As the sun clears the horizon I resume paddling toward the middle of the lake. Since my last visit, the water level has dropped farther and the growth of the aquatic plants has gone into overdrive. I weave between rafts of water lilies and mats of floating grasses. The birds become more active, with cormorants sunning themselves in the treetops and roseate spoonbills fishing in the shallows. I approach a small cypress tree and stop to watch an alligator laying in the shallow water at its base.
I move on to the east until the water becomes too shallow and I'm forced to change course toward the south and west. I hop from one cluster of cypress trees to the next and then into areas of open water surrounded by fields of lilies in bloom. Soon I spot the second alligator of the day and it's an unusually bold one. Rather than retreating or submerging as they usually do, it swims slowly in my direction. Is it being aggressive or just hoping I'll feed it? I'm not sure and I have no marshmallows*, so I maintain some spacing and observe it for a while before moving on. I continue to work my way through the lily fields, spotting four more alligators along the way. Finally I run out of open water to paddle and make my way back to the launch.
Without significant rain there may not be much water to paddle here by summer's end, but today was truly lovely.
More Pictures from Sheldon Lake
* The marshmallow thing is a True Blood reference and a joke. Don't feed the gators! :)