The Everglades Adventure - Day 8

Highland Beach Layover Day - 15 Mile Hike

Today was my first layover day, a chance to stop and smell the saltwater. I was really looking forward to a day without loading and unloading the boat. My back is really taking some punishment on this journey and loading/lacing accounts for most of my aliments. I wake to a lot of splashing then raise my head to watch about 20 Pelican's diving on breakfast. Soon after Dolphins joined in making a heck of a splash, it's really something to watch these mammals screech along in shallow water at full speed. I made a short movie and it was difficult to even follow them with the camera. Soon power boats started homing in with their cast nets gathering bait fish. These two boats were together, the one closest to me named "Calusa", had a 250hp Mercury, the one a little further out had 300hp Merc. I thought to myself how much fuel they were burning just to get a few fish. Yeah, I know there is a lot more to it then that and I have a small power boat at home but still, must you have 250 and 300hp on small flats boats? Waste really irks me and I consider these huge engines on small boats a waste, sorry for the rant but how about a 100hp on the same boat and about 10 more minutes. Guess I am still a little peeved about the fishermen that left the stinky fish mess for me at the Watson River Chickee my very first night.

I can tell this will be a hot day and I will want to lay down for a while after a planned long walk, tarp up. A tarp on treeless beaches is worth it's weight in gold. The sun is relentless and pierces right through most lightweight tents. You may also notice my firewood supply starting to grow in this image.

My neighbor campers hopped in their power boat and headed out for a day of fishing. They were not even out of sight when the Turkey Vultures came a calling. I don't know what they had left out but it must have looked good to the flying eyes. I thought of trekking the few hundred yards up the beach and running them off but figured the fishermen must know how to camp, this is the Everglades and Highland Beach is just about in the middle on the Gulf edge! It was comical watching the red faced scavengers waddle and jump around.

Starting out on my walk I approached the group slowly, they walked away at the same pace and kept a distance of around 50 feet until taking to the air. These are not the most beautiful birds I have come across but they do have a place in this ecosystem. Vultures can eat most anything, they are the perfect cleanup artist, something has to do it.

By this time I had my camp in order and prepped for non human visitors while away. No sooner had I past the fisherman's camp then the three amigos started their way down to my place, hoping they don't rip my tent. I don't keep any food inside but I did have some securely packed just under the vestibule to prevent it from cooking in the sun.

The longer I am out here the more plants interest me. I just can't understand how these plants can grow in such a harsh environment. Take this little plant for example, how does it survive. This is porous shell ground and water flows through it with ease. This is a saltwater beach and the unabated wind drives the little shell particles along like a sand blaster. The flora must be very hardy indeed to survive in places such as this. There were only a few of these little plants closest to the waters edge.

This fallen palm was placed neatly in the fork of another tree base, crab pot line secured it. Due to the destruction from the hurricanes in this area I would not doubt this to have formed naturally. There are some very strange tree and crab pot line configurations all along the Everglades coastal beaches.

Looks like a brand new NPS sign, just look at that shine. I don't know the NPS sign placement criteria but this one is not in the best of camping areas on this beach. It is located near some indication of an old homestead and may be placed for historical purposes.

This is the only indication of past human habitation I could recognize on this beach. Possibly concrete from an old foundation or dock?

A nice little shell display left by someone. The biting flies are starting to pick it up a notch about here. I kept a piece of towel doused in seawater wrapped around the back of my neck. It served many purposes, kept me cooler while evaporating, blocked the suns powerful rays, and whipped at the flies like a cow tail.

Stone Crab traps are strewn everywhere by the hurricanes, it is a shame to see all the associated parts along these naturally unspoiled beaches.

Why are plastic traps allowed? Yes a small percentage of the trap must be biodegradable but what about the rest. At least a wood trap makes firewood. The poly line is the worst, it is everywhere, in the trees, in the ground, and it is designed to float and hold up under the sun. I once had a small lobster business in the keys so I understand the reasons but come on, a plastic trap!

Now here is a nice tree me the finger! I did not set this up and it does have a root system deep under the sand. A hurricane must have snapped it off and then weathered to this condition. Interesting!

A lone tree looks to have seen it's better days but it must have stood tall to hold it's ground through a hurricane, others did not fair this well.

Case in point, this nearby tree barely resembles it's former self but is still providing a service - it's all part of this ecosystem.

How about this tree, looks like something from the movie 'WaterWorld' with the eerie crab pot lines dangling in the wind.

Another fine example of a plastic trap.

Of the two boats at the top of this page, this one (with the 300hp motor) was trailing the other in what looked like a fishing guide race. These boats must have been traveling in excess of 80mph, they were gone in a flash! My thoughts - these guys could travel my entire trips distance in just a few hours but look what they are missing - slow down, open your eyes, and enjoy what is around you.

This lone palm still stands tall and right on the beach, one of the few that survived this close to the sea.

I have no idea! Space junk? It is taking up space where I'm sure it was not intended. Ideas anyone?

Flock of White Herons off to another feeding ground.

This Osprey was at the end of my walk, it seemed to have an injured left wing.

Maybe this Osprey will share some of it's catch, the fish is almost as large as bird.

A Strangler Fig trying to take hold on a Palm.

A few small planes cruised the coastline, I swapped camera shots with the person in the rear seat..

There are quite a few Herons along the coastal areas but Ibis far outnumber them just inside a bit.

This solo paddler was making good way into a stiff breeze. He was the only paddler I noticed beyond 10 miles of Flamingo or Chakoloskee.

Back at camp a sea breeze fills in from the West and I'm down for a siesta.

Robinson Calusa enjoying a well deserved day off.

This is SPOT and my primary GPS. SPOT is a GPS with a satellite transmitter all in one. I bought this when they first came out November 2007 specifically for this adventure. It sends location information to friends back home and doubles as a "911" should something go terribly wrong - - See the gear page for more detailed information on it. The GPS I have owned for a few years, it's a Garmin Legend C, I like the small size and excellent battery life.

Campfire on Highland Beach, this is what it is all about. Steve would have really enjoyed this, I'm sharing it with him now. As my hero Irving Johnson one said "Life is short, get on with it." You might want to check out Irving and Exy's "High Seas Adventurer" in the Yankee. Of my three seafaring hero's Irving stands on top, the other two are Joshua Slocum and Tristan Jones - great armchair reading. Then put the books away and get out there yourself, don't let life pass you by!

Forward - Day 9

Back - Day 7
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