You rarely appreciate how good you have it until your creature comforts disappear. To a degree, that’s how I now feel as I have returned from a 9-day kayak trip to the Everglades in Florida where I paddled from Flamingo to Everglades City. This is one of those “bucket list” kind of things that people of my age attempt. We paddled over 100 miles in a wide range of conditions. We were in narrow canals, broad bays that roared with wind-driven waves and an open ocean that was as flat as glass. On this journey we say all type of fowl, mammal, fish and bug life as well as the horticultural marvel of the Everglades, the river of grass.
We slept on beaches, ground sites and platforms that sometimes precariously balanced themselves on mud flats above the water and alligators. While we were far from civilization it was never too far off as the lights of Homestead and Miami were our evening night light. Still, the stars in the southern and western skies blazed brightly every night undimmed by the intruding light pollution.
I chose to take this trip this time of year as it is the dry season in southern Florida, which is supposed to minimize the insect population. With a wet winter, that was not the case so we were visited many an evening by winged ambassadors of the outdoors. Only when it was unseasonably cold, were we unbothered by the bugs.
Each day, if we saw more than half a dozen people, it was a lot. Instead we intruded upon the large numbers of native and wintering residents of such wide-spread places as Alligator Creek, Lostmans River, Highland Beach, Whitewater Bay and Mormon Key. Ironically the vegetation was remarkably consistent: red, black and white mangroves with palm, buttonwood and cyprus trees lightly mixed in. In the beginning of the trip, renegade bromeliads took up positions in the crevices of trees as would more traditional epiphytes.
We spent 9 days away from civilization, though the last two represented unwelcome compromises as power boaters swarmed around us in our approach to Everglades City. I have enjoyed hot showers, firm beds and clothing that does not reek of homelessness (or camping.) I have missed the quiet and the reliance on myself to get between two points with nothing but a paddle in my hand. I’m still considering which condition I find superior.