Thursday, June 21, 2007

Part 2- What Happens When You Ignore That Still Small Voice Inside?

OK, so it's Thursday now, and I'd planned on finishing my last post much sooner than this...sorry! I've been silently agonizing over the 2nd degree (sun)burn on my legs. It's blistering up now...maybe it will go away soon? [whimper, whine, moan...] And is it time for more Tylenol or Ibuprofen yet? Sorry, no, I don't want any cheese with that WHINE, but the almost constant pain has brought me to tears more than a few times. If KFC got a hold of my legs, they'd be tossed in the Extra Crispy pile!! Ahhh, the price of enjoying another Bird Family Vacation...brings back such good memories... :D [If you haven't already noticed, one predominant trait of the Bird Family is that we're really good at laughing at our own stupid mistakes...It does more good than the alternative! :0)] I actually tried to start this post last night sitting in the screen room on our BEAUTIFUL little corner of the island in Ft. Desoto State Park near St. Petersburg, FL. We didn't stay here the whole time for what reason?!? Well back to my account of our Everglades Travels...By now Troy and Rachael have gotten a little farther along in their accounts, but I'll go back to where I left off, because we each have our own viewpoint. I hope that all who are vicariously experiencing Florida with us are enjoying your "journey!" Be glad you weren't here in person for this particular leg of the trip. Only the strong survive! When I last posted we had just climbed into the boats (one canoe and one 6-person raft.) We set out at around 9 PM-ish. It was pretty well dark and WAY too late to start...duh! My hulking sons, Troy and Jed, had the unfortunate job of not only paddling their own canoe (full of gear), but TOWING our raft with the rest of our crew and gear. Because of the way things had to be packed (and our unwillingness to do "minimalist" camping for a couple nights) and the fact that the kids had to be piled on top of Rachael and I. I was the only one who could even attempt to paddle, and that wasn't working real well either.

Now Troy and Jed are experienced canoeists, and the distance that we had to travel (approx. 5 miles) would not have taken them very long if it were just their canoe. BUT, towing an 11-foot raft laden with at least 800 lbs of people and gear complicated matters just a lit....LOT! If it would have just been a river trail it would have been great, but our path took us down Blackwater Creek through the mangroves to Mud Bay. There is a (BIG) reason that this seemingly beautiful Bay is called Mud Bay. When the tide is high it's gorgeous. But during low tide, most of the water leaves, exposing open, muddy flat areas (a.k.a. mudflats) over much of the "Bay". It took us over an hour to get to Mud Bay from where we put in at the boat ramp. Remember, we left after 9 pm. Low tide was supposed to be at 10 something!

When we got to Mud Bay we were supposed to be looking for three landmarks that are quite visible in the daytime, but at night it is almost impossible to find them. White PVC pipes sticking up out of the at each entry/exit point and one in the middle. Yeah, well... From the satellite map that the park ranger gave us we gathered that we were supposed to skirt the left edge of the Bay and go over halfway around it before finding the correct outlet. That was VERY important, because there are LOTS of inlets and outlets in the mangroves.

We knew we were having some potential issues when we kept bottoming out in the raft and the canoe. And there was no way to find the channel in the dark. Oh, and how could I have forgotten to mention the mosquitos before now? By this time they were ferocious. As I stated in Part 1 of this post, we were armed with mosquito repellent: including Deep Woods 100% DEET, Children's Mosquito Repellant, cans of mosquito repellant for our gear [the "lasts 2 weeks" kind], and even 3 Tiki torches with citronella in them. The Children's Strength Repellent (20% DEET) didn't do squat! We really didn't want to spray 100% DEET on the kids, but had no choice...well, that didn't work either! We rapidly experienced what it felt like to be at the BOTTOM of the FOOD CHAIN!!! We tried spraying the cans of Outdoor Gear Mosquito Repellent on us...that worked for a minute or so longer than the non-effective DEET.

Remember the tide I mentioned? Well, it went out completely. We were "grounded" in the middle of the mudflat. But this isn't just mud. It's the kind of mud that you sink thigh + deep in when you try to get out of the boat...just ask Troy and Jed. They tried it. We were stuck until the tide came back in! Now if it hadn't been for the mosquitoes, it really would have been pretty nice. There was this awesome alignment of the crescent moon with three really bright stars/planets. Of course the camera was buried where it couldn't be gotten to very easily in the dark. Troy's post talks about the shrimp, the blue crab, and the fish, so I won't go in to those, but there were some really cool things out there. There are pictures on the Online Photo Album.

After what felt like an absolute eternity, the water started to come back into the Bay. [God really amazes me with things like the ebb and flow of the tide and how it affects so many things.] As our vessels started to regain buoyancy we all rejoiced. It was such an awesome feeling to not be "grounded" any more. Troy and Jed unhooked the tow rope from the raft and paddled around to find the correct channel to exit the Bay. They located a sandbar that had semi-solid sand [I only sunk calf-deep a few times!]

They came back and towed our raft over to the sandbar so we could get out, stretch, and create our own little puddles (8 hours of “holding it” in a raft…oh yeah!) After a short time the guys found the marker for the correct outlet, and we walked our raft out as far as we could before getting back into it. The sandbar that we’d been standing on was already under water. It was not yet daylight, but we were at least back on our way towards our goal. The Grocery Place campsite…still about 1 and 1/2 miles down the river! I felt SO TERRIBLE for Troy and Jed. They now were not only paddling their own overloaded canoe, and pulling us in our raft; they were also paddling AGAINST the incoming tide! Joy, JOY! I only saw one alligator on that part of the trip (the boys had seen one earlier as the canoe went over it in the water.) The one I saw had just the top of its head above the water. I watched it turn and follow us for a short distance, and then it disappeared into the murky water.

Around 8 AM we finally pulled up to the one piece of real ground to camp on and drug our vessels up onto the tiny beach. The guys were physically wiped out from all the paddling, so as soon as we put up our screen room, I told them and Rachael to take a long nap in the screen room. THANK GOD for the screen room!!! I had just finished cleaning the mud out of the canoe, and the girls and I were catching mangrove crabs. I heard a loud humming noise above the tree that was over the screen room. I looked up and thought that there was a swarm of mosquitoes above us. I thought, “Great, here we go again!” Then that still small voice said, “Get the kids in the screen room, NOW!” This time I listened, and I’m so glad I did! I pushed them in, and tossed much of our equipment and supplies too. As I yelled to troy to let him knoe w that there were mosquitoes swarming, he looked up and said, “Those aren’t mosquitoes, those are honey bees. They have a nest right above our screen room!” Suddenly the area around the screen room was full of bees…it was like a scene out of a horror flick! And screen rooms don’t have floors. So we were trying to put things on the bottom of the screen panels to prevent the bees from getting in and watching the top where the screen and the canopy meet.

I’m falling asleep typing, so I’ll have to leave you hanging there. Sorry. I haven’t been able to sleep this past night because of the sunburn. Maybe it will stop hurting long enough now to get a quick nap!

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