The reflections along the Hillsborough River are entirely peaceful. That is until you realize alligators lurk just below the surface.
But if I was an alligator, this seems like the perfect place to live. I'm living in a state park, I don't get harassed, there are plenty of turtles to munch, and I don't have to get stuck in someone's pool and have my jaws taped shut.
In reality, alligators have it hard. Only a small percentage make it to maturity. The most energetic, most intelligent among them live out their full lives. And the luckiest of those are living here in these beautiful parks.
Docks are kind of a big thing here; everybody seems to have one. Dock Life is the new Salt Life; only you don't get wet.
Not that I know the first thing about docks or salt. I'm one of three people that doesn't have one. Most of the docks in Florida are private, and they have No Trespassing signs posted. That's a shame, but I suppose it makes sense.
Anyway, some of the best are public, like this one in Longboat Key.
It's next to a couple of restaurants so you can dock the boat and have dinner. Near my home is a commercial marina with a couple of hundred yachts. It's also next to a restaurant, appropriately named Dockside Grill.
There are two paths along the river; one higher up and one lower down at the bank. The alligators prefer the lower one.
The problem with the higher path is there is too much growth to get a clear shot of the river. So every fifty yards or so I'd make my way down here to set up for a photo. It's amazing how the sense of hearing becomes heightened at such times.
I've been in Florida for a while, so I've become familiar with some of the animal sounds. I also carefully scan the water and banks all around to ensure I'm not disturbing them. Alligators don't want anything to do with us, and if you're mindful and steer clear, there will never be a problem. With this knowledge and care, I spent much of my time on the lower path.