A Little Rough Start
~Wednesday, February 24, 2021~
Question for the day. Why did God create mosquitoes? Do they do anything for our planet that’s beneficial other than possibly satisfy a hungry bat or momma bird feeding her young? I suppose the food chain is important, but since we’re at the top of that, we shouldn’t be forced to go inside or apply a whole bottle of bug spray…..am I right? And it’s not even the full throttle amount of mosquitoes. 😩🦟
We had an early morning booking to try out another new thing today…..canoeing in The Everglades. We hoped to do this the last time we were here about a month ago, but the boat rentals were all taken so we just figured we would try again on this route and book ahead. Bingo…..we’re in!
Because we were renting the canoe, we first had to drive to the other campground at Flamingo (they have a marina) to pick up our PFD’s and paddles, then sign a few waivers and we were off. When we arrived at Nine Mile Pond, we found stacked aluminum canoes on a trailer, all locked up. Seeing no other canoes, naturally we thought these were the ones. However, the combination we were given for the locks was not working. Next to these stacked canoes were a series of empty wooden platforms with locks on them. The combination worked for those locks! At that point, it didn’t take long to figure out they forgot to transport one more canoe…..our canoe. Without cell reception and no one to help you at Nine Mile Pond, we were forced to turn around and start heading back to Flamingo until we had cell reception. After 4 failed attempts, we finally connected with someone who kindly said he would do the best he could to get someone over to the pond to help us. About 20 minutes later, help arrived. We found out the aluminum boats we thought originally were ours, belonged to a different company all together. The wooden racks normally have 4 or 5 plastic canoes on them, which we came to find had already launched for the morning, meaning they miscounted how many were supposed to be there in the first place. The shuttle guy felt bad for us, encouraging us to get a refund for the inconvenience, and quickly went back to Flamingo to pick up anything we wanted. An ice chest of beer? 2 kayaks? Fish tacos? (kidding). We just settled on the canoe. The whole mix up delayed us an hour, but we made up for it at the end. While we waited for the shuttle guy to bring us our canoe, we met a very nice older couple from Pennsylvania doing a month long trip that started southward just before the cold snap began. Their Euro-van was quite the set up, loaded down with white water kayaks, 2 mopeds in the back and 2 bikes in the front. Together, we discovered an alligator who had just come out of the water
to get in a little siesta.
He kindly drove back to pick up a canoe for us and bring it back (22 miles round trip). We’re more kayak people, but Jeff assured me that we were fine in a canoe since he’s had experience using that as well.
I was just worried they’d be tipsy.
Finally, we were on the water. We typically use kayaks, but Jeff assured me we’d be fine with the canoe. I guess I was just a little more nervous using that instead of kayaks because of their tipsiness. With Jeff steering the back and me offering a little arm power and pole spotting skills, we were a good team. One thing I learned about canoeing is the front person dictates the rowing and the pace. If I stop, Jeff stops. If I slow down, he slows down. I’m kind of liking this!! And we were always paddling on opposite sides. The weather was hanging in there for us, with a 30% chance of rain, though there were lots of clouds.
The first part of the 5-mile trip was crossing the wide open space of Nine Mile pond. As you exit the large pond area into the dense mangroves, the canoe trail pvc-markers appear. They are supposed to appear……”honey, where is #1?” Luckily, a nearby fisherman saw our struggles and tried pointing us in the right direction. At least he made the excuse for us, that the first marker is hard to spot with those tall cattails in the way. Thank goodness, the majority of the 120 markers were easier to spot (not easy…..easier). It was kind of like an Easter egg hunt or going through a corn maze. We certainly could see how people would get lost thinking they’re going the wrong way, only to turn down an even worse way…..dead ends or with brush too dense. Now for the good part. It was so fun gliding down well canopied spots to the point of not being able to see anything around you but mangrove trees and calm, brackish water.
We spotted a lot of herons and great egrets, but no alligators, with the exception of the one I mentioned earlier. Red mangroves are predominant throughout the marsh. It grows as a shrub, with arching roots and long, waxy leaves. It’s these mangroves that help keep the Everglades intact so to speak due to their root system. Otherwise, erosion would be an even greater challenge. One of our favorite things to spot in The Everglades are air plants or orchids. They simply rely on the humidity in the air and sunshine…..soil necessary for their survival. Apparently, the Everglades were full of them years ago, but after years of overpicking by tourists or farmers, they are more protected than ever, so they are making a comeback. The higher, relatively dry ground in the island’s interior permits these and other trees to flourish. There is a spot on the tour (mile marker 2-½), where you can turn around and abbreviate the tour. What do you think we decided to do? If your answer was “keep going”, you are correct. As we got further out, the water became clearer but more dense with a beige colored algae mat known as Periphyton or “breadsticks”. The Periphyton surrounds many of the rushes, acting as a filtration system, leaving the water clear and beautiful. Underneath that, is a bedrock layer of very porous limestone. Maneuvering through some very narrow hammocks was a little creepy, but it appears the alligators don’t like it in this area as there is nowhere for them to swim to a shore to sun themselves. Heading back to the open pond for the last hour was quite a workout, as the water became a bit shallower with more dense Periphyton, causing more resistance in our paddling. Near the end, we were surprised to spot two smaller ponds (but they’re still big) which is supposed to have an abundance of bird life and alligators. Again, we only saw a few egrets and that was it. But it was beautiful all the same. When we arrived back to the beach, the couple from Pennsylvania were just about to head out, so we were able to share our experiences out in the hammocks. The alligator we found earlier, was still snoozing on the grass, but this time surrounded by cameramen and swimsuit models doing a photoshoot. O.k. guys, and we thought the alligator was enough to look at?
We drove back to Flamingo to drop off our gear, then headed home to give Sadie some love and attention. What a trooper! Sure wish she could have gone out on the canoe with us today, but didn’t want to tempt any hungry alligators out there. Since tomorrow will be our last day in The Everglades and close to The Keys, we decided to definitely do an early morning snorkeling trip in Key Largo. We were able to get in (barely) for a 9:00 a.m. launch. So up early tomorrow morning since Key Largo is an hour away and they want you there an hour before departure. Really looking forward to this since our last time of snorkeling was in St. Lucia about 4 years ago.
Enjoying a nice evening outdoors was just not meant to be. The weather is great, but the mosquitoes just won’t abide. You could tell everyone was throwing in the towel. Jeff tried sticking it out by putting on his jeans and flannel shirt to keep them at bay. The surrender flag went up and he was back in the trailer 15 minutes later. 😳