everglades national park: part 2

We set the tent up just shy of the high tide line, and in the middle of the night it sounded as if the ocean was going to wash over us. We awoke to the sunrise rising over the water in the east, and waited as long as we could to get out and make coffee hoping that the blood-suckers congregating on the mesh of our tent would disperse. Garrett bravely ventured out, and I reluctantly followed after he reminded me we shouldn’t eat in the tent lest we attract raccoons (which the ranger warned us have been known to chew through tents in the Everglades seeking campers’ fresh water and snacks). We danced around trying to escape the bugs while eating breakfast, and then jumped in the canoe and took off to explore the nearby mangroves. 

There were no bugs on the water, and we quickly paddled the mile to a channel that led us back into the swamp. We lazily paddled through the mangroves, investigating various waterways, before eventually making it to a lake where we had lunch. We tied the boat to a tree as to not drift, and watched various. birds hunting for their lunch as we ate our tuna wraps. 

The paddle back to camp was a bit more challenging, as the tide and wind were not in our favor, but nothing too difficult. We passed the rest of the afternoon picking-up trash on the beach, playing scrabble, and reading. 

We were prepared for the bugs to come out at sunset this time, and we plotted to make dinner early and be in the tent before they came out. It was windier than the night before, granting us a grace period in which we watched the sun set and saw the full moon rise before I felt the first mosquito land. We dove into the tent, zipped the doors, and watched in horror and awe at the sheer number of mosquitoes covering the mesh. 

We packed-up quickly the next morning to make the trip back to Flamingo marina. Since we had paddled the same distance two days prior and had worked out kinks in our canoeing technique, we thought the return would be a breeze. We were so wrong. The first couple hours went well, but we soon were padding straight into the gusting wind. We tried to paddle closer to shore for some protection, but being it was low tide we found ourselves in half a foot of water and bottomed out in some sea grass. I saw a crab scuttle across the grass, took a deep breath, enjoying the calm for a second. We pushed off, seeking deeper water, and fought against the wind and currrents. We couldn’t stop paddling, because if we did we’d immediately lose ground and get turned around. Once we made it to shore with blistered hands and salt stained clothes, we agreed that that was one of the hardest physical activities we’d ever done. When your hiking a mountain, if you tire, you generally can stop for a couple of minutes! While we enjoyed our trip, I don’t think we’ll be buying a canoe anytime soon.

We ate lunch, and then made our way out of the park. We saw a crocodile lazing in a ditch by the road, which amused us because we had not seen a single one (or an alligator for that matter) during our time in the Everglades wilderness. And while I would have liked to see some more wildlife, fortunately that shark the waitress warned us about never materialized.