VERY prepared this year.
But E’s most important job was animal spotting. She helped me find this guy.
You see that last picture? There was no zoom used on it — that’s how far he was from the tip of our boat. Since moving to Florida nearly eight years ago, I’ve gotten more used to seeing gators in the wild. I wouldn’t say I’m exactly comfortable with it, per se, but I believe the park service when they say the gators really have no interest in approaching our canoes.
At least I hope.
There have been times when we’ve seen about 10 gators on our trip down the run. On Sunday, we only saw three. The one pictured above was probably the biggest we saw, and I’d say he was no bigger than 6 feet. The only encounter that made me uneasy was when we turned a really tight corner just as a gator was getting into the water — and facing us. He sort of paused until we passed but then, about 10 feet downstream, we came upon one of those fallen trees. Already during the trip, DadJovi had to get out a couple times to help us maneuver around some tight spots. He clearly wasn’t going to get into the water just 10 feet away from a wild gator.
Thankfully, we were able to use our oars to get us around the tree but it still left us pretty tense, particularly as our 4-year-old was giving us play-by-play commentary about the gator’s actions. “OK, Mommy, now he’s starting to swim.” “Is he swimming toward us?” “Yes!!” (He wasn’t).
But that moment epitomized how far DadJovi and I have some in our canoeing relationship. We didn’t have one single argument. Somehow, canoeing has finally clicked for me. He no longer has to keep yelling “No! Paddle on your left side, not the right! Switch NOW!” As you can imagine, I loved the orders.
The paddling all makes sense to me for some reason now. There were only a couple times where he had to ask me (and in a much nicer way) to paddle on a different side or to change directions.
We even navigated through this maze.
It’s probably a little hard to tell but I had to get my camera put away well in advance of reaching this point. To get by, we had to make a quick right turn to get past the first tree, followed by an even quicker left turn to get between the second and third trees, followed by another quick right. There was very little wiggle room, especially for a long canoe carrying a couple hundred pounds of weight and being carried by the current.
But we made it … barely. That spot was a dodgy few minutes. In fact, I’d say we had about 4 or 5 close calls on the trip. At one point, I even lost my oar trying to keep us from slamming into a huge downed tree.
What a relaxing way to spend a Sunday!
The last couple miles, though, the run gets much wider as you go through a grasslands area. It was even calm enough for me to get some company up front.
She took her paddling very seriously. But, for reals, check out how clear that water is. That’s how it is the whole way down.
And, we were all still talking at the end!
We even arrived early! It typically takes at least 4 hours. We left the dock around 9:20, so we kept up a pretty good pace trying to make the 1:30 shuttle back to the park. But we arrived by 1, so E. and DadJovi hopped in the water to cool off after our long trip.
See that overgrown area behind them? It used to be a really popular swimming hole. Every time we used to finish the trip, the place would be packed with people (and it was some very entertaining people watching). But when we got there, it was empty, which seemed odd on this beautiful spring day.
Turns out E. and DadJovi are law breakers! The shuttle driver informed us that swimming is not only illegal in Juniper Springs, you can be fined $5,000 on the spot — per person! YIKES! Thankfully, he didn’t bust us (and there’s totally a 24-hour statue of limitations on prosecuting canoers, right?). The moral? They won’t be swimming at the end next year. The federal government apparently frowns upon it in its protected waters. Note to self.
After our trip, we were EXHAUSTED. But we had already made plans to go to our friends’ house for Easter dinner. If I hadn’t already made our sides (including my new go-to take-along dish — Mark Bittman’s potato gratin), we might have been tempted to bail. But we didn’t, and we were so glad we didn’t. Our friends who hosted are so easy to hang out with and they live at the end of our street — so convenient. Plus, they also invited our other friends, and between us three couples, we have three daughters who are all within six months of each other. It’s seriously like taking the night off from parenting. The girls just disappear and play for hours.
So that was our Easter. The trip definitely left me with sore shoulders and a sore butt (TWSS). But I think it’s a pretty cool way to spend the holiday — just our own little family out on the water, learning to work as a team and enjoying some of Florida’s finest features.
Have you ever been on a canoe trip? What’s your wildest wild animal encounter? And can someone please explain the Easter Bunny to me or at least send me a cheat sheet?