Wake to a new day with no idea where I will end up...go North old man. The tide is very low so I decide to take a walk while waiting on the planetary alignment to add some liquid real estate. A boat wrecked engine block lies just off of the beach which serves as a level indicator, at this moment it is high and dry. I'm off for a hike with no-see-um's in pursuit. The Easterly wind is holding, I am on the lee side of the island and the trees form a nice eddy for the flying critters to fly free. I am so fortunate to be loved by biting insects. Everywhere the bugs go for me first! 100% DEET has a 50% design flaw that I am feeling.
A short distance into the beachcombing my mind begins to overlay beach wonders with bacon and eggs so I cruise back to the camp posthaste. It is a good time to do some cooking in the slack time between midges and biting flies. There really is no slack time, just a change of the flying critters dentures. Why these bloodsucking creatures were ever created is beyond me, this is the part of the Ecosystem I wish to be excluded. OK, more 100% DEET to make up for the 50% defect... Yum-yum...do I love bacon and eggs.
With the tummy satisfied I'm back on the Hog Key mini expedition. There are a lot of plants and other things to trip on beyond the high water line, you don't want to be falling into one of these Spanish Bayonet's.
I don't yet know the name of these vines but they have colorful flowers. It is incredible how anything can grow in this salty environment of mostly ground up shells. But grow they do. Even mangroves need a little soil nutrients to take root. These beach plants must grow like hydroponics.
Here is another little item to keep your bare feet off of - saltwater sandspurs - ouch! Since Harney River Chickee I don't go anywhere outside the tent without long pants, long sleeve shirt, hat, shoes, socks and sometimes gloves and headnet. You never know what will get you in the Everglades. Glad the heat is still tolerable now that I'm modeling longware. February or March must be about the best time for an adventure here. I'm not complaining but it is starting to heat up a bit.
Caterpillar having breakfast this morning, hope it likes the plant half as much as I like my bacon and eggs. Just another small link in a complex ecosystem. Caterpillar eats plant, plant grows flower, caterpillar metamorphosis into butterfly, butterfly eats flower nectar and pollinates plants.
Don't know the name of these plants but there are a few around. They look like some sort of plum tree. I would be afraid to eat them. Flora is an area I need to study much more. There are so many interactions between plant and animal in these little Ecosystems, I must learn more. I bought a book that came during this trip I think will be excellent for me, 'Priceless Florida" I started into it today and love it - sort of a mixture of Florida science text with fantastic photos and illustrations, check it out on the web.
The Beach Pea is NOT edible...from what I understand the Beach Pea is very nutritious but only in very small amounts, much quantity and they can cause 'lathyrism', not a good thing!
I think this is a sandpiper, not sure which one. These little fellows sure have a strange walk, constantly bobbing their tail up and down.
This Wolf spider came by to check out the solar panel setup I had hanging on a tree stump. They are fast, strong, and can bite but are not considered harmfull. Great camouflage, if it had not moved I would not have noticed it.
I always run into beach trash and I am happy to say the Everglades is much cleaner then most other more populated areas. This cooking pot must have been left by previous campers, can't imagine it could have floated here, but it was far from the camping area? Anyway it could be reused so I picked it up. Trying to do my small part in keeping this Planet clean, you can too! Just think how much beach junk a big power boat could haul...every little bit helps.
The pot had it's own little micro ecosystem living inside. Half full of water and shells I noticed little critters moving around. I think these are Krill but need more research. Here I cropped the photo to 100% in the hopes it can be identified. Dumped the little critters in the surf and used the pot to collect shells on the way back to camp.
I had seen some leather like hide partially in the sand about 10' away from this bone but could not make out what it could have been. It evidently had been dead for some time as the bones were bleached white from the sun. I noticed another smaller section of this same type bone over by the Hog Key sign someone must have placed there. I since found it on the Internet and it is a Manatee backbone. Looks to be about 1/3rd up from the tail. It was the only piece with the rib like appendages on it.
Well the tide is moving up fairly well so time to get moving. Packing the canoe with all this stuff takes a long time. This is the first beach loading site and I am concerned that a large wave might come along and swamp the boat before I can get the covers laced up. So I put Robinson Calusa partially in the water at a steep enough angle that I should be able to drag it the rest of the way in. Sure enough this worked OK but would you look at all of that stuff! Like I said earlier, I won't use half of it and I can't leave it, it's like carrying around a huge anchor for no good reason. I get over it...pack and ship.
Ready to blast off from Hog Key - FYI, Hog Key is really not an Island, it is connected to the mainland. Ready to head North...my hand is facing South
Rabbit Key, the sun is getting low, time to stop for the day. This was not on my NPS permitted campsite schedule but it is an Island and has plenty of camping spots on two sides. I do plan on catching up with my permited schedule. Approaching I notice a tent setup, this will be my first contact with Homo sapiens in five days. I tack to windward on the lee side of the island and setup camp fast.
There are good size rocks and oysters here so I decide to use the beach wheels. OH NO! a crack in the hull...I notice a 6" crack all the way through and a cracked support beam right where I sit. It's too late to work on it now but tomorrow it will be priority number uno. I quickly gather fire wood and prepare for raccoons, tracks are visible everywhere.
The end of another nice day but the cracked hull has me preoccupied. Each night I have turned my cell phone on just for the heck of it. It does not work in Flamingo, AT&T/Verizon only I'm told, I have Nextel. To my surprise I get service...I'm about 5 or so miles from Chokoloskee and 8 miles from Everglades City. Called my wife Pam and catch her up on the previous 5 days, get the fire going and sit with a little Merlot. Things will work out, I tell myself...
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