Walked down to the boat ramp to check out Robinson Calusa and all was well from a night alone. The Chokoloskee Island Park boat ramp was a busy place this morning so I zipped back to the overnight pad and hurriedly fried some bacon and eggs. It was a short stay and I was not actually in the place very long but it had to be done. I really did not want to come back to civilization for the entire adventure but thought I may need to resupply my fresh water here. My water supply was holding out much better then expected but the repair was necessary for some peace of mind. I just don't see duct tape, rocks and shells getting along together for very long. The temp repair is complete and I'm anxious to get back out in the Everglades Wilderness so I launch between power boats and load in a hurry.
Great, no leaks, let's blow this joint! I unfurl the sail in a gentle morning breeze and drift away. It is difficult to navigate this area if you do not have local knowledge. I asked about a shortcut through the mangrove islands to the Gulf heading South. The Park marina manager had made a hand drawing of a shortcut to Rabbit Key and the Gulf so off I go. The hand draw short cut map was not straight forward but it did get me in the general direction and I knew then that it was possible. Oyster beds abound here and I did not want a return visit the very same day so I took it easy. It was also low tide and a strong current was ebbing (going out).
Once I made it through the oyster bed labyrinth it was smooth sailing to the Gulf. I said my final goodbyes to Chokoloskee as it disappeared around behind. I have good memories of the place and people, one day I'll drive back and visit at a more leisurely pace but for now, adios Choko.
Within the hour I see the open Gulf between the parting mangroves. This is flats boat central, a constant stream would pass me on their way to a favorite fishing spot.
Soon I'm back by Rabbit Key where I had stayed two nights before, it is the island on the bow.
Round Rabbit Key and slowly ease South down the coast. The east wind is slowly tapering off so I paddle sail to maintain 2 knots. The wind is totally gone within the hour so I furl up the sail and paddle then it slowly starts to fill from the west. Within another hour I have a west wind (sea breeze) and sailing along at a nice 3 knots, an hour more and Calusa is in the 5 Knot range. I ask Steve to please ask the wind gods to steady off now "enough" and the wind speed holds true. Thank You Steve.
Before I realize it Highland Beach appears on the horizon and I'm cruising down it's coastline in no time at all. I'm looking for the trademark NPS sign and it finally shows far down the beach.
Just beyond the NPS sign is a nice oasis looking clump of palm trees, darn, two power boats are already there. Getting closer I see at least 8 tents setup amongst the palms. Beautiful spot for a camp but I head on down the long beach slowly bending shoreline until their camp is out of sight. I spot a few trees ahead but there are more tents, darn it again, I'm wanting to stop here and setup camp early today. A little further to a point that looks good, no way, more tents with no boats or humans around.
I go all the way down until the trees meet the water and pull in. I don't like the looks of this, looks like bug and raccoon country for sure, I get back in and backtrack to a fairly open area between two camps.
I setup camp at least a few hundred yards from the next closest camp. It has a nice view of the Gulf and estuary but no trees...I like trees. There will be no natural protection from the relentless sun.
This is how I start setting up. Try and find some dead grass to set supplies on, sand gets into everything so I try and mitigate spreading it around. I find a flat spot and move all the little sticks and shells out from where the tent footprint will be. Setup the tent, it's very easy and fast, then move the dry stuff inside - but no food! If you have food in your tent animals will tear it up trying to get at it. I also keep garbage in a plastic bag at least 20 feet away preferably hanging from a tree limb. This makes it more difficult for critters to inspect. The rest I set under the canopy or vestibule. I always lash the opening tops of the cooler and food containers with Kevlar line. Crittters would have a very difficult time chewing through Kevlar.
I gather firewood, relax with a little Merlot, and enjoy the sunset. My back needs a well deserved rest. This solo adventure travel is the ultimate in life experiences but as most good things go, no pain no gain. It comes at a price, one I am happy to pay! I mean how many people actually get out and do something like this? I'm happy to say it is very few, thank you. So you can read about it here and be content or live your dream and start planning your own Everglades Wilderness Adventure. There is no other place like the Everglades National Park and Ten Thousand Islands on earth...
Fires are great for getting the bugs to scram and I really enjoy the smell. There is always plenty of driftwood on the beaches, no need to walk very far but I always try to get what I need before dark. It is much more difficult hunting wood down with a flashlight. I plan on taking a days rest here tomorrow and doing a long walk down the entire beach so for now, Goodnight.
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