Yesterday I was out in the Everglades backcountry on my annual pre-Thanksgiving anticipatory calorie reduction kayak trip. It was a beautiful day—sunny sky, and the wind hadn’t kicked up yet. I was gliding over the crystal clear, copper-tinged water with a smile on my face. But like every fishing/kayak trip this past week, something was gnawing at me. It didn’t feel right to be enjoying myself so much and soaking in the wonderful gifts of nature all around me when there seemed to be so much hurt, so much evil in the world around us. In France, in Mali, in Lebanon common folk like me were suffering terrible pain at the hands of misguided zealots from ISIS and other fanatics.
November 8, 2015
“Most people cannot see beyond the Tamiami Trail to the heart of this vast region. Many look but few see. Few see the harmony of nature’s creation; few understand the relation of terrain to animals, of animals to plant life, of plant life to water, and of water’s importance to the survival of man, beast, and plants.”– From an historical study of the Big Cypress Swamp
One of the real joys of living in Everglades City is being able to explore hidden wild creeks that flow slowly out of the Everglades, under the Tamiami Trail, then through the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge or the Big Cypress Preserve into the Gulf. The Big Cypress Preserve covers almost 600,000 acres. It is still home to the Seminole Indians who sought refuge here and were the only tribe never to surrender or be subdued. One of my favorite haunts in the preserve is called Halfway Creek, a twisty turny creek deep in the preserve. It gets its name because its mouth is located halfway between Everglades City and Chokoloskee Island. Even on weekends it is rare to see anyone here although less than an hour from the teeming masses in Miami.
There are no other Everglades in the world. They are, they have always been,
one of the unique regions of the earth; remote, never wholly known.
Nothing anywhere else is like them.
Marjorie Stoneman Douglas
That half inch of snow and 25 degree temperature at my cabin in Salida a week ago were sure signals to head south for the winter, so I loaded up my travel trailer and hit the road. Four long days later—Jack Kerouac where are you–I cruised into Everglades City which was basking in a bright sun and 90 degree temps. Nirvana!
After getting set up in camp (I’m still looking for a condo down here), I hit the water the next day. It was another fine sunny day with a nice breeze as I headed out in my kayak to explore the hundreds of islands that dot the waters just offshore in Everglades National Park. Being here is like cruising into another world. I love the high peaks, cool dry air, icy trout streams, and meadows rampant with wildflowers of Colorado. Here I cherish the mysterious allure of the islands and marshes, the incredible diversity and richness of nature—lush vegetation, flocks of birds, scads of fish, and critters like the gators and crocs, and the outrageously Kodachrome sunrises and sunsets that all the moisture in the air generates. Did I mention the Florida Cracker culture—quite an education for a Midwest Kansas boy. This area was the setting for Peter Matthiesen’s highly praised historical novel, Killing Mr. Watson, which is filled with memorable and semi-lawless set of rascals whose descendants still live here. More about that in a future blog.