Every year it gets more difficult and yet I still continue to start, and often finish, epic trips with no where near enough sleep. The trip to the Everglades was no exception. We planned well in advance that to maximize time on the water, we should leave Thursday afternoon as soon as school let out for break. Somehow, I usually end up driving on these long trips. So when my driving shift came up around 1:30 at night and I hadn't really slept on the way down yet, I figured I might as well get comfortable and settle in for the long haul.
Hours and many miles later, I was cruising through the gradually awakening world southwest of Orlando. We had dropped a friend off there, and while it was slightly out of the way, we made it through early enough that it didn't really slow us down too much. The stress began to build as the sun climbed higher and higher though.
The Everglades National Park has a thoroughly ridiculous policy that you can only reserve a campsite in person up to 24 hours in advance of your trip, and furthermore that you must reserve any site you plan on using. Thus, it is always a distinct possibility for visitors to the Park to arrive only to learn that your itinerary will NOT work. By the time we arrived at the Ranger Station, I was convinced that our trip would probably be in vain and we would not get our site. This was due to two reasons: first, because I was exhausted and probably not viewing the glass as half full, having been awake since the previous morning around 6:00 am, and secondly because we arrived around 1:30 in the afternoon. Most of the time this would be far too late during peak paddling season.
Incredibly, despite our worries, our whole itinerary was totally open. The list was as follows: first night at Lopez River, second night at Darwin's Place, third and fourth nights at Lostman's Five, fifth night at New Turkey Key, and sixth night at Rabbit Key. The plan enabled us to experience a little bit of everything, or at least nearly everything, that the Everglades have to offer from remote backcountry bays to mangrove tunnels on Charlie Creek to big water paddling on large bays at the edge of the Gulf of Mexico and camping on beaches.
I was so tired that I really didn't even think of getting out my camera until sometime during the second day. Suddenly it occured to me that it might be nice to document the trip and I started shooting as often as conditions allowed. My first shots were of the wide open bays on the upper end of the Wilderness Waterway as we paddled towards Darwin's Place campsite. Mangrove is on every horizon here.
The next morning I remembered to shoot a few pictures of camp as well as the scenery around it. After a couple nights of good sleep, I was feeling much better and ready to really start enjoying the trip!