Over the holidays, HK and I decided to break up our week-long isit w/ my parents by going on an overnight kayak adventure in the everglades

HK 'yakkin in the 'Glades

“Oh, my god, are you nuts??  Don’t you know there are gators and pythons out there?  You’ll get eaten alive!!”   Mom shook her head in that old familliar way she does when HK and I spring plans for our next big trip on her.  “Couldn’t you just  go to the beach like everybody else?”  Of course, she knows the answer to that question, and the next morning we were on our way.

Our adventure  started in Everglades City where we met our guide Cynthia, and our 2 traveling companions, Peg and her daughter Becca.  We were all experienced paddlers, so were able to forgo the initiation lecture. What we were warned about, however, was the slight chance of  encounters with no-see-ums, those pesky tiny black bugs that attack during sunset and sunrise.  “They’re typically not a problem,” Cynthia assured us. “They don’t even bother some people. Bug spray doesn’t help–they’re immune”.  OK, since mosquitos don’t typically choose me as their main course, I figured what the hell.

We packed our yaks with all our gear–quite a feat to cram a tent, sleeping bags, 2 days worth of food/supplies and clothing into the 6″x6″ hatch of the kayak. Since I had the fatty-kayak, I got to carry the motherload of stuff, giving me lots of extra weight/drag.  Needless to say, I struggled to keep up with the sleeker, newer kayaks.

Along the way we paddled with dolphins-up close and personal, along with a plethora of shorebirds and other wildlife. (the ospreys were a real treat). (We did not encounter any pythons or ‘gators–they do not frequent this area.)

Anyway, mid-afternoon we arrived at our destination, Picnic Key, and set up camp.  Now, I’m gonna admit, it has been a loooonnnnggg time since I’ve camped in the sand.  Let me tell you, it can get a little messy. A lot messy, in fact, and before we were even done putting out our sleeping bags, there was sand in everything.  After a bit of island exploration and a snack, we went out for a sunset paddle.  After about 30 minutes, my shoulder gave out, so I headed back in.

BAD MOVE!!! As soon as I got on land (having relinquished my kayak to Peg), the no see ums attacked. Swatting my face I ran for the tent and jumped in, but not before the 376 of them that were attatched to me snuck through the screen. I pulled on everything I had that would cover bare skin, but I had nothing for my face, which they were feasting on big time by now. SHIT! I looked around for ANYTHING-and, spotting our mesh toiletry bag, dumped everything out and threw it over my head, tying it around my neck with a sock.  And there I sat, for the next hour, trying to watch a stunningly beautiful sunset from the protective netting of a toilet bag.

HK and the others, of course, laughed their asses off at me when they returned–after the bugs had retreated for the night–(it’s ok, though, i refused HK any of the wine we had brought along for dinner.)

Next morning, we all stayed in the saftey of our tents until well after sunrise in order to save blood.  Upon returning to the pull-out point, 4 hours of hard paddling against the current and the wind, I promptly stepped into a huge but hidden nest of fire ants, which finished off any remaining blood that I had. After realizing why my feet and ankles were burning so profusely, I tried in vain to brush them off. I ran back into the water, but the little fukkers were relentless.  They weren’t letting go.  Here is a shot of the evidence-3 days later.

OK, so it wasn’t the ideal trip. It was, however, another adventure, the first of which I hope to indulge myself in in 2010!

HK and I went to Naples, Fl. to visit my parents for xmas. Something about 85-degree weather and palm trees just doesn’t support the holiday feeling, but being with family is important, so we made the 10-hour drive, pups in tow, for our “merry ho-ho”.

So while we were there, we figured we’d check-out the Everglades,around the Ten-Thousand Islands area. Not one for guided tours, we rented a tandem kayak (arthritis in my shoulders has been a huge issue this year).  We packed our little cooler and caught the shuttle for the put-in. Within 5 minutes, we spotted our first alligator. Laying on the banks about 15 feet from our ‘yak, it looked huge.  The next one was even bigger. They seemed to grow larger the further we paddled. I realized that I am not nearly as brave as I think I am. Every time HK would paddle closer, I wielded my weapon (paddle ) in the air, ready to ward off the prehistoric monsters.

We paddled through long “mangrove tunnels”, so narrow that it wasn’t possible to properly stroke, and we disconnnected our paddles into singles, like a regular canoe paddle. Then we ended up sort of pulling ourselves along by grabbing the roots of the trees overhead and pushing off. At one point, I was trying to push our ‘yak off of a tree, and the tip of my paddle got stuck between the roots, and the handle slipped out of my grip and landed squarely across HK’s face. I could tell by the sharp “slap” that it had made direct contact with bare flesh.

mangrove tunnel

mangrove tunnel

“What the Fu*k??????? ” I think that he initially thought that a giant python had come out of a tree for a strike. Realizing it was “only” my paddle, the sting was a little lessened, and we continued on through the swamps.  : 0

For a while, we just let the wind and current determine our course. We sat back, enjoyed a couple of cold ones, and watched life happen all around us.  As we drifted, we made a note of the many bird species we glimpsed, including  Great Blue Herons, Snowy Egrets, Ospreys and Anhingas.  It was invigorating and tranquil all at once.  After a couple of hours, it hit me.  I had to pee.  Bad.  Looking around, all I could imagine was losing my left ass-cheek to a hungry gator, or worse, so I held tight.   Hmmmm… maybe those “cold ones” weren’t the brightest idea.

As we paddled back upstream, the gators seemed a littl less threatening, the birds a little less threatened, and we agreed that this day in the Everglades was exactly what was needed to recoup and regroup after a hectic month of festivities.