Exploring the Everglades
USA, 2017-04-03 12:00 by Laerke

First order of the day was getting thicker sleeping bags! Luckily they had two left at the canoe rental place. Now we were really heading off on our canoe adventure, we got all our gear, food and water for the next couple of days loaded up in the canoe and off we went towards Jewel Key.

We were going to hit the islands off the coast, so we were moving away from the mangroves and out onto open water. We arrived at Jewel Key after having followed a dolphin almost all the way. So much fun paddling alongside such an amazing animal. Jewel was pretty and we had the island all to ourselves. At sunset we again saw dolphins frolicking in the waters offshore, what a treat. We cooked up a lovely dinner, and then quickly fell asleep in our new, thick sleeping bags. The island was all quiet save for the rustling of a racoon checking out our camp.  

We woke well rested after about 13 hours of sleep! This nights campsite was on Rabbit Key, the direct route there was only over open water so we decided to detour a little swing by a couple of small islands. Amongst other Turtle Key, which turned out to be a really pretty little island. With white sand and clear water.

Back in the canoe we again spotted dolphins, and we paddled like mad men to get nearer. They are amazingly fast and agile swimmers, we must seem impossibly clumsy to them in our big metal canoe. But we managed to get a bit closer and saw 3-4 dolphins, including a mother with a calf. Gorgeous animals!  

When we got to Rabbit Key we saw that this time we were sharing an island with a couple of other campers. We said HI, and then found a good spot for our tent down the other end of the islands, so it still felt nice and secluded. We again heard racoons rustling about at night.

Our camp at Rabbit Key

The next morning we packed up and swung by Turtle Key again to enjoy the beach there. And again we saw dolphins. Spotting dolphins daily is apparently a thing around here ?? We hung around on Turtle Key until after lunch to allow for the tide to change so the current would be flowing our direction. Tonight’s camp was to be on a chickee at Crooked Creek, so now we were leaving the islands behind and heading back into the mangrove.

This was the most paddle-intensive day and we did do a lot of paddling, past mangrove, and mangrove and then some more mangrove. At last we got to Crooked Creek and were expecting to see our chickee, but alas we got all the way to the end of Crooked Creek without finding it!

There is no land to climb onto around here, just mangrove so we had to find the chickee, which is a wooden platform build on the water. We studied the map, consulted the compass and turned on our phone to check GPS coordinates. And then we winged it a bit and just paddled around the area looking.

It had started to get quite windy, and after some search paddling with the current the GPS told us we were going in the wrong direction. We now had to paddle again the current with the wind also pushing us the wrong way. The mood in the canoe was not the best, but we pressed on and paddled all that we could. We spent the better part of an hour paddling around in the wind before we finally found the chickee. Hallelujah!

The wind was fierce now and the chickee was quite exposed and was located in what effectively became a wind tunnel between two long mangroves. We managed to get the tent up, and we tied it down real tight, and stuffed all our heaviest things inside to keep it from blowing away. We watched the sunset in our sleeping bags, and at night we heard something large splashing around under the chickee, it scared up a bird from the mangrove that flew off with a loud shriek. Maybe an alligator?

The next morning on the chickee was gorgeous. The morning light was golden and dancing off the velvety soft, calm water. The wind had completely died down, and it was a real pleasure to paddle along in the beautiful surroundings.

We were going back through the Turner River Loop, and again we were transported to a different world inside the mangrove forest. The mosquitos were buzzing, we startled a couple of Ibis birds as we slowly encroached on their domain, and we did our very best to avoid the low hanging spiderwebs.

Arriving back at the Ranger Station we felt that this little canoe adventure just might end up being the highlight of our US trip. We’ve had some great days in the Everglades, and we feel like we got a lot out of our time there, and that we got to see the many different faces of this ecosystem. Who knows, we might just come back one day for more.