Trip Report - Everglades Nat’l Park/Ten Thousand Islands Aquatic Preserve

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Part 1 – Getting there is (more than) half the fun.

Saturday 1/25
I (barely) managed to get the truck up the driveway between snowstorms, departing for Florida a few days earlier than originally planned. The arctic vortex was still bearing down and, with several stops planned along the I-95 corridor, I was carrying gear for all weather, including a zero degree sleeping bag, a 30 degree bag and a 35/50 flip bag.

First stop, an overnight snooze at Colleton State Park in South Carolina

http://www.southcarolinaparks.com/colleton/introduction.aspx

Colleton SP has several lures. On the banks of the Edisto River, it is less than a 10 hour drive from the Mason/Dixon line, only 4 miles off I-95 and always has sites available in winter (it was admittedly 27F there on Saturday night). Plus, in view directly across the river is Carolina Heritage Outfitters.

http://www.canoesc.com/_index.php

The proprietor (Scott Kennedy) is a good fellow and I chatted with him about shuttle rates, paddling places and boats (including the forlorn Clipper Montreal moldering in the yard)

http://www.clippercanoes.com/montreal.php

Sunday 1/26
I was still running a few days ahead of schedule and made the short 3-hour hop to Crooked River State Park on the Georgia/Florida border. This was an investigative stop; I’d never been to Crooked River and wanted to check out the possibilities of paddling from there over to Cumberland Island National Seashore.

Crooked River is RV oriented with huge pads and water/electric at every site, but some of the sites are well-screened and private and, like Colleton, it is only 7 miles off I-95.

http://gastateparks.org/CrookedRiver

The park had been full the previous few days, with the annual confab of the Georgia Indian Princesses Father Daughter group and I met a few late leaving frazzled fathers.

The investigation fruitful - one of the Rangers was a paddler, as was one of the frazzled fathers. Paddlers can depart for Cumberland Island from the Crooked River launch ($5 a night to leave a vehicle) and paddle 7 miles out Crooked River and marsh estuary to Cumberland Island.

http://www.nps.gov/cuis/loader.cfm?csModule=security/getfile&pageid=516927

With the right tidal timing paddling the Crooked River and Brickhill River to the bluff campsite on the west of Cumberland could be a good ride. It’s on the To Do list.

As is additional outfitting to the Tacoma sleeper cap. I love sleeping in the back of the truck, high, dry and fully screened with everything I need at my fingertips. But I’ve now spent two nights in State Park electric sites running batteries in my reading lantern. I’m paying for the juice, I might as well use it.

I’m going to run an extension cord up the paddle box in the truck box with a triple receptacle mounted at the head of the bed. Small 110v light, small 110v fan, charge one of the devices.

“One of the devices”. Those are words I thought I’d never say. The old Nikon gave way to a digital several years ago. I eventually broke down and accepted a cell phone in my life, although I keep it turned off, and only recently learned how to answer it.

And this trip, oh gawd, the devil’s own device – a tablet. Technophobic as I am the ability to check tide tables and Weather Underground forecasts for where I’m heading has become invaluable for travel planning.

The “device” is the simplest Google Chromebook and even an old dog like me can operate it. The set up procedure took literally seconds, and it mirrors my Gmail and bookmarks from home. And I can rearrange the bookmarks for travel.

Yeah, I’ve got vices, and now devices. Bring on the 110v outlets in the truck.

Monday 1/27

Another 3 hour short hop south to Micanopy, hoping to surprise friends of 30 years Anita and Dave at their fascinating abode. Barns, outbuildings, ponds, patios, art work, oddities and always dogs. I could use me some dog time and Dave & Anita’s canines are always the best. And, in keeping with the theme of Inter-state proximity, less than 5 miles off I-75.

It has been a decade since I’ve seen them in Micanopy and much has changed. Including, as I eventually discovered, their street address, the appearance of the front 40 along the road, their mailbox and the gates along their long dirt drive.

I drove the same one mile stretch of rural road a half dozen times, back and forth to no avail. I even resorted to the dread cell phone. I give up. Time to head south on I-75.

Crikey, I’m still at least two days ahead of schedule. I have no site reservations anywhere in southern Florida and things fill up snowbird fast in the winter, especially in never ending arctic vortex conditions. A Wi-Fi and cell phone search of various campsites between Gainesville and Naples at the next rest area turned up not a single site available anywhere in the greater Florida dangle.

I know one of the Seminole Indian casinos allows overnight parking and I’m desperation ready to Google that for directions when the dread still-in-use cell phone rings. And I now know how to answer it.

Me: “Hello”

Anita: “Hi, you called this number several times….”

Oh hell yeah! Down to the next exit, turn around and back north on the Inter-State to Micanopy.

I will spare the details. Or not. I have a new favorite dog – Squeaker, daughter of Sadie, part lab, part pit bull and all loving, with a massive head that weights as much as a cinderblock and the most expressive eyes of any canine I’ve ever met.

Even better than dogs - and there’s not much better than dogs in my book - I got to spend time with another friend of 30 years, their son Paul, whom I’ve known since he was a fit-in-a-teacup-preemie.

I got to meet Paul, after a long absence, for the first time as a man. Grown into a good man, sharp as a tack, easygoing and comfortable in his own skin, with a good life, good future, and good friends, living in a cool-ass lakeside house full of turtles, odd art, flaming hula hoops, canoes, kayaks, young field biologists roommates and Luna the dog.

I’m pretty sure he gets it from his parents.

There followed three days and nights of classic roadhouse bars, juke boxes, pizza joints, breakfast diners and the occasional late nights here or there. Three days later, back on schedule, with a supply of old friend and dog companionship it was time to boogie another five hours south to Everglades City.

Thursday 1/30
Collier Seminole State Park

I had promised Joel I would bring him better weather, but I was still a day early for that. Collier Seminole was a puddle. Thankfully, as the rain had driven a few campers away and I was able to secure a site directly across from Joel.

The sites at Collier-Seminole are stare-at-your-neighbor close (and Kim can tell you about trees and rudders) and the water tastes of dirty diaper, but you WILL meet a variety of trippers there. The conversation with fellow paddlers alone is worth the cost of admission.

A short rainy dayhike to an observation tower in the marsh and I knew I was far enough south – in a single field of view were egrets galore, ibis, wood stork, pink flamingos, purple gallinule, chokoloskee chicken and etc, etc.

I turned in early at Collier Seminole, retreating to the dry, uber comfy and well appointed truck bed. So comfy that I slept for half a day, resting up for what may come tomorrow, and for the next week in the Everglades.
 
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Part II – Being There

Part II – Being There

Friday 1/31
Joel and I arrived at the NPS Ranger Station in Everglades City with perfect timing. The weather had been less than ideal for a few days and the parking lot held but a few vehicles. Loading our boats (Monarch and CD Nomad) with an absurd amount of comfort gear the rising tide began to conveniently float them off the launch beach as we finished packing.

We headed north up the coast, aiming to get outside the ENP into the Cape Romano – Ten Thousand Islands Aquatic Reserve. This was a busman’s holiday for Joel, who has been guiding all winter and needed a break. As for me I’ve been doing nothing for most of the winter and foresee continuing to do the same.

I hope I’m only beginning to realize my potential as a bum with a pension. One hundred and twenty seven days on the road paddling in 2013 and I hope to better that in 2014.

Joel is known in the Everglades for his sneak routes; piecing together mangrove tunnels, high-tide passages over oyster bars and traversing tiny unmarked channels, avoiding power boat routes, marked trails and, largely, other people. To that end an 8 day Wilderness Waterway trip he guides involves when possible a whopping three miles along the actual marked waterway. Several of his routes will be in the next edition of an Everglades paddling guide, though I trust him not to have given too many secrets away.

I have no qualms admitting that I would have been hopelessly lost within the first hour of paddling, and doubt I could come to understand the complex tidal flows, flux and timing in a lifetime of Everglades study. We paused but once on the paddle in, waiting in an eddy for 15 minutes until the tide turned. One 15 minute muckle; a perfectly timed respite.

Rounding south from the sneak route we came into a placid Gulf of Mexico and paddled the final few miles to camp in the company of dolphin, pilot whales and sea turtles. A most pleasing harbinger of things to come.

A palatial camp was established – two tents, two hammocks, one screen tarp - and we settled in to enjoy the beachfront shade of a few tidal zone red mangrove. There followed an afternoon of shade seeking and watching the tidal flats appear and disappear. Just my kind of day (after day after day).

We had arrived one day after the new moon and the highest tides of the month; 4.9 yesterday, 4.7 today, and subsequently 4.3….3.8….3.7. The rather slender beach front should only get wider.

Or will it? I awakened at 2am to the soothing sound of lapping waves. Soothing but seemingly very close. Peering out the vestibule I see that the Gulf of Mexico is already up to last night’s high tide line. Less than 3 feet from my tent. And it isn’t quite high tide yet.

I trust Joel. Doveryai no proveryai (trust but verify). I decided that it wouldn’t be a bad thing to get up, stretch in the mild temps under the crescent moon and starlight, and stake the tide. And maybe stuff my sleeping bag and look for a tent evacuation route, just in case.

The tide rose another inch before retreating. Trust. But verify.

Saturday 2/1

The first full day acamp and a routine develops, which goes (and goes and goes for days on end) something like this:
Awaken to watch sunrise over the Gulf through the open tent door.
Linger over breakfast and coffee refills in the shade of a perfectly positioned red mangrove.
Tidy up camp before the rising sun reddens my pale Yankee skin
Read, write, look, listen in the shade. Be quiet.
Reposition the shade chair as the sun creeps around the mangroves.
Listen to the weather radio, the same forecast every day: 80’s F, light wind, few clouds, no rain.
Lunch. Check the temperature in the beer cooler. Restock as needed.
Reposition the shade chair further up the beach as the tide rises.
Read, write, look, listen. Continue to be quiet.
Check the temperature in the beer cooler. Restock as needed.
High tide washing my feet, retreat to the hammock in the shade.
Read, write, look, listen. Quietly.
Dinner. Recheck the beer cooler temperature.
Watch the sunset while Joel plucks a guitar or banjo*
Watch moon and stars rise while the big marine mammals huff and chuff in the flat Gulf.
Throw seashells at pesky raccoons. What I wouldn’t give for a slingshot.
Read in the tent, watch the stars over the Gulf through open tent door.
Repeat the next day with minor variations for tide and sun.
*Banjo music would drive me to distraction, but Joel plays the Little Plucky tuned like a Mandolin, with the especially twangy 5[SUP]th[/SUP] string tucked away, fingerpicking, frailing and gently clawhammering. It’s surprising soothing for banjo.

Sunday 2/2
See Saturday 2/1. Add in a scratchy and distant radio broadcast of the Slaughter Bowl over Blanton’s single barrel to augment the night’s entertainment. The little ferrous rod antenna Sony occasionally sounded like it was being broadcast through a swarm of bees. Still, it picked up the game from Key West.

Monday 2/3 – Wednesday 2/5

See previous days. This was truly my idea of heaven. I know that I need to linger long and still and just watch, look, listen in quietude, letting it all come to me to begin to understand and appreciate a place. And there is a lot to appreciate there.

Just watching the tide go in and out, the mudflats and oyster bars slowly develop, revealing creatures large and small and bizarre. Sea Pork. Sea Stars. She sells sea shells. Reminds me of old friends and old times.

Warblers in the Gumbo Limbo (AKA the “Tourist Tree”, for their orange peeling bark), shore birds in every field of view, nest building osprey on the point contesting their territory with all comers. Watching a crab slowly creep down a slender mangrove branch silhouetted against the gulf took a half hour, and was more entertaining than anything that has ever appeared on television.

Listening as much as looking. The Gulf was mirror calm for several days (and yet the bugs were miraculously minor) and in that silence a variety of mammalian huffs, chuffs and blows were ever audible out on the Gulf. Accompanied closer to shore by a low tide undertone of clams clicking and squirting on the mud flats and a rising tide exhale “PUUUFFFF” of air forced through the mangrove root cathedrals along the shore as the water came ashore..

Damn but I relish that quiet auditory perception that is sorely lacking in the everyday world.

The Osprey couple became familiar neighbors, and I’ve never before had opportunity to observe a nest building pair as closely or for as long. Even though the nest is less than half built one or the other typically sat atop, calling in consternation if the crows approached, if an interloper osprey soared too near or if the absent mate was gone too long.

When an interloper osprey approached the squawking and whistling grew in volume, until the missing mate returned to demonstrably place additional material on the nest.

It’s all in the Bible “Thall shall not covet thy neighbor’s cloaca, lest thee be smitted by a righteous gum twig”. I’m pretty sure I heard something about that on the low end of the FM dial on the drive down while searching for NPR.

As we were watching the Osprey Channel the (smaller) male returned with a fish when, seemingly out of nowhere, a mature bald eagle laid the mid-air smackdown on him, snatching a free lunch. Both osprey gave pursuit, returning to the nest after a futile and halfhearted hundred yard chase.

A trio of constant crows provided additional entertainment. I thought I had spent considerable time in the company of crows, but these Corvus have several calls distinct from the usual “caw” that I had never heard before. Including a weird baby’s-cry “Blu-blu” warble, which I found I could faithfully reproduce, leading to some lengthy debates.

They also have an odd clicking chuckle that I can’t reproduce, but if I gave them squirrel cheek chatter in response the conversation continued unendingly. The crows quickly prove that they had more conversational endurance than I, and I retreated to the hammock with a good book.

I once again schlepped in a hefty tome – Pierre Berton’s “Arctic Grail, The Quest for the Northwest Passage and the North Pole 1818-1909”. Highly recommended, if seemingly inappropriate material for the sub-tropics.

Or not. As I sit in the Mangrove shade, awaiting a rising tide to eventually rinse over my sandy feet, I read an analogous tale of Eskimo patience. A group of Eskimo had made an overland journey to a distant meadow to harvest grass, arriving to find it too short to cut.

So they sat down and waited for it to grow. I shall endeavor to demonstrate similar patience, in waiting for the tide to rise and in all things.

http://www.amazon.com/Arctic-Grail-...8&qid=1392137143&sr=1-1&keywords=arctic+grail

Joel meanwhile finished another of my favorite books, John McPhee’s “Encounters with the Archdruid”

http://www.amazon.com/Encounters-Ar...1-1&keywords=conversations+with+the+archdruid

I had cunningly thought ahead and packed in a supply of additional reading material for him. Kelsey’s “Boater’s Guide to Lake Powell” and the Jones/Ward map of “Lake Powell and its 96 Canyons”.

Start planning that western trip Joby, reading Kelsey gives me a headache – the print is too small and he has no sense of syntax.

It is serendipitous that of the three “Encounters with the Archdruid” one takes place on Lake Powell and one on Cumberland Island. The list of things to do and places to see grows ever larger.

We did not have much company on our lonely key. Naked Max paddled in towards sunset one evening and camped a few hundred yards down the beach. Max is the second naked Florida character I’ve had the pleasure to meet, the other being Naked Ed on the Sante Fe.

I couldn’t help but admire Max’s spirit, paddling a stripper boat with a short whitewater paddle, orange horsecollar PFD, DIY palm-frond Chinese coolie hat and not a stitch of anything else. He did have the best overall tan of any skinny bald headed white man I’ve ever met.

Although, on reflection, I feel that I am now statistically owed two naked women.

Thursday 2/6
Where did the week go? We have another long morning’s linger in camp, followed by a Joel-calculated launch in early afternoon to catch a rising tide and push us effortlessly through yet another sneak route. Despite a foggy morning -the first day that wasn’t pure 80F and blue sky sunny - the tents and gear were dry, well-desanded and packed before a 1PM departure.

The paddle back was awesome. Or, more accurately, the ride back. We had a rising tide, pushing us through the narrow and funneled sneak routes, at one point gliding along at 5 knots without paddling.

We also had a kindly tailwind across most of the open water parts, so the Spirit Sail went up and the paddle went down, feet steering with the rudder while doing “housekeeping” in the boat. Couldn’t have been finer.

Finally, and most fittingly, we had a perfect tailwind as we entered Chokoloskee Bay and I sailed the Monarch across until it grounded on the NPS beach. I muttered apologies to the new gel coat scratches as it rasped ashore against the oyster shells, but I couldn’t resist traversing the whole of the bay and landing sail still flying while taking nary a paddle stroke.

The parking lot held considerably more vehicles than when we arrived a week ago and we were quickly packed, racked and away. The plan was to car camp at Skunk Ape tonight, and hit Naples tomorrow to re-supply consumables before Joel put back on to lead an 8-day/seven person trip and I headed north to paddle some Atlantic beachfront and enjoy a cold(er) weather camp.

Except that Skunk Ape, which is “never full”, is full. It is packed to the squeeze-them-in full. Turns out that teensy Everglades City is holding a weekend sea food festival and carnival. I’ve had seven days of solitude. Help Mr. Wizard, get me the hell out of here.

A check of Florida parks and campsite in the lower dangle once again revealed nary an open site to be found. Joel can squeeze a tent behind friends already at Skunk Ape, for me I’m heading back to rural Micanopy to sit a spell with dear friend and figure out where I’m headed next.

A single phone call made the necessary reservations “Hi Anita, got room for a dirty old man to sleep in your driveway?”

Friday 2/9
The doggies remember me, and I remember them. Squeaker, if I’d had room in the truck I might have dognapped you. I’d need a bigger boat, and a bigger truck, but you are some kind of dog.

A shower – blessed is the first shower after a week of sunscreen, bug spray and salt accumulation – was followed by a long spell with the Chromebook weather forecast perusal up the I-95 route.

Damn, that does not look good. I had unknowingly raced a devastating southern ice storm en route south, staying one day head of historic chaos in Georgia and the Carolinas. I now find that I have a two day window before the same thing happens again. My hoped for venues along the coastal plain offer naught but a forecast of wind, cold, rain, snow and ice pellets. I can do that closer to home.

Or not. Home has had several snows since I departed, and an ice storm that took down trees and limbs, closed Inter-States and knocked out power for several days. The “I’m out safe and headed back” call reveals that I can (probably) get down the snow and ice covered driveway, but not back up.

Saturday 2/10
I opted to get home in the narrow weather window available and it was a good choice. Two days of easy driving in good weather, watching the temperature drop as I headed north. First leg, 5 hours north from Micanopy to Colleton SP on Saturday, for some much need gear rearrangement in the truck and a night’s sleep.

10 hours home on Sunday with the usual stops in familiar Carolinas country - Waffle House with a copy of the fresh copy of the Fayetteville News & Observer in Benson NC, where the waitresses have come to know my name after many trips to Bladen County. A stop at JR’s to peoplewatch a crowd that makes Wal-Mart look like Tiffany & Co. Loves for cheap gas, Sheets for a fresh Washington Post and an inexpensive coffee refill of the Thermos before entering the home State.

T’was a glorious drive with little weekend traffic heading north, thumbing the cruise control up or down occasionally to stay in the open void between packs of vehicles. Sunday NPR on the radio, augmented by select CD’s when the religious stations conquered the low end of the FM dial. Sometimes it is hard to tell the difference at first; I heard a hilariously badly done radio play refuting evolution on a Christian station.

It had all of the elements of my favorite childhood TV shows, including a hero dog and youthful Timmy character (“What’s that Lassie, Timmy has fallen down a well again?”), a wise and knowing old man (the Christian Pastor), his (I can only presume) buxom daughter and a nit-wit geologist whose specious and poorly supported arguments were proven wrong time after time.

I couldn’t stop listening, even when I realized what it was. Damn I’d like to have a copy of that. It was the best thing since Firesign Theatre.

Arriving home I slid the Tacoma down the icy driveway, abandoning it to the elements next to the shop. It isn’t going anywhere for a while; I’m not even sure I can even turn it around so it’s facing uphill.

This insanity of Arctic Vortex can’t keep on forever. As I was unpacking I was repacking for a winter trip, hoping for a break in the weather. The end of next week looks to hold promise of a thaw.

Of course the near forecast is for more snow Wednesday night, Thursday and flurries Sunday and Monday and more accumulation on Tuesday. I should have stayed in south Florida.

Next winter I’ll accept that at least some minor scheduling of reserved campsites is a necessary evil. Or book longer stays and daytrips out of Micanopy.

A few photos:
http://s1285.photobucket.com/user/CooperMcCrea/slideshow/Everglades February 2014
 
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What worked, what didn’t

What worked, what didn’t

What worked:

Shade - The augmentation of the “wind chair” with a golf umbrella stuck in the frame for shade worked well enough on a test run. That sun protective rig will be coming on the next desert trip. Overall, between the sun chair, mangrove shade and the hammocks strung beneath the gum trees shade was abundant.

The UV lap blanket helped immensely while paddling to protect my pale Yankee gams from UV overexposure. Thanks to the mangrove shade I browned up slowly over the course of a week on beach with nary a burn. For a quick-to-pink balding Scotsman that’s quite a feat.

I picked up a new sleeping bag for this trip, a Mountain Hardware 35 degree/50 degree flip. I found one at a discounted price and it worked well across a variety of warmish temperatures, from 35 degree side up to spread open like a blanket.
http://www.mountainhardwear.com/flip-35-50-regular-OU8523.html

I had 30 degree and 0 degree bags stored in the truck. And used them both – it was in the 20’s in the Carolina the first night along the road south and not much warmer on the way back north.

The folding tabletop for the blue barrel was essential for meals that didn’t involved molar-crunching on sand. I do not foresee tripping in a sand or dust environment without that accoutrement. The 30L barrel was overkill for a week’s food needs, but the extra space allowed me to raccoon-proof the dromedary bags at night. I was pleased to find that the 60L barrel fits just as nicely behind the seat in the Monarch and would use that on a longer trip requiring more food and protected water.

The Polar Bear soft side cooler once again worked very well. If I wasn’t so tunnel-visioned in getting post-haste gone and in the boat it could have worked better (see What Didn’t).

Permethrine treatment of hat, chair and hammock seemed an effective first line of bug protection. Repeated applications of DEET on clothing seems to have a deleterious effect on fabric, and high concentration DEET will melt some plastic and vinyl. Spray some DEET on your hand and rub it along a vinyl gunwale to check.

I’m not sure which is worse for you, but I’d rather have Permethrin on my top of the hat and the back side of the chair and hammock than DEET directly on my skin.

The fake grass entry mat in the tent vestibule was a godsend in sand camping. That oyster shell beach sand is tenacious stuff, but the tent stayed comfortably sand free with a daily mat shaking.

The “device”. I swallowed my electronica aversion and bought a Google Chromebook so I could use the WI-FI in rest stops (and a few State Parks) to check tides and distant weather forecasts.

Especially weather forecasts – I stayed a day ahead of the winter storm that snarled parts of southern I-95 in late January on the way south, and departed in haste weeks later to hit a two day weather window before yet another southern ice storm descended (this one predicted to be “catastrophic” and “historic”….sounds more like “horrific” is you need to make miles.

The traveling truck was a champ as usual. I got a high of 24.21 MPG with one decked boat racked, cruise controlled at 70mph on the coastal plain inter-State. Confession – the truck got a low of 19.44 MPG along the same stretch of road against a strong headwind. Makes sense when the aerodynamics presented equal close to 100 MPH, but I had never considered it or tracked it before.

The ability to simply crawl in the back, under the well-appointed cap and go to sleep without tent fussing makes long distance trips much, much easier. Into a comfy bed in seconds and on the road again lickety split in the morning is a huge time saver on long trips.

What Didn’t Work:

The high backed shade extension on the wind/sun chair did not work in Everglades environs. I wanted as much breeze on my head as possible and when the King’s Throne back extension was put up for shade it provided a wind sheltered haven for no-see-ums. It served mostly as a headrest for stargazing at night.

I once again forgot to replenish the cooler ice before loading the boat, so by day four the once-ice now-liquid was close to ambient air temperature. The drag bag was little help as the Gulf water temperature was 77F. While I can manage to consume a tepid beverage I’d prefer a cold while one on the beach. At least I had some dark beer; I choked down a couple of 80 degree Spicy V-8’s that were a form of sludge.

That melted ice cooler water did make for a thoroughly enjoyable and de-griming Bronner’s shower on day five. It felt soooo nice to get the salt, sweat, bug spray, sun screen and beardy food particles rinsed free. Not as nice as jumping in a freshwater lake or river on a hot summer day, but refreshingly close.

I had packed and dry bagged the paddling gear while at home, where I had been stuck in the snow for a seeming eternity awaiting an escape window. And wherein one morning’s packing activities saw the thermometer at 0.4F.

In those conditions I couldn’t help but dry bag a full set of winter fleece. With nighttime temps dipping all the way into the 60’s on the Gulf, eh, they made for a nice pillow if nothing else. Caveat: a week earlier and I’d have been wearing them some nights, and maybe wishing for a warmer sleeping bag.

I didn’t think to bring a slingshot for the raccoons. Or a blow gun and dried peas. Or something. They are the boldest coons I’ve ever seen and yelling about the legitimacy of their birth while throwing sea shells didn’t much faze them. Maybe a mousetrap tied to the barrel or to the deck of the boat. Or better yet - more Pythons in the Everglades.

I filled the 20L water carboy at home. It worked well and didn’t freeze despite a night in the 20’s. And then I stupidly did not use that delicious Freeland well-water to fill the dromedary bags. Instead I elected to fill them with Collier-Seminole water, which the fictitious Water Advocate Magazine describes as being “Unpolished and rank, with a faint finish of dirty diaper. Best served ice cold, with a powdered drink mix. And a beer chaser to get the taste out of your mouth”.

My water bags and canteens have been rinsed thoroughly post-trip. I should know better; that geographic water quality variation is exactly why the 20L carboy is secured in the truck.

The Tripping Truck continues to evolve. I stayed in two State Park sites where every site had electric. A three plug extension cord run up inside the bed would allow me to save the batteries in my reading lantern and re-charge devices while I sleep.

Oh Gawd, stop me before I add a micro-wave and satellite dish.
 
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Well I thoroughly enjoyed your TR.. quite unlike our trip. We drove through Pax I in Columbia and then outran the morphed Pax II by one day. Charlotte was a breeze Tues.. and a Weather Channel disaster destination Wed. Now we are shoveling snow and I will develop the complementary yang report.

Same time frame.. Entirely different view.
 
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Well I thoroughly enjoyed your TR.. quite unlike our trip. We drove through Pax I in Columbia and then outran the morphed Pax II by one day. Charlotte was a breeze Tues.. and a Weather Channel disaster destination Wed. Now we are shoveling snow and I will develop the complementary yang report.

Same time frame.. Entirely different view.

I was hoping that you managed to stay ahead of that disaster en route north. I’m about to head out with snow shovel myself, but getting the truck up the driveway looks hopeless for the next week or so.

Looking forward to your trip report and the same time/same place differences.
 
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On my way home from work yesterday I was too busy sipping tea and admiring the sculpted snowbanks, to punch the power-off button before the NEWS broke my reverie. Only then did I hear of the impending ice storm. I thought "What the...Haven't we had enough winter?" When I heard it was hitting the SE States I wondered if anyone was paddling there. Lo and behold, your TR came down the wires! I get a huge kick out of your trips, and I learn much every time you go. I have much to learn, so I'm afraid you're pretty well committed to tripping for a long time yet. e.g. That flip bag is new to me. It could help edit some gear from our swelling shelves. Also, I didn't know your U.S. super DEET could be corrosive to some fabrics. I'm too fearful of trying pymethrin (pets, pets, and more pets), and only spray our wimpy DEET on clothing. I'll need to be more careful. And yes, vice is indeed the root word of device (as far as I'm concerned). I lost my cellphone last week, but I've convinced myself I'm teaching it a lesson by not finding it. E-stuff is creeping into our own lives; maybe I should try harder to embrace it, and make our journeys easier. Finally, an extension cord for car camping. I can't believe I'd never thought of that before. Instead I stock up on batteries. The humiliation of getting the old ones mixed up with new ones, makes grown men weep. Trust me.
Again, thanks for sharing Mike. I'd love to have some sand in my shoes and shorts right now.
 
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Brad, Colleton and Givhans and most southern State Parks have electricity and water even if you are tenting. That to me is hard to get used to as utilities in tent campgrounds are not common in the North.
 
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YC, that's interesting; now that you mention it, I don't remember seeing plug-in sites where we've car camped in Pa, WV, and Va. You're still not scoring any sympathy points from me though - too hot and humid is but a distant memory. I do hope you all had a good trip. Oh, and your 4 legged family member sure knows how to have fun all year round.
 
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You're still not scoring any sympathy points from me though - too hot and humid is but a distant memory.


I’m going to have to side with Kim on this one. The abrupt transition from freezing to 80F and blazing sun under cloudless skies was a bit much, and some nights I was forced to open both vestibule doors and let the Gulf breezes blow through.

During the day it was sometimes all I could do to lay in the shady hammock at the water’s edge and watch the dolphin play. If those trials were not enough I fear I am fast losing my tan.

Poor, poor pitiful me.
 
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Trip planner for Yankees. At home I tried in vain to find sunscreen. I was told it was out of season..What?? We have had snow on the ground since November and we do get a farmers tan from the reflected rays. I suppose in supermarket shelf competition it ranks way below chapstick in the winter.

So I had to go to a Publix.. BTW they make very good sammiches for on the road.
 
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Trip planner for Yankees. At home I tried in vain to find sunscreen. I was told it was out of season..What?? We have had snow on the ground since November and we do get a farmers tan from the reflected rays. I suppose in supermarket shelf competition it ranks way below chapstick in the winter.

So I had to go to a Publix.. BTW they make very good sammiches for on the road.

Yes once we stopped on a campsite we were done for the day. Between two and four was reading time. By five we were spurred to actually unload the boats, make camp and cook supper. There is no lingering twilight. Either its day or it isn't. There is a master on off switch.
 
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I'm just kidding when I say no sympathy. Even the least bit of inclement weather can be a challenge . When we're canoe camping, shelter and equipment can only deliver so much comfort, otherwise we're suffering. Heading south for a winter's respite sounds heavenly to me, but I know I'd wilt in the heat and crisp up in the sun. I do miss the sun, sand, and salt waters though. Hauling and managing fresh water supplies is something I've never had to do. That looks to be a whole other survival factor to try to wrap my head around.
Shedding winter woolies for near nakedness in a heat wave sounds like a physical challenge. Returning to winter woolies and snowstorms sounds almost unfair.
Such is life.
 
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Trip planner for Yankees. At home I tried in vain to find sunscreen. I was told it was out of season.

I had ample sunscreen and insect repellant in the essentials kit, but used both sparingly. I’m not a fan of beach camping, less so when smearing or spraying a layer of sand grasping goo on my body.

I used the UV lap blanket and sunscreen while paddling, and for a pale balding Scotsman managed my sudden-sun exposure better than usual. It helped immensely that the scattered red mangrove trees in the tidal zone provided perfect shade in the kitchen/commons.

It was warm. I slept under the UV lap blanket one night when the breeze died and the zipped-open 35/50 was still too much. Oh the hardship and travails….

In the Florida Trip Planner for Yankees – you will need reservations to car camp. There is no easy way to freelance camping destinations or timing in Florida, even in non-vortexed winters.

I got lucky in finding an open site at Collier-Seminole for a single night, and other folks there were playing hop scotch, forced to move their tent or trailer every day. Southern Florida was booked solid.

I dislike the enforced schedule of reservation camping, but next winter I’ll bite the bullet and make a few ahead of time.
 
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Trip planner for Yankees . Hint 2 or whatever.

Buy a DeLorme Gazeteer for Florida. Its got a lot of bootleg camping destinations. We will be going back in March( to north and central) and nary a camping reservation will be made. The Naples-Miami stretch does get crowded (worse as Collier is closing almost entirely--for renovations-- March 1), but the Gazeteer has all the Big Cypress primitive camping sites plus a whole slew of others.

I suggest Cedar Key for a destination and there is a wonder campground run by the county at Shell Mound. Its kind of primitive, underused and does not take reservations.
 
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I'm just kidding when I say no sympathy.

Brad, I am very much kidding about the trials and travails. That was as idyllic a week as I’ve ever spent in the wild, and the novel flora and fauna need to be seen (and lingered near in quiet) to be appreciated.

Sun and heat management is easy enough with some forethought, as is potable water. The Everglades is the only place I worry about water security and raccoons, and to be honest we did not safe the all of the hanging dromedary bags every night (not a risk I would recommend).

The biggest challenge, at least for me, is navigation and route finding.

Or would be; it sure as hell helped to simply follow my prime paddling partner as he navigated the sneak routes. Even with spending large portions of his life paddling the Everglades he would occasionally glance at the chart and the archipelago of mangrove islands ahead and mutter a querulous “Is thissss the right one?”
 
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Trip planner for Yankees . Hint 2 or whatever.

Buy a DeLorme Gazeteer for Florida. Its got a lot of bootleg camping destinations. We will be going back in March( to north and central) and nary a camping reservation will be made. The Naples-Miami stretch does get crowded (worse as Collier is closing almost entirely--for renovations-- March 1), but the Gazeteer has all the Big Cypress primitive camping sites plus a whole slew of others.

I suggest Cedar Key for a destination and there is a wonder campground run by the county at Shell Mound. Its kind of primitive, underused and does not take reservations.

Absolutely bring the Florida Atlas & Gazetteer. Over the years I have accumulated them for every east coast State and New England. I brought all of them for my route, from Maryland to Florida. (BTW, a Xerox paper box lid holds an Atlas & Gazetteer collection nicely).

From past trips with Micanopy friends and a local paddling club I know a few primitive places in north/central Florida from Live Oak to Ocala, as well as a few on the Atlantic side. The freebie camping denizens of Ocala NF can be sketchy.

I’m less familiar with Florida from Ocala south to the Everglades.

Next trip I want to spend more time paddling north Florida – the Suwannee, Santa Fe, N. Withlacoochee and Ichetucknee.

Trip Planner for Yankees #3: Sandy Huff’s “Paddler’s Guide to the Sunshine State” is a good guidebook reference to the streams, springs and river runs of Florida.

http://www.amazon.com/Paddlers-Guid...keywords=Paddlers+Guide+to+the+Sunshine+State
 
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Max didn't. I managed to get us turned around at the marker off Indian Key and after admiring white pelicans again failed to follow the GPS; it was dead zero visibility foggy. We paddled within ten feet of each other. I thought I was going east but was getting pulled in north. Lo and behold when the fog lifted I was trying to figure out where we were and Indian Key pass came to mind.. Just then Max paddled up ( but not THAT close) and he said that we would not find any tour boats in the pass where we were.

So that let out Indian Key Pass which is very popular with tour boats.. Hmmm where were we? We kept on paddling. Max would bounce ahead and hide in a mangrove..then pop out like an elf and whirly gig with his little red whitewater paddle ahead of us.

Well we were going somewhere, I must have looked more confident at some point where I knew we were in Russell Pass. Max had done his bouncy thing a few times..and just as I KNEW where we were..he disappeared!

Where did Max go?
 
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