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.

 

Kayaking the Everglades, part 1

As everyone knows, the best part of the holiday season is finding ways to avoid your family.  Going to kayak in the Everglades over Christmas is an excellent way to avoid your family. They can’t call to complain you aren’t home because there’s no way to reach you. Awesome.  Since Troy is always trying to kill me, it’s important to clarify that this trip was my idea. I had envisioned quietly gliding through still waters in this this gothic, romantic moss-draped swamp a la Interview with the Vampire. Not so much.

Moss draped trees are not what you get in the Everglades

 

This is what you get in the Everglades:

Troy took this picture of me over his shoulder. His life expectancy immediately dropped by many years.

The water is not very deep and, in most places, the water we trekked through was only two to three feet deep.  Of course, since I am graceless and flunked my deportment class in charm school as a young child, I took a header into the swamp leaving me wet and smelling like a wookie. I have always longed to be an impecccably dressed and composed outdoorswoman like Karen Blixen who can trek,  camp and cook a gourmet meal on the fire while mingling with the natives, but it’s just not in the cards for someone like me.  The day someone exclaims “that woman is just amazing on the trail” is the day you know the aliens have arrived and started body snatching. Troy had to come rescue me which was extra annoying. Troy claims he is invincible in the woods, and points out he never flipped over. Seriously, after 12 years, I can’t believe I haven’t stabbed him in his sleep.

Troy, being very insufferable

I had my chance to feed him to the local wildlife, but they were very uncooperative:

This Mama alligator with babies on her back was too busy to attack Troy.

 All rivers eventually end in the bay and here’s your moment of zen for this very chilly January day.

Trekking through the Everglades: flora and fauna

The two single most glorious words in the English language that pertain to outdoor activites for me are the words “sea level”. (Side note: the best single word is “spa”). Troy typically takes me hiking in mountains where I wheeze at high altitude or fry in the deserts. This time, we decided to visit the Everglades. I had never been to Miami or Southern Florida and my vision of the Everglades was derived from that episode of Miami Vice where Crockett and Tubbs travel to the Everglades to grab some guy who did not want to give testimony in a trial. Since Miami Vice also served as the basis for my vision of what a hooker looked like until I moved to an area that had actual hookers, I should have known that Miami Vice was not precisely concerned with accurate depictions.

Crockett and Tubbs reenact Deliverance in the swamp

What the Everglades actually looks like is an endless sea of grass with some islands of trees here and there:

The world's biggest sea of grass

I had a list of animals I planned to see while in the Everglades:

1. Bear

2. Panther

3. Python

4. Alligator

5. Crocodiles

6. Manatees

7. Bigfoot

I did not get to see a bear. I did get to see bear shit, thus answering the question “Do bears shit in the wood?” Clearly, they do:

Definitive proof for the doubters

 I also did not get to see a panther (I did see panther tracks), a python or Bigfoot. I was especially hoping to see a python and Bigfoot fighting in a swamp and I was on the lookout. Bigfoot has a long documented history in Florida so I was pretty sure I’d get at least a glimpse of a hairy man-beast. Alas, the only hairy man-beast candidate I saw was running an airboat tour.

Troy stares at me like I am an alien when I ask him questions like "If a panther and a bear had a knife fight, who would win?"

I did get to see crocodiles and a lot of alligators. I am pretty sure Troy planned to feed me to them, but they seemed pretty placid and not all that interested in us.

Allligator at Big Cypress not being interested in eating Troy