Not McCreas Everglades trip 2014

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Sep 2, 2011
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Raymond, ME
Everglades 10,000 Islands Loop Jan 31-Feb 7 2014

This was my tenth Everglades trip, and not particularly adventurous. I suppose old age is taking over, though I am interested in my next trip being “Off Brochure”. I use this website a lot to plan trips as most of the participants are locals: http://gladesgodeep.ning.com/. This trip was a bit different in that the weather was constantly warm and humid on the trip itself, it did not rain once we started, and every day on the weather radio we heard these lovely words “light chop with winds under 10”.
We had made reservations in December for one night pre trip at Collier Seminole SP( on the 29[SUP]th[/SUP]) but decided to take a day trip before starting on a backcountry trip.
Before leaving home we booked a motel room for the 30[SUP]th[/SUP] to accommodate that day trip. It IS possible to find a campsite in the area that is not reservable. They are in the Big Cypress National Preserve and most are swampy and mudholes accessible by ATV or swamp buggy. The ones off the Loop Road (not far from Everglades City) have never been appealing to me. I far prefer the shade of Collier Seminole.
We went out to Goodland to eat on the night of Jan 29[SUP]th[/SUP] and the lights went out mid dinner. It was entertaining to eat via headlamp and get checked out via the old credit card metal swiping machine. The tab was added..by hand.. So much for gadgetry! Arriving back at Collier Seminole in the dark I misplaced my tent row and turned at the wrong trailer of kayaks. Joel had not bought six new in two hours! A campfire ring in front of the truck confirmed my error. Now backing up in pitch black a palm tree had the nerve to jump right in back of my truck and the Monarch rudder thumped into it, shearing the assembly halfway off.
Nothing to do till tomorrow. It’s raining now. Joel wasn’t around. When we were leaving the dark restaurant he was being denied entry to the restaurant. He didn’t have a reservation and the staff was only going to be able to take care of the people that had reserved given the newly challenging conditions of doing a meal service with only some of the kitchen equipment functioning. I heartily advise the Little Bar in Goodland.. the wasabi tuna was to die from. Joel has good taste too.
By morning the whole campground was beginning to look like a swimming pool. Joel had a rivet gun and rivets..good… the campground host had a drill..almost good..the smallest bit was way too big… It’s pouring. So off to Everglades City we go for breakfast and a trip to the hardware store. After that we have a total of three cheap drills (two at home). Back to CS and we drag the Monarch into the community pavilion where we can run a drill without getting electrocuted. Fortunately no one is in there as they are all holed up in RV’s bigger and more expensive than my house. Drilled out all bad rivets. Put new one…uhoh. They are too long.. Now off to Tractor Supply in Naples (which is closer) for shorter pop rivets. By noon we have the boat fixed. It’s still raining. We will do Halfway Creek Loop after our main trip.
I forget what we do during the afternoon. We got our permit after breakfast. It seems no one is in the backcountry. We are on Pavilion, Turkey, Lostmans 5, Watson, Lopez, Jewell and Picnic for a night each. Picnic is not far from Camp Lulu but I would like to visit the white pelicans on Indian more than once.
The next morning its finally stopped raining and is warming up.. Till now we have been in fleece. We have smartly scheduled our launch at low tide at the Gulf Coast Visitors Center. With the additional mud from the recent rains the launch is a quagmire. Instead of waiting till noon to launch and paddle against a strong incoming tide out to Pavilion we opt to launch from Chokoloskee Island at a hard surface launch. It also cuts off three miles for the first day.
I had forgotten how hard it can be to paddle against the tide although the tidal variation at home is three to four times greater. A wee bit of a workout and we arrive at Pavilion. We decide to avoid the exposed point and camp where there are some mangroves and sea grape for shade. For this there is a penalty which will be reinforced on us the following day. Low tide brings mud flats. Meanwhile hubby decided to walk around Pavilion. Three hours later he returns covered to the waist in mud. He tried to walk around the whole thing though there is no beach on one side. I am not happy. He is not allowed in the tent till clean. Meanwhile I have found an occupant of the bathroom. It’s a rat snake. It has chosen to sleep in the porta potty during the day and roams in search of rats at night. Not only is Pavilion known for raccoons, its rats are notorious. How nice: Mr. Snake matches Yellowcanoe
http://www.sunshineserpents.com/Captive Breeding Projects/South Florida Yellow Rat Snake.htm
Some scenes from Pavilion. Cactus always fascinates me.







You may perceive that the mornings are a bit wet. Rolling up a wet sandy tent was my hubbys..uh.. pleasure?

Heavy Monarch



Throw that RapidFire!




You may note we don’t use coolers. We do have wine and find that if its shaded it keeps well. It’s the fine wine in a large quantity bag… No bottles.. We do have two chairs..one Rolla Chair and one Helinox. We fight over the Helinox. It is OK with waffle golf balls in the sand but we may try and find expired tennis balls for more “floatation”. We do not have a table but do have a Gamma Lid Bucket, the 30 liter blue barrel and a five foot by five foot orange packcloth square for the kitchen to keep the sand off. The cook once seated does not move.
The next day we continue to have clear skies hot temps and little wind. For some reason we had very few bugs around the entire week and never wore DEET repellent nor bug shirts. A little lemon eucalyptus oil applied in the AM took care of the no seeums, which were only a minor problem in the morning and not much in the evening. We wait for a bit of incoming tide to cover the muck.. It’s going to be a short paddle to Turkey Key today. We have fun with dolphins. They are in love with the color of the RapidFire. I can’t get a good picture because they are on the surface for just a second and can go several minutes without breathing. They seem to be surprised that a boat is not a dolphin.

We note that even in the last year big changes have happened on New Turkey.. erosion is wiping out any decent camping spot and the porta potty is now wrapped in briars. We used to like camping there. Turkey has a hot west facing beach but we find some shade. We don’t pitch the tent in the groves of trees; at night that is where no breeze gets to and it tends to get buggier.

We are stymied a bit next morning. We are going to paddle to Lostmans 5 by way of Charley Creek but the tides are so low and high that the entrance to the creek is a big mud flat extending out a quarter of a mile. We have to wait till the tide rises and allows us in the creek. It’s a tightly wound narrow mangrove tunnel but the Monarch makes it OK with some bumping. A single blade rules here


After a couple of miles it opens up to a huge wetland that still shows hurricane damage from mostly I guess Wilma (which flattened Flamingo). All sorts of birds back there. For the next six miles its open mangrove and grasslands till we get to Cannon Bay. By this time its late( about four) and not really enough time to get to Lostmans 5 before dark. Besides I wonder just WHY I reserved that mudhole. After all the rain I am not looking forward to it. We go the other way and check Darwins Place… entirely empty. We don’t pitch anything till I am sure no one was permitted there for the night ( this would be off permit for us. Darwins is a small site and should two parties showed up we would have been fine with paddling to Watsons Place in the dark). Long about six..just before dark..comes a canoe. Its two guys on their first Everglades trip..they ask how far to Plate Creek.. Well, it’s a good two hour paddle.. They hole up at Darwin, not wanting to paddle in the dark. Thankfully no one else shows up. They admit to being overly optimistic and planning a 20 mile paddle which turned out to be against wind and tide was more than they had bargained for.

Next day having slacked from the day before we decide to paddle the three miles to Alligator Bay. Alligator Creek is always good for gators and bromeliads. This time it disappoints in the gator dept. We u turn and pass back by Darwins and continue NW to Watson Place.. which is about an hour and a half paddle. We go some back ways off the Wilderness Waterway route and see what is going on at Sweetwater which has been closed for a time for repairs. Nothing much. Southern time must be different.
In Ed Watson’s day there was a farm of some forty acres. Now even the old farm machinery and old car is buried in a tangle of vines. Less than half an acre remains open and the grass is reputed to be rife with chiggers. Time to pull out the Kindle and the Sudoku book. There is a picnic table. There is at all the ground sites. None at the beach sites. Hubby hasn’t paddled the Monarch. So he does an inaugural paddle for him..he paddles most of the way to Storter Bay ( a good three miles ) against the tide. An hour and a half out.. and 25 minutes back.

Next day we have planned to find some artifacts in a bay that is off the path in the back country and its location secret. But again its low tide and to get to them would require waist deep mud bogging. No thanks. I don’t want to see an old still that badly. We did get to the right place.
Again a lazy day and on to Lopez a homesite from an Everglades trapper and pioneer. Prior to the National Park there used to be lots going on and people living in the Everglades making a living from sugar cane, fishing, shooting birds for plumage, moonshining, shellfish processing and the ilk. Its well worth the small admission to Smallwoods Store on Chokoloskee Island to see the old artifacts and pictures; the store also has an extensive book sale section.

There are remains of an old foundation signed by Gregorio Lopez




Old folk pastime in camp.. Its amazing how fast we can turn a virgin camp into a slum


Gumbo Limbo..the tourist tree..named for its peeling red bark



Bromeliads at Lopez. I love them. Also Morning glory



We kind of cross our tracks the next day going out Rabbit Pass to Jewell.. a key on the outside of the 10,000 Islands. So far we have mostly camped alone though all campsites have room for more than one party. This time we find we have company .From Connecticut of all places. The beach is big enough and again it’s supplied with a porta potty. Its rather full though..where is SS Stinky? (the pumpout boat).
We spend the afternoon chatting and walking as far as we can on the beaches and around the island (again it’s not possible to go entirely around). Night brings muggy weather. No rain at all yet on the trip. I note a raccoon gathering food at the waterline.. Our neighbors report during the night they were woken to the sound of rasping on their tent. On investigation, they found a raccoon licking fresh dew off their tent fly! Ingenious creatures. Fresh water is hard to find on keys and raccoons like to lick moisture condensed on leaves. The morning leaves us befogged.. two hundred foot visibility. NOAA says fog till 9 AM. At 8:59 the fog vanishes and we are off.. Going by Indian Key to see white pelicans. More molestation from dolphins, husband spanks shark with a paddling.

Getting to Jewell… big water. First timers to the Glades are floored by the amount of sky and water. Not a dismal swamp at all.




Its less than five miles to Picnic.. There are sandbars around just below the surface. Sometimes the detour may add a few miles so we try to sneak through. The perils of a shorter boat means its sunk more under a given load. Ergo a little walking. PS. I am floating by in my Monarch. Yep Laughing.

The white pelicans are lovely. It’s hard to get sharp shots from a moving boat. There are always tidal currents



We find our desired spot on Picnic with a west exposure.. Place tent as far on beach as possible without getting wet to catch breezes. We like a nearby mangrove grove to provide shade.
Little brown figure with huge coolie hat in beautiful strip kayak with an old WW paddle with red blades bops buy. First I think he or she( I am not sure which) has a nice all over tan. Figure gets out on Tiger maybe 400 feet away. It seems I see buttcheeks all tan too.. though I have not binoculars. Figure sunbathes up in mangroves for a couple of hours then disappears in kayak.
Later that day we paddle to Camp Lulu and the island is empty save one little tent. As we paddle around to the back lagoon, here comes little brown figure. The lagoon often is filled with birds. Here is my favorite red mangrove. Its name is Sidney. Ask it.



That evening we catch an interloper. Brazen thing won’t be scared away. But we have no food and all our water is in hard side containers. It’s single. On Rabbit we have seen gangs of five.



Next day is our last. We can’t even see our meal tarp ( a large five by five hunk of orange packcloth that we use as an anti –sand-in –food device) which is less than fifty feet away. The fog does NOT leave by 9 and we set off using maps on GPS. Soon enough we are back with the white pelicans and the daymarker off Indian Key. Then I make some sort of navigation booboo and instead of heading to Chokoloskee Pass we find ourselves in I think Indian Key Pass. But there are no markers that there should be. Its cool! Here comes the guy in a coolie hat. He still has his horsecollar PFD on the back deck, but stops to put on this probably one piece of clothing he has with him that could help warm him. He says something.. I must have been studying the chart.. and looking misplaced. He says no tourist boats will be in this pass.. OK its not Indian Key Pass. I keep paddling and bluffing.. as he scoots ahead into the mangroves.. then when we paddle by he waits and then scoots back by. It’s kind of like he is a guardian fairy; probably laughing the whole time. When I am absolutely sure where I am I look around and he has vanished. By this time the fog has lifted.

The Everglades is still full of mystery and characters !
 
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Yay, I’ve been waiting for your trip report. I needed a mental escape.

And I do mean mental; the truck is well stuck at the bottom of our long ice covered driveway and I see no hope of getting it out this week despite being packed and ready for another trip.

The tidal ebb and flow is certainly one of the biggest challenges of Everglades paddling, not just in route finding (paddling against the tide, not having enough water to get over the oyster bars or mudflats) but sometimes even in trying to get onto or off of a campsite.

Interesting about the dolphin and Rapidfire; maybe they just have good taste in boats, although it seems to me that manatee are particularly frisky with white hulls.

About the history of Watson in the Everglades, before I shagged the Lake Powell books and maps off on him Joel was engrossed in Killing Mr. Watson and the Shadow Country trilogy.

http://www.amazon.com/Killing-Miste...=1392830153&sr=1-1&keywords=Watson+Everglades

I only have four trips to the Everglades, including the first 30 years ago when I became stuck for several hours in the middle of aptly named Mud Lake as the tide went out and a later trip where we camped on a tiny key that was surrounded by 100 yards of exposed oyster bar at lower tides.

Joel’s tidal timing on departure day was masterful; we were flying with the tide through the narrow sections and I sailed nearly all of the open water parts.

Tide rules.
 
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Another trip??? You are making every working person here mad!

I will join you in making more people mad. I am not packed but departure is about two weeks away.
 
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Another trip??? You are making every working person here mad!

I will join you in making more people mad. I am not packed but departure is about two weeks away.

Well, I’m all packed except for buying the last minute bread and cheese. But I’m not going anywhere soon.

My weather window is closing and I still can’t get the truck to the top of the hill. The skating rink at Sochi has nothing on my steep driveway.

Despite my desire for the best MPG I begin to doubt the wisdom of buying a 2WD truck. I see a set of chains in my future, just so I can get to the top of the driveway and onto pavement.
 
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Looks like a nice trip, the pictures of the open water really are nice to see this time year, the beach's look inviting.

"Not only is Pavilion known for raccoons, its rats are notorious."

Woops, guess I'll cross Pavilion off my must see list.
 
G

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"Not only is Pavilion known for raccoons, its rats are notorious."

Woops, guess I'll cross Pavilion off my must see list.

The Burmese python will eventually take care of that.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burmese_pythons_in_Florida

They’re making a dent in the raccoon population as well. One of the young field biologists I met in Florida has been studying terrapin populations along the Gulf and found that islands and keys without large raccoon populations had better success with hatches.

Just don’t resort to what some of the motor boat sport fishermen have been known to do – throw insidious packets of rat poison around the perimeter of camp.

I’m not sure if sharing camp with 18 foot pythons is better than the raccoons. Next trip I will bring a slingshot for the raccoons. I doubt I can actually hit one given the errant flight of a sea shell, but at least it will make the contest more sporting.





(Yay, I figured out my photo posting problem)
 
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Not at all what I expected. The wide open expanses of tidal shallow waters look lovely, but not what I thought I'd see in the everglades. I guess I was thinking more dismal swamp, and less castaway shores. The shell beaches (or mounds?) are also new to me. My assumptions are taking a good beating here, but in a good way. The clear skies, white sand, and bird life look so friendly to me. The talk of racoons, rats and snakes are "harshing my hippy vibe", so I'll just pretend I didn't read about them. Your trip is such a tonic for my winter blues (I know, it's all about me), I can't thank you enough. But, what's this I read? You're planning another dash south soon? No. You'll not make me mad. Maybe just a little madly jealous though. There's a cheap cure for that. I'll just scroll back and reread about gangs of rats and pirate racoons. I need something to convince me my snow covered grass here on my side of this fence, is still green enough to stay home. Delusions are handy that way.
Thanks for this shared Florida trip YC. It was a breath of warm fresh air.
 
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Dealing with sand

Dealing with sand

Looks nice but I'm not sure I could deal with the sand.

If the choice is between camping on sand or a chickee platform I’ll take sand.

I’m not a big fan of sand camping, but for coastal or desert trips ya do what ya gotta do. I especially dislike sand in the tent. The fake-grass mat in the entry vestibule helps with that.



And I really don’t like sand in my food, hence the folding platform for cooking and eating atop the blue barrel.

 
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For the same reason I use a big piece of packcloth.. Its quartered here. Not a fan of sand in everything. Also is an anti-silverware-through- the - planks defense for use on chickees.. . I too will pick sand over chickees which are are too hard for my old bones even with air mattress.

 
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Sand stakes and mistakes

Sand stakes and mistakes

Sand does have its demands. Some type of sand stakes are a must unless you want to bury deadmen. I carry mil-spec stakes; they are heavy but nestle together compactly and hold well in the sand.

Spiral dog run stakes are bulky and don’t pack well (beware the sharp pointy end), but they are hard to pull out without unscrewing from the sand. If I need one very windproof anchor point for the tent, tarp or boat those will do.



The packcloth on the ground (or on a chickee) has merit. I have a bad habit of setting things in the sand beside my chair and forgetting the consequences of later putting them on my lap.



Sand is harsh on tent longevity, especially zippers and tight fitting ferrules. I use the wind/sun chair as a platform when setting up or taking down the tent. Tent body and fly on the seat, easy-to-lose tent stakes in one arm’s cup holder, the wee stuff bags for the stakes, footprint and poles (prone to becoming kites in the wind) in the other cup holder and the poles elevated during assembled and disassembled without dragging the ferrules in the sand.




Camping on the sand without the sand camping on me continues to evolve. I will eventually learn that when applying sunscreen on the beach that it is advisable to work from the top down and not smear my sandy legs and feet before my neck and face.
 
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When we get home..everything goes in the tub.. The chair the tent the tent poles..the Pelican case for the DSLR..(not the camera itself of course) . And all zippers get treated with Mc Netts. The GPS the marine radio, SPOT, the PLB.

Sleeping bags get washed.. the Exped mats hosed down.. Anything with a ferrrule gets special attention.

This would be so much easier if it were actually above freezing outside.. My sleeping bag froze to the porch rail as did my liner.

Its not just the sand.. its the combination of salt air and sand.
 
G

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Its not just the sand.. its the combination of salt air and sand.

Salt air is as bad as sand. And salt water may be worse, especially for PFD’s, fabrics and zippers. Warm and humid = a layer of salty condensation on everything, every morning.

It’s either drying crystalline in the morning sun if camp dawdling time allows, or packed still salty air damp if not.

I have a small waterproof codoura nylon “essentials” bag that sits between my legs in the boat and beside me in camp. I can gauge the salt exposure by the white residue creeping up the green nylon after a trip.

Oh the joys of winter beach bumming. There’s nothing like coming home from a snowbird trip south and cleaning gear in sub-freezing temperatures. Sand on the gear room floor, sand in the bathtub, stuff frozen to the back pouch banister. If I want a taste of the Gulf all I need to do is lick my fingertips.

Despite the best sand/salt precautions (and moreover post-cautions) folks who spend their paddling time largely on tidal waters seem wear out gear at an enhanced rate. It’s a tough environment.
 
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