Thursday, June 21, 2007

An Overnight Trip Into Hell, or “Welcome To The Real Florida!” Part 1

My, my… sometimes hindsight is twenty-twenty, but, then again, you can’t see the past for the black eye it gave you the first time around. Now I know it’s been a couple days since I have written. But I honestly feel like I have more than adequate excu- errr reasons for my hiatus. June 17th was my 7th anniversary. I had originally planed to spend it doing something romantic with my loving wife Rachael. Instead we drove. We were supposed to camp out in Collier-Seminole State Park on an island camp spot called Grocery Place.

When we got to the park no one would rent us another canoe. After some thought, we rushed back up the interstate and purchased a six man raft from Bass Pro Shop. As we drove into the park I read the sign: “Welcome to the real Florida”, at which I turned and smartly quipped my wife, “Now you get to see the REAL Florida.”

By the time we had managed to get the raft inflated, all our gear packed, loaded, and in the boat it was nine at night…… yes, like idiots we decided to go ahead anyway. You see to get to our camp spot on the island we had to traverse several miles of mangrove swamps and salt marshes…And cross an inland tidal mudflat. Then only a couple of more miles of mangroves…sorry, I am fighting nausea at the memory.

First off, we quickly figured out that the raft wouldn’t even dream about keeping up with our canoe {which was so heavily laden it was barely afloat} so we took a tow rope from our van and towed the raft behind us—All 800 pounds of people and equipment. After two hours we actually found our way through the mangrove swamps, into Mud Bay. What we didn’t know until right before we started our journey, was that this whole swamp and basin was controlled by the tide. Yes, you guessed it, we have great timing!!! The water went out in a hurry and left us sitting in the middle of a “dried up lake”. And by “dry” I mean no water and four feet of mud. The helpful ranger had given us a tide chart that informed us we only had six hours to go before it came back in. Joy!!!!

So, to recap: me, my brother—Jed, my mother, my wife, my five-year-old, my four-year-old, and my not-quite-two-year-old daughter, are now stuck out on stinking mudflat at 11:00 at night. We just so happened to have Tiki torches with us, so I lit them and stuck them in the muck all around our canoe and raft. It was a sight to see, I’m sure. But, then there were the mosquitoes. We came prepared—we thought—with four types of repellent. That included the much vaunted “100% DEET.” Six hours of hell. I swear the things were catching a buzz off the stuff.

We kept using the stuff, and after a while I was afraid to use any more, for fear of using everyone else’s. So, after much thought, I asked my self, “What would an animal do?” The answer was obvious, “Mud, an animal would roll in the mud if it was being attacked by vicious bugs.” So I began the task of covering myself with copious amounts of mud, dredged from the sticky lake bottom located just an arms-width away. While I was doing this I discovered many interesting things in the mud. A shrimp jumped into my boat. And by the peak of low tide there were thousands of shrimp crowded around our boat. I also caught a crab about ten inches across scuttling near my craft. All this wonderment wouldn’t have been quite so bad if it weren’t for my three children who were having one of the worst nights of there short lives.

It was almost 90 degrees but we had tried to keep a tarp over then. However, they didn’t understand that they had to keep the tarp over them to keep from being eaten alive by the mosquitoes. Mary Ruth especially would not keep it over her. Consequently, she has so many bites on her we seriously considered taking her to the emergency room when we finally made it back. I am tired now but in the morning I will write the rest of our misadventures in the Everglades. It should suffice to say I am sitting on the beach, relaxing in a cool gulf breeze, and drinking iced tea. Oh yeah, life is good…. That is when it doesn’t suck like a fricker……anyway, there is much, much more to be told, so tune in next time to hear about:
• Being trapped on our island camp spot in a screen room by killer bees.
• Meeting the snake man.
• Paddling three hours “uphill.”
• And much more.
Oh yes, it’s my birthday now. I’m 25. And I often wonder how I get myself into these situations. Being on vacation is so much work!

No comments: