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It was Tuesday afternoon, and it looked like the bands of rain that Irma brought us were blowing out. With my kayak loaded on the roof rack, I struck out for  Navassa and Davis Creek Park. The following day I would be guiding a group of paddlers from UNCW's Osher Life Long Learning Institute. The plan was to put in at Davis Creek and take out at Dram Tree Park in Downtown. It's a scenic five mile float starting in a natural and scenic tidal creek and taking out in historical Downtown Wilmington. Seeing as I hadn't paddled this route in a while, I decided to do a solo exploratory to scope it out. Due to the rain, the creek was running high and strong when I put it. I was working against it as I paddled out. This was fine with me as I would ride it in on my way back. I'm not sure what it was, but I felt a slight sense of unease. Perhaps it was because it had been a while since I had last been here, or the fact that I was going solo. As I approached the opening into the river, I spotted my first gator, or I should say, its wake. And it was a good size wake at that, indicating a large alligator. As I got closer, the wake disappeared. I paddled out of the creek and entered the expanse of the Cape Fear. I felt relieved to be out of the constraints of Davis Creek. I paddled on another mile or so until I spotted what I was looking for, the Isabella Holmes Bridge. After sighting this landmark I turned around and began to ride the tide back to Davis Creek. Feeling a little more relaxed at this point, I let my attention wander a bit. I was suddenly jolted out of my daydreaming by a tremendous splash. While I didn't see it, what must have been a very large gator had launched off the marsh and into the water just behind me. The effect was like some one cannon balling into a pool. I dug my paddle in to make some distance, and a few seconds later there was another loud splash not far behind me. By the time I reached the entrance to Davis Creek, my heart rate started to return to normal. Re-entering the creek, I spotted a small head hovering at the water line. He was a small one, and instead of ducking under the water, he watched me as I drifted by.  I'm not inherently afraid of alligators. But my experience that afternoon was a good reminder, that as much time as I spend on the Cape Fear River, I'm still  just a visitor in some one else's home


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