Sunday, October 24, 2010

My adventure in the Everglades, part I

Good morning, good folk. I'm writing to you with a sore-ass neck, and with a headache because when I walked into my kitchen this morning there were fucking alcoholic beverage bottles everywhere and the trash was full but not taken out because I live with people who don't care whether something is clean or dirty and if I didn't love my hair so much right now I'd pull that shit right out and drop it on them in their sleep in revenge.. (Pray for me.)

Sometime last week, the idea was proposed by a coworker that we should all head to the Everglades, and rent a canoe, or something along those lines. I immediately said yes, even though I was chilling at home with my family and not even trying to think about anything that would happen after my arrival back in South Florida.

Now, if you don't know anything about the Everglades, here's a little info for you:

The Everglades are subtropical wetlands in the southern portion of the U.S. state of Florida, comprising the southern half of a large watershed. The system begins near Orlando with the Kissimmee River, which discharges into the vast but shallow Lake Okeechobee. Water leaving the lake in the wet season forms a slow-moving river 60 miles (97 km) wide and over 100 miles (160 km) long, flowing southward across a limestone shelf to Florida Bay at the southern end of the state. The Everglades are shaped by water and fire, experiencing frequent flooding in the wet season and drought in the dry season. Writer Marjory Stoneman Douglas popularized the term "River of Grass" to describe the sawgrass marshes, part of a complex system of interdependent ecosystems that include cypress swamps, the estuarine mangrove forests of the Ten Thousand Islands, tropical hardwood hammocks, pine rockland, and the marine environment of Florida Bay. (http://www.wikipedia.org/)

I have wanted to go to the Everglades for a while now. It was a desire that had been on my radar for a while, along with things like going to Mallory Square in Key West and getting a puppy. Living in South Florida, I now don't have the excuse of distance preventing me from being able to go. So, without second thought, I agreed to the adventure.

I admittedly didn't know much about the Everglades. I knew about the forests of mangroves, and about all the water, but I formed my view of the Everglades based on what I'd imagined from stories like Their Eyes Were Watching God. I think in my head, my vision of the Everglades resembled a massive lake, with alligators close enough for you to touch (though you definitely wouldn't touch) and crooked trees covering most of the landscape.

When we arrived yesterday at the mouth of the national park, I wasn't very impressed. And that's probably because my expectations were formed based on my imagination (and because every square inch of the Everglades isn't necessarily similar). And you should know by now that my imagination is wild.
We drove the 38 miles from the mouth of the national park, to Flamingo, where Florida Bay is located, and where we would embark upon our canoeing adventure. As we drove through, we encountered plenty of sawgrass and birds, but no panthers or gators crawling out of the wilderness. We passed many different ponds and places named in the Native American fashion. (That's one of many things I love about Florida; most of the cities and lakes, etc. have Native American names.)

When we arrived in Flamingo, we were told that we had the option of taking our canoes down the canal, or that we could head out in the bay, and head toward one of the many keys, where there was a little beach located. It was decided that we would head out in the bay.

At this point, not even the least bit of hesitation or fear had kicked in, which is unnatural for me. This is the same girl who told you that she can't walk into the ocean without looking down, and the same girl who swam in the springs for approximately .2 seconds before swimming back because I was scared. (Don't judge me.)

In fact, I don't think it kicked in until a while later that I was getting ready to paddle a canoe (having had no experience) into the vast, open water of the Everglades (you know, where all those animals from my imagination actually do live, even if you don't see them all at once). But, I had nothing to worry about. Though it had been cloudy on our drive through the park, when we arrived in Flamingo, the sun was out and shining on the water, giving it that pretty look of diamonds bobbing in the tide.

The boat guy pulled the canoe onto the dock, and my coworker stepped in, and I held on for dear life as I stepped into the front of the canoe. When I heavily stepped into the boat, it hit me for the first time that I was sitting in a boat, on top of water, and that if it turned over, I was going into the water with it. Despite that second of panic, we were both in the canoe, and we started to paddle out into the bay.

This is where things got interesting.

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