South Florida Trip January 2018

We were planning to take a three day trip in the Everglades last week, but the weather did not cooperate, very windy with three to five foot seas and eight foot waves possible! No thanks… We decided to car camp, taking day trips to the Turner River and three state parks we had not been to. [Gallery]

We got a few miles down the Turner through very low mangrove tunnels. We stopped where a canal historically merged with the river. On the way back we encountered an eight to ten foot alligator sunning himself.

We tented at Collier-Seminole State Park with temps down to the low 40s. We spent a few hours on the scenic drive through Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve. [Panorama]

We then visited Myakka River State Park on our way home. They have several nice nature walks including this eighty foot tower and canopy walk.

There were lots of birds including Bald Eagles, Black Stilts and these Roseate Spoonbills feeding in a small stream.

They look like vacuum cleaners in this video.

Back in St. Pete we went to see a kite flying competition.

Everglades (Sail) Kayak Trip 2017

Everglades time again! This year I went for five days/four nights with my sister Diana Pray from LA. We did a lazy double figure eight route around northeastern Whitewater Bay and the Gulf. [Gallery] With the exception of a few distant motorboats we were completely alone for four days, quite remarkable!


The wind was southerly the entire trip, so the first day we started out sailing almost all the way to the Roberts River Chickee.


I brought along a 360° panoramic camera and took some impressive shots! Here we are on our own little planet.


The next day we took The Cut-Off over to the North River and ate lunch on the Watson River Chickee. Then we got lost in The Labyrinth on our way to the Shark River.

Surprisingly we ended up on what I call “Dad’s Creek” where my father and I dumped the canoe in 2005. This set us up for a very pleasant twilight excursion up stream to the Shark River Chickee.

The next day the water was like glass as we headed into one of the northern channels of the Shark River to set up our boomerang out to the Gulf of Mexico. [The river reverses flow twice a day, down with the outgoing tide and up with the high tide. So if you time it right you can ride the current both ways! I call the upstream flow the “Everglades Escalator!“]

This trip was remarkable for how many sea creatures we saw! We watched dolphins feeding/cavorting at least ten times, including their habit of laying on their side in the shallows and splashing fish onto the shore.

We saw a Manatee come up for air and then swim under us in the Labyrinth. But the highlight was returning up the Shark River where we were in the middle of a group of Sea Turtles (maybe ten!) who would popup randomly for air and be gone in a second. [It reminded me of whack-a-mole!] One actually ran into Diana’s kayak!! The heads were huge so I think the were Loggerheads.

We got back to the Watson River Chickee at dusk, promptly ate and went to bed. The next morning we were greeted by dolphins feeding a few feet away!

The next day was a leisurely float down the eastern side of Whitewater Bay.

We got to the Lane Bay Chickee well before dark and had some time to relax and swim. The breeze finally kept the bugs off <smile>.


The next day we worked our way down through the maze of Hells Bay.

Back on Whitewater Bay we encountered a 10-15 mph headwind. It was a bit of a slog but so much better than a canoe!

A quick return trip across Coot Bay finished our most excellent adventure!

Everglades Sail Kayak Trip 2016

This was my twentieth trip (!) to the Everglades and as always it was eventful. I was accompanied by my Brother Mark from Sacramento. We headed out on a beautiful day but storm warnings were on the horizon. [Gallery]


This map shows our planned four night route and what actually happened! The third day it rained several inches and behind the front came 40mph winds! We made the best of it and sheltered in place at Watson Place on our last night.


I also pieced together a seven minute video with clips from both our cameras. [Note there is mild profanity.]



The first day was a lazy sail out to Rabbit Key where we camped on the point under arching mangroves. There were signs everywhere of the recent super high tide that flooded parts of Everglades City. On the plus side, the campsite and beaches had been “enriched”.


We took a walk around the island and enjoyed the evening breeze on our first night. [click image for large panorama]



The second day we sailed around the outside of Pavilion Key (a place I’d never been). By the time we got there the wind had risen to 20mph out of the southeast and became a direct headwind, so we landed, took down the sails and ate lunch. We then peddled the six miles or so across Chatham Bend to Mormon Key. Since the wind was still adverse and no one was there we decided to stay. We had another pleasant evening and watched a band of Brown Pelicans circling and diving [see video].


The next day started out grey as we headed up the Chatham River with the incoming tide. We stopped at the Watson Place for the requisite photo by the sugar cane caldron and met three fishermen who said they’d be staying there. [Notice how overgrown it is!]


Just before we got to Sweetwater Chickee the heavens let loose a deluge. Everything was wet, Wet, WET!! Fortunately it was still reasonably warm.


This is the first time in twenty trips I’ve had to make camp during a storm. We tied the tent down before we put it up and added extra lines to keep the poles from bending too far. One useful insight, we put the ground cloth (which was mostly dry) on the inside so we had a dry floor to spread out our stuff. Once we were inside laying on our pads it was quite comfortable.


By evening the storm had passed and we enjoyed a nice moonrise.

In the morning the wind had shifted to the north and intensified. As we were preparing to leave we had a visitor, an Immature Brown Pelican


We were too busy to take any pictures, but the short story is we turned back after a quarter mile on the first big bay. It was serious wind and our boats were being high-centered and turned by every other wave. (With the ends out of the water the rudder stops working!) We retreated back down the Chatham to shelter at Watson Place. It turned out the three fishermen were just the advanced guard of a group of nine friends over from Jupiter for their annual getaway. Nice guys! They gave us beer and leftover BBQ pork. We had another Brown Pelican visit us, this time a gorgeous mature adult [see video]. [click image for large panorama]


The next day was long but uneventful. The wind had died back to something manageable and we crossed the big bays without incident. My brother was a bit anxious to be off the water so we returned by the Turner River and Chokoloskee Canal. I was reminded of why I avoid that route, two tour boats almost ran us over! Ironic that the most dangerous part of this trip turned out to be the last two miles!!