It was another brutal winter in New Jersey. So why not head to Myrtle Beach for another spring break? Our trip last spring was beyond delicious. We swam in the pool at the Myrtle Beach KOA, we swam in the ocean, we visited gardens, and state parks, and we lapped up the sunshine and warm weather like we were eskimos on our first and last family vacation.
Saturday was all about the long drive. The twins were good. Wesley was okay. Lots of crying and too many pit stops. So today, Easter Sunday, was all about fun. I woke up in the mood for coffee and nothing else, but Stephanie had other plans for me. I was scheduled for a morning “Cyprus Swamp” kayak tour of the Waccamaw River (a short drive from the KOA) with Maxwell onboard. Stephanie will be taking her turn with Theo on Tuesday, weather permitting. Wes doesn’t get a turn–but he’s barely two–so we read him a few extra Elmo books today and he didn’t seem to notice anything suspicious.
Stephanie had booked the tour with the Black River Outdoors Center, and as soon as we pulled into the launch area our guide, Paul Laurent, was friendly, funny, and sociable. He was also patient and kind. He immediately put all of his students at ease with a quick lesson and his own unique brand of kayak guide humor.
But Paul wasn’t only about the jokes. This guy was incredibly well informed about the history of the Waccamaw River and and the wildlife that inhabits its waters and forests. During our adventure he pointed out dozens of Yellow Bellied Slider Turtles, Swamp Canaries, Ospreys, and Tiger Swallowtail Butterflies. His booming but pleasant voice made him easy to hear, even if you wanted to wander off to the sides a little bit and explore the banks of the river.
Paul also spent a lot of time on the banks of the river looking for water snakes. And when he found one, he dove into the water and grabbed it for an impromptu demonstration. This was ridiculously cool to say the least. It’s kind of hard for me to imagine a better kayak guide than this guy–he was nutty and adventurous, but he made all of us feel safe and relaxed.
It was fun watching Max watch the snakes. He was clearly fascinated but didn’t want to get too close. During the rest of our paddle he asked me to stay away from the banks of the river to avoid them. But when we eventually made it back to meet Stephanie, Theo, and Wes, the snakes were all he could talk about. But he was also pretty pumped about getting to touch a lily pad.
He saw one in the water and asked me to paddle towards it. Paul, of course, wanted him to get the full experience. So he dove under water for us and pulled it up so that Max could touch it and learn a little bit about it. Have I mentioned yet that Paul was an awesome Kayak tour guide?
As parents we want to spend time together doing things that we will always remember. Magical things that we will talk about around the campfire when the boys have their own children. The snakes will be bigger in those future tellings–and the river will be warmer and deeper and wider. But Paul will always be the same. The hero of our shared adventure.