Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Everglades Challenge report: Day 4

Entering the Wilderness Waterway
Novel beginning to this morning’s Everglades Challenge – we actually got to sleep in a few hours. The Ranger’s station didn’t open until 0800, so we were stuck until then. Dr. Kayak kindly drove me, SandyBottom, KneadingWater and the Lori half of NatureCalls the few miles up the road, and we were second in line when the station doors opened.

The night before – must have been the hot pizza - both Kneading Water and I agreed to accompany SandyBottom on her quest for the coveted alligator tooth. One of her reasons for using the Balogh sailing rig this year, was to pick up some extra time so she could fit in the one or two additional days and 30 additional miles to complete the Wilderness Waterway (WW). Hey, I could see myself with a coveted alligator tooth, and I was a day and a half ahead of my personal schedule – what was the point of beating all the boys and sitting on a beach for three days when I could be paddling! KneadingWater had already completed the WW a year or so earlier, so he was along for the ride.

Instead of leaving direct from the northern side of Chokoloskee, we carried the boats – fully laden with straps – across the road to the eastern side. This saved us an extra mile or so of paddling around the bottom of the island, and after watching ShallowMindedII spend nearly an hour dragging his boat out through the mud, we were so sure we’d made the right decision.

And feeling as though we were on spring break, off we went – about 10:00. Full of good plans to make the camp spots we had on our Everglades permit, we charged forth. Convinced I was finally going to see an alligator, I had my eyes peeled. And sure enough, paddling through the narrow channel of Alligator Channel, there s/he was in his/her full 5ft glory. Very cool.

I hadn’t quite expected what the WW was – huge ‘lakes’ connected by varying sizes of channels – and so it goes on. And before we knew it, lethargy had taken over. Well before any respectable WaterTriber would stop for the night (after a mere 25 or so miles of paddling) we weighed anchor at Lostmans Five, a ground site. We even had a hot meal before the sun went down.

Early to bed, male snoring did its bit, not counting the endless rustle of palm rats tearing circles around my tent and occasionally banging into it, as well as a raccoon who somehow managed to get hold of a glow stick, which left a pleasant aurora near the end of my tent for a good few hours. All-in-all, a restful night.

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