Thursday, April 2, 2009

Everglades Challenge race report: Day 4

Day 4: Goodland Bridge to Darwin’s Place, Everglades’ Wilderness Waterway

The tide was out when we awoke, and it was post-dawn. Ah, the pressures of being a racer. And the mud was… very, very muddy.

This is the second time I’ve paddled via the Marco River, but the first time in daylight—from last year’s absolutely moonless black-filled nights, it was a real pleasure enjoying the views as we opened out into the Ten Thousand Islands of the Everglades. Did I mention, against the tide and wind…?

With SandyBottom paddling her own rhythm behind us, KneadingWater and I headed below Panther Key, trying to find some protection from the wind. From meandering through and around Panther Key’s narrow cut, adding an extra mile or so to our course, we diverted back on to our original course to find the wind had pretty much died. Nipping in between Stop Keys, we caught the last hour or so
of an incoming tide up Indian Key Pass, making excellent time direct to the Everglades’ Rangers Office, around 1430 hours, to collect our permits for the Wilderness Waterway—oh yes, we were set on achieving another alligator’s tooth for our collections! For an additional meandering but highly scenic 30 or more miles (48km).

Photo: At the Everglades Rangers Station

First filling waterbladders and rinsing hair, we wandered around to the rangers’ office and bought permits for Darwin’s Place for tonight’s resting place—about a 20-mile paddle away—and with our eyes bigger than our energy, Joe River Chickee for the following night—near enough to Flamingo’s CP3 probably not to worry—but only as every chickee or groundsite inbetween more manageable in a long day was fully booked.

And lo-and-behold, SB’s standing beside us—hand proffered requesting ice-cream money—happy to join us at each evening’s camp site.

Sheltered from the wind to reach Chokoloskee’s CP3, instead of cutting acro
ss the choppy bay, we nipped behind the causeway bridge just around from the Ranger’s Station, and paddled down to the checkpoint, smartly coming up the Wilderness Waterway side, so as not to have to lift our boats over the road. Checking in at 1640, we were off. 174 miles (280km) checked off.

For an excellent chart of the Wilderness Waterway, click here to follow our route.

Up Taylor’s Creek this time, for something new, reuniting with the Waterway soon later atop Lopez River.

A magical night, near full moon beaming down over us, making reading a chart fairly easy. With not a hint of a breeze, dead calm water reflected everything so purely. A night to remember.

We made Darwin’s Place near 2130, to find Trader and TroutHeart snoring contently yet illegally. And SB, after chatting with friends at CP3, turned up a few hours later, with us heads down.

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