Nine Mile Pond: vultures and cat vomit

Day 1 in Everglades National Park.

We decided to camp in Flamingo which is a campground at the very southern tip of Florida in Everglades National Park. Any further South and you are swimming to get to Key West. As a veteran of many national parks, I can say that Everglades National Park is the red-headed step child of the park system if the visitor’s center is anything to go by. As an actual red-headed step child, I have street cred to make these statements.

Sadly, this crime against architecture survived Hurricane Wilma

On a totally unrelated side note, should you find yourself at Flamingo and in need of something to eat, do NOT dine at the Buttonwood Cafe in the visitor’s center unless you like terrible food served at a glacially-slow pace at astronomical prices. Instead, go to the marina shop and gorge on overpriced frozen candy bars.  Nothing is more delicious or nutritious than a frozen Snickers washed down with a diet Red Bull for breakfast. I do so hope to grace the cover of a cereal box someday, but I think I should lobby Red Bull to make room for my face on their can:

I think this has serious marketing potential if Red Bull is trying to market to 40 somethings who are constantly sleep-deprived in semi-dangerous situations.

We decided to kayak Nine Mile Pond, which is actually not nine miles long or a pond, but more like just shy of six miles of trail through a series of ponds, mangroves and open sawgrass prairies. The parking area is populated by vultures. These vultures want to destroy your car. Seriously. They are addicted to rubber and will strip your car in no time if you don’t take precautions. I tried to take a picture of a Japanese tourist taking a picture of a car being attacked by vultures, but Troy wouldn’t let me. Probably because he had deduced the vultures wanted to eat that car and not ours.  Even so, we diligently wrapped windshield wipers and kayak cradles in towels to keep the damned vultures at bay.

They are waiting for you to leave so they can strip your car. It's nature's version of Camden NJ.

Everyone (not native to Southern Florida) has an idea of what they think the Everglades looks like.  The terrain varies based on elevation, but at the farthest southern portions, you can expect a lot of wet sawgrass for miles and mangrove stands.

The start (and end) to Nine Mile Pond

We got into the water and headed across the first pond to the mangroves.  The trail is marked by numbered PVC pipes which is a good thing because pretty much everything looks exactly the same.  This area has crocs and alligators, although we saw neither this time.

Side by side in Nine Mile Pond

The middle portion of the trail is pretty much mangrove islands and sawgrass areas where the alligators and crocodiles like to lounge.  Alas, no reptiles to speak of.

Sawgrass on the left, mangroves to the right.

The portion of the trail furthest from the starting point is riddled with some type of reed that made the paddling exceedingly tedious. Each stroke would bring up rotted wet cattails to slap you in the face.  The water here is no more than one foot deep.

Rotting cattail things in the water

Close up, they greatly resemble cat vomit. It is noteworthy that I managed to get three of these things down the front of my shirt while paddling. Cat vomit in the cleavage.

Attractive, isn't it?

Troy realized after we made the turn back that we managed to miss poles 60-79. If it was more of this, I can’t say I’m too sorry. Paddling through stagnant cat vomit loses its charm rapidly when you are already expending energy fighting the wind and shallow water.

If you are in Everglades National Park, the Nine Mile Pond trail falls on the must-do list.  Overall, Troy and I managed to do it with a minimum of strife, no capsizing and it was a nice paddle.  Personal pain rating: 5 out of 10, for cat vomit in the cleavage and a blister on the right hand.

Haiku:

Sawgrass and mangroves

Wind sings across the water

Cat vomit in hair

 

 

 

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Captain Nemo

I capsized today in the swamp. Mega embarrassing.  I got stuck on deadfall and tried to push out of it and went over. Jesus. I know they say reptiles never attack lawyers out of professional courtesy, but I was very motivated to get out of the water as there were alligators 20 feet back.  When you have only 5 feet of space available and you are standing in 5 feet of cold, smelly water, getting the water out of your kayak and you back into it is a challenge, particularly when your sandals are being sucked off your feet by swamp mud.

Pretty and evil.

I smelled like a wookie all day. My skin is stained brown from all the tannin in the water. Perhaps someone will mistake it for a tan. Tomorrow, no mangroves. All sawgrass and open water. Thank God. Pain rating for the day: 8 out of 10. Definitely time for drugs that end in the letters “-cet”.

Haiku of the day:

Brown, swampy water

Smells like ass and tastes much worse

Mangroves are evil

 

Big Cypress: Kayaking in the Wind and Battling with Spiders

People use the word “hate” too casually. Some people hate raisins. Some people hate Republicans. I hate kayaking against a strong wind.  I mean, I really really hate wind in the same way I hate people who drive 15 miles below the speed limit in the left lane.   It is windy in southern Florida today. Strong east winds blowing at a steady 25 mph. We almost bagged the day, but we decided to kayak Halfway Creek in Big Cypress today. The logic was that it was (allegedly) protected from the wind and that it would make paddling tolerable. Big fucking mistake as it turned out.

Since my existence as an actual person has recently been questioned, I present the following picture. Be warned that the glare off my legs may blind you.

Yes, my legs ARE as white as my shirt.

Halfway Creek is a nice paddle with manatees in the creek and a lot of lakes and mangrove tunnels in between. The total mileage is around 8+ miles from start to finish. I knew on the way out it was going to suck on the way back in. The wind was to our back and we were paddling with the tide.  It was too easy. 2 miles in and we hit the mangrove tunnels. Mangrove tunnels are kind of awesome.

A mangrove tunnel on Halfway Creek

What we didn’t count on were the spiders. Millions and millions of spiders. They build webs across the mangrove tunnels to capture bugs. Also kayakers.

Millions of the bastards everywhere

I ducked, I tried to avoid them, and still, spiders in my hair and my cleavage, spiders on the kayak and in the kayak. I fucking hate spiders. Finally, one of them bit Troy, leaving a welt. I doubted they were poisonous, but we turned back anyway. You can never tell when you are going to have an allergic reaction to something and 4 miles back in a swamp is not the place to discover you are going into shock.  Unless you are trying to kill your spouse.  I am waiting to see if Troy develops any awesome superpowers.

This meant we had to turn around and paddle into the wind. The wind sucks. Epicly. By the time we made it back to the launch, I was crippled.  3+ miles against the tide and a strong 25 mph wind. Tomorrow should be interesting since I can’t lift my arms to even put on a bra.  I will say that the sunset was beautiful, but most anything is when you take percocet.

Fashion crisis: drown or look bad

Under the best of circumstances, clothing for active women with a substantial chest is difficult to find.  Flat-chested nymphs who wander the earth with six-pack abs doing yoga and prancing about in tiny sports bras can officially kiss my ass.  Those of us who tend more to the DD size range understand the trauma of shopping for sportswear and yes, tiny flat-chested women, we do hate you.

I kayak. Kayaking in certain conditions requires that anyone with a brain wear a lifejacket.

This is what the Coast Guard says I should wear.

Now let’s talk about Exhibit A, my boobs:

Seriously? This is supposed to pass as functional for a kayaker?

Sweet Jesus on a breadstick. It looks like I have taped a red backpack to my tits. I am not amused.

Thanks Lifejacket manufacturer. Now I can look like a giant slut because my boobs are squeezed upward by the foam packed into the jacket and strapped tightly to my ribs.

I won’t drown, but I look like the fucking stay-puft marshallow man in red.

Goodbye Tennessee, hello Florida

It’s that time of year. The time of year when I ditch my relatives at Christmas and head with Troy to Florida to kayak the warm swamps, bays and rivers of southern Florida. We have new kayaks and will be heading out a week from today for a two-week stint.

Cades Cove in winter: lovely, but cold. Also, you can hear the strains of Deliverance.

Last year, Troy tried to feed me to the alligators in his quest to kill me:

The rare and elusive Jean in a mangrove tunnel in the Everglades

This year, we’ll be doing some open ocean kayaking. Most likely he’ll feed me to the sharks. In case he finally succeeds, it was nice knowing you all.

It's waiting for me. Or maybe just all the old people. It is Florida.

 

Athletic apparel catalog models must die

It’s that time of year when Troy and I start planning the vacations we will take. On the agenda this year, kayaking in Congaree National Park  in South Carolina, possibly a quick trip to kayak in the 10,000 Islands in late March, a trip to Yosemite in June for a week to hike (and die) and then Zion National Park in September where I am determined to hike the Subway before I keel over and hang up my hiking shoes. I am trying to talk Troy into kayaking the Na Pali coast in Kauai in July but Troy is not jazzed about it. With all these impending trips, it’s time to start ordering outdoor clothes for the season.

If you ever want to feel totally inadequate, a quick scan through the Athleta catalog should do it. Exhibit A:

Seriously? Who is this chick and why is she trying to scratch the back of her head with the sole of her foot?

Let’s look at this. This woman has an ass you could bounce a quarter off of. I hate her and I don’t even know her. She’s probably really sweet. I tried this pose tonight and all I got for my trouble is a badly pulled hamstring and a bruise from where I fell over and hit the dining table. Fortunately, Troy had already gone to bed when I tried this.

Sure, she can do this, but if she had a 40DD chest, it would add a little challenge.

This woman is perky even upside down. That’s unfair to the rest of us. Someone needs to hold her hostage and force-feed her twinkies. I started to try this one but was greeted by four very curious dogs who are not helpful yoga partners. I gave up and poured a martini. Fuck it. I’m wearing a rash guard and khaki shorts this year.