“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