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Trip Report – Transported Base Camp (October)

“The Shutdown Couldn’t Shut Us Down”
The recent government shutdown did, in fact, shut down Everglades National Park, but it didn’t shut down Everglades Area Tours. We are positioned perfectly to enjoy another area of spectacular natural beauty: Florida’s 10,000 Islands.
Our first camping tour during the shutdown, was a group consisting of 28 High School students and their 5 chaperones, all traveling here from Scotland, England, Germany and as far away as Nepal. The group had a challenging trip to Camp Lulu Key created by the shutdown, paddling against a strong tide new moon tide. They were up to the challenge and spent a night on a beautiful barrier island facing the Gulf of Mexico.
While there, they learned about the ecology of the area, with the many oyster shoals and mangrove islands that help to create this unique estuary ecosystem. They took a low tide walk to learn about the creatures that live on the sand flats surrounding the island, and at the campfire, they also learned to enjoy an all-American treat, S’Mores!

This past weekend, I guided a trio of intrepid travelers from the other end of the “age spectrum”. Chuck, his wife Betsy, and Chuck’s sister Joanna, are all in their 70′s, but they don’t let age slow them down. We were transported to Camp Lulu Key in the “Yak Attack”, a dedicated kayak transport boat that Everglades Area Tours uses for base camp kayak camping trips. This allows us to add levels of comfort that we normally couldn’t enjoy when packing kayaks or canoes for multiple night camping trips.

For dinner on the first night, we enjoyed salads, Linguini with chicken Alfredo sauce, and garlic bread. The fare for the second evening was a Cajun boil with a variety of veggies, and keilbasa, spiced somewhat mild, so everyone could add their own heat if desired.
We paddled to nearby islands, seeing dolphins, sea turtles, and manatees, along with quite a variety of shore birds. Chuck was the expert on shore birds, checking in his bird ID books to verify the different species, like ruddy turnstones, sanderlings, and various pipers. Of course, there were herons – great blue, little blue, tricolor, night, and little greens, along with the egrets – great, and snowy, among others. It was a wonderful trip, with stories shared by everyone around the campfire. We all agreed, that you’re never too old for a new learning experience, or to enjoy a spectacular sunset, and you’re never too old to enjoy S’mores as well. We certainly did.
Speaking of ageless people, watch for my article in the December issue of Sea Kayaker Magazine: “The Xtreme Dream… The Role of Kayaks in Diana Nyad’s Swim From Cuba to Key West”. In the article I share the experience of being the Captain of Diana Nyad’s kayak team. Come meet me at the Calusa Blueway Paddling Festival on Saturday, November 2nd, where I will give a presentation on wilderness kayak camping in SW Florida.
Don “Woodkayaker” McCumber
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Everglades National Park Shutdown

Well our elected officials have done it again … bumping chests and doing nothing.  The shutdown has affected the tours that we conduct directly in Everglades National Park and Big Cypress. However, the Boat Assisted Kayak Eco Tours, the Mangrove Tunnel Kayak Eco Tours and the Swamp Walks continue. The Boat Assisted tours depart from Marco Island/Goodland.

Fox New 4 interviewed us about the shutdown ….

A message from Don “Woodkayaker” McCumber …

This has been an exciting first year for me, with Everglades Area Tours. I’ve shared some great nature experiences with our guests, and have been host to different groups, ranging from fishing buddies, to old childhood friends, and families. I want to thank everyone for welcoming me into your circles.



Three weeks ago, I had a very special adventure, serving as the kayak team Captain for Diana Nyad, as a part of her “Xtreme Dream”. She finally did it! She overcame the obstacles of sharks, jellyfish, weather, and sleep deprivation, in order to swim the 110 miles from Havana Cuba, to Key West, in just a bit under 53 hours. I look forward to sharing my stories with you all. I have just finished writing an article for Sea Kayaker Magazine, telling about the kayaker’s perspective of this epic swim. It just went to the final edit and layout for an upcoming issue. As soon as I know the publishing date, I will send you an e-mail letting you know when it will hit the stands, so you can read the article, if you’d like.



We’ve shared some pretty spectacular adventures together on our trips with Everglades Area Tours, and I look forward to many more stories that we can all tell around a campfire. We have seen dolphins, manatees, sea turtles and sharks, and one guest even picked up a baby diamondback terrapin (turtle) out of the water, just a few yards away from the Smallwood Store! (It was released unharmed, after capturing the little cutie in pictures) One guest was lucky enough to have a large smalltooth sawfish swim directly under his kayak, when he was in only about 1 ½ feet of water. We have seen the millions-year-old ritual of the shoreline spawning groups of horseshoe crabs. One family group had the exciting pleasure of being able to do a night time paddle in the brightly lit phosphorescent-rich water, with schools of mullet appearing like skyrockets trailing sparks in the water… absolutely spectacular. We have wandered the tidal flats, beachcombing to see the shoreline treasures, like the starfish, the lightning whelks, king’s crown, fighting and horse conchs, tulip shells, the pretty little rose tellins and the sunray clams. Amongst the mangroves, we have seen the mangrove snails, oysters, fiddler crabs, and a female mangrove crab that held its cluster of tiny eggs close to its body, under its tail. One beachcomber even found a small octopus, not much bigger than a silver dollar. A pair of majestic bald eagles flew over our camp and landed in a tree, no more than 100 yards away. Magical moments.



The fishing was not without its occasional difficult conditions of winds & tides, but we’ve had some pretty spectacular catches as well. There have been several trophy size spotted sea trout, a few “Gulf Coast Slams” (snook, redfish and trout), and I even had three witnesses watch as I had a short but exciting battle with a HUGE tarpon, while using my lightweight trout rig. The giant fish put on quite a show, with three tail-walking, head-shaking leaps, before it spat out my lure and left me to catch my breath… just thrilling. One family group decided to do some shark fishing from shore, and we caught some sharks from shore, right at camp! The largest was a 6 ½ foot-long lemon shark. All were safely released alive.



If you are able to join me for more adventures, I would love to be able to spend some time with you again. If you aren’t able to do that, please share our adventures with your friends, family, and co-workers. If you could take a moment (if you haven’t already done this), please visit Trip Advisor at, and give an honest evaluation of our experience together. In case you haven’t copied your pictures from my photo albums at Picasa, be sure to follow the link below. Right-click on any pictures that you would like to save to your computer. You can follow adventures with other guests, and my own personal kayaking trips by choosing to “Follow” my new uploads. What does a kayak guide do on his days off of work? I don’t know about other guides, but THIS ONE goes kayaking. The adventures just keep coming. I still have many of the videos that we have talked about, on You Tube, and I will be adding more soon… so again, feel free to follow my adventures there, under my You Tube name of Woodkayaker.



Thanks again, for sharing your time with me. I look forward to seeing you on a future trip!


Don “Woodkayaker” McCumber
Video from Diana Nyad, of me escorting her from Cuba to Florida:

My videos on You Tube:




Media Contact:

Capt. Charles Wright,, 239-695-3633




Chokoloskee, FL (August 29, 2013) – On Saturday morning, 64-year old long distance swimmer Diana Nyad will once again to try again to swim solo the 100 miles from Marina Hemingway in Havana, Cuba across the Florida Straits to Key West.  Everglades Area Tours, based in Chokoloskee and Marco Island, is supporting Nyad’s epic effort with the donation of a fully outfitted kayak, a satellite phone and two kayak guides as members of the

6-person kayak crew that is part of the 65-person Extreme Dream Team support crew. 

This is Diana’s fifth attempt to swim the Florida Straits without a shark cage. The first attempt was 35 years ago at the age of 25.  It was July of 2011 before she would try again. Recent attempts have been thwarted by severe stings from jellies. In the 1970’s Diane was heralded as the greatest long distance swimmer in the world and is an inductee in the Women’s Swimming Hall of Fame.

This swim attempt by Nyad came to the attention of Capt. Charles Wright, owner of Everglades Area Tours, through one of his kayak eco-adventure guides, Don McCumber, who has served on two of Nyad’s previous swim attempts.  “Don is fully committed to Diana and her Extreme Dream.  It was an easy decision to have Everglades Area Tours join Don to support Nyad’s incredible spirit of adventure, courage and athleticism in this historic effort,” said Wright. 

McCumber is the kayak team captain, serving on his third Nyad Cuba-to-Florida swim.  On the team for the first time is Everglades Area Tours guide Darlene Meadows. Rounding out the team is Brenda Anderson (kayak leader on the July 2011 attempt), Elke Thuerling (2012 kayak captain, 2011 mother ship captain), Buco Pantellis (on all four recent swims) and Mike Devlin, President of the Paradise Coast Paddlers Club based in Naples, Florida.

Nyad and the Extreme Dream Team are scheduled to leave Key West by boat for the trip to Cuba early Friday. Today at 2:07pm Nyad posted to her blog at, “Tomorrow I leave for Cuba for the Final Attempt. This is the end of the journey. And the journey has been magnificent.”  Nyad plans to deliver a press conference Friday, August 30 at 4:00pm in Cuba, where she will announce the final determination on the start of the swim based on weather and conditions. 

Everglades Area Tours provides a wide variety of recreational and educational paddling, motor boating and hiking experiences including motor boat-assisted kayak expeditions into the Wilderness Waterway portion of Everglades National Park and the Ten Thousand Islands region around Marco Island.  Everglades Area Tours is recognized as a sustainable tour provider for its actions on tours and in the community and is certified as a Silver Level Eco Tour Operator by the Florida Society for Ethical Ecotourism.  For more information visit or

Follow Diana Nyad’s progress on Twitter @DianaNyad and on Facebook, by using the hashtags #XtremeDream and #CubaToFlorida.


10th Annual Everglades Area Tours Paddle-In

The date is set …February 22, 2014. Mark your calendars.

This year’s event is scheduled for Saturday, February 22, 2014 and we are looking forward to another great day. The event will be the same informal format as in the past … very casual. It is a social event to bring together paddling folks for a day of family-oriented fun. It is a great opportunity to meet new friends who enjoy the paddling the area, learn a bit of the colorful local history and experience a wonderful part of Florida.

There is no cost for the event. However, we always try to raise money for a worthy non-profit. The Florida Society for Ethical Eco Tourism is the beneficiary for this year’s event! Please visit their website, become a member and signup for their newsletter.

Details will be available soon, so please stay in touch!


Raptor Migration

Every September, there is a large migration of raptors that passes over this area and the Keys. Thunderstorms will cause them “drop out” and hang around in viewing range.

Last year 651 Peregrine Falcons were counted in just one day in Marathon.  This past week, we were on the Everglades National Park Birding and Wildlife Expediton, near the mouth of the East River, in Fakahatchee Bay.  There were several hundred Swallow Tailed Kites who gathered together and then simultaneously rode a large thermal to altitude where the all turned south … and were gone. Spectacular to witness.

See you next season!007